Old age among myths of Daughters of Utah Pioneers membership

By Ray Boren

for the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, April 26 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Mormon pioneer items are housed in the DUP museum in Salt Lake.

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

The Daughters of Utah Pioneers organization has another "secret" that Maurine P. Smith, the DUP's international society president, would love to dispel.

"Too often people think that we're an organization of old ladies," she says.

The average age among the 20,000 active members worldwide is indeed older, but young women with pioneer ancestors can join the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers at age 18, Smith explains.

The ISDUP, or DUP, website outlines membership qualifications for women. The site says an applicant is to be a direct-line descendant, or legally adopted direct-line descendant, of a pioneer ancestor — "a person who traveled to or through geographic area … covered by State of Deseret/Utah Territory between July 1847 and 10 May 1869."

And that includes any pioneer, not simply Mormon forebears, who settled in or traversed the vast area encompassed by "Deseret," as well as those who died trying to reach their Zion.

The huge "State of Deseret," proposed to Congress after the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, dwarfed what would subsequently become the Territory of Utah and today's Beehive State.

It encompassed a region stretching from the peaks of modern Colorado's Rocky Mountains on the east to the Pacific Ocean in Southern California and the Sierras farther north, and from what is today southern Idaho and southwestern Wyoming into the middle of modern New Mexico and Arizona. The swath took in pretty much all of modern Nevada and Utah.

Much of Deseret was indeed first colonized in the mid-19th century by Mormon pioneers, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from around the world.

However, ISDUP members also can be descended from non-Mormon pioneers, including those who simply passed through; from members of the Mormon Battalion as well as Johnston's Army, the federal troops who arrived in 1857; or from trappers, hunters, freighters and even railway workers, whose project, the Transcontinental Railroad, ended the pioneer era in 1869, easing travel for settlers and passersby alike.

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