SALT LAKE CITY IN EARLY DAYS
Before I begin my history I must tell a few facts about Salt Lake City. It was not very large in 1874. It was only 27 years earlier in 1847 that a band of pioneers led by Brigham Young entered the valley after treking across the barren plains to find a new place of safety for the persecuted saints of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their leader Brigham Young when first viewing the valley said, “This is the Place.” Imagine a dry arid valley, no trees, no vegetation, nothing but sand and sagebrush with a lake in the distance. This was their stopping place.
Now in 1960 there has been built a beautiful monument in their honor. Also a bureau of information with mural paintings on the inside walls depicting the trail these pioneers took from the Mississippi River to Utah. The city of Salt Lake was laid out in ten acre blocks with wide streets very roomy for horse and buggy days, little dreaming that in future years these streets would be jammed with automobiles and trucks of many kinds. What a difference a few years makes. The temple at Salt Lake City was in the process of building, but it was slow work as it was being built of granite rock which was quarried at Wasatch at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, some 10 or 15 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. The large granite boulders were hauled to the temple block by oxen in those early days and made ready there for the building. Later when the railroad was completed they were hauled by rail--from Wasatch to Sandy over a narrow gauge railroad then transferred at Sandy to the regular railroad cars to Salt Lake and the temple block.
The Granite Quarry
In a cooling canyon
Little Cottonwood by name
You’ll find a granite quarry
Once noted for its fame.
Now the quarry is abandoned
No blasting now is heard
It is a lasting landmark
It’s memory ne’er be blurred
‘Tis silent now, no one is there
No workmen’s tools are found
No jolly whistling now is heard
From workmen homeward bound
Little cabins here and there
All are gone, the quarry stands
Abandoned, still and quiet
Gone are the busy hands.
It is but a memory
We hold as a sacred shrine
Because it yielded up the stone
For a temple most divine
It took forty years to build it
Let’s tell it to our children
How the granite blocks were quarried
In Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Now in 1963 a cavern cut through solid granite is made there to house the records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In the early days of the pioneers there were no liquor places to buy liquor at but after the railroad came through all kinds of people came into the valley. Liquor places called saloons were opened up by people who were not Latter-day Saints (or Mormons). You would often see a rider all rigged up in cowboy style, tie up his horse to the hitching post and enter a saloon. As the years passed by many such places were opened. Now in our day we do not call them saloons. We call them by nicer names as clubs, taverns, beer parlors or lounges. It was a common thing to see drunks stagger from one saloon to another. Now it is not so frequent as liquor is not sold by the drink or glass over the bar as it was then. Often fights and quarrels would occur on the sidewalk in front of these places on the main streets of the city.
Street cars were only operated on the main streets of the city drawn by mules so the transportation was slow and people would laughingly say “If I have time I’ll ride the streetcars, if not I’ll walk.” Frontiersmen who heard of the invention of the streetcar came to Salt Lake City to see just what a street car looked like. Some were satisfied but many were disappointed when found it was nothing but a car on iron wheels running on rails and drawn by two Missouri mules.
In those early days, horse and buggy days, water troughs were found along some of the main streets. I remember there was one east of the temple block and there was one on State Street west of the City and County Building. One was on 1700 South and West Temple. There were others in other parts of the city. They were placed along the street so it would be convenient for people to water their horses when out driving. Farmers as well as city people would stop as they passed to water their horses. A hitching post was found before every house who owned a horse and also in front of every business establishment where shoppers could tie their horses while shopping. No meters or meter maids to worry about so shoppers could take as much time as they wanted to do their shopping.
Along the business streets you would see all kinds of vehicles, cabs, farm wagon, white top buggies, carriages and hacks. The hotel people owned hacks as they were called, which would be sent to the depot to meet every passenger train for the convenience of passengers who would like to stay at a hotel. Every well to do family owned a horse and carriage also a large barn in their backyard until later years when the automobile came into existence. The barns were changed into garages and horse and buggy days were over. There were also livery stables where people could rent horses for horseback riding or carriage, and horses for pleasure drives. These were very convenient for those who did not own horses and wanted a pleasure trip to the canyon or Great Salt Lake. Several blacksmith shops were found on Main Street in the city where horses could be shod and vehicles could be repaired. Harness shops were also busy in those days when horses were used.
