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A TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO COLONIZED WESTERN FRONTIER

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Paris, Bern, Geneva, Venice and Genoa conjure up visions of a dream European vacation, but a simple trip to the western United States will take you to those same sites, pioneer style.

These towns, as well as many others, became home to many Latter-day Saints between 1847 and the early 1900s when more than 700 communities were settled in the American West.Mormon colonization efforts extended from southern Canada to northern Mexico and from Colorado to California.

Pioneer Day gives Church members a chance to honor not only those who traveled from Nauvoo to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, but also those pioneers who were called from the protection of the valley to colonize the western frontier.

"I think that the centrality of the gospel to these settlers becomes apparent," said Richard E. Turley Jr., managing director of the Church Historical Department. "That comes from the unselfish way in which they responded to Church leaders' calls to settle new areas as well as from the settlements themselves, which were laid out around houses of worship,"

Naming a settlement after towns in their homeland or after a family name perhaps assured settlers that they were not leaving their cultural identity behind, said Jay Haymond, development officer and former librarian of the Utah State Historical Society.

"I think there is an element of nostalgia in the names, an element of loyalty, without being disloyal to their new country," he said. "There was an element of making a place for themselves and their families in the new land."

The colonizers worked for decades to build settlements governed by Christian principles of cooperation, order, equity and devotion to God - as taught by Joseph Smith in establishing a City of Zion. These Christian principles were expressed in the physical layout and social order of their towns, homes and fields, according to Steven F. Epperson, curator at the Museum of Church History and Art.

"The reasons for colonization, in many ways, paralleled the reason why the saints moved west in the first place," Brother Turley said. "Basically they wanted to find a place where they could practice their religion in peace and live lives of self-sufficiency and in a principally agrarian society.

"The stream of converts migrating to Utah created a continual need for additional settlements where people could support themselves from the land and practice gospel principals unhindered."

In 1847, efforts to colonize beyond Salt Lake City began when settlers left Salt Lake Valley to stake out the state of Deseret, envisioned by President Brigham Young as an ideal place for saints to build homes and raise families in the gospel.

The proposed state of Deseret included all of what today is Utah and Nevada, and parts of Idaho, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. "The idea was to sort of nail down as much land as possible," Brother Haymond said. Now Utah is less than a third of the original claim for the state of Deseret.

Between 1847 and 1857, 120 towns were settled by more than 20,000 pioneers. Many communities were located next to streams or rivers or other natural resources, but others were also established to protect the borders of the state, Brother Epperson said.

Colonizing efforts went into all directions. One camp went as far north as what is now Salmon, Idaho. Another effort went into Carson Valley near present-day Reno where settlers established Genoa, the oldest settlement in Nevada. The town was founded in 1851 and originally named Mormon Station, but in 1855 was named Genoa by Elder Orson Hyde after Genoa, Italy, the birthplace of Columbus. Elder Hyde said the cove in the mountains reminded him of Genoa Harbor in northern Italy, where he traveled as a missionary.

Another direction of colonizing took members to San Bernardino, Calif., one of 56 towns set up to form what was referred to as a Mormon corridor across the desert. The town was established as an outpost in 1851 for saints coming by boat from Europe. More than 500 settlers established their homes in the area under the direction of Elders Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich.

Las Vegas, Nev., was settled in 1855 when 30 men were sent there to establish an Indian mission. The site was also established as a strategic location between Salt Lake City and San Bernardino on the Mormon corridor.

Both San Bernardino and Las Vegas, however, were abandoned by the saints in 1857 with the coming of Johnston's Army. Brigham Young called the saints home from the outer settlements, and colonization came to a halt until the dust settled in 1858.

Colonization efforts started up soon after with 150 additional communities being established between 1858 and 1869. More settlements were founded in northern Utah and between Salt Lake City and southern Utah.

From 1869 to 1877, 121 new communities were settled in Utah, southern Idaho, central Arizona and Nevada.

One such town, Bern, Idaho, situated on the west side of Bear River, was settled in August 1873 by the Kunz family. Most of the settlers were of Swiss origin and thus named the town after Bern, Switzerland, the country's capital and now site of the Swiss Temple.

Between 1877 to 1896, more than 200 settlements were established, most of them outside Utah borders. Communities were set up primarily in Idaho and Arizona, with others extending to southern Canada and northern Mexico.

The last colonization effort, from 1896 to the early 1900s, added 127 new communities. Many were found in eastern Utah and in northern Wyoming's Big Horn Basin, but communities were also started in southern Canada, southern Idaho and northern Utah.

"Some colonization resulted directly from missions to develop natural resources that could help the saints as a whole become self-sufficient," Brother Turley said. "Others resulted from missions to teach the gospel to Indian tribes."

In his book "Establishing Zion," Eugene Campbell said the colonization effort by the saints was the largest effort ever made by any group in America and influenced how other groups settled and organized cities and states.

Even though the pioneers weren't able to bring many material possessions with them on the long and difficult journey to the Rocky Mountains, and then beyond, the treasured belongings they did carry - including their various cultures - has left a lasting legacy for those who follow.