Remembering Pioneer Days in M.V.


The Progress

Some of Charles and Twila Pulsipher’s children participate in the Children’s Parade at a Pioneer Day event in Logandale of the late 1970s. PHOTO COURTESY OF PULSIPHER FAMILY.

Most folks wouldn’t realize it nowadays, but in the Moapa Valley communities of the past this week would be one of the biggest celebrations of the year. July 24, or Pioneer Day, was historically observed faithfully by the local residents of the past.

This holiday, which is still celebrated in the State of Utah, is a remembrance of the Mormon Pioneers, the early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

These pioneers left religious persecution and intolerance in the midwestern United States during the mid 1840s. Beginning in 1846 and ending with the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, more than 70,000 Mormon pioneers emigrated west in search of religious freedom. The Pioneer Day holiday is set on the date that the first company of pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.

In time Mormon pioneer settlements spread all across the west. One of those settlements was established right here along the Muddy River valley beginning in 1865. These included the pioneer towns of St. Thomas (south of modern-day Overton), St. Joseph (near current Logandale), West Point (near current Moapa) and more.

Youngsters ride together down the main street of Logandale in their pioneer wagons during Pioneer Day festivities held in the 1970s. PHOTO COURTESY OF PULSIPHER FAMILY.

In commemoration of this pioneer history, the Moapa Valley communities made a decades-long tradition of celebrating Pioneer Day in a grand way. These festivities were observed from at least the 1930s on down through the 1980s.

There were actually two Pioneer Day celebrations each year in Moapa Valley. Each congregation, or Ward, of the Church held its own festival.

In the early days, there were only two Wards in Moapa Valley: Overton Ward and Logandale Ward. Overton Ward held its celebration at Overton Park, while the Logandale celebration was held at Logandale Park. Both celebrations were similar, with milk and bread suppers which eventually evolved into potluck dinners in the 1960s-1980s. Both also had children’s parades which later became actual pioneer handcart treks in the 1980s.

Even though the celebrations were put on by the two Wards of the Church, all community members were welcomed and invited. “Even those who were not members of our church had fun and enjoyed the celebrations,” said Charles Pulsipher who grew up in Logandale.

“Pioneer Day was a huge celebration!” recalled Susan Whipple who also was raised in Logandale. “We would get together more in the evening and have pioneer suppers of bread and milk. Sometimes they included onions, radishes as well, and, later on, cheese to eat with it.”

Charles and his wife Twila Pulsipher also remembered these bread and milk dinners fondly. “Both the bread and the milk were fresh,” recalled Charles. “The bread was, of course, homemade. For us, it was a treat to have that bread with fresh-off-the-farm milk, and raw honey together.”

The dinner wasn’t the only reason folks got together, though. Twila recalled that there was always a children’s parade where all the kids marched down the main highway in both Logandale and Overton.

“The kids would dress up in pioneer attire and walk the street by the Logandale Church and the Park,” Twila said. “The Primary leaders would also dress up and march with the kids. Little red wagons were made to look like covered wagons. Cows and horses also were part of the parade.”

Twila became excited as she remembered how much fun these events were. “We were proud of our outfits and the opportunity to show off these new outfits that a lot of mothers and grandmothers had just made,” she said.

After the parade and the community meal, the celebrations included games, music, dancing, and even movies in the park.
“Most of the time, the movies were pioneer-themed,” said Twila.

Whipple recalled that the dances were ballroom dancing. “There was some square dancing,” she said. “But it was mainly ballroom dancing. And everyone was involved.”

A whole host of activities came as traditions from pioneer times. These included leg wrestling, stick pulls, and other games pioneers played in the old West.

“The leg wrestling and stick pull would be a favorite as everyone wanted to be the strongest, especially amongst the men and boys,” recalled Charles.

Janet Leming remembers in the 1980s, the youth doing handcart treks with their leaders. “Once, they went out to Overton Beach area where St. Thomas was,” she said. “Another year they went down a couple of canyons and ravines.”

“Everyone had fun and loved the day,” said Twila Pulsipher. “The celebrations were similar to July 4th celebrations, just a different focus. But both were big celebrations.”

By the late 1980s and early 1990’s the Pioneer Day Celebrations had dwindled and passed into obscurity.
“I am not sure why the celebrations quit,” said Twila. “I guess that times were changing, computers and other stuff came to be in existence. It just fell by the wayside. I do wish they would bring them back, though. Because it is an important part of our communities’ origins and history. We need to remember it and be proud of it!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *