Dear friends, I thought you might enjoy this description of Pioneer Day in 1884 through the eyes of an Icelander who wrote 17 letters from Spanish Fork to his friend in Reykjavik to try to convince him as to why he should become a Mormon and immigrate to Spanish Fork. This letter was written August 4, 1884 by Þorsteinn Jónsson to Jón Jónsson Borgfirðingur is wonderful. These men were both police officers in Reykjavik and both had been witnesses in the fall of 1879, when two LDS missionaries (Jón Evyindsson and Jakob Jónsson) were compelled to stand before a city hearing and told to leave the city as the men of Reykjavik were angry when three Icelandic women were baptized, one of which was the wife of Þorsteinn Jónsson. Later, Þorsteinn joined the Church and moved to Spanish Fork. Here is the description of pioneer day which is so rich in detail:
“There was a great festival held here the 24th of July, naturally the biggest one of the year. Then they call on a few men of every nation to show their national costumes and various traits, to display ones status and crafts, which they brought with them from home. Of the Icelanders they called Þórður Diðriksson to bring six Icelandic persons. He called my wife and I, Gísli Bjarnason and Margrét, the wife of Samuel, Eiríkur Ólafsson and Margrét, who was in the school.
At eight o’clock in the morning everyone was to assemble by the city hall, and there everyone was ordered into groups. First were the English and the American, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, German, all in wagons, which were decorated with cloths and upholstery of various colors. There were also 24 young men and women on horseback, riding side by side, the boys all dressed in black on gray horses, but the girls on brown horses all dressed in white. This was to represent the 24 days of the month. Then they all rode along the main street, three times around so that all could see, because the sidewalk on both sides was so crowded. Then we went just outside of town to a forest, which was planted for pleasure. There were held speeches and singing, then lunch was served and we ate, and there after we played games. Those who had been officers or lieutenants came in their costumes, each in their own rank that they had held at home. I came in my policeman uniform and it was considered striking.
My wife was in her national costume, which was considered the most beautiful costume they had ever seen, and I think most of the people that were present came to look at the costume, it was thought to be so significant. The Icelanders also made a symbol for the group from blue linen, with a falcon on one side, and a Viking ship on the other side, according to Friðþjólfur. This was also considered beautiful. The Icelanders also carried a symbol made out of white linen with big blue inscription, saying: Iceland delights in you, Zion. I wish it were so; however, it meant the Icelanders that are here and all of those who might come. They also showed how they looked when they first arrived, walking with their belongings in handcarts, with their children barefoot, torn and tattered, crying because of hunger and exhaustion. But now they have lands and acres. But those who come now, come like soldiers in covered wagons, but may in return slave for the others, because they’ve made the lands so expensive that you can scarcely buy them. It is not the Lord’s doctrine that this should be so. This festival is to commemorate that the restoration of the Church, the 24th of July. The wife and I sought to bring as much honor as possible to our nation. It is considered a great honor to all, irrespective of their nationality.” (Letter of Þorsteinn Jónsson to Jón Jónsson Borgfirðingur, August 4, 1884, National Library of Iceland, Archives Department, Reykjavik, Iceland, Catalogue # Lbs IB 102, fol. B (w-ö), 1–3. See also Sigmundsson, Vesturfarar skrifa heim: Fra islenzkum mormonum, 69-71.”