Pioneer Stories

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TRADITIONAL Pioneer Stories

Since 1933, the National Society of Sons of Utah Pioneers has been dedicated to honoring and remembering our great pioneer forefathers and mothers.

We must never forget the great heritage they gave us – a heritage of faith in God – of devotion to family – of loyalty to church and country – of hard work and service to others – of courage in adversity – of personal integrity and unyielding determination! We must never forget!

All of us have heard and been inspired by the stories of the famous early pioneers of the West. However, there are many of our ancestors whose stories are not known – except to a few. These little-known pioneers deserve recognition. Your children and ours need to know more of their own heritage, to be inspired by their lives, by their examples of faith in God, and by the other pioneer virtues they exemplified.

MODERN-DAY Pioneer Stories

There are many great men and women today whose lives also reflect the pioneer virtues that inspired the lives of the early pioneers.  Today’s challenging world also calls out for the same faith and purpose, the same sacred values that were required of the early pioneers.

Who do you know that has made a big difference for good in today’s world – whose life stands as a shining example to others in our day?

Remember, it is the character of the person, the pioneer attributes that made them what they were, the contributions that made their life rich and meaningful—these are the things to emphasize in your story.

Every accepted submission will be published on the SUP website and will be preserved in a special collection in the SUP Library.

Featured Pioneer Stories


They had 37 deaths on this voyage due to an out break of the measles and the stagnant and unfit water. Just 4 days before arriving in America, August 7th, Hans' grandson Carl Fedrick Liljeroth died. The "Emerald Isle" arrived at the New York harbor on August the 11th.

ALSON, Thomas

At the time there were no free schools held in Utah, so students were required to pay tuition, which was rather difficult to provide; while attending with Peck, my tuition became considerable in arrears, therefore, he proposed that I assist him with classes at a salary of $1.00 per week and my tuition, (in all about $1.35 per week) the $1.00 per week to apply on deferred payments.
I engaged to teach the Hoytsville School early in January 1876, at a salary of $45 per month. The school house consisted of one log room about 30 by 40 feet, heated by a stove in the center. The teacher was also the janitor etc.

KILLIAN, Captain John

When the Elders administered to me, Brother Killian being mouth, I was in bed. He poured the oil on my forehead and I jumped right out of bed and put on my clothes. On hearing that Robbins was going to Quincy in the morning, I walked up to his house, three-quarters of a mile, and went with him in his carriage to Quincy, remained all day and returned with him at night.”


One day, when it was soon time to harvest the beets, he called the boys together to show them how to top the beets. When he had them all around him he took a big beet and his best knife and toped the beet and at the same time he cut the end of his finger off. Then he said, "Boys, that will never do. Don't do it that way!"

CALL, Helaman Pratt

My father had done a little experimenting. We had a large bathtub in one of the bedrooms in our home—it hadn’t been remodeled. They had just put in a bathtub and a toilet and a hand bowl in one of the bedrooms so there was quite a bit of room in there. It was a large oversize tub. I thought my father was going to baptize me but Charles Jones was going to baptize me. He had experimented how full he could fill the tub without running it over and still get me and him both in the tub. They put a stopper on the overflow so that the water would come up higher than the normal overflow would allow.

KARTCHNER, William Decatur: Man of Steel, True to the Faith

The only time for any kind of play was at night, and on one occasion in the Spring of 1836 he stayed at play until after nine p.m. When he went to the house the doors were locked so he had to sleep in the hay in the stable. In the morning he went with the other hands to breakfast and to his surprise Mr. Miles, the old boss had prepared a large whip which he used on William’s back so unmercifully that it raised a solid scab half the length of his back. His cries were heard by all the neighbors, and then he was sent to work without breakfast. His oldest brother, Peter, came from the western country to visit him. Upon hearing his grievances, they laid a plan for William to run away and go with Peter. William had saved up five dollars and asked Peter if that was enough to bear his expenses. Peter told him that he could go without a cent.

WOOD, William Sr.

He was with the body of the Saints on their western movement when the call came for 500 of their gallant men to volunteer to fight in defense of the Government against Mexico. He enlisted in the Mormon Battalion July 16th 1846, marching with the company from Council Bluff, Iowa over a trackless plain where foot of man had never trod.
On that perilous journey he helped to make roads, dig wells, and suffered untold agonies from hunger and thirst while marching on the desert day after day in the blazing sun. He was discharged at San Diego, California on July 16 1877.


Enos live a wonderful life, enduring the trials of crossing the plains, becoming a Patriarch, and helping to build up the Kingdom of God in Utah. He helped to build the city of Springville, Utah, and went with Brigham Young to the South  of Utah, coming back in the winter of 1856. He didn’t feel well that spring, but kept on working.

HIOTT, John: An Overlooked Pioneer

As far as history is concerned he was a faceless cipher who passed through life leaving few tracks and no one to mark his grave. It is easy to overlook that John and thousands of other forgotten Utah pioneers like him were critical in settling the Intermountain West. They dug the irrigation ditches, herded the cattle, built the shelters, attended meetings, maintained the roads, cut fire wood, tended the ill, mostly followed orders, and buried the deceased without fanfare. The accomplishments of their famous leaders would not have been possible without the blood, sweet, and tears of humble people such as John Hiott.

CUNNINGHAM, Elizabeth: True Grit

“My father was a miner by trade and being a man of weak constitution was badly adapted for such a laborious occupation. Consequently, this threw the management of affairs nearly entirely upon my mother, and to speak of her in [a] phrase, I cannot do it better than by saying she was a rustler in the greatest sense of the word.” Elizabeth was the foundation and matriarch of the family. She was the force that carried the Cunningham family from Scotland to Utah."


JOHN ALLEMAN and his family arrived in Nauvoo in 1838 from Pennsylvania with two wagons, ten horses and their household possessions. He bought farm land and built a brick home for his family. He assisted in building the Nauvoo Temple and served as a cavalryman in the Nauvoo Legion.

JENSEN, Jens and Dorthea: Nearly Pioneers

Most pioneer stories involve building religious faith through hardships and challenges, but some early migrants to Utah don’t fit this mold. Some were disappointed by life in Utah and returned to their place of origin. Others moved on seeking greener pastures elsewhere. Still others remained in Utah but became disaffected with the dominant religion. Some became Jack Mormons, others became vocal critics of the LDS Church, and still others joined a different church. Jens Christen Jensen and his wife Dorthea were cases of the latter.

WOOLSEY, Abigail Shaeffer

John D. Lee had been ill with a heavy fever, probably the 'rocky mountain fever' and he was just starting to mend when Abigail, "Momma", came down with that same "rocky mountain fever", and soon went into a coma. Lee called for a stop here on the Sweetwater, where her family gathered around her and her daughters desperately tried to care for her. But to no avail. Abigail opened her eyes, looked lovingly on her worried, sad family and then died around midnight on the third of September 1848.


In May 1845, the company turned west from their northwestern trek and moved across western Iowa to Fort Vermillion, a French trading post in the present south-eastern part of South Dakota. This group of Mormons was probably the first Anglo American settlers in South Dakota. Jude and the others in the company spent the next ten months hunting buffalo, herding cattle, putting up log cabins, raising vegetables and putting up hay.


From this humble beginning began the rise of one of Utah's greatest entrepreneurs of his day or any other day. He obtained his own saw mill, then a lumber company, then a construction company. As the years went by, he purchased a flour mill, several huge ranches, and developed sugar companies, banks, savings and loan operations, railroads, transfer companies, insurance companies, and eventually electric street cars (the second in the world) and the supporting electricity production company.

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