The Awful March Of The Saints

Florence, near present-day Omaha, August 1856

For 28-year-old Patience Loader, the journey so far had been chiefly exhausting. During the four weeks from July 25 to August 22, 1856, the company with which she was traveling had covered 270 miles from Iowa City to Florence, a fledgling community six miles north of where Omaha stands today. Read more »

To Plan A Trip

For information about golden Spike, visit the official Web site of the National Park Service ( www.nps.gov/gosp ), or call 435-471-2209. To learn more about Union Station, visit www.theunionstation.org , or call 801-393-9886. The railroad museum shares the station with other attractions, including the Browning Firearms Museum, dedicated to the work of Ogden’s own John M. Browning (1855–1926), inventor of a number of famous guns.Read more »

Grand Junction

Where Two Lines Raced To Drive The Last Spike In Transcontinental Track

If you were asked to name pivotal meetings in American history, the linking of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads might not immediately come to mind. But it was perhaps the most important. Before the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, it took months to get from coast to coast, and more than $1,000. After these two lines met at Promontory Summit in northern Utah, a New Yorker could travel to California in a week for as little as $70. Read more »

What Happened At Mountain Meadows?

The truth is still emerging about the mass murder of more than 100 California-bound emigrants in Utah in 1857, and about the role of leaders of the Mormon Church in the atrocity.

On August 3, 1999, a backhoe operator powered his shovel into a hard-packed mound of earth at a remote site in the southwestern corner of Utah, and to the shock of those watching, the bucket emerged with more than 30 pounds of human skeletons. The excavation, part of a renovation of a crumbling monument, had not only uncovered an old burial site but also exposed anew one of the enduring controversies in American history. Read more »

This Is The Place

Retracing the Pioneer Trail in Mormon Utah

On my first visit to Gilgal Garden, a back-yard collection of folk sculpture in Salt Lake City, a Mormon friend who shares my taste for the unusual took my picture. There I am, a smiling, middle-aged Gentile (as Mormons call all non-Mormons) seated on a large stone sphinx that has the face of Joseph Smith, the founder of the faith. I am sitting on the sphinx’s paw. Read more »

My Grandfather, The Mormon Apostle

Discovering a giant in the family

Emerson wrote that “there is properly no history; only biography,” so my brother and sister and I knew that the revered collection of diaries and papers that had once belonged to our grandfather, which during most of our early lives was in a closet in an upstairs bedroom, contained some serious stuff. Our mother was a professional journalist, and it was always assumed that she would write her father’s story. But she intended instead to write a novel based on his life.Read more »

The Power Of Homely Detail

Much has changed in Utah since World War II, but outside of the metropolitan center in the Salt Lake Valley, the addiction to rural simplicity and the idea of home is still strong.

 

If the West is an oasis civilization, as the historian Walter Webb once wrote, then Utah is the oasis civilization par excellence. It has a few more oases than Nevada, the only state that is more arid overall, but it also has more civilization, hard-won. Read more »

Xanadu By The Salt Flats

Saltair, the stately pleasure dome that used to rise out of the waters of Great Salt Lake, was the Coney Island of the West.

 

Now and again, on a picnic hill, when the incense of hamburgers and hot dogs grows thick and stupefying, I am moved to rise on my hind legs with a spatula in one hand and a bun in the other and give voice to an atavistic howl, a nasal, high, drawn-out ululation like that of a muezzin from a minaret or a coyote from a river bluff. Read more »

Mirror Of Zion

The Utah Photographs of George Edward Anderson

When George Edward Anderson was born at Salt Lake City in 1860, Brigham Young’s desert kingdom—“the resting place of Israel for the last days”—still stood defiantly apart from the rest of America, embattled and alone. By the time Anderson died in 1928, Utah had been a loyal and contented state of the American Union for more than three decades. Anderson chronicled that peaceful transformation with his camera. Read more »

The Mormons

From Poverty and Persecution to Prosperity and Power

In the month of February, 1846, when conditions for travel were as unpropitious as possible, the Mormons began moving out of their newly built city of Nauvoo, Illinois, in order to cross the ice-strewn Mississippi, on the first leg of a long and uncertain journey. A forced abandoning of barely completed homes, this time with the loss of much property and the necessity for travel in the dead of winter, was no new experience for the adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Read more »