Thursday, March 27, 2014

Layton City BEFORE Hill Air Force Base came along ...

The Hill AFB Air Show in 2009.

By Lynn Arave

Hill Air Force Base is the dominant employer in Layton City and Davis County. However, what was Layton City like before Hill came along in 1940?

Here’s a brief look at that pre-situation:
In 1940, Layton was a small, sleepy farming town with a population of just 646 people. 
“It was kind of a closed group,” Jay Dansie, 86, a lifelong Layton resident recalled in the winter of 2013-2014, of life in Layton before Hill came along. “It was still a settlement of families,” he noted, explaining that there just were not many outsiders.
That all changed, Dansie said, when Verdeland Park, a massive World War II military housing development, opened where Layton High School, the Layton City Offices and Commons Park are today, in 1943. It boasted some 1,500 residents – half the city’s population – in its heyday.
“The whole city changed when Verdeland Park went in,” Dansie said. “It changed the city forever.”
Outsiders and many out-of-state residents moved in.
Indeed, Main Street was widened. The city’s first traffic signal went in during 1943 at Main Street and Gentile as Layton’s population had multiplied. Some of Layton’s “cow trails” became roads and agriculture started being pushed out. Many new businesses came to the city too.
Some of this was unexpected. The Ogden Chamber of Commerce had led the charge to establish Hill Air Force Base and just assumed the main gate to the base would be located on the north, the Ogden side.
“Ogden wanted it all their way,” Dansie said.
However, the main gate – the south gate – faced Layton and spurred a lot of this explosive growth.
By 1950, Layton City’s population was 3,456 people, a 435 percent increase from 1940.
After the war, many newly married couples in Davis County made their homes there. (Verdeland Park closed in 1962.)
Before Hill Air Force Base came along, there was no “Hill Field Road.” That road was “Easy Street.” Also, there was no Highway 193 and the main road to Weber Canyon continued along  today’s 1800 North in Sunset and went straight east to the mouth of Weber Canyon.
Dansie said before Hill AFB came along, that area where it is now was called “the Sandridge” and he recalls it being a great, sandy place to hunt for Indian arrows as he grew up in the late 1930s.
Layton’s growth, with Hill as the catalyst, continued in the next decade, as Layton’s population soared to 9,027 in 1960, an increase of 161 percent over 1950. 

Note: The ground-breaking to establish Hill Air Force Bases was about 74 years ago, on Jan. 12, 1940.

(-Written by Lynn Arave and originally published on the Layton City Web site.)

                The Layton side of Hill Air Force Base.

-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:  

Besides the 'Seagull' miracle, were there at least 3 pioneer 'wind' miracles too?

By Lynn Arave

PERHAPS the most famous miracles in Mormon Pioneer history occurred in June-July of 1848 when the first crops in the Salt Lake Valley were threatened by a plague of insects, what would later be called “Mormon crickets.”
Starting in May, the crickets started eating the wheat, corn, beans, pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, melons and other crops – and continued to do so for a month.
After many prayers by the pioneers, a white cloud of seagulls flew in during early June and started devouring the crickets. 
However, this was not a one-day event. The birds came daily for about three weeks, eating insects, drinking water and then regurgitating before eating more of the insects. The remainder of the pioneer crops were saved.
This timely appearance of gulls was described in a letter of June 9 to Brigham Young, who was back East at the time: "The sea gulls have come in large flocks from the lake and sweep the crickets as they go; it seems the hand of the Lord is in our favor." 
(However, for some pioneer settlers, it apparently required months of time afterward for this to be heralded as a miracle.)
The Seagull Monument on Salt Lake’s Temple Square commemorates that event.

                      Seagull Monument on Salt Lake's Temple Square.

However, the early Layton-Kaysville area apparently benefited from what may also be a similar miraculous event.
Grasshoppers, rather than the more famous Mormon crickets, caused the majority of the insect damage in pioneer Utah. (Crickets were hardly a nuisance in Utah after 1850.)
During the summer of 1854, grasshoppers threatened to destroy all the crops of settlers in the Layton-Kaysville area. 
This insect horde rose one morning like a low, dark cloud. However, huge wind gusts soon came from the eastern canyons and carried the grasshoppers out over the Great Salt Lake. 
Millions of dead insects later washed up on the shores of the lake and most of the settlers’ crops were spared.
While gusting canyon winds occasionally occur in winter, early spring or late fall, they are very, very unlikely to happen in the summer, according to northern Utah weather records.
In fact, historically, this is the lone recorded canyon wind gusting event in the summer months for Davis County. From mid-May to early October, these winds have otherwise never blown.

