Provo History

  • belong

    Recently, I listened to the audiobook THIS IS WHERE YOU BELONG: THE ART AND SCIENCE OF LOVING THE PLACE YOU LIVE by Melody Warnick. The book starts with a test on how attached you are to your town. The rest of her book is more about how to be happy wherever you live. She talks about the benefits of shopping locally, walking the streets to see things you wouldn’t see in a car, getting to know your neighbors, getting involved in the community, learning the history of the place, etc. Warnick’s point is that the more involved you are in a community, the more you learn to love it, and the more you feel tied to it, the more you belong.

    I think working at the Provo City Library gives me a leg up on becoming involved in my community, but a non-work-related example of this happened this past Christmas, when I dragged my family outside to do something we’d never done before: attend the lighting of Provo’s downtown. We wandered around and looked at the various booths, made friends with the reindeer and the sled dogs, and listened to the mayor give a brief speech before turning the lights on with a flourish. “I suddenly have a sense of civic pride,” my sister joked. But it was true. Spending half an hour downtown did give me a better connection to it.

    For me, this is all tied in to this year’s summer reading theme: Build a Better World. What better place to start building a better world than the place you live? The librarians in charge of planning summer reading have embedded a few ways to become involved in our community into the summer reading program. You can get points for appreciating nature, for attending local events, for volunteering, and even for donating to a food drive. I think anyone who participates in our summer reading program will forge a better connection to our community, and as a result, we’ll all love this beautiful place a little more than we already do.

  • SHINING

     

    One of my favorite things to do when I’m visiting a new place is to take a ghost tour.  It’s a fun way of learning a little about local history. Also, especially at this time of year, I like things that are slightly creepy.  Imagine my glee, then, when I found out Provo has its very own ghost tour, and it’s a cycling tour!  This is a combination of two of my favorite things!  If you’re interested, now is the perfect time to take a Pedal Provo Ghost Tour. The tour I went on was just what I wanted it to be. It was fun to ride in a pack of bicyclists through Provo, stopping at historic spots to learn a new creepy bit of history.  

    The funny thing is, it took going on a cycling ghost tour for me to look into the resources we have on Provo’s eerie past here at the library.  For example, a pretty interesting history of the Provo cemeteries can be found here on the Provo City Library website.  Did you know there are unmarked graves on Grandview Hill?  Another popular burial spot was below the “Y” on the mountain. One of the original Provo Cemeteries was actually located where BYU’s Maeser Building stands now.  A more current tidbit is that there’s a time capsule in the Provo City Cemetery, set to be opened in 2018. It’s all there on our website.  

    There are a few stories I learned on the ghost tour that are based more on legends than they are on fact, so they are harder to verify. The story of Old Bishop, a native who settlers accidentally killed and then tried to hide the body in the Provo River, is one I hadn’t heard before.  

    A lot of other information about Provo’s past can be found on the Historical Provo and Historical Photographs pages on our website, and of course we have books in both Special Collections and in Non-Fiction.  

    If bicycling, ghosts, or history aren’t your thing, check out our list of other great events that are going on in the community right now.  There’s a lot going on, and something will likely catch your attention.  Then come back to the library and tell me all about it!   

  •  Utah History

    The state of Utah has a fascinating history as the crossroads of many types of people, ideas, and cultures as the nation expanded westward. I recently attended a conference of Utah history enthusiasts, nerds, and researchers sponsored by the Utah Division of State History which discussed this aspect of our past and how it influenced the culture of Utah today. At the conference, they gave out a list of top Utah history book recommendations, selected by Utah history archivists, librarians, historians, and scholars. Wouldn’t you know it- the Provo Library has most of these titles in our Special Collections area!

    Here are some of the books from their list that you’ll find at the library, which pertain specifically to early Utah history at the burgeoning of our state. These books don’t shy away from the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of pre-statehood and give a unique and rich accounting for the shenanigans, struggles, and surprises that came with the territory and travels in the region.  

    11.7 Desert Between the MountainsDESERT BETWEEN THE MOUNTAINS: MORMONS, MINERS, PADRES, MOUNTAIN MEN, AND THE OPENING OF THE GREAT BASIN, 1772-1869
    by Michael Durham
    (1997)

    The Mormon pioneers didn’t have an isolated, ideal, conflict free life in the Salt Lake Valley. This book describes the interactions and confrontations between various groups, such as mountain men, railroad builders, Native Americans, and others who occupied the Great Basin region.    

