Near the location where William Clayton penned the words to "Come, Come, Ye Saints" 150 years ago, residents here on April 14 celebrated the writing of what they regard as "the hymn that went around the world."
The celebration was sponsored by the Wayne County Sesquicentennial Commission.It was on April 15, 1846, at Locust Creek Camp #2 in southeastern Wayne County that Clayton put new words to the already-familiar English melody. That morning he had received word that his wife, Diantha, back in Nauvoo, Ill., had given birth to a "fine fat boy" on March 30. Clayton wrote in his journal, "I feel to thank my Heavenly Father for my boy and pray that he will spare and preserve his life and that of his mother and so order that we may soon meet again."
Re-enactments of these events and of the "social christening" hosted that night by Clayton for fellow band members were part of the April 14 commemoration. (The role of William Clayton was played by Wayne Jackson, local music teacher, who portrayed the first singing of the hymn for Clayton's assembled friends.)
Four days later, on April 19, 1846, the hymn was sung to the entire Camp of Israel, who were at last able to come together for worship. The words helped keep alive the faith of the Pioneers in their heartbreaking struggles across the rain-soaked Iowa prairie.
During the commemoration, narrated tours took visitors to the actual Locust Creek #2 campsite. A historic marker there was erected by the Church and the Wayne County Historical Society and dedicated July 1, 1990.
The featured program for the afternoon was "Reflections of Iowa in Song" by Carol Larsen Horton, mezzo-soprano, accompanied by Richard Johnston on piano, with historical narration by Dr. Loren Horton, Iowa's senior historian. Dr. Horton said that, to his knowledge, "Come, Come, Ye Saints" was the first song to be written in Iowa.
Dr. Horton recognized D. E. and Thelma Pidcock of Corydon, who researched and located the exact site of Locust Creek Camp #2.
Other selections in the program highlighted Iowa's musical heritage, ending with Meredith Wilson's "Iowa." Dr. Horton gave many historical accounts of the state's music and musicians.
The Wayne County Historical Museum held its season opening, and many visitors toured the five large rooms filled with exhibits of southern-Iowa heritage. Highlighted was the narrated Mormon Trail exhibit that commemorates the writing of "Come, Come, Ye Saints."
The weather during the day was "overly authentic" of the pioneer crossing - cold and rainy with occasional snow and hail.