The 23rd of July

Tomorrow is a holiday in Utah, and many Latter-day Saints beyond its boarder commemorate, or at least remember, the entrance of Brigham Young into the valley. Today, 163 years ago on the day before, many of the Vangaurd company had already made camp in the valley and there was no rest from the transcontinental journey.

Providing an archetype for millions of subsequent prayers in the inter-mountain west, the camp gather at a meeting and “at the opening the brethren united in prayer and asked the Lord to send rain on the land.” [1]

Thomas Bullock wrote of the meeting and subsequent activities:

Abut ½ past 11 Committee reported, they had staked off, a piece of fine ground 40 rods by 20 for Potatoes—also a suitable place for beans, Corn & buckwheat. the soil is fertile, friable loam, with fine gravel—at 12 o’clock the first furrow was turned by Capt. Taft’s Company—there were 3 Plows & 1 Harrow at work most of the afternoon[.] Tafts Plow got broke. at 2 o’clock the brethren commenced building a dam, & cutting trenches to convey the water , to irrigate the Land—at 4 oclock other brethren commenced mowing the grass, to prepare a turnip patch. [2]

They cultivated two and half acres that day; then the pioneer company received the answer to their prayer. At six o’clock, the rain came.


  1. William Clayton, Journal, July 23, 1847. All sources in this post are from the LDS Church Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868 database.
  2. Thomas Bullock, Diary, July 23.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, J.

  2. Mark Brown says:

    This is a fine tribute, J.

    There is an article in the Tribune today which gives details about their first encampment, the first irrigation ditch, and so on.

  3. John Mansfield says:

    Very nicely told, J.

  4. Thanks, J.

  5. Awesome J. Thomas Bullock is my grandpa, of sorts. P.S. “boarder” or “border” ;-)

    Happy Pioneer Day!

  6. That just made me tear up, for some reason. Thanks J.

  7. Cynthia L. says:

    Does anyone know what “mowing grass” means in this era or how it was done?

  8. Good story. Very motivating. Thanks.

  9. Latter-day Guy says:

    7, with a scythe, I believe.

  10. Tod, I’m a crappy copy-editor.

    Thanks Tracy.

    Cynthia, LdG is right. “Mowing grass” was fairly common terminology for the period and it was performed manually with several common hand tools.

  11. Yet Another John says:

    What? No Environmental Impact Study?

  12. A scythe? That makes the old story from the primary manuals about doing a $5 job on the lawn all the more impressive.

  13. Blaue Blume says:

    In this account of the first day in the Valley, I have always seen the juxtaposition of the faithful prayer for rain and the immediate institution of irrigation as a model for our own approach to God in inviting His intervention: absolute faith in His ability and willingness to do so, but determined dependence on our own abilities to influence our circumstances. It is where these two meet that a true confimation of faith and hope occurs.
    Just a side note – the rather archaic term, haymow, refers to the area used for storing “mown” grasses or hay – all done by hand with scythes and sickles in the ages before mechanization. It is not easy work, having experimented with such “primitive” tools in my young days on the farm.

  14. Simple, and powerful. Thank you!

  15. Scott, the 5-dollar story on the lawn came from Reader’s Digest in 1958. The author said it happened some “twenty-five years ago”, meaning about 1933. He was probably using a mechanical lawn mower and clippers then.