     

    11.7 Jedediah SmithJEDEDIAH SMITH AND THE OPENING OF THE WEST
    by Dale Morgan
    (1953)

    Jedediah Smith worked as a trapper for both Ashley and Henry and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, mapping the West as he went. His journey across the length of Utah, the width of Nevada, and blazing a trail westward through South Pass are only some of the adventures detailed within this biography.     

     

    11.7 Prostitution Polygamy and PowerPROSTITUTION, POLYGAMY, AND POWER
    by Jeff Nichols
    (2002)

    The railroads brought culture, ideas, and people West to Utah, and this included both the wholesome and the less savory. This book examines the part that prostitution and polygamy played in shaping early Utah’s economy, morality, and gender roles as it became more densely populated.    

     

    11.7 Great Basin KingdomGREAT BASIN KINGDOM: THE ECONOMIC HISTORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS, 1830-1900
    by Leonard Arrington
    (2005)

    Historian Leonard Arrington is considered to be one of the most prolific and influential writers on LDS and Western history. This classic offers exciting stories and insights into the economic development and religious movements that shaped the Utah and surrounding Great Basin area.   

     

    11.7 West from Fort BridgerWEST FROM FORT BRIDGER: THE PIONEERING OF THE IMMIGRANT TRAILS ACROSS UTAH, 1846-1850
    by Roderic Korns
    (1994)

    Originally published by the Utah State Historical Society in 1951, this book details the journey West through Utah, in excerpts from journals and reports by early explorers .     

     

    If you’ve got a Utah history project, special research interests, or a general curiosity about this or other Utah historical topics, come peruse our Special Collections volumes, many of which are rare, out of print, or hard to find titles. Visit us to learn more about the history of our great state, the people who founded it, and those that were here before Utah was Utah!

     
  • historic provo photos

     

    True Confessions of Carla: Old photographs fascinate me.  I know I am not alone in feeling this way.  We often get requests from patrons trying to find historic photographs of Provo.  So, we have created a page on our website to help.  Here you can find online as well as print sources for historic images.  

    Provos University Avenue

    Here is a quick list of where some of these sources:

    Remembering Provo: Historical Photographs Project

    Digitized historic photographs of the buildings, people, and history of Provo. Hosted by the Mountain West Digital Library.

    Utah Division of State History - Digital Photos

    25,000 historic photographs are made accessible here by the Utah State Historical Society.

    Parker School Eighth Grade graduating class of 1903

    Provo Historical Images

    This is the largest collection of digital photographs of Provo with over 800 images scanned from photos in the collection of Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University.

    Index to Photographs in Books on Provo History

    This is an index which includes references to photos and other images from 24 published histories of Provo or Utah County.  These books are all available in our Special Collections for use in our building.

    Provo Tabernacle without Tower

    Historical Photographs

    This database consists of digital images from several collections. Most important for portraits of Utah pioneers are the C. R. Savage Collection (1,000+) and the George Edward Anderson Collection (almost 14,000 photos).

    Daughters of Utah Pioneers Photo Index

    Name index to 15,000 photographs in the collections of the DUP Museum in Salt Lake City.

    View of Provo from Tabernacle Tower

  •  Haunting

    Since it is Halloween today, I thought I would write a post about haunted places in Provo. It would be great to start with personal experiences of our reportedly haunted Academy building. Unfortunately, after working here for twenty years, the only unexplained phenomena I have experienced is that the batteries in any clock I hang in my office die really really fast.  I’ve even replaced the clock a few times and finally just gave up on it. But I don’t think that really counts as paranormal.

    However, we have a number of wonderful books that discuss Utah hauntings and the one that caught my attention recently is RESTLESS SPIRITS: UTAH’S SMALL TOWN GHOSTS by Linda Dunning. She has a whole section on Provo Haunts. Below is a wonderful summary of those hauntings from her book:

    “The Utes massacred at Table Point and in Rock Canyon were never buried. They were left to the wild animals and the whims of nature. Is it any wonder that both of these places are haunted by the dead?

    Old Bishop was a leader to his people and a friend to the white man. His spirit walks the shore of the Provo River in winter.  Bill Hickman, notorious outlaw and lawman, told his tall tales about both of these events.

