As Apostle George A. Smith and a party of settlers arrived to overlook Parowan Valley in southern Utah on Jan. 10, 1851, they paused to celebrate the completion of their winter journey.
They fired their "Old Sow" cannon three times. The cannon's booming rumbled across the valley and alarmed an advance group of settlers who rushed back with rifles ready to help in what they thought was an Indian attack.Nearly a century and a half has passed since then, but that event is celebrated annually by the history-minded residents of Parowan.
In fact, a portrayal of the firing of "Old Sow" is being preserved in perpetuity in a life-sized bronze monument that will be placed in Parowan in 1995. The monument is being created by artist Laura Lee Stay of the Midvalley 3rd Ward, Sandy Utah Midvalley Stake. She serves as the ward single adults representative and is a visiting teacher.
The monument is to include a group of bronze statues portraying Jacob Hofheins, who fired the artillery piece in 1851, kneeling to ignite the cannon, and Apostle Smith standing behind with the flag.
When the monument is completed,it will be placed at a historic site near the center of town. The site is at a spring where the pioneers first camped - later to be the town's swimming hole for many years. A few acres of park will surround the monument, according to Dennis Stowell, former mayor and instigator of the monument project. The site will be named Parowan Heritage Park.
"Local history is important to the people of Parowan," said Brother Stowell. "A lot of the tradition from the early settlers is still carried on."
He said that the town annually celebrates its founding, which took place in 1851 a few days after the cannon firing, on Jan. 13. The pioneers traveled south during the frigid winter months while the ground was frozen so traveling would be easier, and so they would be prepared to plant crops early in the spring.
The cannon firing in 1851 isn't the only historical happening the townspeople of Parowan celebrate. They also honor an event that took place a year earlier. On Jan. 8, 1850, at a nearby site, the first Mormons arrived. A group of explorers under Apostle Parley P. Pratt hoisted a flag and he dedicated the valley. Elder Pratt called the area "City of the Little Salt Lake," but the name didn't stick.
Afterwards they held a feast. Anticipating a vast settlement in the area, Elder Pratt said he hoped that the anniversary of the event would be celebrated annually, "Till a hundred thousand merry hearts can join the festival."
While today's celebrations attract hundreds instead of hundreds of thousands, the fact that the community is interested in its past is important to Sister Stay. The excitement of the whole town being involved in the project of its heritage is very motivating to her.
Sister Stay, who earned a master's degree from BYU, has other monuments on display in the West. She works out of her garage to preserve such sketches of history.
She explained that despite considerable historical research on her part, it was difficult to find information about the size of the two men. So she made each figure about 6 feet tall, and made allowances for the slight shrinkage during casting. To approximate the figure of 300-pound George A. Smith, it took 700 pounds of modeling clay, she said.
Her modeling of the clay has progressed rapidly. "This project from day one has gone smoothly," she said. "I believe that I've had divine help. I believe that our heritage is important to our society. Connecting back to our roots is really vital."