For a dozen years or so, dozens of church service missionaries (under the overall supervision of Mel Bashore, and for at least six years under the day-to-day development of missionaries Judy and David Wood) have worked to identify all Mormon pioneers who gathered to Zion, whether from east or west, before the 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad. J. Stapley has written a great overview of the resulting Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database as Beautiful Are the Feet.

Perhaps two-thirds of the pioneers have been identified and placed in their travel companies, but thousands remain to be found, usually one traveler or one family at a time. Whenever I run across a reference to the date someone arrived in Utah, I’m in the habit of checking the database to be sure they are listed. Usually they are. But when they are not, I always spend a few minutes or a few hours finding sufficient information to list them. Some people like crosswords or soduku; I like solving the puzzles of the pioneers.

Yesterday I read an account of a pioneer anniversary party given in 1894 at the Saltair resort on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. The account included this paragraph;

Those who played in the band at Saltair for Brother Dobson’s dance on this day were, Phil Margetts, who came to Utah in 1850; Harrison Sperrey, a ’47er; Ebenezer Beesley, who emigrated to the valley in 1859; Hop. C. Pender, of the 1850 emigration, and Wm. H. Foster and Joshua Midgley, both of whom first saw Utah in 1852.

(“The Pioneers Celebrate at Saltair,” Millennial Star, 17 September 1894, 604-606.)

Ah! A whole list of pioneers and the years, if not the companies, in which they traveled! Three minutes later, I had verified five of the six men listed; they were on the database, and the years matched. But the sixth – Hop. C. Pender – was not there.

I needed simultaneously to find out his complete name, and also to be sure he wasn’t listed on the database under a name variant. “Hop.” was evidently a nickname, and it didn’t turn up any matches on FamilySearch nor on World Connect, my favorite non-Mormon database. I looked at all the Penders in any year on the Overland Travel database, then all the Pinders, and Benders, and Binders – no luck.

But the Overland Travel database also allows searches by partial names, so I searched “Hop” as a first name with no last name; one of the hits was for “Hop Penler,” a suspiciously close match, especially since a handwritten “d” might be mistaken for a handwritten “l”; likewise, a “d” typed on a typewriter with a worn-out ribbon might be misread as an “l.” The reference was to a teamster in an 1861 down-and-back company, which didn’t match my Millennial Star reference to 1850 – but down-and-back teamsters were sent from Salt Lake Valley with teams and wagons to pick up new immigrants, which meant that “Hop Penler,” referred to as a fiddler of Cache Valley, had emigrated to Utah sometime before 1861.

Next I turned to the 1850 census (taken in 1851 in Utah), and searched for Pender (I used, a popular subscription site available through the Family History Library). Bingo! Up popped a hit for “Hopkins Pender” and a woman and child who were evidently his wife and daughter. Given the baby’s age of 2 and her Iowa birthplace, the baby was a pioneer as much as her parents, and all three needed to be researched and added to the database.

Now equipped with Hop’s probable complete first name of “Hopkins,” I was able to search FamilySearch again and find several listings for him – some for Hopkins “Choir” Pender and others for Hopkins “Carl” Pender. I suspect that “Carl” is correct, but that is beyond the scope of research for the Overland Travel database. Birthplaces were given variously as Bedford County, England, and Bedford County, Tennessee (again, beyond the scope of the database, but an indication of the kinds of errors that sloppy genealogists have created and that good family historians need to straighten out; the census indicates that Tennessee is correct). Hop Pender’s birthdate was consistent. One record named three wives, one of whom was Mary Jenette Drake. No birth date was given, but “Mary” at least matched the family group on the 1850 census. Melissa and her birth date were also found (as was the name of her husband, which would help in finding Melissa’s death date).

Back to the census, and a quick follow-up through the years. Mary appears variously as Mary and Janet, but probably because Hop was a polygamist her identity is masked on some censuses and she is not enumerated with him in all years. Hop lived long enough to appear on the 1910 census but not the 1920. Melissa appears on the 1920 census but not the 1930.

With those rough dates as a guideline, it made sense to check the Utah Burials Search. All three were located there: Hopkins and Mary (listed as Jenette Drake Pender) are buried in Centerville, Utah, and Melissa Pender Groot, who died in Idaho, was buried with her husband in Salt Lake City. Death or burial dates are given for both Hop and Melissa, but not for Mary.

As a last check to be sure I had pieced the family together correctly, and to seek confirmation of the date the family arrived in Utah, a search of the Utah Digital Newspapers Project turned up an obituary for Hop:


Hopkins C. Pender, Who Played Violin at Hundreds of Ward Dances, Is No More.

Hopkins C. Pender, for years known as the “pioneer fiddler” of Utah, died at the home of E. Cherpillod, 132-1/2 West South Temple street, yesterday afternoon, of general debility. He will be buried from the Seventeenth ward meeting house Tuesday afternoon. The interment will be in the city cemetery.

The death of Mr. Pender will bring to the minds of most of the old inhabitants of Salt Lake the ward dances and the little old man with his fiddle sitting on the stand fiddling, calling and keeping time to the music with the heel of his shoe. He was born in Knoxville, Tenn., in October, 1824. At the age of 15 he joined the Mormon church, and in 1850 with his wife and one child he came to Salt Lake. From the time of his arrival until he became too feeble to use his fiddle bow, he was the chief fiddler at all of the ward dances.

Besides a large circle of friends, he leaves two daughters, Mrs. C.P. Groot of Idaho Falls [this is Melissa under her married name] and Mrs. Emma Delaney of San Francisco, and two sons, Philip Pender of Stockton, Cal., and Sell Pender of Salmon City, Ida.

(Salt Lake Herald, 3 July 1910)

There is no question that Hopkins is our fiddler from the 1894 party, as well as the fiddling teamster named in the 1861 pioneer company. The obituary also confirms his date of immigration to Utah, although it does not identify the company.

So, all that remains to be done is to click the “Submit Information” link on the Overland Travel site, and fill in the form: My name and contact information, check. Pioneer’s first and last names: Hopkins Carl Pender, check. Birth and death dates, check. Age at time of migration, check. Company: regrettably, “unknown.” Source of information: Citations to the Millennial Star article and the Salt Lake Herald obituary; to the 1850 [1851] census of Utah; the IGI and Ancestral File; and the Utah Burials Index.

Under “other comments,” I will point to the misspelling of “Hop Penler’s” name in the 1861 company. I will note that the obituary indicates that Hopkins’ wife and daughter arrived as pioneers with him, and that they both appear on the 1850 census of Utah. I will list their names, with complete dates for Melissa and incomplete ones for Mary (estimating her date of birth from her age on the 1850 census).

And in a day or three, when Sister Wood has time to do it, the Pender family will be added to the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database.

In a way, it’s like the Pender family has been gathered again.

Continue reading at the original source →