    In Provo Canyon, the stories of Bridal Veil Falls are both old and new, according to the decade from which they came. Hermits, witches, healers, and old miners are said to have inhabited this canyon, and their stories might have been lost except for the tales told here.

    Brigham Young University has its share of haunted buildings. Musical instruments play by themselves in the music department, and rumor has it that one of the museums is experiencing so much phenomena that a man was summoned to bless the place.

    An old pioneer graveyard is buried under a building, which is, of course, “haunted.” The old Utah County jail has spirited criminals, and the Hotel Roberts, which was razed in 2004, had an atmosphere all its own. Even Geneva Steel, once the largest employer in the valley, was silent, still, and definitely haunted until it was abandoned in 2005.

    Tell me that you aren’t intrigued by at least one of these quick teasers! This is a great little book and it’s available here at the Provo City Library. As I was reading through these creepy stories I discovered a previous book by the same author that she says describes “in depth” the hauntings of Maeser Elementary and the Brigham Young Academy building. Why did we not own this book? Well, we do now!

    If you want to learn more about what is creepy in our community and state, check out these titles:

    10.31 Restless SpiritsRESTLESS SPIRITS: UTAH’S SMALL TOWN GHOSTS
    by Linda Dunning
    (2010) 

    A resurrection witnessed, skeletons unearthed from the cellar of a saloon, and a ghostly apparition searching for her lost child – these stories and more will chill your bones, curdle your blood, and make even the most confident skeptic believe in the supernatural!

     

    10.31 Lost LandscapesLOST LANDSCAPES: UTAH’S GHOSTS, MYSTERIOUS CREATURES, AND ALIENS
    by Linda Dunning
    (2007) 

    For young and old alike, this book will pique interest and raise questions to the mysteries lurking within Utah’s borders. Whether it be the unsolved riddles of places, people, puzzling objects, the legends that have been passed down through the generations, everyone will find something that will have them eagerly turning to the next page.

     

    10.31 Haunted UtahHAUNTED UTAH: GHOSTS AND STRANGE PHENOMENA FROM THE BEEHIVE STATE
    by Andy Weeks
    (2012) 

    This collection of stories includes the phantom hitchhiker of American Fork, Ogden’s elegant haunted hotel, activity at Salt Lake City’s This is the Place Heritage Park, ghost children at Mercer Cemetery, the white lady of Spring Canyon, and bizarre creatures, including Sasquatch, Utah Lake’s black-eyed monster, and the Moon Lake Monster.

     

    10.31 Specters in DoorwaysSPECTERS IN DOORWAYS
    by Linda Dunning
    (2009)

    Reveals the mysteries and miracles of haunted mansions and farm houses, ghostly hotels and public buildings, spirit-infested hospitals, churches and gathering places, eerie old schools, colleges and universities and finally, the phantoms of Utah’s many old mills and abandoned factories.

     
  • UT WHistory FB 

    Women have been shaking things up in Utah since before it was even officially a state! Utah women were some of the earliest participants in the fight for women’s voting rights, they helped establish settlements and whole cities as Utah’s population grew, advocated and supplied funding for education and commerce, were active participants in the realms of art, theater, and entertainment, and have long had a hand in government and lawmaking in our great state. Basically, Utah would not be what it is without them!

    For Monday's blog post and today's, we’ve compiled a list of notable books about some of these female movers and shakers. Since March is Women’s History Month and the library is hosting a Utah women's history lecture by Better Days 2020 tonight, there’s no better time to use the resources the library provides to learn more about some of the women whose contributions make Utah such a great place to live. 

    3.11 More than PetticoatsMORE THAN PETTICOATS: REMARKABLE UTAH WOMEN 
    by Christy Karras
    (2010)

    Maybe you want to know more about notable female figures from Utah’s history, but don’t know where to start? Look no further than More Than Petticoats! Containing 12 succinct bios of notable Utah women, this book covers ladies from all walks of life, including Mormon and non-Mormon settlers, polygamy advocates and opponents, actresses who would go on to originate iconic roles, wild western women, and even a notorious “madam” (with a heart of gold, of course). These women broke through social and cultural norms of the day to better the experience of those around them and influence the path of women going forward, both in Utah and beyond.

    This title is available as a set for Book Clubs and the broad topics and varied lives and statuses of the book’s subjects lend themselves well to discussion. You can check out our Book Club set here.

