Lest We Forget
The Mormons were unique among the many pioneers that settled the Western United States. They did not journey seeking gold or wealth; they were seeking religious freedom. The Lest We Forget monument, dedicated by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1968, is a tribute to all those who traveled the Mormon Pioneer Trail.
J. Reuben Clark Jr., a member of the Sons of Utah Pioneers and a counselor to the First Presidency, honored the pioneers with the following tribute:
So through dust and dirt, dirt and dust, during the long hours, the longer days that grew into weeks and then into months, they crept along till, passing down through its portals, the valley welcomed them to rest and home. . . .
That evening was the last of the great trek, the mightiest trek that history records since Israel's flight from Egypt, and as the sun sank below the mountain peaks of the west and the eastern crags were bathed in an amethyst glow that was a living light, while the western mountainsides were clothed in shadows of the rich blue of the deep sea, they of the last wagon, and of the wagon before them, and of the one before that, and so to the very front wagon of the train, these all sank to their knees in the joy of their souls, thanking God that at last, they were in Zion.
The Mormon pioneer trek has been regarded as one of the greatest mass movements of a distinct people since the biblical time of Moses and the children of Israel. It was said of the initial group of road-breaking pioneers: It was not just a trip of many families to new homes in the west.
It was the transfer of a whole community of 15,000 people with their furniture, their food, their animals, manufacturing equipment, school supplies, and they're all over a trackless prairie. . . . There is nothing like it in history.
The plaque on the monument reads:
From 1847 to 1869 approximately 86,000 persons, mainly converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left their established homes to build anew in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains.
About 6,000 were buried along the way. Hilda Anderson Erickson, the last known surviving Utah Pioneer, died Jan. 1, 1968, age 108, thus ending an illustrious era. Other late survivors were: Tora Nielsen J. Starkie, 1961; Minnie Peterson Brown, Selina Beddous Kelsey, Harriet Paris Smith Clawson, 1962; Heber Charles Cox, 1963. They were representative of the thousands of western pioneers who left to posterity a rich heritage of faith, fortitude, leadership, and vision.
Gordon B. Hinckley, fifteenth President of the Church, related the following in 1997: This great pioneering movement of more than a century ago goes forward with latter-day pioneers. Today pioneer blood flows in our veins just as it did with those who walked west. Its the essence of our courage to face modern-day mountains and our commitment to carry on. The faith of those early pioneers burns still, and nations are being blessed by latter-day pioneers who possess a clear vision of this work of the Lord.
- Nearly 1,800 pioneers in ten different companies arrived in Salt Lake City in 1847.
- Brigham Young, traveling in the first company, entered the valley on July 24, 1847. This date is now a state holiday called Pioneer Day.
- The last known surviving pioneer, Hilda Anderson Erickson, died in 1968.