Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday, July 24th Happy Pioneer Day!

In Utah today they are celebrating the entrance of the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley.  A parade, fireworks, countless BBQ's, and many family reunions will be held around the state.  The holiday will evoke stories of wagon trains and campfires and frozen rivers and death and sickness on the plains and in the Rocky Mountains.

But my heritage looks more like this:

 And this: 

My father and his two brothers came with my Grandma Doyle to America in January, 1927, when he was only 4 1/2 months old.  My grandfather had come earlier to prepare for their move.  They lived in the Corona section of Queens, where it was so cold they about died.  They had traveled by steerage class.  In 1935 they once again boarded a ship, again in steerage, and sailed down the East Coast of America, through the Gulf of Mexico to the Panama Canal, and up the West Coast of Mexico and the US to San Francisco because my Aunt Catherine paid for them to come to California, a much better climate than NYC.  

My mother's family came from Ireland as well, only earlier, but lived in NYC in the boroughs as well, and struggled to get by. My Grandma Baker quit school in the third grade because her father had died and she was needed to work.  She carried laundry up and down tenement houses to make money. She moved to California in 1912 and our family has been there ever since.  Her mother followed later and they lived in Alameda on Sherman Street for many years in a home that looked something like this:

Here in Russia I am working today on Pioneer Day.  But it's a different kind of Pioneer Day here because we are living with pioneers here.  In the church, this is like 1856 in America. The church in the US was organized in 1830, and 26 years later, 1856, the pioneers had already arrived in Utah and Brigham Young had sent settlers all over the western US and Canada and Mexico to settle in small towns that have since become major cities.  The church arrived in Russia in 1991 and now 26 years later almost everyone here is a convert still, just like me, and are trying to build up something here that will last and bring happiness to people all over the Europe East Area.

In the 1850s in Ireland they were recovering from the famine which started in 1845 and lasted till 1852 and had world-changing impacts, where it is estimated that 250K people left Ireland a year to find another place to survive and thrive.  The Irish were not particularly welcome in America with NINA--No Irish Need Apply--signs in store windows advertising the prejudice that new groups often face when they move to new places in large groups. 

It is a privilege to be and to know pioneers.  No matter when they live, no matter where.  It takes courage and tenacity and faith to move forward into a world unknown.  I am grateful to my grandparents, on both sides of my family, for theirs.  As much as I love Ireland, I hope to honor their memory by living a life worthy of the blessings that came from coming to America. To have lived on another frontier, Russia, is icing on the cake!


  1. Thank you for sharing, Eileen, the stories and pictures about your heritage! It was very interesting to read.... Love and hugs!

  2. Nice...its so interesting...