Monument honors 500,000 pioneers

BOISE, Idaho — A monument by noted LDS sculptor Avard T. Fairbanks was unveiled April 24 in Boise Parks' Oregon Trail Historic Reserve honoring the nearly 500,000 pioneers who trekked the Old Oregon Trail to settle America's western frontier. The 36-inch bronze relief sculpture, "Old Oregon Trail," created in 1924, depicts a prairie schooner (wagon) with a mother and child in it, and the pioneer father driving the oxen as they struggle over a rocky outcropping. It dramatically portrays a scene that occurred hundreds of times on this spot some 140 years ago. From here, pioneers began their perilous descent through the rocky basalt cliffs to enter the Boise River Valley.

Delivering the dedicatory address was Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles, who is a great-great-great grandson of Hyrum Smith and a member of Bel Air Ward, Boise Idaho West Stake. He spoke of the visionary pioneer families who travelled westward to seek a better life. He thanked those who chose to settle in the lush green valley of the Boise River, and he dedicated this monument to inspire courage in generations of families to come.

Steve Grueber of the Idaho Historical Society spoke of the Oregon Trail and of the trials and triumphs of the pioneers who travelled it. Jim Hall, director of Boise's Parks and Recreation Department, spoke of the remarkable preservation of the trail in this location, the longest visible segment in any urban area from Missouri to Oregon. He invited guests to walk the few steps to where the old wagon ruts are still apparent.

Donating the sculpture was Jeff Fairbanks, grandson of Avard Fairbanks (1897-1987), and his wife, Diane, of the Centennial Ward, Meridian Idaho North Stake. Their son, Jacob, attended and helped unveil the monument. In his brief remarks during the dedication, the elder Brother Fairbanks spoke of the remarkable life of his grandfather, a distinguished sculptor, anatomist and educator of the 20th Century who created more than 100 public monuments honoring great events and characters in history, and who was the founding dean of the College of Fine Arts of the University of Utah. Avard Fairbanks had a great passion for pioneer history, he being a descendent of 1847 Utah Pioneers who walked the plains alongside much of the Old Oregon Trail's distance.

Avard Fairbanks also created such well known monuments as "Tragedy at Winter Quarters" in the Church's Pioneer Cemetery in Omaha, Neb., and the Angel Moroni statues for four temples.