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In the footsteps of a Star Valley pioneer

Wednesday, July 24 is Pioneer Day. On July 24, 1847 leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in what would eventually become Salt Lake City. Their arrival marked the beginning of great western migration of the membership of the LDS Church.

On July 24, 2019, a Star Valley man also made a trek. Fairview resident, McKell Allred, and some of his grandchildren trekked from Fairview to Afton. Their journey, and the handcart they traveled in was months in the making.

“I have always been fascinated by the pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Allred said. “During this past winter I started reading about how the handcarts were made. I came across a letter written by Brigham Young describing their construction and a photo of others who had attempted to produce an accurate replica.”

“The cart they produced was purchased by the Church and displayed in the visitors center on temple square for some time,” Allred continued. “The cart was built without a particle of iron as described by [Brigham] Young.”

“I became motivated to attempt such a task to gain a stronger appreciation for what they built and the journey they accomplished,” Allred explained. “I started around January of 2019 attempting the wheels by cutting arc segments of the wheel circle out of a 2×8 and joining them together.”

“I very soon found that this was an enormous labor intensive task and I was quickly deciding the difficulty was not worth the time (which I did not have),” Allred said of the project.

It was when Allred was talking with family about the project that the pieces finally came together, literally.

“At a family gathering, I was explaining my research and project to a relative,” Allred said. “He told me he had two handcart wheels he would offer to me for the project.”

According to Allred,  the  wheels had “iron rims and steel ball bearing.” Such handcarts are used at the LDS Church History site Martin’s Cove (located in Wyoming)  today.

“My interest in the project was re-kindled,” Allred said. “I decided to use the wheels and make the remainder of the cart without screws or nails patterned after the cart I had studied. I started in March and was finished in May, working occasionally when I had time”

According to Allred, working with the wood, figuring out how to design and build the cart, proved to be a very rewarding experience.

“I was very satisfied with the outcome,” he said. “This created for me a much deeper love and appreciation for my ancestors who accomplished this without power tools and a wood shop.”

With the handcart complete, Allred began contemplating the effort it would take to pull a handcart, loaded with supplies to build a new life in the west, over a thousand miles.

“I was thinking about their 1,300 mile journey pulling such a cart,” he said. “I decided it would be a fun experience to trek with the new handcart and my Kennington grandsons from my home in Fairview to theirs in Afton (4.5 miles) and to do this on July 24.”

July 24 was a hot day. Their was a dry wind blowing. Undaunted, Allred and his grandsons hit the trail.

“This too was an eye opening experience,” he said. “I waited intentionally for a cooler part of the day (something the pioneers couldn’t do) to start the trek. This was so much fun and my grandsons were awesome. They didn’t complain at all. Maybe it was the root beer, licorice, chips and popsicles we had along the way. This is something I’ll always remember and hope they will as well.”

“We walked past the temple and as we did so my feelings were that our ancestors walked across the plains to bring us this Temple and other [temples] and how grateful I am for them,” Allred continued. “I was very exhausted when we finished. I was so thankful I had a nice bed to sleep in that night and more grateful I did not have to get up the next morning and go another 10 to 15 miles for [the next] three months. God truly blessed our pioneers.”

According to Allred, having a wood project to work on is something he truly enjoys.

“I love to have a wood project to work on in my wood shop,” he said. “This was a fun one. The cart just happened to be finished in time for the Fairview pioneer parade and we had fun joining that event in honoring our pioneer heritage. My wife and I both have many ancestors who came by handcart to the west. This was also in honor of them.”

With the trekking done, the Allred handcart “now sits as a decoration in [the] front yard and will be in storage this winter.”