Bingham. Layton. Frost. Naegle. Merrill. Are any of these names in your family tree?
If you are “native” to Arizona and have at least one of these names in your history, you may be a descendent of a one of the members of the Mormon Battalion.
In December of 1847, when Tucson was a little town of about 500 people, a rag-tag group of men led by Lieutenant Colonel Phillip St. George Cook marched into the settlement. Christopher Layton, a private in the band, posted the U.S. flag; it was the first time that had ever happened in Tucson. The event is now commemorated by a statue in park at the Presidio.
In the statue, Layton is depicted in worn out clothes and shoes, which was accurate for the event; but later, he was a wealthy and influential man.
In all, there were 27 Mormon Battalion soldiers who returned to Southern Arizona to raise their families. Their influence on the growth of business and the community can be read in family histories throughout the Tucson valley and surrounding areas.
Christopher Layton first settled in Nevada where he began building his fortune as a cattle rancher. After a time developing farming and husbandry techniques in Utah (where the town of Layton was named for him), he was asked by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to lead settlers into Southern Arizona. There he used his wealth to bless the lives of others and served as Stake President of the St. Joseph Stake for 15 years. He died at age 77, a beloved leader in both the Church and the community.
In honor of Tucson’s Veterans and the early settlers of Pima County and their families, the Arizona Historical Society is sponsoring The Tucson Mormon Heritage Festival, a free event open to the public. Part of the Mormon Heritage Festival at Ft. Lowell Park this weekend is to celebrate the contributions of men veterans who have served our country in all generations. But it is also to commemorate the contributions that the early Mormon settlers made to the area. Layton is just one.
Bette Richards, curator at the Fort Lowell Museum is the director of the event. She has enlisted the help of many volunteers, including Randy and Kathy Madsen to tell the story of the Mormon Battalion. Duane Bingham, will provide historical presentations of Binghampton. There will be food vendors and other booths and demonstrations including the history of the early Hispanic Mormons in the Tucson area; frontier activities for children, such as games, a kid’s rodeo and doll making; 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 at 3:30 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 Festival is Saturday, November 9th, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at Ft. Lowell Park at 2900 N Craycroft Rd. in Tucson.
Some information gathered from Latter-day Saints in Tucson by Catherine H. Ellis, from Randy Madsen.
More history from https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=8125