Bob Brown, a farmer whose land near here encompasses the 1846 pioneer Mt. Pisgah settlement, sometimes gets emotional when he considers the historic importance of the land he owns.
The settlement site has been in his family since 1968. He received 360 acres from his father and now owns 1,500 acres. He is not LDS; nevertheless, to him, the land carries an almost-sacred significance."Part of this ground should never be farmed again," he said. "So much stuff needs to be preserved."
Mr. Brown's affection for the land and its historic legacy is typical of many Iowans who live along the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail. On May 5, he showed the site to some of the presenters and their spouses who had been at the Iowa Mormon Trail History Symposium in Des Moines.
Handing out sets of coat-hanger wires bent in an L-shape, he let the group experience a novel method that local residents have for finding wagon ruts, burial plots, cabin sites and other remnants of pioneer settlements. They use them as divining rods to find places where the ground has been disturbed.
A college graduate in physical education and biology, Mr. Brown recognizes that is not regarded as a scientifically accurate method. But he would gladly turn the land over for archaeological study and possible preservation in the fashion of Historic Nauvoo, Ill. A member of the Union County Board of Supervisors, he said, "We're trying to get help to verify all this stuff."
To the southeast, the tour group stopped at the Garden Grove settlement site owned by Paul and Karla Gunzenhauser. The Gunzenhausers have used the coat-hanger method to stake out cabin sites on their property. Eager to inform visitors, they have placed signs pointing the way to Nauvoo and Mt. Pisgah. Like Bob Brown, they are members of the Iowa Mormon Trails Association, and just as enthused about the historic import of the land.
Near Seymour, longtime resident D. E. Pidcock determined the site of Locust Creek Camp #2. It was verified by LDS historians and a marker was placed there, near an existing cemetery. The tour group stood on a grassy meadow below the cemetery and marker, thought to be the spot where William Clayton wrote the words to "Come, Come, Ye Saints."
Appropriately, the group took the opportunity on the spot to sing all four verses of "the hymn that went around the world."