It has been 150 years since President Brigham Young led the Saints in their historic westward exodus from Nauvoo, an event being commemorated with observances this year beginning in February.
The highlight is the weekend of Feb. 3-4, with Feb. 4 as the actual anniversary of the first wagons crossing the Mississippi River into Iowa.On Saturday, Feb. 3, at 12:30 p.m., a procession of wagons and teams will go from Main Street to a large tent at the foot of Parley Street near the Mississippi River for a 1 p.m. program, according to Elder William D. and Sister Sidney H. Price, public affairs missionaries. The teams will be lined up as they might have been in 1846.
Walking in the procession will be descendants of pioneer families, Church members and friends of the Church.
Making its debut at the program will be a recreation of William Pitt's Brass Band. In the 1840s, the brass band was an outgrowth of the drum and pipe corps that accompanied the Nauvoo Legion.
The recreated band is conducted by Mark Ammons, associate professor of music at Culver Stockton College in Canton, Mo. It will play at various times during the 1996-97 sesquicentennial of the Saints' trek.
Speaking at the 1 p.m. program will be Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy, first counselor in the presidency of the North America Central Area. Susan Easton Black, associate dean of honors at BYU, will describe Nauvoo on the evening of the exodus. Also speaking will be Gaylen S. Young Jr., a direct descendant of Brigham Young.
At 3:30 p.m., Loren Horton, Iowa's senior historian, will present "An Eyewitness Account of the Iowa Mormon Trek, 1846-47," using quotations from original pioneer journals. The 90-minute presentation will be at St. Mary's Academy auditorium.
That evening, Iowa communities along the trail will simultaneously light bonfires, marking the sites where the Saints passed. Locations of settlements founded by the Saints as way stations for those coming later, such as Garden Grove, Mt. Pisgah and Kanesville, are expected to participate.
Sunday, Feb.4, the anniversary of the departure will be remembered during a 3:30 p.m meeting at the Nauvoo Illinois Stake Center. Featured speakers will be Elder Pinnock, Dr. Milton V. Backman Jr., professor of Church History at BYU, and Hyrum Smith Shumway, direct descendant of Charles Shumway, who drove the first wagon to leave Nauvoo.
Commemorative events later in the year include the Iowa Mormon Trail History Symposium at the State Historic Building in Des Moines on May 3 and 4. The conference is officially endorsed as part of the Iowa Sesquicentennial by that state's sesquicentennial commission.
Several nationally recognized historians will join with Iowa state and local historians during the Friday and Saturday conference.
Two wagon train re-enactments of the Iowa portion of the Mormon Trail are being planned for the summer. Both trains are recognized by the Iowa Sesquicentennial Commission as official statehood anniversary events.
On June 17, the JL2 Inc. "National Authentic" Wagon Train is scheduled to leave Nauvoo and trek 300 miles across Iowa to Winter Quarters, Neb., where a celebration is planned July 4 with the governor of Nebraska.
The Iowa Mormon Trails Wagon Train will be in Montrose, Iowa, June 22-23 and depart June 24.
Many communities along the trail in southern Iowa are planning celebrations as the wagon trains come through, including parades, music, re-enactments, plays, square dances and interdenominational church services.
Anyone wishing to participate may contact the JL2 wagon train through Larry England, (515) 664-3364, or the IMTA wagon train through Mike Foley, (319) 372-5229.
More information about the exodus commemoration may be obtained from Elder or Sister Price at 1-800-453-0022. Those needing overnight accommodations may call 1-800-416-4470 for assistance.