July is a month filled with historical significance. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed the . wrote to his wife, Abagail, that henceforth July 2nd would be a national holiday. Adams had a great mind and contributed much as an advocate, a legislator, a diplomat, as vice-president and president of the United States, as the head of an accomplished family and as a senior statesman until his death, ironically on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

He, however, was not a prophet as the nation has chosen to celebrate July 4th, the signing day of the Declaration, as a National holiday.

In another irony, John Adams, upon his deathbed said, “Thank God Thomas Jefferson still lives.” Jefferson, the main author of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, had died about two hours earlier than Adams on July 4, 1826.

On July 8, 1776, Colonel John Nixon gave the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence at Pennsylvania’s State House, now known as Independence Hall. That event is still celebrated at Independence Hall in Philadelphia with actors dressed in authentic period clothing as the Declaration is read and televised throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states.

On July 8, 2005, Carolyn and I were visiting Independence Hall when it began raining. We were trapped inside by a deluge and remained there to experience live, the annual reenactment. It was a moving experience.

The Northwest Ordinance, the most important legislation passed by the Articles of Confederation Congress, was adopted July 13, 1787. This Ordinance established the pattern for admitting new states to the Union and forbade slavery in the newly acquired Northwest Territories that were eventually carved into five of our mid-western states. It guaranteed new states equality with the original 13 states and established civil rights for citizens.

The French Revolution, patterned somewhat after the American Revolution, began on July 14, 1789, with the storming of the bastille.  Unfortunately, the Revolution descended into bloody excess and did not measure up to the high hopes that so many had for it as a world-wide liberating example.

What is regarded as the “First Battle” of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run or Manassas Junction, fought July 21, 1861, in Virginia resulted in a Confederate victory which was the precursor to four long years of bloodshed. Less than two years later on July 1 the three-day Battle of Gettysburg began as the Army of the Potomac commanded by General George G. Meade defeated the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Robert E. Lee. The Union victory stopped Lee’s advance into the North and set the Confederacy back so badly it could never again undertake an offensive. 

A day after the conclusion of the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 4, 1863, General U. S. Grant’s siege of Vicksburg resulted in the Confederate surrender of the city and as President Lincoln proclaimed, “The Father of Waters now flows unvexed to the sea.”

In a less bloody, but sad event, On July 11, 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr shot and mortally wounded the brilliant but impulsive former Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, in an infamous duel that robbed America of Hamilton’s potential influence in affairs of state.

More recently the month of July saw events more worthy of celebration, the admission of Idaho into the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state and on July 10, 1890, admission of Wyoming as the 44th state.

During World War II an important milestone occurred on July 28, 1943, when Italian dictator Mussolini fell.  In a major development leading to the end of World War II, on July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb was tested in New Mexico.   A few weeks later two bombs were dropped on Japan bringing World War II to an end and introducing the world to the atomic age.

In an act that continues to benefit us all, on July 1, 1956, Congress passed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act for the construction of 41,000 miles of Interstate Highways to be completed by 1976. Nor should we forget that on July 20, 1969, a day I will never forget, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.  America had come a long way since July 4, 1776.

For Sons of Utah Pioneers, the July arrival of the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley has as much, or more importance, as most of the above-mentioned events. The details surrounding the arrival of the Pioneer Company of Saints into the Salt Lake Valley, though quite well known, warrants repeating, and especially so as the celebration of Pioneer Day has been short-circuited by COVID-19.

As the Pioneer Company travelled west in 1847, along the Big Sandy and Little Sandy rivers, the company met several groups of travelers including several mountain men  who were familiar with the area near the Great Salt Lake.

Brigham Young’s discussions with the mountain men may have been the final factor in determining to Brigham Young  that the Salt Lake Valley was “the Right Place.”  He was so certain of the choice that he rejected Samuel Brannon’s pleadings for settling near San Francisco, California.

The company moved on to Fort Bridger from where it left the Oregon Trail to follow the Hastings Cutoff route of 1846. As the wagons traveled down Echo Canyon, the company spread out, mostly because of mountain fever causing some illness among the Pioneers.  Upon emerging from the canyon, a scouting party under Apostle Orson Pratt looked at the Weber Canyon route. Rejecting it, Orson Pratt and John Brown began looking for the Donner-Reed Company track which they soon found, and began some improvements as it had become overgrown with weeds and grass.

By July 19, Orson Pratt’s party of 23 wagons and 42 men  had arrived near the summit of Big Mountain.  Pratt and John Brown climbed to a higher point from where they became the first to see some of the Salt Lake Valley.  On July 21, Apostle Orson Pratt and future apostle, Erastus Snow, traveling with one horse between them which they shared by one riding while one walked and trading off, became the first Latter-day Saints to enter the Salt Lake Valley. 

On July 22, the first wagons traveled downstream to the mouth of Emigration Canyon.  Because of the steepness of Donner Hill, the advance company spent four hours building a new road around the north end of the hill.  This stretch of less than a half mile was the only original road the Mormon Pioneer Company built.

In the early afternoon of 22 July, the first wagons arrived in the Valley.  They camped at 500 East between 1700 and 2100 south.  That same afternoon nine men under direction of Orson Pratt explored, seeking the best location to begin plowing and planning.  They chose a site on the east bank of City Creek near 400 South and Main Street.  The camp was moved to this site on 23 July.  Plowing began at once. That evening Orson Pratt dedicated the land as the future home of the Saints.

On July 24th, Brigham Young, who was bringing up the rear because of being sick with Mountain Fever, arrived with the remaining wagons.   Near This Is the Place State Park  Brigham Young was said to have proclaimed it to be “the Right Place.” 

His diary said,

“I started early this morning and after crossing Emigration Canyon Creek eighteen times, emerged from the canyon.  Encamped with the main body at 2 p.m. About noon, the five-acre potato patch was plowed.  Then the brethren commenced planting their seed potatoes.  At five, a light shower accompanied by thunder and a stiff breeze.”

Thus, did the Latter-day Saint occupation of Utah begin  as those pioneers set their footprints on Utah and began the developments which have resulted in the current state which  we love and cherish because it has been a blessed place to live, work, learn, worship and raise children.  May we do our part to remember the Pioneers who entered the valley 173 years ago and those who followed after and made major contributions to our nation and state.

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