Pioneer Gratitude – George O. Cornish, Sculptor
George O. Cornish did not charge for the hundreds of hours he used sculpting “Pioneer Gratitude.”
He visualized a Utah’s Dixie pioneer family with physical stamina and undaunted spiritual strength who faced unpredictable calamities, tragedies, hardships, and food scarcity that honed characters of calm, stoic dignity.
The father toiled many cold, grueling, winter months in the deep Timpoweap Canyon that was carved by the turbulent Rio Virgin through the Hurricane Cliffs between the communities of Hurricane and La Verkin, Utah.
He worked with pick, shovel, crowbar, and wheelbarrow building the Hurricane Canal along ledges, through tunnels and across side canyons on flumes. When the canal came out of the west end of the canyon into the Hurricane Valley, it was clinging to the face of the hazardous cliffs several hundred feet above Pah Tempe Hot Mineral Springs that gurgle into the Rio Virgin near the mouth of the canyon.
While the father was working in the canyon during the week, his wife and son took care of the many chores at home. Saturday evening, the father came home to worship with his family on the Sabbath.
The family represented in this statue a feeling of the joyful satisfaction of a bountiful harvest from a new farm they helped pioneer in the fertile Hurricane Valley.
Brother Cornish has written: “They pause in their work and thank God. Heads are bowed and eyes closed as they speak to the Creator. They are grateful too, for the newborn infant on the mother’s arm.
“The father has his feet widespread and firmly planted. His pose and stature represent the physical and inner strength of those who conquered the desert with its searing summer heat and piercing winter cold. The father’s and mother’s fingers are touching softly. They have not forgotten courtesy, or tenderness, or love!
“This lovely woman represents the great spirit of those who worked beside their men; kept their homes; bore, and with love, trained their children.”