A pioneer is “one who goes before to prepare or open up the way for others to follow.” We recount the pioneer stories that we don't forget the trials and hardships of those who opened our way. We have a legacy to keep and pass on.
John Nay, my great-great-great-great-grandfather joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in August, 1841 in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Four years later John and his wife Thirza Angelina moved to Nauvoo.
They received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple on February 7, 1846. Temple records show they were participants in the fourth endowment company of the day. It was a sad, eventful and chaotic day, the last day endowment sessions were held there. Latter-day Saints were to vacate the city and temple they had labored to build.
Brigham Young led the first group of saints out of Nauvoo on Tuesday, June 16, 1846. John and Thirza left as well. The Nay family crossed the Mississippi River into the Iowa Territory. They traveled with two other families who were also from New Hampshire. Before they reached Winter Quarters one of the families lost the father, the mother and two children to the flu.
Grandpa and Grandma stayed near Council Bluffs in Harris Grove for about five years where three more children were added to the family, Joseph Brigham and twin boys, Ormus and Ormon. Ormus is my great-great-great grandfather. His brother was buried on the plains of Iowa. The goal in Harris Grove was to build and prepare wagons and gather supplies for other Saints moving westward.
As President Uchtdorf states, "The pioneers cared for each other irrespective of social, economic, or political background. Even when it slowed their progress, caused inconvenience, or meant personal sacrifice and toil, they helped each other. They considered those who came after them, planting crops for the wagon trains that followed. The pioneers serve as a good reminder of why we must break away from the temptation to isolate ourselves, and instead reach out to help each other and have compassion and love for one another.”
In spring 1852, a call came from church leaders in Utah, urging all saints still in the Council Bluffs area to make every effort to immigrate to the Salt Lake Valley that summer. After inspecting the various wards, Apostle Ezra Taft Benson wrote from Council Bluffs to Brigham Young in Salt Lake City, The companies are strong and ready to go.
John and his family came on west where they founded a town named Cedar Fort, named for the cedar post palisade constructed for protection from Indians and the US Army. As the wood palisade was replaced with a stone wall Cedar Fort became known as Stone City.
Elder Ballard wrote, “When we truly believe, we don’t ask, What do I have to do? but rather, What more can I do?” John truly believed, and did ask “What more can I do?” Then answered with further voluntary sacrifice.
The family was re-baptized and then gave all they had to the church. A deed, recorded by John in Utah County land records, reads as follows:
Be it known by these presents that I John Nay, of Stone City in the county of Utah, and Territory of Utah, give and convey unto Brigham Young, Trustee in Trust for the Church all my claim to and ownership of the following property:
20 acres of farming land in Utah County
4 acres of Garden Lots in Cedar Valley
One yoke of oxen and wagon
5 cows & 5 calves
Household furniture, beds, bedding and goods
2 cabins in the picket fort
80 days labor
Farming utensils and tools
Three guns & one cooking stove
In the 1861 October General Conference, Apostle George A. Smith read from the pulpit the names of over 300 heads of households and called them to the “Southern Mission.” In the decade prior to this call, a handful of Latter-day Saints had been called to the “Cotton Mission.” The struggling Cotton Mission was in need of reinforcements, and 300 families were called to help. One of the names read at conference was John’s son-in-law. John and his second wife Thankful Lucy joined them in the move to the Southern Utah Mission.
By 1888, John and Thankful Lucy, left Pine Valley in Southern Utah, for Circleville. Their church membership records were recorded in the Circleville Ward on December 16, 1888.
John was lame. Lucy provided the income by growing potatoes. She would drive them in a large wagon to be weighed. Lucy was six feet tall and large boned, but she was agile. The men in charge would make bets as to Lucy’s weight, but she would jump off the wagon before they could weigh her. The size of her family was always the brunt of jokes. Keeping herself and her large family members in food and clothing was a lifetime struggle. The boys helped as they could by herding cows. They were generally paid 2 cents a head per day. If the cows were left out a night the boys were docked 4 cents per head, which made them more diligent.
