The Founder of SUP: Lawrence T. Epperson

The Founder of SUP: Lawrence T. Epperson

This article originally appeared in Vol.55, No.1 (2008) of Pioneer Magazine.

by Richard Horsley
Lawrence T Epperson, and his wife Mary (1884-1959)

We, of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers, should have recognized that his name gives him away. Lawrence—“the laurel crowned one”—and Epperson—“son of a wild boar”— gave him every right to do what he did, establish a heritage organization that wants to crown every descendant of Utah pioneers as worthy candidates for greatness.
 
Lawrence Theophilus Epperson was born in Midway, Utah, on September 22, 1884, and grew up in Wasatch County, the home of several of his ancestors—the Tuckers, Robeys, Van Wageners, and Eppersons. Some of his ancestors had gone to Nauvoo and had contact with Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Most had come to Utah by 1853, so Lawrence was a third-generation Mormon, very proud of his pioneer ancestry. The Van Wageners were one of the top 300 most faithful and numerous families in the Church. His people came from Indiana, West Virginia, and New Jersey, and all had early English and Dutch backgrounds.
 
His interest in sports and music had a defining influence in his early college years. He played shortstop on BYU s baseball team and once had the misfortune of being hit with a baseball, which affected his ability to use one eye. He played the drums with the Epperson Band. He was a 1912 graduate of Brigham Young University. He married Mary Loretta Pritchett November 18,1908, in the Salt Lake Temple and became a father to five boys and four girls. One boy and one girl died as infants.
 
Lawrence was very active in the Democratic Party and through various connections he worked for the State of Utah in several positions.
 
In a publication entitled “Brief History of the National Society of the ,” historian Gustave O. Larsen wrote: “Papers left by the late Lawrence T. Epperson tell of an organization meeting held in the office of Heber Jex with Epperson presiding. In this and subsequent meetings a constitution and bylaws were formulated and on March 29,1933, the Sons of Utah Pioneers were incorporated as a state society with the following ten incorporators: Lawrence T. Epperson, Amos Epperson, Emery S. Epperson, Alvin Keddington, William L. Van Wagonen, Vaughn Elmo Epperson, Lawrence Leon Epperson, Elbert Pritchett Epperson, Gerald Jean Epperson, John Frank Prichett
 
“At a subsequent meeting… permanent offices were elected, including: Lawrence T. Epperson, President; Dr. George A. Wilson, 1st Vice President; Herbert Auerbach, 2nd Vice President; Richard Wooten, Secretary; Heber C. Jex, Treasurer; Seth Pixton, Corresponding Secretary.
 
“An Executive Board consisted of Nephi L. Morris, George A. Goates, LaDru Jensen and A. Lund.”
 
Epperson worked closely with bishops in Salt Lake City to have “camps” (chapters) in their local ward boundaries. Many of the early camps bore the names of prominent pioneers who had settled the areas in Salt Lake City where the camp was located: John Haslam, Orson Pratt, John Sharp, John Smith, Wilford Woodruff, Daniel H. Wills, Daniel Pettigrew, Jacob Weiler, James Brown, Jonathan Browning, David McKay, George Albert Smith, Brigham Young. Not all early camps were in Salt Lake City, but were also in Utah County (Provo, Lehi, and Springville) and Golden Spike in Box Elder County.
 
The Great Depression took a heavy toll and the early 3000 membership has never been equaled. To join, one had only to pay $1—then after a few years after the Depression the dues went to $5. Epperson stepped in and with the help of Harold Jenson (son of the Church Historian Andrew Jenson) and Richard R. Lyman held the organization together during the World War II years.
 
It is to Lawrence Epperson’s credit that the Sons of Utah Pioneers holds annual conventions (or, in earlier times, encampments). He encouraged treks and celebrations at appropriate times of the year, including pioneer parades. Because of the love Epperson had of playing the drums, the Mormon Battalion took on some importance for him. Also, to Lawrence must go the credit for the Pioneer Village.
 
Even after turning over the reins of the to Harold Jenson in 1945 he kept abreast of what was happening. One person said “he was behind everything significant that was going on.”
 
Lawrence and Loretta served a mission in the New England states. His whole life was given to serving others. Lawrence Epperson died in Salt Lake City on July 8, 1959. He earned the highest accolades of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, the organization for which he was greatly responsible.
 
What a noble son of Utah pioneers he was! The Sons of Utah Pioneers are indebted to him for the way he conducted his life. Truly he lived up to his name.
 
With the energy and spirit of a wild boar he had the drive to see the organization of the Sons of Utah Pioneers succeed.

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Articles

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

X