1 9 7 6 (USA)
2 x 100 minute episode
1 9 7 8 (USA)
1 x 120 minute episode
2 x 60 minute episodes
The made-for-TV movie Young Pioneers aired in March 1976 on the ABC Television Network’s Monday Night Movie and was intended as a pilot for a TV series.
It told the story of courageous young newlyweds, 16-year-old Molly (Linda Purl) and 18-year-old David (Roger Kern) Beaton, whose love for each other helped them build a life for themselves in a newly opened wilderness in the Dakota Territory in the 1870s (although filming actually took place near Sonoita, Arizona, south of Tuscon).
With a dream of becoming homesteaders, Molly and David left their home in Indian Falls, Iowa, and headed for Dakota in their horse-drawn wagon (pulled by their Morgan horses, Star and Whitefoot).
In Yankton, Dakota, David filed a claim for 160 acres of farmland on which they would plant wheat and corn and five extra acres for planting trees. The cost was $18 – $14 down and the balance to be paid after homesteading for five years.
Their struggles were chronicled through Molly’s narration. Molly recorded her and David’s adventures in her diary, which she kept in a seashell-decorated box that David gave to her.
The young couple battled injury, claim-jumpers, blizzards, near-starvation and a crop-destroying grasshopper plague, and the nearest town (Wildrose) was half a day’s journey away.
It had a doctor and an undertaker but no sheriff or church.
The film was seen in over 17 million American homes by over 40 million people but no series was forthcoming, although a holiday special – Young Pioneers’ Christmas – was broadcast in December 1976 as the ABC Friday Night Movie.
David and Molly had lost their baby son and took solace in helping their neighbours, particularly the Peters family and Dan Gray (Robert Hays), who had his property taken by the railroad who were pushing across the prairie country.
ABC finally produced a short-lived series in 1978. Throughout three episodes, David and Molly were held hostage by Indians, treated their neighbour’s children for diphtheria, and survived a dust storm which injured Molly.
Molly Beaton (Foster)
Shelly Juttner (1)
Kay Kimler (2)
Mare Winningham (3)
Young Pioneers || Young Pioneers’ Christmas || Sky in the Window | A Kite for Charlie | The Promise of Spring