                         Some marshes around the Great Salt Lake.

The same windy “miracle” also repeated at least twice, though in Salt Lake County.
A year later, in 1855, in the western area of Salt Lake County, swarms of grasshoppers also threatened settlers’ crops. Once again, a providential wind came along and blew the insects into the Great Salt Lake.
The same thing happened again during 1868 in Salt Lake.
 After noticing the quantities of dead insects in the lake in 1868, Benjamin LeBaron wrote, "I consider this later deliverance from the grasshoppers just as great and miraculous as the former 1848 rescue from the ravages of the black crickets."
The years 1854-56, 1867-72, and 1876-79 are believed to have been the worst years of grasshopper infestations in Northern Utah during the pioneer era.

SOURCES: Encyclopedia of Mormonism; “Utah’s Weather and Climate,” by Dan Pope and Clayton Brough;  and “Davis County Land of Peace, Beauty and a Quality of Life,” by the Davis School District, 1994.

(-Written by Lynn Arave and originally posted on the Layton City Web site, on March 27, 2014.)

-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:  

April Fool's Day in Ogden almost a century ago

“Yes, Ogden celebrates April Fool” was an April 1, 1926 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
“Patrolman William Meyer this morning forgot it was April Fool when he helped himself to a peanut cluster from the counter of the Beehive Confectionary store,” the article stated. “While the proprieter grinned, Meyer bit into an appetizing piece of chocolate-coated chili peppers.”
Not to be the lone victim of such an April 1 prank, Meyer later created some chocolate-covered soap and let detective L.L. Nelson taste a similar “treat.”
Elsewhere in Ogden that day, 88 years ago, a woman in downtown restaurant, who order fried oysters, “cut into a wad of cotton, friend in egg albumen.”
Also, a huge wood-mounted map struck  District Forester R.H. Rutledge on the head – without warning – in what was believed to be another April Fool prank.
“Garlic chocolates” was another prank of that era, as were bricks, which were put inside a hat, or wrapped package on the sidewalk, awaiting someone to come by and kick them.
Pocketbooks nailed to the sidewalk, or coins on a string were also popular pranks of that time.
The Ogden City Court also often staged its own April Foolery. For example, another April 1, 1926 Standard story said that two police officers who arrived that morning for the regular 10 a.m. court, found the room totally deserted. Later, they discovered court had been held at 9 a.m., to prank them.
“April Fool in police court” was an April 1, 1912 Standard headline. A frequent town drunk, John Shea, was in court again for kissing people and begging,  This time, the judge said he would change the “man’s medicine” and instead of sentencing the drunk to five days in the jail – the standard sentence for the man on three previous occasions – the judge made it 15 days long this time  – and no April Fool.
“Played April fool joke on himself” was an April 3, 1913 Standard headline. Jimmie Carr, charged in court with drunkenness on April 1 told Judge Reeder: “It was so near April Fool day that I was fooled. I thought I could drink an extra glass of beer, but I was fooled. The beer made me drunk and I was arrested.”
Carr caused an uproar in his hearing with comments like that. In the end, the judge suspended his sentence, but told Carr he would receive 60 days of hard labor if he returned to the court.

Special social events on April 1 were common in Ogden during the early 20th Century. According to the Standard on March 31, 1915, the Ogden Chapter of the American Association of Engineers held an April Fools Dance on April 1 at the Reed Hotel. The Knights of King Arthur Association also held an April Fool event on April 1, 1911.
-However, the likely kingpin of Utah pranks, though probably not an April Fool one, was staged in Washington County, Utah, likely in the 1920s or 1930s.
Southern Utah historian Bart Anderson of St. George often talks about the hoax in his historical lectures.
Although no exact date is known, it took place in the ancient volcano cinder cone, located between Snow Canyon and Veyo.
Teenagers carried old tires, or brush into the top of the volcano and then lit them on fire as a group of dignitaries were traveling by on Highway 18 (or by another version of the story -- as local church goers were departing their meetings one Sunday).
A few sticks of dynamite might have even been used for more special effects.
Either way, that fake eruption caused such area excitement that some geologists were called in before it was determined to be a hoax.

