Monument to Pioneer Woman Dedicated
October 1991

“Monument to Pioneer Woman Dedicated,” Ensign, Oct. 1991, 76

Monument to Pioneer Woman Dedicated

CEDAR CITY, UTAH—President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, joined Utah Governor Norman Bangerter and other dignitaries here August 3 in dedicating a monument honoring a courageous pioneer, Ellen “Nellie” Pucell Unthank.

Hundreds of people attended the dedicatory ceremonies. The monument was placed on the Southern Utah University campus, not far from where Nellie’s home once stood. The Sons of the Utah Pioneers (SUP) organization was instrumental in bringing about the honor for a woman SUP national president Kenneth P. Rasmussen called “one of God’s most precious children—a quiet pioneer, a true heroine.”

In his dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley gave a short account of her tragic journey across the plains. Nine-year-old Nellie and her sister Margaret joined the Church with their parents in England and traveled to the United States. They were members of the Edward Martin handcart company, which was caught in harsh winter conditions before reaching the Salt Lake Valley. The two girls were orphaned when their parents were among the 135 to 150 people in the company who died from exhaustion and exposure.

Nellie’s legs had been badly frozen in the ordeal. When she arrived in Salt Lake City, they were amputated below the knee; a butcher knife and a carpenter’s saw were used in the surgery, which was performed without anesthetic. She hobbled around on the stumps of her legs for the remainder of her sixty-nine years. After her arrival in Salt Lake, she moved to Cedar City, where she married William Unthank. She reared six children while living in impoverished conditions in a one-room log house.

The new monument, sculpted by Jerry Anderson of Leeds, Utah, depicts little Nellie as a happy girl running across the plains before her trek westward.

The monument of Nellie Unthank

The monument, which depicts Nellie Unthank as a carefree girl before crossing the plains, honors her life of service despite adversity. (Photo by Daniel B. Stewart.)

In his remarks at the dedication, President Hinckley commented that Nellie Unthank “knew something of the meaning of sacrifice, and of fidelity to a cause and a purpose.”

In the dedicatory prayer, he asked that the monument might remind all who see it of Nellie Unthank’s “unflagging courage, her tender and tenacious faith.” He prayed that visitors might have reverence for “this woman, and others of her kind, who pioneered the West, who overcame obstacles with a spirit of resolution almost beyond our understanding, who lived without complaint and made the society of which they were a part better for their presence.”

Governor Bangerter, Southern Utah University President Gerald R. Sherratt, and a special guest speaker, Baroness Caroline Cox of the House of Lords of the British Parliament, paid tribute to the memory of Sister Unthank and to her descendants who were in attendance.

  • Daniel B. Stewart, a journalist, is elders quorum president in the Cedar City First Ward, Cedar City Utah Stake.