Yellow ribbons silent reminder of price paid by pioneers

The hundreds of bright yellow ribbons lining the fence of the pioneer cemetery at Winter Quarters is a silent and poignant reminder of the price the Mormons paid at this way station of the frontier as they made their way across America in search of religious freedom.

Written on each of the ribbons is the name and age of an individual - as many as 50 percent of them children - who died at Winter Quarters or nearby Cutler's Park during the time the Church was headquartered in the Middle Missouri Valley.John Cummings, 4 years, 9 months, 26 days.

Patty C. Hakes, 17 years, 2 days.

Ephraim Pearson, 61 years, 6 months, 24 days.

Robert Harris, 5 months, 26 days.

The list is long. A ribbon was placed for each of the 369 known persons who are buried in the cemetery, whose names are memorialized on a bronze plaque near Avard Fairbanks' heart-wrenching monument of a father and mother burying their infant child in a shallow grave. The ribbons were placed in the cemetery as part of the activities associated with the dedication of the new Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters. (See article on page 3.) The visitors center is located across the street from the cemetery.

Eliza Oakey, 27 years, 11 months, 12 days.

Robert P. Lamb, 1 year, 6 months, 19 days.

Abigal Carpenter, 6 years, 2 days.

Behind each name is a story of courage and faith, a story so incredible that it has been indelibly woven into the fabric of Mormon history that has spanned a century and a half. Of the pioneers, President Gordon B. Hinckley said at the dedication of the visitors center: "I hope that we shall never, in all the history of this Church, ever forget those who came this way 150 years ago, that we shall remember them for their courage, for their conviction, for their testimonies, for their witness of the truth of this work . . . for the sacrifice they made. . . ."

Orson Alsworth, 1 year, 5 days.

Alvy West, 51 years, 4 months, 26 days.

Sarah Lytle, 73 years, 25 days.

Bows for the ribbons were tied by members of the Relief Society of the Rockbrook Ward, Omaha Nebraska Stake, and placed at the cemetery by about 20 families in the ward.

"We were planning our spring social for March," explained Relief Society Pres. Margene Durrant, "when the suggestion was made to have a service project rather than a luncheon. I called several people asking if they had anything we could do for a project. Elder [Eldon] Fletcher, [director of the center], called back and said the committee planning for the dedicatory services thought it would be nice if a yellow ribbon was placed at the cemetery for each person buried there.

"So instead of having lots of food and decorations, we tied ribbon bows for our social," said Sister Durrant. Many of the 35-40 sisters who participated brought homemade breads and cookies, which they enjoyed while working on the ribbon project.

"We learned something about many of those who were buried in the cemetery, and while we were working on the bows, we related their stories," she said.

Ezra Woodruff, 3 days.

Samuel E. Carpenter, 43 years, 6 months, 15 days.

Minerva N. Kelsey, 4 years, 6 months.

Kara LeGrow, Relief Society homemaking leader, said working on the ribbons "gave us a wonderful feeling. It was really neat for us to do this, and it was fun watching the children place the ribbons at the cemetery. They were so excited."

As the ribbons ripple in the wind, emotions are stirred.

Cyrus Neff, 20 years, 1 month, 18 days.

Mary Amanda Margret Zabrinsky, 5 months, 21 days.

James Cummings, 77 years.

President Hinckley, in his dedicatory remarks at the visitors center, said: "I would hope that every one of you go up to that monument

in the cemeteryT and stand there and thoughtfully and reverently and respectfully look upon those figures . . . a father and a mother burying a child in a grave which they would never again visit."

John Smith, 1 day.

Mary C. Burnham, 19 years.

Mary Houston, 63 years.

At least for a short period of time, the yellow ribbons call attention to those who paid the final price on their "journey of destiny."

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