     

    3.11 Mormon MidwifeMORMON MIDWIFE: THE 1946-1888 DIARIES OF PATTY BARTLETT SESSIONS 
    by Patty Bartlett Sessions
    (1997)

    Though the above mentioned MORE THAN PETTICOATS book gives Patty Barlett Sessions a chapter, this compilation of her journals is a wonderful deep dive into her life. Patty was a midwife who delivered thousands of babies, and hundreds of these were first generation Utahans. She was appointed by Brigham Young to accompany the first trek of pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. She administered to the sick and even performed deliveries of babies along the trail.

    We know so much about her because she was a prolific journal writer, keeping records of the goings on of the day until she was 92 years old. Her entries are very matter of fact and to the point, but give valuable insight into what life was like for her, and other early Utah settlers, especially women. In addition to medical treatments and her midwifery, she planted some of Utah’s first orchards from cuttings, helped found a women’s organization in the Mormon church called the “Relief Society,” and was an early investor in the “Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution” (ZCMI). Patty used the proceeds she gained from this to open a school, where she also taught classes-- at age 88.

     

    3.11 Hidden History of UtahHIDDEN HISTORY OF UTAH 
    by Eileen Hallet Stone
    (2013)

    Author and historian Eileen Hallet Stone is a Utah transplant but is nonetheless a notable woman herself! Her work uncovering hidden and forgotten Utah history stories are documented in this compilation of 58 articles she wrote for her Salt Lake Tribune column called “Living History." While not every article in this book is about women, many that are include eye catching front page worthy titles like “Physic Widow Founded Spiritualist Utopia” and “1890s, Utah’s Women Found Freedom on Bicycles."

    She includes well researched chapters on the suffragette movement in Utah, women homesteaders (including one with ties to Butch Cassidy), and Utah women’s contributions as pilots and “Rosies” during World War II. This is a gem of a book where you’ll discover many delightful and heartening stories about lesser known historical figures from Utah’s past.

     
  • UT WHistory FB

    If you’re joining us this Wednesday evening for Better Days 2020’s presentation on Utah women’s history, you’re in for a treat. Katherine Kitterman, the organization’s historical director, will be here to share stories about Utah women, especially Provo and Utah County residents, of all different backgrounds who shaped local and national history.

    If you asked a typical Utahn, they’d probably struggle to name more than a handful of significant women in Utah history. Better Days 2020 is an organization committed to changing that through art, education, legislation, and activism. Utah women have a long history of political, social, and artistic contributions, and we’re excited that this history is becoming better known.

    Today and Wednesday on the blog, we’ll be recommending a few favorite books related to Utah women's history. As you may have noticed, most of the books on the topic focus on white women, especially members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the pioneer and settlement eras. This is somewhat understandable, given the prominence of that group in Utah’s history, but current historians, including those at Better Days 2020, are working hard to bring forward the histories of Utah women of all races, religions, and backgrounds. Look forward to some of those fascinating stories Wednesday night.

    3.11 An Advocate for WomenAN ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN: THE PUBLIC LIFE OF EMMELINE B. WELLS, 1870-1920
    By Carol Cornwall Madsen
    (2006)

    Emmeline B. Wells is a personal hero of mine and was arguably Utah’s best known women’s rights activist in her day. Utah Territory granted women the right to vote in 1870 (a right the national government rescinded 17 years later), and Utah women became some of the most outspoken advocates in the country for female political rights.

    As part of this movement, Wells served as editor of Woman’s Exponent for nearly 40 years, urged Utah’s Territorial Legislature to allow women to serve in public office, developed personal friendships with national suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, walked a precarious line between pro-polygamy Utah suffragists and anti-polygamy suffragists on the national stage, served as president of the Utah Territorial Women’s Suffrage Association, spoke internationally before the International Council of Women, and organized the Relief Society’s grain-saving program that saved hundreds of lives during World War I. In her last eleven years, Wells also served as Relief Society General President, being released at the age of 93, just three weeks before she passed away.

     

    3.11 A House Full of FemalesA HOUSE FULL OF FEMALES: PLURAL MARRIAGE AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN EARLY MORMONISM, 1835-1870
    By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
    (2017)

    Ulrich won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for History for A MIDWIFE’S TALE, which revolutionized the historian’s field with its remarkable examination of social history. In addition to being a renowned historian (and the person who coined the phrase "well-behaved women seldom make history"), Ulrich herself is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, giving her unique insight into her subject matter in A HOUSE FULL OF FEMALES. Don’t be fooled by the narrator’s mispronunciations of common Utah names and Mormon words if you listen to the audiobook – Ulrich knows what she’s talking about.

