A Half-Bubble Off Plumb
By Randal B. Thatcher
My wife and I recently had the pleasure of hosting a local chapter (or, “camp,” as they call it) of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP).
Fifteen delightful and smartly dressed women gathered—appropriately—inside our old, log, pioneer-era barn for their monthly assemblage, and, as the owner of said barn, I was graciously granted an honorary membership into their “camp,” for just that one meeting.
It became a rare opportunity for me to discover, first-hand, what goes on during these gatherings, since I’ve been familiar with (and somewhat mystified by) those three letters for my entire life.
My maternal Grandmother was a proud DUP member, who always seemed to be either coming from, or going to, yet another DUP event.
During our years in Seattle, my wife would sometimes tend the children of certain DUP mothers, while they attended their monthly meetings.
My mother-in-law has been a member of her Mt. Pleasant DUP “camp” for several years.
And then there are all those DUP museums that dot the states of Nevada (3), Idaho (17) and Utah (86); including one each in Centerfield, Sterling, Ephraim, Fountain Green, and Moroni, plus two each in Manti and Spring City.
So, I was more than a little curious to experience a formal meeting of such an influential and ubiquitous organization.
An American flag and a Utah State flag adorned a table at the front of the room. An opening prayer was offered, followed by the “captain” leading us all in a recitation of both the Pledge of Allegiance and something that was either the DUP motto, or just an ode to the Utah pioneers in general.
Next, a woman punched the play button on a small boom box, which provided the recorded accompaniment to a familiar hymn “In Our Lovely Deseret,” to which we sang repurposed lyrics, extolling the many virtues and courageous feats of our valiant pioneer forebears.
The same boom box then blared out another melody—this one more jaunty and entirely unfamiliar—to the which we all sang a rollicking tune called, “The Wedding of the Rails,” which recounts the tale of the meeting up of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific rail lines, coming finally together at Promontory Point, Utah, in May of 1869.
With the musical portion of the meeting concluded, brief camp administrative business was conducted, followed by a 40 minute lesson, taught by one of the camp members, all about the Southern Utah pioneer settlements that became Cedar City (which might’ve been called “Juniper City,” had the pioneers not mistaken all those juniper trees for cedars), and St. George (which apparently got its name from a story about George Albert Smith’s saintly doling out of a generous amount of life-saving potatoes to many sick and starving settlers).
After the lesson came a luncheon of salads and sandwiches, followed by peach-tart, followed by a cup of mixed-nuts, followed by a plate of multicolored macaroons. (The lunch, for me, was a highlight.)
Lastly, I presented a short history of our own pioneer house and barn, which concluded September’s meeting for this particular encampment of the local DUP.
Daughters of Utah Pioneers was born as an organization in 1901, led by Annie Taylor Hyde, a daughter of Church President, John Taylor, and patterned after other national lineage societies, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution.
This group, which began with 54 women (all direct-line descendants of a pioneer ancestor), now boasts over 1,000 camps in the US and Canada, totaling over 21,000 members.
Together, they are working to conserve historical pioneer sites and landmarks, collect artifacts, relics, manuscripts and photos; and also to educate its members and the general public about the faith of fortitude of our pioneer progenitors.
So, now I know.
I cannot say whether I will ever get the opportunity to take part in another of these informative DUP meetings, but I hope I do. I’d be glad to learn more of the storied history of our great state and of those faithfully formidable forbears from whom I also am descended. (And I’d be gladder still to grab me a few more of those tasty macaroons!)
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