Main Street in the 1870s was very different than now in 1960. Let us visualize what it looked like in those early days. The business buildings on the side of the street with the occasional wooden awning over the store front, and perhaps a little wooden platform or step in front of the entrance door was a common thing. The dirt roadway or street, the apparently unpaved sidewalk, a yoke of oxen slowly trudging along drawing an oxcart, on which was a large granite slab, to the temple block are hardly reminiscent of the Main Street of the crossroads of the west as it is today, 1960. Salt Lake was surely a frontier town 1000 miles from anywhere depending on its own resources, except for what could be hauled by wagon across the vast plains and mountains.
As I said before these events I mention may not be in chronological order but have nearly all happened in my lifetime, so I may have mentioned one event earlier or later than it happened. In 1869 the long hoped for railroad was finished and many changes were taking place. Great mercantile institutions were being built replacing the crude buildings of an earlier day. Also with the completion of the railroad large quantities of store goods which could only be purchased at enormous prices now rapidly became available at lower prices. The railroad also made practical the development of mineral wealth of the region. The transcontinental railroad was a great day for the nation as it was bound with bands of steel from east to west. It was also a great day for Utah and really ended the pioneer period.
During the building of the railroad “Corinne”? in the northern part of Utah was a busy town. It is situated on the north shore of the Great Salt Lake. Corinne was a very wicked town. All kinds of riff raff, men with bad character and women too of bad reputation gathered here. Work was plentiful on the railroad. Saloons were plentiful so liquor was the cause of many disagreements, so fights and quarrels were common occurrences. The population at that time was in the thousands but now it is only a little farming community. As Corinne was close to Great Salt Lake and naturally someone would attempt to make use of the lake. The Bear River (called Corinne’s River) provided excellent possibilities. A man General Canner decided to launch a number of fleets of boats. Other companies owned boats also so there were schooners, bangers, steamboats and sailing craft of all sorts and sizes. Schooners with huge sails and spacious decks for lumber and ore and other cargo as sheep and cattle. The sinking of the Pioneer in 1871 with a heavy load of ore was replaced by the building of the boat “City of Corinne.” It was the biggest and most luxurious that ever navigated Great Salt Lake. Excellent dinners were served and passengers found everything for their comfort and enjoyment even dancing to the music of a band. In 1872 Corinne’s fame came to and end. Ogden became the railroad junction. The boat “City of Corinne” was renamed General Garfield and later burned in 1904.
To the east of the city lies the historic Fort Douglas. It was established in 1862 and named after the man who was defeated by Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. It has always housed a regiment of soldiers and during World War I German and Italian prisoners were held there. During World War II 1,000 officers and 2,000 civilians were employees there building houses and dormitories and bunk houses to house the soldier boys before they were sent away to their various places to train for the war. Now the fort is almost abandoned. No soldiers are there except for a few officers. Some of the ground has been given to build the new Veterans Hospital, another piece to the University of Utah and another piece to the Shrinners Crippled Children’s Hospital.
The pioneers loved recreation so a hall called Social Hall was built. Now the hall is there no more. It was torn down to make a place for a new Avenue. A rock monument tells of the hall. Many of the large blocks have been divided by streets or avenues and residences and business houses or food markets have been built along these new streets. Parts of the city have been made into subdivisions and are rapidly building up. A place called Wonderland, a place of curiosities and fun. I never had a chance of going there as the day for an excursion there I had the german measles. I felt very sad because all my playmates who went talked about it for days afterwards. The Salt Lake Theater was built in 1862. It was elaborate and beautiful on the inside and was considered the most beautiful building west of the Mississippi River. Many a noted drama was performed within its walls. In 1928 after 66 years of service the theater gave way to progress and was torn down to make room for a modern telephone building. That is the end of many of our landmarks. Many of our old buildings who have seen their time are torn down and buildings of many stories high are put up in their place. The Old Theater Building which had seen so much happiness and laughter was tired and old and a new generation had developed new tastes in the drama and other forms of amusements. The movies and television have taken its place. The drama has gone but it will never be forgotten, I hope, even if the old theater has been torn down.
Brigham Young was not a frivolous man yet he knew that his people over whom he presided must have good amusements. What better recreation than good music, drama and dancing. There has been talk about building a replica of the theater of the university grounds. The future will find the answer. The Brigham Young monument which stands in the cross section of Main Street and South Temple was erected in memory of Brigham Young who led the pioneers across the barren plains to a place of safety here in the valley of the Rocky Mountains. Now in 1956 it has been remodeled. It’s base has been chiseled off so it is neater and takes less room making more room for traffic.
