WHERE is the actual site where Brigham Young declared what is now Salt Lake Valley as "the place" in 1847?
It isn't where the well-known "This Is the Place" monument sits above the north side of Sunnyside Avenue.
The true spot is more likely where an obscure marker sits several hundred yards to the northeast of the famous concrete edifice, up a steep hill. Both monuments are in the southeast corner of This Is the Place Heritage Park.
A simple, 10-foot-tall white obelisk was installed by the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association and dedicated by LDS Church President Heber J. Grant on July 25, 1921, before a crowd of about 2,000 people. It is located on a hillside loftier than the site of today's larger and much more visited monument.
Even in 1921, there was still much debate over the location of the actual site. Still, "this monument was located here as the definitive answer as to where the event occurred," the plaque near the original monument states.
W.W. Riter was 9 years old in 1847 when he and his parents followed Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley.
"In his early years, Wilford Woodruff had taken him to the spot and stated that this is exactly where Brigham Young had uttered those important words," the 1921 monument marker states.
Elder Brigham H. Roberts, a historian and member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Quorum of Seventy from 1877 to 1933, also said the 1921 monument is very near to the actual place.
However, even the 1921 marker is not the original "This Is the Place" monument. There was an earlier marker in the area, too. In 1917, Elder Roberts and some Boy Scouts installed a wooden marker where Brigham Young entered the valley. It was replaced in 1921.
The 1921 monument eventually fell into disrepair and obscurity because of the much larger and more popular modern monument completed in 1947. It was dedicated on July 24, 1947, before a large crowd estimated to be 50,000 strong.
Due to This Is the Place Heritage Park development, the second marker was discovered in the 1990s. It was rededicated on July 21, 1997, by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve. The monument work was funded and directed by the Mills Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers in partnership with Zachary Mahoney, grandson of one of the chapter members who made it his Eagle Scout project.
Brigham Young's actual historic words
What did Brigham Young actually say near the mouth of Emigration Canyon?
The second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints specifically said, "This is the right place. Drive on." The "This Is the Place" term is a modern, abbreviated usage.
The original "This is the Place" marker, with the modern structure in the background.
(Story was originally published in the Deseret News, July 24, 2009, by Lynn Arave.)
-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org