Major Howard Egan Family Foundation

Sailor Rope Maker Captain in Nauvoo Legion Bodyguard to Joseph Smith Mormon Battalion Envoy Captain of the 9th 10 of the original 1847 Pioneer Vanguard Company Gold Rush Trading Post Owner Trail Blazer Cattle Drover Major in Utah War Pony Express Rider & Superintendent of Line from Salt Lake to California Stage Station Owner Friend & Missionary to Indians Salt Lake City Policeman Bodyguard to Brigham Young
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Ronald Barney Symposium talk

Howard Egan’s Role in and Diary Account of
the 1847 Pioneer Company
By Ronald O. Barney, June 12, 2015

Mormon Trail
Note: The following are excerpts from Ronald Barney’s talk:

Howard Egan’s role in the Pioneer Vanguard Trek in 1847 has been particularly delightful for me. My interest in this Trek began about 40 years ago. I think a good case could be made that it is the most important Mormon story. I don’t have time in the 25 minutes that I have tonight to expand and defend that position, but over and over again I see evidence of it. I started in my personal interest and research in that Vanguard Brigade, as I call it, with writing the biography of my great, great grandfather, Lewis Barney, who was in the 12th Ten in the Vanguard Brigade. Norton Jacob was the captain of that particular Ten, and in 2005 I edited his diary for publication. In the process of doing so I read every diary that had been written by participants in the1847 trek. From that I have concluded that comparably to the Jewish reverence of Moses as the pivotal point in Judaic history, wherein thereafter they became a people, I believe that it is similarly a very defendable position for Brigham Young, in his role as the leader of the group that fled the Midwest to find some respite in the inner mountain west.

Heber C. Kimball,Brigham Young’s right-hand man, in the middle of this trek, wrote in his diary this statement: “The mission we are now engaged in is the greatest I have ever seen since I have been in the church.”

Mormon Trail

George A. Smith, a cousin to Joseph Smith, a man who in 1854 succeeded Willard Richards as the historian of the LDS Church, in a letter that he wrote in 1859 to the great Latter Day Saint benefactor, Thomas L. Kane, said: “I am compiling the history of [the] exodus from Nauvoo to the east valleys of the mountains in 1846. … This part of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will be not only presented as one of the most striking and prominent events in the dealing of God with this people in their rise and progress, but it will stand in bold relief as the main key of the American history of the 19th Century.”

Wilford Woodruff, one of the participants in the vanguard Trek to Utah, wrote of it as one of the most stirring and prominent events in the dealings of God with this people in their rise and progress. And on the commemoration of the seventh anniversary of the Mormon arrival in the great Salt Lake Valley, Daniel H. Wells, then a member of the first presidency of the LDS Church said, “This day in reality is the anniversary of our birthday as free people.”

The 1846 Trek was a very big deal and it is of central importance to the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

After Brigham Young was dead, in the spirit of remembering, a monument was built to him with the names of all 148 of that vanguard company on the back of the monument which stands on Salt Lake’s Temple Square today.

In 1897, during the Jubilee of the 50-year anniversary, there was a monument placed near the entrance of Emigration Canyon.

On the 100th anniversary, in 1947, the largest monument ever built in Utah was built for people to remember. So that they would not forget.

If Howard Egan would not have written what he did about the Trek, along with the three other volumes of diary accounts that he wrote, I don’t think most of you would be here today. It’s the people who write about themselves who are remembered. Something to think about yourselves. If you do not write about yourself, you will be forgotten. Almost guaranteed.

In Mormon parlance there is something that’s called the first death, which is a physical death. In the LDS theology there is also a second death – a spiritual death. And I think there’s a third death – and the third death is the absolute obliteration of memory about you, because you don’t write.

Mormon <p>TrailHoward Egan wrote, and his family gave him a great service in publishing his journals under the title Pioneering the West.

Now from what you’ve seen so far, what’s unique about Howard Egan and his account? It is the first book published about the Trek. Everybody else had just done it in a serial form in a periodical. But Howard Egan’s family, your folks, published the first book about the Trek. And it was a part of the rise in Western Americana of recognizing the value of the settlement of the west. This is an important part of that transition where the west – the trans-Mississippi west – was not just a desert, but it was truly a part of the corpus of the United States of America, and there was a tantalizing, scintillating story to tell about it.

Howard Egan’s journals share a terrific adventure. Don’t let science fiction and other kinds of less than authentic things be the thing that dazzles your life. Become aware of the things that are real – and your man, Howard Egan, was real.

Thank you very much.


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