(-By Lynn Arave and originally posted on the Ogden Standard-Examiner Web site on March 27, 2014.)

-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:  

Friday, March 21, 2014

The forgotten history of Ogden’s Tabernacle Square

                           Author and wife, LeAnn, at the former Ogden Temple in 2010.

THE lengthy history of Ogden’s Tabernacle Square reveals a potpourri of events, even changes in ownership and failed dreams for some never-materialized projects.
Here’s just a sampling of the Square's  rich and diverse history:

-The original Ogden Pioneer Tabernacle, on the southeast corner of the block, was began in 1855 and finally opened on Oct. 10, 1869, seating 1,250 people.

-However, soon after the railroad came to Ogden, work began on a new, larger tabernacle and the old one was to be a concert hall. The sandstone foundation actually reached a height of 4 feet before such plans were completely abandoned, for a lack of funds.
 (The leftover blocks were sold or given to nearby property owners and their use was visible in the foundation or steps of some downtown Ogden homes.)

-In the early 1890s, the LDS Church actually gave Ogden City the deed to the property that is now Tabernacle Square.
A report in the Standard on Dec. 20, 1893 stated: “The city gives it up. City Council gives back the Tabernacle Square to the church.”

-Also, in 1890, classes for Weber Academy students (forerunner to WSU) were held in the Pioneer Tabernacle.

-Next, the Pioneer Tabernacle was completely remodeled in 1896 at a cost of $15,000. A county-wide “Tabernacle Fair” helped raise the funds needed.

-There must have still been plenty of open space, because “Football on the Tabernacle Square,” was a May 2, 1897 headline in the Standard-Examiner. The Gordon Stake and Weber Stake boys teams played for the pennant.
A week later, the May 9 Standard reported a baseball game being held on Tabernacle Square, with the YMCA beating the Quincy Schools by a score of 11-6.

-Despite the presence of sporting events on the Square, it wasn’t until the spring of 1913 that the area was fully leveled and made into a park. Some 4,000 loads of dirt were brought in, as the ground level was still low. Grass was planted and water lines for irrigation were installed.
The Tabernacle building itself was spruced up and an electric blowing apparatus replaced the old water-powered one for the organ. More than $13,000 in improvements were made.

-The April 28, 1913 Standard report mentioned each area stake wanting its own building on the square and that a $100,000 tri-stake tabernacle should be built at the center of the lot.
In fact, a Dec. 27, 1907 Standard article mentioned earlier plans for a $200,000 new Tabernacle. None of that new construction happened.
(However, the Ogden 3rd Ward Chapel and amusement hall resided on the southwest corner of the square for many years. In addition, the Relief Building, now DUP Museum, resided on Tabernacle Choir for many decades, as did the Miles Goodyear Cabin, with both now moved to 2100 Lincoln Avenue.)

-By 1921, LDS Church members in the Ogden area were eager for their own temple. However, Church President Heber J. Grant made a special visit to Ogden’s Tabernacle Square that year and left indicating it was not the proper time to have a temple there.

-Despite Ogden City having given back Tabernacle Square to the Church in 1893, the Standard of May 7, 1924 reported the new possibility of the Church trading Tabernacle Square for Lester Park, 663 24th Street (near today’s downtown main library). Then, the Church would perhaps construct an Ogden Temple there, while Ogden City and Weber County would build a joint city and county facility on Tabernacle Square. (Of course, that never happened either.)

-The next proposal for Tabernacle Square was outlined in the March 11, 1925 Standard, where Weber College wanted to create a first-class 440-yard running track, plus goal posts, bleachers and a football field on the interior. (That proposal never happened either.)

-Elder Harold B. Lee finally broke ground on July 24, 1953 for a new Tabernacle on Ogden’s Temple Square. The $723.000 building was dedicated on Feb. 12, 1956 by President David O. McKay.

-When word of a future LDS Temple planned for Ogden hit the downtown business district in the mid-1960s, businessmen lobbied Church leaders to be sure and have the Temple built downtown, to help bolster the struggling city center.
There apparently had been some serious consideration by the Church to have the Ogden Temple built on the east bench, somewhere just south of today’s Weber State University, in a location similar to that of the Provo Temple.