The Salt Palace at 9th South and Main was another place of amusement and was an interesting place to see. It was made of salt slabs and encrusted with salt from the Great Salt Lake then cut into blocks. This formed the exterior. Dancing at night mid multicolored lights set in sparkling crystal salted bells, made the inside look like a dream palace out of fairyland. It was an unique resort. Play equipment such as miniature train, swings and seasaws or teeters for the children. A bicycle track was also laid out where some of the best cyclists in the country vied for competition. It was destroyed by fire in 1910.
Garfield Beach was a bathing resort on the east shore of Great Salt Lake. With its white sandy bottom made it a pleasant place for bathing. It was close to Black Rock where the pioneers first went to bathe. It was a noted resort in 1880 and was abandoned when Saltair was built. It is now just a memory. Excursions during the summers to the resort was planned by our town and surrounding villages as well as the city. Everyone would bring picnic and we children would be so excited because of the long train ride and then the fun at the beach in bathing in the briney waters. And a ride in the Steamer Garfield was a thrill never to be forgotten. The steamer is also a memory.
Out of the dim past some memories of the sturdy pioneer and their strength and their struggle to progress lingers. They worked hard to make their homes and surroundings beautiful. Flowers and trees were planted along the streets and in their yards. Time passes on and these simple pleasures are replaced by newer methods, newer pleasure equipment like giant racer, airplanes, fun houses, etc.
Savage photograph studios was also a noted place. A drinking fountain has been erected in memory of him on the southeast corner of Main and South Temple by the side of the temple block.
I recall a small bakery on Main Street across from the ZCMI where we bought bakery cakes when we attended conference. I remember we children were always glad when April Conference came round because father would always bring oranges home from the city. Oranges were not sold in little country stores in those early days. All kinds of potted plants were also to be had so mother would also bring home a geranium or other plant. Our window sills were wide so all kind of plants filled the windows at home.
On Eagle Gate on north State Street in our city an eagle stands mounted on a beehive. This gateway led to Brigham Young’s private property in his time. The eagle was carved by an English convert to the Mormon faith Ralph Ramsay by name. As the years of winter snow and summer’s heat passed over it, they played havoc with the old wooden eagle, so it was taken down and sent east where it was plated with copper and again placed on the gate which has been made wider to conform with the street. The street again is made wider but the eagle still watches the traffic.
Vast improvements have been made since those early days of my childhood. From a board sidewalk nice cement walks and gutters, from a fountain with a tin dipper attached to it with a chain, to a sanitary fountain. Electric cars and gasoline buses, instead of mule drawn cars. Electric lights instead of gas or kerosene lamps. Airplanes and automobiles instead of horse and buggy, tractors and trench diggers instead of plows and shovels. Electric washers and dryers instead of washing upon a washboard. Doing the family wash by hand and ironing with flat irons which had to be heated on the family stove was no easy job. I know for I did it for many years myself. The electric steam iron saves many a step and time as do many other electric appliances for the housewife. Many years passed before I had any electric appliances. We had no electricity in the country homes until....
I rubbed and rubbed my clothes
On a washboard with ridges rough
Then rinsed and turned them inside out
And examined every collar and cuff
Then out on a line from pole to pole
The clothes were hung with care
When dried by the wind they were ready
To be ironed by flatirons now so rare.
We used to heat them on the stove
How quick they cooled I am aware
The back and forth again we went
The old way with the new compare.
Washing was an all day job
Now in automatic washers new
Our clothes look just as white as snow
And only takes an hour or two.
Thanks to the man who invented the iron
And other appliances too
For the electric iron saves the steps
And makes it easier for me and you.
Electricity will heat our toaster
And toast our bread a golden brown
No need to toast o’er glowing embers
Or on a stone of great renown.
The robot man will do the work
Of the housewife in the town
Vitamin pills so handy you will see
Will be our daily menus, got that down.
We also have deep freezers and frigideirs instead of ice boxes, so food can be taken care of easily. Fresh meat can be frozen until needed, vegetables can also be frozen the same way.
