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Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Black River Banner Journal

June 20, 2013

Mormon Tabernacle Choir visits Black River Falls to honor pioneer ancestors

By Pat McKnight

A visit to Black River Falls (BRF) was a homecoming of sorts for members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (MTC). The 360-member choir and support personnel came to the city June 19.

The famous choir from Utah included a stop in BRF as part of its 2013 Midwest Tour. The brief visit was made to dedicate a historical marker commemorating the Mormon pioneers who came to Jackson County during the 19th century lumbering era.

The undertaking to have the marker installed near the Foundation Trail in the Field of Honor was a project of the Mormon Loggers of the Wisconsin Pineries Mission of 1841-1844 Committee.

Committee member, Deanna Elmhorst, said the idea to have the historical marker erected grew out the group’s efforts to bring a more historical aspect to Neillsville Heritage Days.

“We needed to make Heritage Days more about our heritage,” Elmhorst said. “We try to create what life was like in the 1840s. We have activities such as quilting, candlemakingand horse-drawn carriage rides.”

When the historical plaque committee suggested the idea of putting up a marker to the MTC, the choir members agreed to raise the funds to buy the plaque.

The MTC’s beginnings extend to about the same time as the logging mission to the north woods; the choir has been in existence since the 1840s.

Paul McGuire, a seven-year member of the choir’s bass section, is the great-great-grandson of Richard Thorn Jr. Thorn was one of 86 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) who worked in the lumber camps of the late 1800s.

The Mormons sent a contingent to Wisconsin to harvest lumber for the building of its temple and other buildings in Nauvoo, IL.

McGuire’s great-great-grandfather was born in 1825 in Cayuga County, NY. Unfortunately, Thorn did not leave a journal about his life.

Initially, McGuire was surprised to find his ancestor was on the list of Mormons who worked in the lumber camps and mills in Jackson County. Discussing the find with other Thorn descendants, McGuire learned about the achievements of his ancestor after Thorn moved to Utah.

“He arrived in Utah in 1853,” McGuire said. “He was described as a very sturdy man who never got tired. When he came out here, his work evolved into a construction company. He did grading for roads and railroads. He was present when the golden spikes were driven in at Promontory Point (UT).”

More information and photos of the world-renown choir’s visit will be in next week’s issue.