By Gerry Avant Church News editor
BLACK RIVER FALLS, WIS. — During its 2013 summer concert tour to the Upper Midwest, members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed for audiences numbering in the thousands in concert halls and arenas. On Wednesday morning, they sang to a crowd estimated at 2,500 in the Trail of Honor Park in Black River Falls, Wis.
En route from Madison, Wis., to Minneapolis, Minn., the choir stopped some 400 miles upriver from Nauvoo, Ill., to participate in a ceremony honoring "logging missionaries" who harvested in the early 1840s more than one and a half million board feet of lumber that was floated via Cunningham Creek to the Black River eventually to the Mississippi River to Nauvoo. Some of that lumber was used to build the Nauvoo Temple. A commemorative historical marker paid for and donated by the members of the choir has been placed in the park.
Black River Falls Mayor Ron Danielson conducted the recognition event at the Trail of Honor Park. Elder Craig A. Cardon of the Seventy addressed the gathering.
He said the decision to build the Nauvoo House, which functioned as a hotel, and the Nauvoo Temple at the same time dramatically increased the need for lumber, which was scant in Nauvoo. He said reports were sent to Joseph Smith and other leaders about an abundant supply of quality lumber that could be obtained in Wisconsin.
Section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants records the calling by name certain men who were to go to Wisconsin.
A work party of 32 pioneers traveled to central Wisconsin in September 1841; within the next four years some 200 Latter-day Saints were working in the mills and camps, eventually operating four mills and maintaining six logging camps to supply the mills.
During the harsh Wisconsin winters, those working in the mills and camps faced extreme hardship and near starvation.
On one December day in 1842, the temperature was 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
After the ceremony at Black River Falls, members of the choir's touring group went to Highground Veterans Memorial Park, where they had lunch.
There, members of the Neillsville Branch presented a short program that told some of the story of the logging missionaries.