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The City Journals

Daughters and Sons of Utah Pioneers presidents share history outside the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center

Sep 09, 2021 11:37AM ● By Carl Fauver

An audience of about 50 enjoyed stories of pioneer strength and hardship, outside the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

“Remembering is one of the most important things we can do. Remembering is part of our soul.”

Those were among the closing remarks from International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers President Ellen Jeppson, after sharing stories of 19th-century bravery and hardship with about 50 onlookers outside the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center (1488 West 4800 South).

Jeppson and her counterpart—Sons of Utah Pioneers National President, Brad Clayton—each told tales of yore, at the invitation of Taylorsville-Bennion SUP Chapter President Riley Draper.

 “We are interested in recruiting people to our chapter because, quite frankly, our chapter is dying; our members are getting older,” Draper said. “This is probably true across most of the Sons and Daughters of Utah Pioneers organizations. Recruitment is a big concern. So, I thought an event like this might stir some interest in our groups.”

Draper, 82, traces his Utah pioneer heritage to Draper City, where his great-great-grandfather William Draper was one of the founders. In 1854, that community’s first post office was established with the name Draperville. In later years, the name was shortened.

With California wildfire smoke filling the air on Aug. 9, the heritage center audience first heard SUP President Clayton talk about the Mormon Battalion and the unique flag the group reportedly carried with them from Iowa to San Diego, California.

“Brigham Young called this special United States flag ‘his flag’ and it flew over Tucson, Los Angeles and San Diego,” Clayton said. “Now the flag is displayed in our SUP Headquarters (3301 East 2920 South, Millcreek). It’s 8 ½ feet by 5 ½ feet. It’s the only flag like it in the world.”

Clayton’s Latter-Saint pioneer heritage traces back to three different great-great-grandparents, George Cannon, Daniel Wells and William Clayton. Well-known Latter-Saint hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” was written by William Clayton. He also beat Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley by one day, arriving with other advance team members on July 23, 1847. 

Following Clayton’s remarks, the remainder of the program belonged to DUP International President Jeppson, who has traced her pioneer heritage back to nearly four dozen ancestors.

“Through my research, I have found 45 great-great- or great-great-great-grandparents who walked across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley,” she said. “The research I do has enriched my life. I encourage you to do it also.”

Jeppson’s most riveting tale was of famous early Latter-day Saint printer W.W. Phelps, who printed the first edition of the church’s “Book of Commandments.”

She explained how a mob of people who opposed the Latter-day Saints was planning an assault on Phelps’ Independence, Missouri, home where his wife and six children were. Jeppson said they might all have been murdered were it not for the actions of one would-be mob member who sneaked out ahead of the group to warn the family.

“Phelps’ wife was an outstanding midwife who had assisted in the births of many children in the area,” Jeppson said. “Prior to that raid on the Phelps’ home, she had assisted this mob member’s wife in childbirth. That’s why he forewarned her and why the Phelps family survived. They were still within earshot when they heard the mob break into the home and begin destroying it.”

Jeppson also recalled for the audience a time when, as a young girl, she was assisted in doing dishes by an elderly woman. She later learned that diminutive woman—who could not reach the highest cupboard shelves to put dishes away—was an actual, literal daughter of one of the original Utah pioneers.

A Utah pioneer is defined by the DUP as anyone arriving in the Salt Lake Valley from July 1847 to May 10, 1869. The 1869 date marks the completion of the transcontinental railroad, meaning anyone arriving in Utah after that could have come by train.

“We have as many as 15,000 active DUP members and get about a thousand new members each year,” Jeppson said. “Our focus in the DUP is to preserve history. We have about 20,000 photos and another 20,000 artifacts at our international headquarters at the Pioneer Memorial Museum (300 North Main Street, Salt Lake). We now do a lot of our research work online.”

Following their successful Heritage Center gathering last month, local SUP Chapter President Draper said his group of about 30 active members will meet Sept. 13 at Jim’s Family Restaurant (7609 South Redwood Road). It will be their first meeting at that “regular” location in 18 months, since before the COVID-19 shutdown began across Utah and the United States. He’s excited about the guest speakers lined up for that meeting also.

The International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers operates the Days of '47, Inc. scholarship competition and has arranged for the three royalty members to appear at the Taylorsville-Bennion SUP meeting. They are Queen Sophia Lowry, a University of Utah student; Adelynn Eisenach, First Attendant; and Arianna Haner, Second Attendant.

“Ellen [Jeppson] helped me line them up,” Draper explained. “She’s a great contact.”

Those interested in attending that meeting or joining the Taylorsville-Bennion Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers should contact Draper at [email protected] or 801-266-5491. More information on the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers is available at isdup.org or 801-532-6479.