When John and Lucy came to Circleville, Ormus stayed behind in Southern Utah. He got mixed up with riders of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. This did cause grief for his wife and family.
The riders got together and decided to rob a Central Pacific passenger train out of Elko Nevada. The crime didn’t pay. They unsuccessfully tried to open the Wells Fargo express car. The guard inside the car refused the robbers entry. He was fired upon through the walls of the car and injured. But they were still unable to gain entry. Ten dollars was taken from the conductor, and the train robbers left.
News of the robbery was quickly telegraphed to Elko. The posse left Elko to track the robbers. Snow was several inches deep, so the trail was easily followed. The sheriff tracked two of the robbers to a corral in the mountains near Deseret, Utah.
The posse demanded surrender, but the men began firing at them and the posse returned fire. A total of 75 or 80 rounds were fired, ‘resulting the mortal wounding of Ormus Nay.’ None of the posse was hit.
Ormus was reported as having taken a bullet in the left shoulder, which had passed through one of his lungs and lodged in his back. He was spitting up blood and the lawmen were afraid that he would die before they could get him back to town. He didn’t, he attended his trial on a stretcher. Louisa, his wife, was unaware that her husband had been involved. She thought that Ormus had been working for a rancher in Nevada. He was convicted and sent to the state penitentiary at Carson City, Nevada.
On January 2, 1893 Ormus was finally released. The family was reunited and moved to Circleville. While here, Louisa bore two sons, Chauncy Leon and Ora Bertrum. In April, Ormus, even with the bum shoulder from being shot in the foiled robbery, found useful work.
A history of Circleville records: “That summer pink granite stone was quarried up Kingston Canyon and hauled to Circleville by teams; each man donating his time and labor. The blocks were piled on the southeast lot of the Church Block and reserved for the Ward House. These stones were never used in a church building. Just after the turn of the century, the school district bought the pink granite from the church and Ormus helped build the two-story rock Circleville school building completed in 1902. His niece, telling about Uncle Ormus building the schoolhouse, said, “He was so strong, he took those big old blocks, put them on his shoulder and went up the ladder with them.”
As Sister Whitney mentioned a few minutes ago, President Monson asked, “Can we somehow muster the courage and steadfastness of purpose that characterized the pioneers of a former generation? Can you and I, in actual fact, be pioneers? I know we can be, and oh how the world needs pioneers today!”
Here’s an account from the journal of Andrew Jackson Allen, my great-great-great uncle, also great uncle of Sarah Melinda Allen, who in June of 1897 married Ormus Calvin Nay right here in downtown Circleville.
I was born in the year of our Lord 1818, in September, on the 5th day, in the state of Kentuchy. In 1834 the Elders came with the gospel to our county. I went to Nauvoo in '44 having dezier to see proffeit Joseph Smith and the temple site. When we reached Nauvoo Brother Joseph ware murdered just a few days previous and the Saints were all in moarning and a glume seemed to be all over the citty. I ware to be baptized when I got to Nauvoo but the proffit being kilt and the people feeling so bad I did not and returned to Kentuchy.
In 1845 there was Elders sent thro the country notifying the saints that the church had agreed to leave the city of Nauvoo and emmegrate west in to the willderness etc. and when I heerd that news, the spirit promted me to gether with the Saints, and I soald my possesions for what I could get and Emmegrated to Nauvoo in '46 in February and ware baptized my self and wife in the Mississippi river and started on west with the Saints, not knowing where they would settle down.
Elder Ballard has observed:
“Packing a few belongings into wagons or handcarts and walking 1,300 miles (2,090 km) isn’t the way most of us will be asked to demonstrate our faith and courage. We face different challenges today—different mountains to climb, different rivers to ford, different valleys to make ‘blossom as the rose’. Our struggle is found in living in a world steeped in sin and spiritual indifference, where self-indulgence, dishonesty, and greed seem to be present everywhere. Today’s wilderness is one of confusion and conflicting messages.”
