Walking in the footsteps of Utah Mormon pioneers—covered wagons not included
On July 22, 1847, after traversing hundreds of difficult miles, a determined group of Mormon pioneers guided the first covered wagons into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.
Pulled by weary oxen, they rolled ponderously down the rocky escarpments of Emigration Canyon to what is now called First Encampment Park.
Dedicated on July 22, 1997, on the 150th anniversary of that initial migration, First Encampment Park at 1700 South and 500 East was the original pioneer campsite in the Salt Lake Valley. Plaques at the site honor those intrepid Utah Mormon pioneer settlers, which included 109 men, three women, and eight children. Their names are engraved on granite stones that represent the rugged canyons and peaks of the Wasatch Mountains to the east.
Notable arrivals in this group were Mormon apostle, scientist, astronomer, and mathematician, Orson Pratt; Truman O. Angell, who later became architect of the Salt Lake Temple; and the controversial gunslinger, Orrin Porter Rockwell.
Church president Brigham Young and 30 other Mormon pioneers arrived two days later, having been waylaid by bouts of tick fever. Despite not being part of that first contingent, it was Young’s arrival that achieved historic precedence.
This is still the place
On July 26th, Young and seven other church leaders, including future church president Wilford Woodruff, scaled a hill at the north end of the valley, hoisted an American flag, and named the spot Ensign Peak. It is there that Young gazed upon the vast expanse below and proclaimed, “This is the right place.”
Wayne Howcroft is the First Encampment Hike Chairman of the upcoming 15th annual commemorative trek on the 172nd anniversary. The first treks were conceived and organized by the late Robert J. Simister, and a bench at the park bears his name. Members of his family attend the hike every year. Wayne has been running the hike since 2003, and was a captain five years before that.
“I took over the reins from Mel Wright who started the First Encampment Hike in 1997 as part of the sesquicentennial celebration of the pioneers’ entry into the valley,” Wayne says. “First Encampment Park was put in and dedicated at the same time. Mel invited me to be a captain. Captains have responsibilities to assist the hikers and help them navigate the many streets that the procession has to cross.”
Wayne has his own pioneer connection. “I have pioneer ancestors, but not any from the first group to enter the valley. My ancestors arrived with the fourth wagon train to arrive in 1847 along with John Taylor.”
The event is free and includes commemorative badges for all participants. Breakfast will be served at First Encampment Park for $3 a plate, and tours will be conducted of the nearby Wilford Woodruff farmhouse. Hikers should dress appropriately and bring their own water. U
WHEN: Saturday, July 20, 2019 at 7:00 am
WHERE: Hike starts at Donner Park, 2770 East 990 South (East of Hogle Zoo) and ends at First Encampment Park, 1700 South 500 East, a distance of approximately five miles. Plan your transportation needs accordingly. Find out more at https://www.daysof47.com/events/first-encampment-hike.
To read more about Utah pioneers, check these articles out.