LINKS
2018-08-08 / Front Page

More Than 80 Walk to Commemorate Mormon Handcart Pioneers

By Rosie Cunningham


Leslie (second from left) and Jed Pack (far right), of Schenectady, were part of eight groups who walked the rail trail from Bloomville to Roxbury to commemorate the Mormon handcart pioneers. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter Leslie (second from left) and Jed Pack (far right), of Schenectady, were part of eight groups who walked the rail trail from Bloomville to Roxbury to commemorate the Mormon handcart pioneers. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter DELAWARE COUNTY - Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (LDS Church) walked the rail trail from Bloomville to Roxbury in memory of and to honor the Mormon handcart pioneers.

According to Leslie Pack, more than 80 members - which included 71 adolescents of the LDS Church from various congregations - gathered to walk 26 miles in eight groups, pull- ing handcarts to commemorate their ancestors.

“It’s also known as the Mormon Church,” she said. “Our church started in Elmira and continued to move west to various towns before reaching Salt Lake City in Utah. Mormons started their own church and new community there in 1847.”

According to the Packs, and Internet sources, the Latter Day Saints were first organized in 1830. Early members of the church often encountered hostility, primarily due to their practice of withdrawing from secular society to practice their distinct religious beliefs. Their neighbors felt threatened by the church’s rapid growth in numbers, its tendency to vote as a block to acquire political power, its claims of divine favor, and later, the practice of polygamy. Violence directed against the church and its members caused the body of the Church to move from Ohio to Missouri, then to Illinois. Despite the frequent moves, church members were unable to escape persecution, which culminated in an extermination order against all Mormons living in the state by Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs in 1838 and the death of their leader, Joseph Smith, in 1844. The Mormon pioneers used handcarts to transport their belongings to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Motivated to join their fellow church members in Utah, but lacking funds for full ox or horse teams, nearly 3,000 Mormon pioneers from England, Wales, Scotland and Scandinavia made the journey from Iowa or Nebraska to Utah in ten handcart groups.

Although fewer than 10 percent of the 1846–68 Latter-day Saint emigrants made the journey west using handcarts, the handcart pioneers have become an important symbol in LDS culture, representing the faithfulness and sacrifice of the pioneer generation. They continue to be recognized and honored in events such as Pioneer Day, Church pageants, and similar commemorations.

“Today, we are remembering what they did,” said Jed Pack, who belongs to a congregation in Schenectady.

My great-great-grandfather did it so for me, it’s a nod to my ancestry,” said Leslie. “There was a lot of persecution of the Mormons and that resulted in them traveling with handcarts all of these years ago to Utah.”

“We do a walk such as this every four years,” said Ted.

The group began their trek in Bloomville on the rail trails and said they would be camping out overnight in Hobart before continuing on to Grand Gorge the following day. The destination would be Kirkside Park in Roxbury.

“The trails are beautiful and the kids are enjoying themselves,” said Leslie, who added they discovered the route from a congregation member who lives in Schoharie and works in the Hobart area.

“It’s perfect,” she said. “There are not many hills on the trail.”

Leslie, who recently completed an Ironman competition, said she encouraged the children to get in shape but laughed and added she doubts many did.

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