It may be easy to forget the past, but the vision, faith and work of pioneers should be remembered and cherished, President Gordon B. Hinckley said at the unveiling ceremony for a new monument here honoring the founders of Mesa.
In his keynote address at Pioneer Park Feb. 13, President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, contrasted his one-hour-and-14-minute, "very comfortable ride" to the "five weary and long months'" journey of the first Mesa company that arrived on Feb. 14, 1878.An estimated 1,500 residents and winter visitors gathered in the park immediately north of the Arizona Temple block in downtown Mesa to witness the ceremony. Among them were several Mesa natives in their 80s, as well as numerous descendants of members of the pioneer company.
The monument is the work of Claude Pomeroy, a descendant of Mesa founder Francis Pomeroy, and represents the culmination of his dream to honor the city's early settlers.
It is composed of six life-size bronze figures set up on a concrete and brick base. The statuary replaces an old, unused fountain in Pioneer Park.
The sculptor unveiled the monument to the accompaniment of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," sung by the Central Arizona Mormon Choir.
The four male figures depict George W. Sirrine, Charles Crismon, Charles I. Robson and Francis Pomeroy, founders of the city. They stand and kneel in a semi-circle in front of a pioneer mother and child who represent a family who provided support and encouragement.
The men hold the tools they used in the settlement of the land: a shovel, a level, a book of maps, and a rifle.
Bronze plaques listing the names of the first pioneers to what is now Mesa and the neighboring community of Lehi are affixed to the base of the monument, along with the names of 600 settlers who made their homes in Mesa before 1900.
The event was sponsored by the Mesa Pioneer Recognition Committee, organized in cooperation with the city of Mesa and with a broad base of community support. The committee raised more than $155,000 for the construction of the monument from more than 500 individuals and businesses in Mesa.
A time capsule was buried at the base of the monument containing a list of donors, newspapers of Feb. 13, 1988, a printed program of the celebration, minutes of the committee proceedings, and photographs of the event.
According to Patrick Pomeroy, co-chairman of the committee, the capsule will be opened in 40 years on the 150th anniversary of the founding of Mesa.
In his address, President Hinckley cited the long journey of the early settlers from Bear Lake, Idaho, through Utah and into the barren waste of the Salt River Valley as "an extension of a series of migrations which had begun years earlier in New York, from thence to Ohio, thence to Missouri, thence to Illinois, thence to what became Salt Lake City, and from there, they spread in many directions founding altogether more than 300 communities of which Mesa was one."
The pioneers laid out the city one block square after the pattern given by Joseph Smith in Missouri, President Hinckey related. This allowed the people to enjoy the amenities of communal living with their farms nearby on the outskirts of the city.
"It is easy to forget the past," President Hinckley said. "The pleasures and challenges of the present consume our attention and blot out the remembrance of those who came before us to make possible that which we enjoy.
"I suppose that none of us today can really appreciate the labors of those who came here 110 years ago. This was the mesa, the high table land above the river shunned by early pioneers. It was dry and parched. The soil looked promising but water was the key to survival and how to get it to the land was a problem," President Hinckley continued.
"The solution [was] the old, long-since abandoned canal system of the Hohokam Indians. Those ancients with genius of their own had caused water to flow from the Salt River onto this high land through a series of carefully constructed canals. I think it was inspiration that led those who came here in 1878 to see in one of those ancient canals the promise of the future which we enjoy today."
President Hinckley told of the pioneers' nine months of backbreaking toil through the deadly heat of summer to carve out a 12-mile canal to bring river water to the soil.
"Some of it was easy digging, but not all. Some of it was very difficult. What a day of miracles it must have been when in October of 1878 the life-giving water, the water of the Salt River . . . flowed a distance of a dozen miles to a high spot in this area where it could be spread to give life to soil that drank it up.
"This monument cast in bronze will become a reminder to this generation and generations yet to come that faith, vision, unrelenting work and honest effort can bring to pass miracles, even the kind of miracle we see today."
Other speakers at the celebration were former U.S. Secretary of Interior Stewart L. Udall and Mesa Mayor Al Brooks.