Mormon Battalion commemoration

Credit: Scott Bennion
Credit: Scott Bennion
Credit: Scott Bennion
Credit: Scott Bennion
Credit: Christopher Chauncey


The smell of Dutch oven cooking and hot biscuits cooked over an outdoor fire brought to life what dinnertime might have been like for the members of the Mormon Battalion. On Saturday, Jan. 31, those outdoor smells helped to celebrate the march of the battalion and its arrival into San Diego, California.

The commemoration event was a day full of pioneer memories and activities at the California State Historic Park at Old Town San Diego, near the Mormon Battalion Historic Site. The Battalion was part of the U.S. Army of the West in 1846, and the members marched for almost 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa, (near Winter Quarters) to San Diego, arriving on Jan. 29, 1847.

More than a thousand people enjoyed the festivities that began with a re-enactment march. Participants dressed in pioneer-style military garb and marched around the grounds of the historic park. The mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, sent an official proclamation to be read at the commemoration event. Noting the contributions made by the battalion to defend the nation in 1846-47 and in the development of the state of California, Mayor Faulconer, proclaimed Jan. 31, 2015, as “United States Mormon Battalion Day in San Diego.”

One of the highlights of the day was the surprise visit of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Holland was in attendance to celebrate a unique honor given to his older brother, S. Dennis Holland. Brother Holland received a special award, called the “Diggin’ Spade” Lifetime Achievement Award, for his efforts in preserving California’s LDS pioneer history. The award was presented by the California Pioneer Heritage Foundation, originally founded by Brother Holland. “I was thrilled to get the award, although a little embarrassed,” said Brother Holland. “But I have dedicated myself to change the public’s ideas about the contributions that the Mormons made to early California history.”

Dennis Holland, a retired pharmacist, has lived in northern California since 1961. He is currently the president of the California Living History Church Service Mission, a newly organized mission of the Church.

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