-How would the original temple have appeared, if it had been built on the Ogden hillside instead?

                                             Keith W. Wilcox's "What If?" Painting.

The late Keith W. Wilcox of Ogden actually inadvertently painted a striking scene of the original Ogden LDS Temple as if it were sitting along the Wasatch Mountains of Ogden.
(Wilcox was architect of the Washington, D.C. LDS Temple, a general authority and also a former president of the Ogden Temple.)

That painting now resides in the primary room of an LDS Chapel in South Weber, though some ward members there mistakenly believe the painting is of the Provo Temple.
(Wilcox's wife said her husband just liked the closer Ogden mountains in his painting ...)

-Sadly, the Pioneer Tabernacle was razed in August of 1971 to make way for the first Ogden Temple. Officially, the Church said it was removed because of its very visible conflict with Ogden Temple. (This was in an era when the Church tore down many old buildings, whereas restoration would more likely happen now.)

-Now the revamped Tabernacle and the totally remodeled Ogden Temple are almost completed as the latest anchors to Ogden’s historic Tabernacle Square.

                   The now steeple-less Ogden Tabernacle, next to the Ogden Temple,  in February of 2014.

The Tabernacle does look a little odd now, being steeple-less, apparently permanently. It makes sense not to have a taller steeple on the Tabernacle than the new Temple, but I wish the top half of the Tabernacle steeple have been saved and used on the top of the building (at a height lower than the revamped Temple's steeple), or even cemented in the ground next to the structure?
Steeples are standard for religious buildings and outside the Salt Lake Tabernacle, is there a large LDS Church building out there without one, except the Ogden Tabernacle?
Anyone who reads the 1956 Souvenir program of the Ogden Tabernacle's original dedication will realize back then that Church members described that now missing steeple as simply a gleaming marvel.

Other source: “Souvenir Program” for the Ogden Tabernacle, Feb, 12, 1956; and personal interviews.

(-Originally published in the Ogden Standard Examiner, March 21, 2014. Note: This is an expanded version over the original.)

-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:  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ogden’s first two viaducts

WHEN did the 24th Street Viaduct across the railroad yard originate in Ogden?
It was rebuilt in more modern times, but here’s the scoop on the original trestle-like viaduct:
“Iron workers start on the railroad viaduct” was a January 24, 1909 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
“Contractor E.H. Dundas and a force of men are placing derricks and making other preparations for an active campaign – temporary western approach is to be torn down at a later date,” the story continued.
As early as February of 1902, the Ogden City Council had mentioned the need for such a viaduct, because of safety reasons, as well as traffic congestion and even more for tourism.
Crossing dozens of train tracks was bumpy, time consuming and downright dangerous in such a busy railroad area.
Eleven cars of iron and steel arrived from the east to begin the project. The viaduct was open in the summer of that same year, as the rush project enhanced downtown access from West Ogden.
Some two years later, in 1911, special and serious problems on the new viaduct were being wrestled with. The Southern Pacific Railway Company asked Ogden City in September of that year to begin sprinkling the viaduct with water twice a day.
Refuse accumulated on the viaduct and sparks from locomotives passing underneath the structure had caused many fires to date.
Such fires have burned holes in the wood planking of the viaduct. An average of one fire response call a day was the average.
By December 24, 1924, the Standard reported a plan by Ogden City and the Weber Club to light up the viaduct at night, as well as the area around the Union Passenger Station. This was to hopefully make Ogden one of the most brilliantly lighted cities in the west.
“The fact that the viaduct has been the scene of many crimes recently has suggested to the Weber Club that this long bridge over the yards would be much more safe at night if brilliantly lighted,” the Standard article reported.
How about the railroad/river viaduct in Riverdale, when did that initial project take place?
The area where this southern viaduct approach to Ogden would go was called “Death Curve” in a Dec. 31, 1922 Standard article.
Apparently, the original road in the area not only had a sharp curve by the river, but was also narrow and simply inadequate.
Financing and proper planning had delayed this project for years.  It was finally built in 1923, a concrete structure with dirt fill.
Of course, that viaduct has also been totally rebuilt in recent years. It is also certain that no one ever dreamed 90 years ago that the later viaduct – the Riverdale one – would eventually become far busier and more crucial to Ogden City than the original 24th Street Viaduct would.

(-Originally published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on March 14, 2014.)

-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: