Members help restore frontier village

About 350 members of the Plainview New York Stake gathered around a replica of a pioneer handcart recently, and paused to marvel how something so simple could play such a meaningful role in the western migration of the Church.

"Many wondered at how so few provisions could be expected to last for such a long journey, while others contemplated the sheer strength and determination it required to pull the handcart over the rough and rocky trail out west," said Robyn Smith, stake director of public affairs.The handcart, built by a stake member last year, was donated July 25 to the Old Bethpage Village, a 200-acre facility on Long Island created to demonstrate and preserve the frontier lifestyle of New York in the 1800s. The donation came as the culmination of a two-year service project at the village by the stake.

The handcart was built by Joseph Hallaran, a local craftsman and member of the Terryville Ward, using plans detailing the construction of handcarts made in 1856-60. The handcart replica was created for use during the stake's sesquicentennial benefit concert last October.

"We are grateful to Old Bethpage Village Restoration for giving this handcart a home in their Carriage Museum and for the chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with them in preserving this beautiful setting for these historical buildings," said stake Pres. Jeffery E. Olson.

Members of the stake spent several weekends this summer helping to restore a 3,500-square foot livestock barn and clearing brush and debris from an overgrown stream bed at Old Bethpage Village as part of this year's stake pioneer celebration.

"Ties of friendship were strengthened as hundreds of members worked - at times knee-deep in mud - alongside employees of the Old Bethpage Village during two separate service projects held in July," said Sister Smith.

"What a unique opportunity it is to be extended a warm hand of friendship and be invited to work preserving these buildings. It was in one of these buildings here where we were unwelcome not so very long ago," said Pres. Olson, referring to Noon Inn, a historic building preserved at Old Bethpage Village where early members were once threatened.

"When you donated the handcart," Gary Hammond, supervisor of Special Events at the village, said to members of the Church, "I wanted more information on the history of the Mormons on Long Island."

During his research, he discovered in the Feb. 25, 1870, issue of the Brooklyn Eagle that several men entered the inn while Church members were holding a meeting and gave them half an hour to leave the neighborhood.

"They were also informed they must quit the town entirely in 24 hours, or they would be subjected to mob law," Mr. Hammond said, quoting the newspaper article.

"Old Bethpage Village Restoration is deeply appreciative of the efforts of these Church members," said James McKenna, site director for the village. "Everyone who worked with this group last year and this year was absolutely inspired by their dedication and willingness to put so much behind what they were doing."

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