The hotel we stayed at was in Old Town San Diego which is a part of town I'd encourage all to see. Wonderful old stucco village with food, shopping and history lessons. One of the history lessons had some personal meaning for me. The Mormon Battalion Museum was right across the street from our hotel. For those who don't know, the Mormon Battalion was a group of men conscripted to march from Iowa to California for service in the Mexican-American War. They left families in the midst of their own trek to Utah and marched the long trail through mountains and desert and every extreme to Southern California. One company went to Los Angeles and another to San Diego. They arrived in California just as a truce had been reached and so their march was mostly for naught.
My Great Great Grandfather, George Washington Taggart was a member of this battalion. His was the company that was stationed in San Diego. His official rank was musician. In addition to being a carpenter and millwright he was also an instrument maker. He played his handmade fife as the company marched to provide a cadence and in the evenings he entertained his fellow soldiers with tunes and hymns.
When I came into the museum, a young woman asked me if I'd had any ancestors on the march and I told her about my forbear. She immediately took me back and showed me the actual fife that Washington Taggart had played. I was blown away. I've heard stories about him for my whole life but had never been close to anything that had belonged to him. This was a very special find and I'll be moved by it for the rest of my years.
|This is the fife that was made and played by my Great Great Grandfather, George Washington Taggart while he marched with the Mormon Battalion.|
Washington Taggart left San Diego and wound his way up through Nevada and Idaho, back down through Western Wyoming-where his son Noah Albert would later settle-eventually making his way to the Salt Lake Valley where his family awaited. I'm not sure how many months they had been separated, but he had covered nearly 3500 miles of the country on foot. He subsequently built several mills and storehouses for the Mormon settlers in and around Salt Lake. He also continued to make and play musical instruments. Our family archive includes receipts for some of these including a fiddle that he made and sold for $7.00. He and his three wives founded and settled the town Richfield in Morgan County, Utah.
While my own faith has parted ways with the LDS Church, I still have the utmost admiration for these ancestors for their own faith, courage and perseverance. There is much to be proud of in their story and my family history is one that I enjoy learning.