Friday, July 24, 2009

What is a Pioneer?

I had no idea there were pioneers in my family until my college years when I started to gather my genealogy. The dates and places in my early ancestors’ history were my first indication that they had come from somewhere else to the Utah territory when it was settled by the pioneers. Fleeing persecution for their religious beliefs in Nauvoo, Illinois, my ancestors traveled overland in wagons and handcarts. What a fun discovery. Now the Utah history books I studied took on new meaning for me as they were talking about my family members.

In the first grade at Eureka Elementary, my mom made me a long pioneer dress out of her kitchen curtains complete with a bonnet, I was so excited! Now, wearing my authentic costume and pulling a small red wagon with a covered cloth top, I was in my first July 24th parade. Celebrating my first Pioneer Day, it took years before I would gathered their stories of immigrating to Utah.

Pioneers are found in all families. Defined as someone who goes into previously uncharted or unclaimed territory with the purpose of exploring it and possible colonizing or settling it. Even our Native Americans had ancestors who pioneered this great land of America immigrating over the Bering Strait or sailing across the oceans to this continent. People from throughout the world have traveled to America to start new lives and raise their families.

Another definition of a pioneer is a person or group that is the first to do something or that is a forerunner in creating or developing something new. Many of us are pioneers in terms of starting new projects, organizations, trades or moving to a new area. My aunt and uncle were the first in our Utah family to move to Southern California during WWII times. After they initially settled there and found employment, other relatives followed their example and moved to new jobs in that promising land of sunshine and sea.

Our modern day children seem to be more adventurous in their quest for new areas to move to and raise their families. Nowadays, I find my own immediate family members not residing in Utah where I live, but in such far flung places as Seattle, Sacramento, Santa Fe and Silver City, New Mexico––continuing the family tradition of being pioneers.

Do you know who in your family came to America first? (The photo above is my great grandfather Joseph Vernon who came to Utah in 1867 at age four with his family from England as converts to Mormonism.)


  1. My husband has traced his family back and some came over from England really early on--he thinks the Mayflower.
    I love the pioneer days and loved your picture in the dress!

  2. I like the photo of you in your costume, how lucky you were to have Mom craft such an authentic costume. Its so interesting to learn of our backgrounds.

  3. Just got the book! Looking forward to reading it.

  4. Great post, Lin. I love the photo. Amazing story of your family, too. It could not have been easy. But it seems to me people with a clear set of beliefs find courage before others do.