A Brief History of the Mormon Handcart Pageant
Since 2001, members of The Mormon Handcart Pageant Committee have been working on a theatrical tribute that re-enacts the events surrounding the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies of 1856 and their Rescuers, both past and present. We are doing it because one of our greatest desires is that the members of the church, and especially the youth, learn about the sacrifices made so willingly by our pioneer fore-bearers.
It all started after visiting the church historic sites along the Mormon Trail and then having several meetings with members of the Riverton Wyoming Stake. My family and I began to feel a series of promptings which caused us to know that the story of those valiant handcart pioneers needed to be told in a outdoor pageant format.
We sought the advice of President Gary Anderson from the Riverton Wyoming Stake concerning the project, and he gave us a few guidelines which we have followed. Then after conferring with our own Stake President here in Nephi, we knew with even greater conviction that the story most certainly needed to be told.
Our biggest reservation however is the fact that those of us on the ground level of the pageant have very little or no theatrical experience. We felt that in order to do any justice at all to such a memorable story, professional theater people would be needed as well as a great deal of money to make it all come together. Such people were found, calls were extended, but those calls were subsequently turned down.
Rather than getting discouraged, we pressed forward knowing that the Lord would help us if the project were His will. Our situation was very much like that of the Riverton Wyoming Stake as they were struggling to build the beautiful bronze monuments that adorn several points along the Mormon Trail. Like us, they felt a tribute was in order, and even if they did not have the proper know-how or resources to accomplish it, they rolled up their shirtsleeves and went to work faithfully, eventually finding success.
In regards to the pageant, to make a long and wonderful story very short, we have been blessed. All of the necessities for putting on a nighttime pageant of this magnitude became available. Much of the equipment we received was mostly worn out and very old fashioned, but to us it was as manna from heaven that fell as quickly as we could gather it up.
Before writing the script, we were counseled by Gary Anderson not to fictionalize any of the accounts and to simply let the stories speak for themselves; therefore, the pageant script was written to coincide with the actual journal accounts of those devoted pioneers and those who answered the Prophet Brigham Young’s call to "bring them in".
We have also been and remain in very close contact with the grassroots individuals of both The Mormon Miracle Pageant as well as The Castle Valley Pageant. They have offered us much inspired council along with instructions as to how the church operates this type of production, and we have been applying those lessons.
We are amazed that something that began as an obscure "backwoods" production created to be a small part of our stake picnic, (which we immediately outgrew) has mushroomed into something so widespread and faith promoting. The only explanation for our success is that the hand of the Lord is in it, as we are not good enough on our own to make this happen.
Having visited the pioneer trail many times, we know that "the spirit of the trail" can have a tremendous effect on those who are able to make the trip to Wyoming, and while there is no substitute for actually walking in the footsteps of our forefathers, coming to the pageant is a very practical and economical way for members of the church to learn and feel the spirit of our priceless heritage without exceeding the capacity of the church historic sites in Wyoming or drawing any more unfavorable concern from the BLM.
Along those same lines, many stakes are calling Martin’s Cove to make reservations for a trek, only to find that the Cove and particularly Rocky Ridge is booked solid for the whole summer, and oft times into the next. Fortunately, many stakes are learning that the pageant can act as a supplement to the trail itself, until an actual trek can be arranged. A by-product from this idea is that those who do finally make it to Wyoming arrive with a better understanding and are better prepared to maximize the trek experience having been taught at the pageant in advance.
Our feeling has been and continues to be that we would like to give all of the blessings of this pageant to the church, and for as long as we are able, keep all of the burden and responsibility in our organization. I guess you could say that we are trying to follow the admonition given in D&C 58:26-28.
Mormon Handcart Pageant Characters
|Grandson||Grandpa||Captain Willie||Church Agent #1|
|Church Agent #2||Pioneer #1||Pioneer # 2||Sub-Captain|
|Pioneer #3||Pioneer #4||Levi Savage||Brigham Young|
|Harvey Cluff||Rescuer #1||Rescuer #2||Rescuer #3|
|Captain Grant||Pioneer #5||Pioneer #6||Pioneer #7|
|Pioneer #8||Pioneer #9||Pioneer #10||Pioneer #11 (same as # 14?)|
|Pioneer #12||Pioneer #13||Pioneer # 14 (same as #11?)||Pioneer #15|
|Granddaughter||James Kirkwood||Joseph Kirkwood||Bodil Mortensen|
|Niels Nielsen||Jens Nielsen||Elsie Nielsen||Savior|
|Grandma||Pioneer #16||Pioneer #17||Elizabeth|
|Sarah Ann Franks||George Padley||David Kimball||George Grant|
|Stephen Taylor||C. A. Huntington||Ephraim Hanks #1||Ephraim Hanks #2|
|Ephraim Hanks #3||John Bailey||Thomas Ord||Jane Ollerton|
|Bowles Boys||Ann Jackson||Teacher||Student #1|
|Student #2||Narrator #1||Narrator #2|
Did you participate in the Second Rescue of the Handcart Pioneers of 1856?
If so, we would love to hear from you.
Tell, us who you are, where you live, and how you heard about The Mormon Handcart Pageant.
We want to extend a special invitation to each of you.
As you come, you will see that we have tried very hard to make this reenactment as accurate as possible.
Also, the final scene in the pageant depicts some of the results of the countless hours of genealogical research and temple work that the People of the Second Rescue participated in.
As your job now, is to remember, we hope that the pageant will serve you as a reminder of the things that were felt, experienced, and promised to you and your families.
When you come to the pageant, you will see what I mean.
Thank you, for all that you have done, and will continue to do.
You have no idea how much your example has meant to us.
Hope to see you at the pageant!
Attention Handcart Descendants
We are looking for names and contact information of anyone who is a descendant of one of the handcart companies of 1856, or their rescuers.
It would be wonderful to learn who you are and even put you in touch with others who share your same ancestor.
There is a possibility that we could rope off a special section for the posterity of individual pioneers so you could meet and mingle at the pageant.
Please contact us and let us know who you are, and what pioneer you are related to and we'll take care of the rest.
Click here to send us a message
Hotline: (435) 623.0196
Mailing Address: The Mormon Handcart Pageant
25 West 600 North
Nephi, UT 84648
If making a donation, please make checks payable to "The Mormon Handcart Pageant"