Pioneer Day (Utah)

Pioneer Day (Utah)
Re-enactment of Mormon pioneers in the 1912 Pioneer Day Parade at Liberty Park, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Pioneer Day (also archaically called the Day of Deliverance)[1] is an official holiday celebrated on July 24 in the U.S. state of Utah,[2] with some celebrations in regions of surrounding states originally settled by Mormon pioneers.[3][4] It commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847,[5] where the Latter-day Saints settled after being forced from Nauvoo, Illinois[6] and other locations in the eastern United States.[7] Parades, fireworks, rodeos, and other festivities help commemorate the event. Similar to July 4th, most governmental offices[2] and many businesses are closed on Pioneer Day.[citation needed]

In addition to being an official holiday in Utah, Pioneer Day is considered a special occasion by many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).[8][9] On Pioneer Day, some Latter-day Saints walk portions of the Mormon Trail or reenact entering the Salt Lake Valley by handcart.[10] Latter-day Saints throughout the United States[11][12] and around the world may celebrate July 24 in remembrance of the LDS Churches' pioneer era, with songs, dances, and pioneer related activities.[13][14]

While the holiday has strong links to the LDS Church, it is a celebration of everyone, regardless of faith and nationality, who emigrated to the Salt Lake Valley during the pioneer era, which is generally considered to have ended with the 1869 arrival of the transcontinental railroad.[15] Notable non-LDS American pioneers from this period include Episcopal Bishop Daniel Tuttle, who was responsible for Utah's first non-Mormon schools (Rowland Hall-St. Mark's) and first public hospital (St. Mark's) in the late 1800's.[16] The Intertribal Powwow at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City honors the rich cultural heritage and contributions of the area's American Indians, helping Utahns to gain a deeper understanding of the region's history.[17]

The holiday generates a great deal of road traffic; Utah Department of Public Safety statistics demonstrate that Pioneer Day has the second highest holiday traffic fatality rate in Utah, with the earlier July 4 Independence Day having the highest rate.[18]



The interior of the Salt Lake Tabernacle as decorated for the Deseret Sunday School Union's July 1875 Pioneer Day celebration.

The earliest precursor to Pioneer Day celebrations in Utah occurred on July 24, 1849, when the Nauvoo Brass Band led a commemoration of the second anniversary of the Latter-day Saints entering the Salt Lake Valley.[19]

The first celebration of Pioneer Day in 1857 was interrupted with news of the approach of Johnson's Army, heralding the beginning of the Utah War.[20] During the following occupation of the Utah Territory by federal troops, Pioneer Day was not celebrated.[21] Once President Abraham Lincoln initiated a hands-off policy on Utah in 1862 during the American Civil War[22] Pioneer Day was once again observed, and expanded into the surrounding areas as the Mormon Corridor spread throughout the Intermountain West.[21] In 1880, Latter-day Saints commemorated the Golden Jubilee of the church's formal organization in 1830; tens of thousands of people in hundreds of communities participated in very enthusiastic festivities.[21]

In the years that followed, federal enforcement efforts of anti-polygamy laws (including the 1882 Edmunds Act) resulted in greatly subdued celebrations.[21] The 1886 commemoration was particularly notable for its mourning theme, with the Salt Lake Tabernacle decorated in black instead of the usually colorful bunting, and the eulogizing of Latter-day Saints who were in hiding or imprisoned for polygamy offenses.[21] By 1897, the celebration included not only the 50th anniversary of the initial arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, but also the end of the polygamy issue, the completion of the Salt Lake Temple, and statehood for Utah.[21]

The centennial in 1947 and the sesquicentennial in 1997 were especially large celebrations in Utah. One writer indicated that the 1947 celebrations seemed to incorporate the entire year, with July 24 only being an apex to the events.[23]

Related events

See also

Christus statue temple square salt lake city.jpg Latter-day Saints portal


  1. ^ Gross, Ernie. This Day In Religion. New York:Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc, 1990. ISBN 1-55570-045-4.
  2. ^ Packard, David (15 July 2009), "Pioneer Day in Pocatello, Idaho", Church News (LDS Church),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  3. ^ Tanner, Eliza (September 1995), "Safe from the Storms", Ensign (LDS Church),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  4. ^ Schindler, Harold (24 July 1997), "Ailing Young Rolls Out of Canyon, Likes Look of the Salt Lake Valley", Salt Lake Tribune, Mormon Trail Series . Reprinted with permission at Utah History to Go.
  5. ^ Sanford, Melissa (08 April 2004). "Illinois Tells Mormons It Regrets Expulsion". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ "Today in History: July 24", American Memory (Library of Congress),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  7. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. (October 2001), "Remarks at Pioneer Day Commemoration Concert", Ensign (LDS Church),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  8. ^ Reynolds, Sydney Smith (June 1989), "They Belong to Us All", Liahona (LDS Church),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  9. ^ "Mormons Celebrate Their Pioneer Heritage", Newsroom (LDS Church),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  10. ^ McGrath, Rachel (26 July 2009), "Mormons in Camarillo mark pioneers' Utah arrival in 1847", Ventura County Star (Camarillo, California),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  11. ^ Rohrer, Grey (20 July 2009), "Pioneer Days celebrate western migration", Cape Coral Daily Breeze (Cape Coral, Florida),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  12. ^ Gaunt, LaRene Porter (April 2005), "Celebrate!", Ensign (LDS Church),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  13. ^ Bailey, Tamara Leatham (July 1997), "Pioneer Parties", New Era (LDS Church),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  14. ^ Greenleigh, Alicia (21 July 2009), "Days of '47: The day when pioneers are cool", Salt Lake Tribune,, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  15. ^ Quinn, Frederick Building the "Goodly Fellowship of Faith" - A History of the Episcopal Church in Utah - 1867-1996 Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 2004, chapter 1.
  16. ^ Mayorga, Carlos (2008-07-20), "Powwow honors Indian culture", The Salt Lake Tribune: D3, [dead link] Archive Article ID: 9925806
  17. ^ Holiday Deaths (Utah 1999-2008), Utah Department of Public Safety,, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  18. ^ Purdy, William E. (July 1980), "They Marched Their Way West: The Nauvoo Brass Band", Ensign (LDS Church),, retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  19. ^ "The First Statewide Pioneer Day Celebration", Markers and Monuments Database (Utah State History, a division of the Utah Department of Community and Culture),, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  20. ^ a b c d e f "Pioneer Day", Utah History Encyclopedia (University of Utah Press), 1994,, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  21. ^ Firmage, Edwin Brown; Mangrum, Richard Collin (2001), Zion in the courts, University of Illinois Press, p. 139, ISBN 0252069803,, "Having signed the Morrill Act, Abraham Lincoln reportedly compared the Mormon Church to a log he had encountered as a farmer that was 'too hard to split, too wet to burn and too heavy to move, so we plow around it. That's what I intend to do with the Mormons. You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone, I will let him alone.'" 
  22. ^ Haddock, Marc (20 July 2009), "Celebrating Pioneer Day in 1947", Deseret News,, retrieved 6 August 2009 
  23. ^ "Pioneer Days - Something for everyone",, 

External links

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