Standing in the middle of downtown Tucson, not far from the Pima County Courthouse, is the monument to the Mormon Battalion, remembering the first time the United States military came to the Old Pueblo in 1846. They were the only religious unit to serve in the American military and their trek of 2,000 miles was the longest continual march in U.S. history.
A number of the 500 Battalion men, women, and children were impressed with what they saw in Arizona. Erastus Bingham, one of the Battalion members that left with a group heading north from New Mexico, didn’t even make it to the area. But, after he heard about Tucson from the other marchers, Bingham returned with his family years later and settled the area along the Rillito River, which was running in those days, near the current Ft. Lowell and Alvernon Roads. In the early 1900’s , many of the Mormon pioneers that came to Tucson were refugees, chased out of Northern Mexico by Pancho Villa. The Binghams welcomed them, helped them start their own farms and join their community which became known as Binghampton.
In honor of these early settlers of Pima County, their families, and our veterans, the Arizona Historical Society’s Fort Lowell Museum is sponsoring The Tucson Mormon Heritage Festival, a free event open to the public. Bette Richards, curator at the Museum is the director of the event. She has enlisted the help of Randy and Kathy Madsen to tell the story of the Mormon Battalion. Duane Bingham, will provide historical presentations of Binghampton. There will be many other booths and demonstrations including the history of the early Hispanic Mormons in the Tucson area; rope-making and lassoing; frontier activities for children, such as games, a kid’s rodeo and doll making; a cowboy poet; spinning and hand weaving; family history experts; a mining demonstration, and the Fort Lowell Museum will be open to the public.
The event will include music throughout the day, culminating at 2:00 PM with the traditional Veterans Day weekend performance by the 4th Cavalry Regimental Band. The re-enactors of the original 1884 band will be followed by a presentation by Ted Vogt, Director of the State of Arizona Department of Veterans Services who will honor Tucson’s Veterans. The Festival will conclude with the striking of the colors, the old 38 star flag representing the number of states at the time the Fort Lowell was in service.
The activity is planned for Saturday, November 9th, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at the Ft. Lowell Park at 2900 N Craycroft Rd. in Tucson. Individuals interested in volunteering or providing frontier demonstrations are encouraged to contact Randy Madsen at (858) 395-0552 ###