By Judge C. C. Goodwin, former Editor Salt Lake Tribune, in Utah, its People Resources and Attractions (1912)
The sappers and miners who go out to storm the fastnesses of the wilderness, who set up the signal stations and blaze the trails, that later civilization may follow and light the darkness with its smiles, are called “pioneers.”
Through the ages their work has been the most important performed by men and women; the most important but least appreciated by the great thoughtless world; though at intervals, as when Aeneas, with his fellow followers, took his little company to Italy, or when Xenophon led his heroes on the long march from the valley of the Tigris, across the wilds of Kurdestan and over the rough highlands of Armenia and Georgia, to the shores of the Euxine; or when the Pilgrim Fathers, in their little ship, faced a winter’s Atlantic voyage, and then, on landing, had the faith and strength to kneel on the frozen coast and offer a praise service to the Infinite for His mercies, the world has been touched and thrilled at the spectacle, and the story continues to ring out on succeeding centuries like a psalm.
Generally, when going out into the wild, Pioneers have been cheered and buoyed up by the hopes before them, by the ties of affection binding them to friends left behind, by blessed memories of friends and homes, and the knowledge that they will not be forgotten; but, rather by the wireless telegraphy of love, prayers will daily and nightly ascend to heaven in their behalf.
But the exodus to Utah was not like any other recorded in history. The exodus to Italy was to a land of sunshine, native fruits and flowers; the march of Xenophon’s “Immortal Band” was a march of fighting men back to their homes; the exodus of the Pilgrims was a new world of unmeasured possibilities; but the exodus to Utah was a march out of Despair, to a destination on the unresponsive breast of the Desert.
The Utah Pioneers had been tossed out of civilization-into the wilderness and on the outer gate of that civilization a flaming sword of hate had been placed, which was turned every way against the refugees.
All ties of the.past had been sundered. They were so poor that their utmost hope was to secure the merest necessities of life. If ever a dream of anything like comforts or luxuries came to them, they made a grave in their hearts for that dream and buried it, that it might not longer vex them.
Such was their condition as they took up their western march. The spectacle they presented was sorrowful enough to blind with tears the eyes of the angels of Pity and Mercy.
Day by day, the train toiled on its weary journey. There was the same limitless expanse of wilderness around them at dawn and at sunset. The same howl of wolves was their only lullaby as they sank to sleep at night. Only the planets and far-off stars rolling on their sublime courses and smiling down upon them from the upper deep, were a nightly symbol that God still ruled, commanded order, and would not forget.
In sunshine and in storm they pressed onward for five hundred miles; then followed five hundred miles more over the rugged mountains which make the backbone of the continent. Their teams grew steadily weaker; more and more obstructions were interposed in their path; but they never faltered.Men are supposed to bear such trials. These men had already received an experience which had, in a measure, prepared them for it. It was nothing for them to sleep with only the stars for a canopy. They had learned to economize food and clothing, and to smile at hardships and fatigue. Again the toil of the day made a bed on the prairie seem soft as down when they sank to sleep. Moreover, they were not gifted with vivid imaginations; they had accepted a faith which made them patient and obedient, and one day was like another to them.
But what must the women of that company have endured? What longings must they have repressed, and smiled while repressing them? Women love gentle homes; they have innate desires for fair garments, rich adornments; they dream of surrounding their homes and those whom they love with the grace and cheer and charm of their presence and accomplishments.
As the men slept, and the women lay listening to the bark of wolves and hoot of owls, and they felt the wild around them peopled with uncanny things, what must have been the cross they bore? They were nearing no land of vine and flowers and gold. Only the desert awaited them—the desert with its chill and its repellant face.
They reached it at last, and when their leader told them they had reached their chosen place, and they raised their voices in thanksgiving, it was a repetition of what was done on the shores of the Atlantic, and was as touching and as grand as when—
“Amid the storm they sang,
And the stars heard and the sea.”
They began the work of trying to make rude homes. There was no hope except to live, and to live, merely, required incessant exertion and never-ending hardships.
The earth would yield nothing without artificial help. Then there were the scourges of locusts, and of worms that blighted the plants at their roots. They fought their way, they pushed their settlements from valley to valley, against heat and cold, against the frontier and the savage, and persevered until flowers began at last to bloom and fruits to ripen, and they were able to draw around them some of life’s comforts. Though what they did, they performed as a duty, still the record of it when written makes a page of history every letter of which is gold.
And whatever the future holds in store for Utah, that story of toil and suffering and final triumph should be held as sacred history to every man who honors devotion to duty in men, and self-sacrifice in women.
It should be taught to the children in the schools, and one lesson that should be impressed upon the mind of every child is, that a wrong act on his or her part would be a reproach to the brave men and women who came here in the shadow of despair, and by incessant toil and by life-long abnegation laid solidly here the foundation of a State.
And out of the granite of these mountains should be hewed an imperishable monument, which should be set up in some conspicuous place, and upon it should be embossed words like these:
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“They wore out their lives in toil. They suffered without plaint. From nothing they created a glorified State. Honor and reverence and glory everlasting be theirs.”