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Photo of a re-enactment of Mormon pioneers arriving in Salt Lake Valley
Re-enactment of Mormon pioneers arriving in Salt Lake Valley, Pioneer Day 1997

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Utah Pioneers
A Local Legacy

It's been called the largest human migration in American history. Do you know what that refers to?

By 1869, perhaps 70,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, had walked or traveled in wagons across 1,300 miles of wilderness to Salt Lake City, Utah. Leaving 6,000 in graves along the way, the Mormons were searching for religious freedom. Their journey was equal to the distance from New York City to Miami, or Seattle to San Diego.

"This is the right place. Drive on." These were the words that Brigham Young, top Elder of the Mormons, said on July 24, 1847, as he lay sick in the back of a wagon. The place was the great valley of the Salt Lake, in what would become the state of Utah. The Mormons wanted to leave the persecution they faced in the eastern part of the United States and start a community of their own out west. Once Brigham Young and his band of 148 Mormons had found "the place," more than 70,000 Mormons decided to follow.

Every year since 1849, Salt Lake City has remembered the Mormon pioneers on Pioneer Day. In 1997, a Mormon wagon train re-created the journey of these pioneers, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Brigham Young's arrival in Utah. The trip took three months!

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