I remember the old sprinkling wagons drawn by horses sprinkling the dusty streets tow or three times a day especially in the business district to settle the dust. State Street and others were not paved and were covered with dust in the summer and mud in the winter. I remember well when sleigh bells jingled and many a family in the city owned a cutter or family sleigh and even on Main Street you would see sleigh parties spin by. Now the streets are cleaned of snow after every snow storm and hauled away from the streets in the business district. Sleighriding parties on city streets are a memory now. Even sleighriding in the country is a sport of the past. Too many automobiles to make it safe. It was great sport for young people in the county to organize sleigh parties and use large bobsleds and sometime 2 span of horses to pull the sled filled with young people and then meet at someone’s home for chili or other refreshments. I remember tying my little sled behind father’s wagon and having a nice long sleighride. Now in our automobile age it is dangerous and is not allowed.
In 1850 during President Millard Filmore’s term of office as president of the United States Utah became a territory of the United States and then on June 4, 1896 Utah became a state of the union through a proclamation signed by Grover Cleveland, then President of the United States.
The first public telephone in our village of Sandy was announced April 11, 1881. We read in the paper, “the telephone will start talking tomorrow”. A shipment of equipment arrived last week was being hastily installed. The public telephone was installed at White’s harness shop. Now in this day nearly every family has a telephone and public phones are found along many streets in many parts of the city and in small communities also. Nearly every family has a television even with color.
Before I start my life’s history I must write a few words about my grandmother who made her home with us. Grandmother Anna Mortenson was born in Fjelkinge Sweden November 27, 1818. She was the wife of Ola Mortenson who died of small pox and left her a widow at 33 years old with three children. They were parents of four children: Ingrid, Anders and Betty and an infant boy who died from small pox the same time as the father died (Ingrid later became my mother). Grandma was also sick with the dreadful disease when her husband passed away and was not able to attend his funeral services.
They were devout Lutherans and were sincere in their faith. The family income stopped when the father was taken. Sickness had taken much of their savings so as soon as grandmother got well and able to work she earned their living by spinning and weaving and working in the fields during summer. Grandmother was very studious and a great reader of the Bible, teaching it to her children when she had time during the evenings. Many years after her husband died she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She came to Utah with her daughter Ingrid.
When she passed away I fell heir to her Swedish Bible. She often said to me “When I die you shall have my Bible.” It had been a gift to her at her confirmation when she was 15 years old. She died at Sandy Utah 92 ½ years of age March 1910. The telegraph wires were joined October 1861 near Salt Lake City and 8 years later the transcontinental railroad was joined in 1869 at Promontory, Box Elder County, Utah when the golden spike was driven which joined the rails uniting the east and west together. All people who entered the valley before the railroad came in 1869 whether they came by ox team or handcart or by team are considered pioneers. My father came to the valley in 1873 and mother came in 1874 just 26 years after the pioneers came in 1847 led by Brigham Young.
Yet father and mother although they came after the railroad came also led a pioneer life when they settled mid the sagebrush. I often wonder if we the second and third generation are as stallworth as they were in our living. Now we can go to the store and get all kinds of foods ready to prepare in our electric ranges or gas stoves. In those early days in our town there was no bakery so bread and pastry had to be baked at home, even yeast had to be made at home. Later when I was about nine or ten years old I remember one of the stores made homemade yeast and would exchange yeast for flour. When mother ran out of yeast she would put some flour in a pail which would pay for a pint of yeast as a starter for her jar of yeast. This store would sometimes make bread from the flour thus obtained. It was not until after I was married that I was able to get manufactured yeast as we have now.
I wonder would we have had the strength and courage our fathers and mothers and grandmothers had in those early days. There were no luxuries or comforts as we have today, just the main necessities. I sure have a heritage to be proud of. The hard work of my parents who built for the future seeing far ahead, planning for their children and their children’s children. Now I can visualize their strength and how hard it had been to make a home under those circumstances. Do we take time to talk to our children and tell them of these struggles that our pioneer mothers and fathers had to pass through so they would know something about those early days of pioneer struggles Their religion was sacred to them so they tried hard to learn the language and learn to read so they could take part in building up that part of Zion in which the lived in this new land, also to take part in civic affairs. I have tried to portray some of the things my parents as well as I and others had to do before modern machinery and electric appliances were available. I may have repeated myself often as I’ve said before, I am no story writer.