The word came that when spring came for all to continue their journey that could git suffissiant fit-out with provisions to last them till they could find a location and raise grain which would be about 15 months, I travild on beeing one that got reddy getting seeds of all kinds as much as I could.
The president Brigham Young with 150 men started the tenth of April 1847 to seek a place to locate the Saints making the road as they went. Now there ware on the road in all 600 wagons. By second night we reached the Elkhorn River which we found verry high and difficult to cross tho all got over and no serious ackasadent. The next night we campt at Luke Fork, we lay over til the back companyes came up. Here there ware a young man returning back to winter quarters with too ladyes with him and some indians came out of the brush and wanted one of his oxen which he refused to give up to them and the indians shot him and kilt him.
We traveled on the in regular order crossing water courses and following the pioneer trail from President Young. AJ recounts 80 head of cattle were stampeaded and lost, indians stole 6 head of horses, one child died, poisoned water killed two of his oxen “so I put two yoke of cows into the team and the cows all wanted to go their own way and my job was to control them. It was dangerous tho we had no bad luck.”
We met the president and the brethern that went ahead they informed us they had found a good valley and located a settlement which was good news to us. Bro. Brigham preached to us and said to put our trust in God. We ware gladded and went ahead quite encouraged. Close to the valley we met some mountaineers who told us we could not live in the valley we ware going to, it ware so coald and frosty. They offert to pay 1,000 dollars for one ear of corn matured in the valley, we travelled on.
When we got in sight of the valley I think if there ever ware a glad people it ware us. We reached the valley Sept 25, 1847. When we got located the next thing ware to get some wheat soaed. The land was verry dry, beeing so dry it did not get up till in the spring, the crows fed on it through the winter and when it did come up it was so thin I thought it ware no account. When spring came we ware verry anxious to put in our garden seeds. We put them in the ground the first opin spell that came, after which there ware frost snaps which destroyed most of them, this ware owing to us not understanding the climate.
In April there ware a grat deel of snow fell which made the ground quite wet, which brought up the wheat we had soan, tho the crows had destroyed so much of it that it ware verry thin in deed. When vegetation sprang up many of the people had to go to prairies to seek roots to eat, such as wild onions and thistle root. Those ware not pleasant, but hunger made them good.
May 7, 1848. The spring grain sprung up looked quite good, next thing we see ware thousands of young crickits making there appearence in evry directions, we discovered they ware eating at the young growing wheat and garden truck. We begin to destroy them in evry way we could, but all in vain. It really seemed as tho the more we kilt the more came.
May 20, 1848. There ware a coald snap that froased the vines and such things that ware easy kilt. The fall wheat we had got ware just beginning to put the head out of the boot and the frost kilt it as fare as the head were out. This ware a trying time as the crickits also ware eating at evry thing grown but not froased. . . . Just now the sea gulls in flocks by the thousands got to ground… and begin to eat the crickits thay would cover the fields and fill themselves and then fly to the watter and drink, then thay would vomit them up, and go again and fill themselves up again, then drink and vomit again. Thay seemed to repete this time ater time and soon they destroyed the crickits. If those gulls had not destroyed them thay would have destroyed all our groing crops and that would have brought great suffering among the people. We attributed this to the hand of the Lord in our behalf.
July 24, 1849. This year we celebrated the day the pyoneers came to the valley. The number of persons at this celebration 2587, waggons 464, horses and mules 1028, oxen and cows 332.
President Gordon B. Hinckley observed: “The power that moved our gospel forebears was the power of faith in God. It was the same power which made possible the exodus from Egypt, the passage through the Red Sea, the long journey through the wilderness, and the establishment of Israel in the Promised Land.”
Add to our definition the instruction from D&C 64:33. Being a pioneer means that we “be not weary in well-doing”.
May each of us likewise resolve to be a pioneer and to go before and open the way for others who are buffeted by a world steeped in sin, confusion, and doubt. May we remember the pioneers and their stories, remember that they came to build Zion in a united effort.
May we accept the responsibility to instill faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in all we meet.