Several hundred youth from the Des Moines and Mt. Pisgah Stakes are abandoning the comfort of air conditioning, trading in their sneakers for a pair of boots and leaving their cell phones at home in exchange for hats, bonnets, walking sticks and the opportunity to step back in time as they walk across Iowa. And, just in case you’re wondering, they volunteered for the opportunity. Really?
Absolutely- it’s time to gear up for Trek.
Every summer local youth get together for a youth conference, but this year they are taking the show on the road. Today, they are starting a three-day journey across an area of Iowa that played a critical part in the journey of the early pioneers as they traveled westward.
The experience is meant to help the youth gain a deeper understanding of the challenges the pioneers experienced, albeit for just three days. During those three days they will help pull a handcart carrying their belongings. Youth will be organized into “families” with chaperones serving as their parents. The original handcart groups were organized into groups with five travelers to each handcart.
In the mid-1800s, a handcart typically weighed 60 pounds and would generally carry another 250 pounds, although it could support up to 500 pounds. Each person was able to bring approximately 17 pounds of belongings on the journey. Provisions for each group of 100 pioneers were carried in an ox-drawn wagon.
The journey wasn’t easy for those early Saints, but their faith and determination saw them through. Ten different handcart groups traveled from Iowa to the West between 1856 and 1860. Most of the 3,000 pioneers who traveled west by handcart came from England, Wales, Scotland and Scandinavia. Many of those Latter-day Saints had few resources, so Brigham Young established the Perpetual Emigration Fund to help cover the cost of their emigration. When travelers were able to repay the fund, their donations helped future emigrants make their way to Utah.
Mt. Pisgah: An important way station
Latter-day Saints began their journey westward when they were driven from Nauvoo in February 1846. After traveling 145 miles, advance companies established a temporary settlement on 1,500 acres in an area they called Garden Grove. They immediately went to work planting grain and building cabins and fences for the thousands who would follow them. Parley P. Pratt, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, later renamed the area Mt. Pisgah. The settlement served as an important way station for migrating saints until 1852. Mt. Pisgah will serve as an early stopping point on this year’s Trek as youth try to track the pioneers’ original route.
Come, Come Ye Saints penned nearby
A lesser known event that traces its roots to the area was William Clayton’s penning of the words to the beloved Latter-day Saint hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints. In April 1846, while his caravan rested at Locust Creek, just a short distance from Mt. Pisgah, Clayton received word that his wife had delivered a healthy baby boy in Nauvoo. The happy news inspired the hymn, which was set to the music of a popular English folk tune, “All is Well.”