Putting It All Together
In The Old Mormon Fort: Birthplace of Las Vegas, Nevada students learn how an obscure settlement created during Mormon expansion grew into a well-known and prosperous American city, and consider factors that hinder or contribute to the evolution of early settlements into permanent communities, towns, and cities. The following activities will help students think about several ways in which one might evaluate the success of the Mormon mission.
Activity 1: Manifest Destiny
Have students research the westward movement with emphasis on the Mormons. Have students compare and contrast what they learned with what they know about the settlement of the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort. Would students characterize the mission as successful from the point of view of the Mormons? Or from the vantage point of time, considering how the community grew later? Why or why not? Where else did the Mormons settle? Compare the success of the Mormons in achieving their goals at these settlements with their fate in Las Vegas. Have students present their research and findings in a report and present it to class.
Activity 2: Lives of the Pioneers
Much of the history of the site has been learned through the writings and images created by those who lived or traveled through the area. Use the readings, maps, and visuals to write a diary entry as if you lived at the fort or the later ranch. Present the diary entries to class and discuss the evolution of the fort. What hardships did the pioneers face? How did these hardships bring about the downfall of the fort? How did the changes in the ranch's functions over time likely affect the lives of the people who lived there?
Activity 3: Las Vegas Centennial
Divide your students into teams. Have some students research the history of Las Vegas since 1931, when the Hoover Dam was begun and gambling was legalized in Nevada. Using the information in this lesson and their research, have students draw a poster to commemorate both the centennial of Las Vegas in 2005 and the 150th anniversary of the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort. Have the other group of students research the birth and growth of their own town creating a poster to show its history and the different events that influenced its growth.
Activity 4: Your Town's Birth
Divide students into teams and have them research their own community for evidence of how their town was "born." Students should determine if there are any historic sites (remains of a trail, a specific road, a building, etc.) related to the community's founding, settlement, or early history and write a brief history. Have students take a picture or draw a picture of the site. How does the site relate to the growth of their state or the United States? Does the site relate to U.S. westward expansion or expansion by the Mormons? If so, how did this influence the development of their town? Students should present their findings in class.