It was originally created for a book, to accompany a PPS special by Lee Groberg titled, Sweetwater Rescue. The Church History museum did a special showing of the movie there in SLC and at the same time hosted an art show of all of the paintings that were created. Initially approximately 200 artists were invited – I just happened to be one of them. At the time I was heavily involved in doing the Rexburg Temple murals, and still teaching art at BYU-Idaho, so I was unable to accept the invitation to go on location with the filming cast to take my own reference photos. Therefore, Lee Groberg made a CD for me of 200+ images to use. The composition is actually a composite of 3-4 different shots that I put together in Photoshop.
As the painting came “to life” it took on a spirit of its own and transcended from a painting of two Utah girls used in a movie set to “become” my great-grandmother Margaret Stallé and her older sister Marie.
My great-great-grandparents, Jean Pierre and Jeanne Marie Stallé, (on my mother’s line), are from the Piedmont Valley area of Northern Italy, specifically Angrongña, which is near Torre Pellice and Parastino, which are in the, now, Metropolitan City area of Turin (Torino – English spelling). They joined the Church in 1853 with Lorenzo Snow and his companions. The persecution became so bitter and intense that they were forced to leave and immigrated to America beginning their journey in 1855. As the persecution was intensifying, my
gg-grandmother fed Pres Willard Richards and some additional Elders, breakfast very early one morning – they had not eaten in 3 days due to hiding from the mobs. He told the family to leave Italy and come to Zion. A few weeks later, Pres. Richards sent for them from England and held the ship from sailing to America until they arrived.
Interestingly, they did not go west to the Mediterranean Sea but traveled, via wagons pulled by mules, north up the Alps to the southern border of France, (Possibly a corner of Switzerland). Once on top they removed the wheels from the wagons replacing them with ski runners and traveled down until below snowline and then replaced the runners with the original wheels. From there they journeyed, partially via the Rhine River, west to England. Eventually they boarded the ship in Liverpool that was waiting for them and sailed to America
While still in St Louis Jean Pierre worked in a coal mine to help earn funds. Jeanne Marie wanted to wait but, notwithstanding, rather than wait, they decided to go to Utah with the 1st handcart company led by Edmond Ellsworth, Brigham Young’s grandson in 1856. Unfortunately, Jean Pierre had contracted an infection from the coal mines and passed away and was buried near Ash Grove, (now referred to as Ash Hollow), Nebraska.
Margaret, the younger girl in the painting on the left, was 5-years-old when she departed from Italy and had turned 6 by the time they finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in the Fall of 1856. She walked all the way from St Louis to the Salt Lake Valley except when the streams were too deep for her to wade; her sister Marie would then carry her piggyback across them.
One of Margret’s sons, James Louis Barker, while serving as Mission President in France 1945, went across the Alps into the Piedmont Valley of Italy, his mother’s birth place, and did the 1st microfilming of parish records in Europe. In 3 weeks, they recorded information 1,476 volumes from 16 parishes with a total of 80,390 pages of names for temple work. Incidentally, Marie is Elder Gary Stevenson’s great, great grandmother.
As I mentioned, when I started painting the girls were just actors in the video, but in my mind and heart they began to depict my great-grandmother and her sister. Long after the painting was completed Kathy found an actual photo of Margaret and Marie, taken on Marie’s 80th birthday. (See attached B&W photo) Margaret is the heavier woman on the right and Marie is the slimmer one on the left. It is fascinating how much the girl in the painting resembles the real Margaret Stallé….!!.
As a sidenote: Madelene Cardon became Margaret and Marie’s sister-in-law. She is the little 7-year-old girl that had the dream of two men dressed in black suits that gave her literature regarding the Church. 10 years after the dream her father, Phillippe Cardon, hearing of the missionaries, left the Piedmont Valley, found the Elders, and brought them to his home. They were the men in her dream. She translated for the missionaries even before joining the church.