Tuesday, April 29, 2008

May 22-25, 2008: Mormon History Association

From Signature Books "news and events" page:

May 22-25, 2008: Mormon History Association

Salt Lake City—It was 160 years ago, sixty miles west of Lake Tahoe, that a group of Mormon laborers gathered to see what James Marshall held in his hand. He had just discovered gold. The Mormon-owned newspaper in San Francisco, the California Star, was the first to advertise the discovery, which set the gold rush into motion.

On May 22-25, a few hundred historians will meet in Sacramento to discuss these and other topics. More specifically, they have researched the involvement of Mormons in California history. The event is hosted by the Mormon History Association of Salt Lake City.

One of the principal addresses will be delivered by Professor Kenneth N. Owens of California State-Sacramento on the topic, "Not Quite Zion: California's Gold Rush Saints." A recently retired professor from Victor Valley College, Edward Leo Lyman, will speak on a similar theme: "Amasa M. Lyman: Apostle in the Gold Fields."

Other presenters include professors from Butte College, Cal State-Fullerton, Claremont Graduate University, College of the Sequoias, and San Francisco State. Professor Patrick Arthur Polk of UCLA will explain "Early Black Mormons and Dilemmas of Identification."

Other historians from out of state will be participating. Colonel Sherman L. Fleek of the Walter Reed Medical Center will address the background to the Stephen Kearny/John Fremont Feud involving the Mormon Battalion. From Harvard, Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye will consider the lives of Asian Mormons in the West.

Several papers will be presented by independent researchers. Camilla Miner Smith of San Francisco will introduce other historians to California's first Poet Laureate, Ina Coolbrith, who was a stepdaughter of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Richard K. Behrens of Brentwood will speak on William B. Ide, a Mormon who led the Bear Flag Revolt. William P. MacKinnon will examine California's role in the 1857 Utah War.

The Mormon History Association meets annually in a different location around the world. This year's conference will include an excursion to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and other sites. The meetings will be held at the Red Lion Hotel in downtown Sacramento. Over 100 papers will be read. At an evening banquet, book awards will be announced and presented.

The first Mormons in California came in 1846 when some 230 Latter-day Saints arrived on the ship Brooklyn at what was then called Yerba Buena, now San Francisco. They were the first Americans to reach the newly conquered Mexican province by sea, and historian Hubert Howe Bancroft wrote that, for a time, San Francisco was "largely a Mormon town."

That same year, the U.S. Army enlisted some 500 Mormon men to serve in the war with Mexico. At the time, the Mormon Church was still located in the Midwest. Soldiers marched 2,000 miles from Florence, Nebraska, to San Diego, only to arrive late; the war was over. Instead, they ventured north to meet fellow Latter-day Saints. Looking for work, nearly 100 acquired employed at Sutter's Mill, where gold was soon discovered.

Ironically, Sam Brannon, the Mormon whose newspaper sparked the gold rush went on to use his fortune to plant some of California's first vineyards in Napa Valley. A teetotaling people, the Mormons eventually excommunicated him.

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