Pioneer Vignettes: A Bird’s-Eye View of St. George

This article originally appeared in Vol.60 No.2 of Pioneer Magazine

Thomas L. Kane was an attorney, abolitionist, and Union Army general from Pennsylvania. He came to know the Saints through a conference held in Philadelphia in May 1846. He was impressed by their stance against slavery and took on the role of assisting them in their journey west. He offered advice and assistance and used his many military and political connections to help the Mormon refugees find safe travel and shelter along their way.

Kane and Brigham Young became close friends and stayed in contact for many years. Kane visited Utah regularly through the years and continued to provide counsel and support to the Saints. He advised them in matters of business and government, particularly in interactions with the federal government. After the completion of the railroad in Utah, Brigham Young invited Thomas Kane and his family to visit:

“General, now that the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad is completed and the facilities for traveling have made the trip across the plains comparatively a pleasure, may we hope to see you here soon? Let me assure you there is not one among the thousands who will cross the plains this season to whom the Latter-day Saints would more cordially extend the hand of warm welcome. Those who know you cherish for you the fondest recollection, while with all, your name is held in honorable remembrance” (April 16, 1871).

Kane and his family, including his wife, Elizabeth, and two sons, visited Utah in the winter of 1872. They traveled throughout the territory and stayed in Brigham’s Young winter home in St. George. During that time, Kane and Young worked together to lay out plans for additional Mormon settlements in the area south. Elizabeth Kane wrote to her family while she was in Utah, and her father later published her letters in the book Twelve Mormon Homes. Elizabeth’s journal from that time was later published as Elizabeth Kane’s St. George Journal. Her writings offered a keen insight into the daily life, homes, and gardens of Utah Mormons in the 1870s.

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