Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Palmyra Pilgrimage, 1922

Palmyra Pilgrimage, 1922

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 17, 2011

Howard R. Driggs (1873-1963) was a Utah boy, a graduate of Brigham Young University who taught English and teacher training at the University of Utah for some 16 years before he joined the English faculty of New York University. He spent the rest of his long career in New York. He was deeply interested in western history, participating in several western and trails history organizations, and helping to gather and preserve tales of the Old West. He wrote or edited dozens of books during his long professional career.

A 1910 biography of Driggs, published in the Juvenile Instructor, almost exclusively concerns his Sunday School positions to that date:

Howard R. Driggs, whose portrait is presented herewith, began service as a teacher in the Intermediate department in Pleasant Grove Ward about 1890. In 1893 he was chosen as superintendent of the same school which position he held for four years. In 1897 he moved to Cedar City and helped to establish a normal training Sunday School, having charge of the Primary and Intermediate departments. during the year 1901 and 1902 he returned to Salt Lake and was called to assist John M. Mills in conducting the Book of Mormon class in the University Sunday School. The year following on returning to Cedar City, he was again called into the Sabbath School and for three years was head teacher in the Theological Department. In 1905-6, while a student in the Chicago University, he was called to take charge of a Missionary Theological class and continued in this service for a full year. On returning to Salt Lake to resume his work in the University, he made his home in the Eleventh Ward. In June, 1907, he was called to the work of establishing the Parents’ Class in that ward. For about eight months he held that position, then he was called to a position on the Ensign Stake board to fill the place made vacant by the death of Elder John E. Hansen, as supervisor of the Parents’ Classes in the stake. On Oct. 27, 1909 he was sustained as a member of the Deseret Sunday School Union Board, which position he now occupies. His special fields of labor are the Parents’ and Librarians’ departments.

(Not sure, but that may be the most complete, and possibly the most tedious, church-work bio I’ve ever read!)

Despite his living in the East and therefore being unable to attend regular meetings with the rest of the board, Driggs served on the Deseret Sunday School Union board for a number of years. He helped to establish permanent Sunday Schools in New York City and Washington, D.C., and served on the first stake high council of the New York Stake.

In the summer of 1922, he and his wife Eva and their son Perry, joined part of the time by their son Wayne who was then serving as a missionary in the Eastern States Mission, made an extensive automobile exploring trip through western New York, guided by Fred and Mary Dankowske, traveling with their brand new $4200 custom-built Nomad travel trailer.

It’s the fact that the Driggs family traveled with the Dankowskes that is the excuse for this post — I love connections. The two families visited Palmyra, New York, and I’ve recently come across a few photographs of their visit to the Sacred Grove and nearby sites. Here you see them visiting the same places, making the same pilgrimage, that so many of us have made with our families all these generations later.


The party in the Sacred Grove


Listening to Willard Bean, Mormon farmer and longtime caretaker of the Smith properties, talk about the Sacred Grove


The Hill Cumorah, after the old-growth forest of Joseph Smith’s day had been cleared away and before the Church replanted it


A lone tree on the north side of the Hill Cumorah


A schoolhouse near the Smith farm, in use during Joseph Smith’s lifetime and reported to be still in use in 1922




  1. Okay, so he taught Sunday School. A lot.

    But I LOVE these pictures! The barren Hill Cumorah is remarkable.

    Comment by MMM — May 17, 2011 @ 7:34 am

  2. I am interested in the Bean connection.

    Comment by Steve — May 17, 2011 @ 8:17 am

  3. A little startling to see something so familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, isn’t it, MMM?

    Steve knows I love the Beans. Willard, the “fighting parson,” was of course a brother to the daffy playwright Orestes Utah Bean. Willard, a professional boxer, went as a missionary with his family to live on the Smith family property in Palmyra, to farm it and make friends for the Church. They named a daughter born there “Palmyra Bean.” Willard reminds me in some ways of Jackie Robinson, in that he was the first of his people to enter that particular hostile world, and despite every sort of slander and insult, he eventually won their admiration through the force of his unwavering personal characteristics.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 17, 2011 @ 8:57 am

  4. Wow the cleared hill is impressive. And odd.

    Comment by Paul — May 17, 2011 @ 10:05 am

  5. I’ve got a couple of other photos of the bare hill from different perspectives. I’ll post those in a day or two because they’ll reproduce better than I could do the one in this article.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 17, 2011 @ 10:25 am

  6. Rand Packer has written a book about his Mother Palmyra
    entitled A lion and a Lamb. It is all about the Beans in Palmyra
    Fast good reading

    Comment by marva — May 17, 2011 @ 10:57 am

  7. (Not sure, but that may be the most complete, and possibly the most tedious, church-work bio I’ve ever read!)


    Comment by David Y. — May 18, 2011 @ 12:34 am

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