    Much of published research into Utah women's history has focused on the hotbed of political and social activism that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century, so it’s a nice change to read about the lead-up to that time period. Ulrich is a master of reconstructing a society based on journals, letters, meeting minutes, and even quilts, and you’ll come away from this book with a much more complete understanding of regular LDS and Utah women’s experiences in the early days of polygamy.

     

    3.11 Worth Their SaltWORTH THEIR SALT: NOTABLE BUT OFTEN UNNOTED WOMEN OF UTAH
    Edited by Colleen Whitley
    (1996)

    WORTH THEIR SALT offers a glimpse into the lives of a wide variety of Utah women, some familiar, others less so. These include Indian rights advocate and diplomat Chipeta, mining queen Susanna Engalitcheff, Catholic nun and education reformer Mother M. Augusta, artist Mary Teasdel, Greek midwife Georgia Lathrouis Magera, actress Maude Adams (who originated the role of Peter Pan on Broadway), journalist and Japanese-American newspaper owner Kuniko Terasawa, and United States Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest.  

    A variety of professional historians, journalists, descendants, and enthusiasts contributed essays for WORTH THEIR SALT. It’s a collection well worth reading for anyone interested in broadening their familiarity with prominent women in Utah history.

     

    Be on the lookout for another post later this week with more recommended reads on this topic. Whether you're able to attend on Wednesday of not, we hope these books will get you hooked on the remarkable history of Utah women!

  • A gleaming new temple stands in the center of Provo which has risen Phoenix-like from the flames of December 17, 2010. For nearly 130 years the Provo Tabernacle stood in downtown Provo accommodating myriad church meetings, concerts, and commencement exercises. Here are a few interesting items from the Tabernacle’s history:

    1. The Tabernacle was Provo’s second tabernacle. The original tabernacle was considerably smaller, stood to the North of the second, and faced Center Street. This first tabernacle was built 1852-1867, was constructed from stone, adobe brick, and wood. The original tabernacle—also known as the Provo Meeting House—was used as late as 1902 by the Provo 6th Ward while their building was under construction. This first tabernacle stood until it was razed in 1919. (1)

    Center Street   Two Tabernacles

    2. The Tabernacle was patterned after the Assembly Hall in Salt Lake. The plan for the Tabernacle was done by William H. Folsom and was initially modeled after the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. (2)

    3. It was first used for a presidential memorial service. The first use of the building was a memorial service held for U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant on August 8, 1885—before there was a permanent floor laid down or doors and windows installed.(3)

    4. The Tabernacle hosted a U.S. President. In 1909 U.S. President William H. Taft visited Provo on the campaign trail and spoke in the Tabernacle to a crowd of 3,000. (4)

    5. The Tabernacle was long infested with bats. For many years thousands of bats inhabited the attic of the Tabernacle. They would occasionally fly about during meetings providing quite a distraction. The worst part was the smell of the bat guano in the summertime. (5)

    6. Sergei Rachmaninoff performed at the Tabernacle. His performance filled the tabernacle with 3,000 attendees on December 5, 1938. The evening was memorable not just for the virtuoso’s performance but for an unwelcome interruption when the Orem Inter-Urban came clanging by. During the interruption Rachmaninoff reportedly held his hands suspended above the keys during the interruption and then drove down again upon the keys once the disturbance had passed. (6)

    7. Its signature stained glass windows were installed in 1917. The stained glass windows adorning the Tabernacle were not original—they were added to the building in 1917, replacing the original frosted glass windows. (7)

    8. General Conference was held in the tabernacle. The April sessions of the 56th (1886) and 57th (1887) Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were held in Provo’s Utah Stake Tabernacle. The building was far from complete (no benches, windows, or doors) and there was much that had to be done in order to accommodate the congregation for a General Conference. (8)

    9. It was wired for electricity in 1891. The Tabernacle was wired for electricity in 1891—for the first few years this power was supplied from the turbines at the Provo Woolen Mills on 2nd West. Employees of the Provo Woolen Mills provided the tabernacle with three chandeliers each outfitted with 24 incandescent bulbs. (9)

    10. The building held an original Minerva Teichert painting. Teichert’s painting of Joseph Smith receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood was sold to the Provo Stakes in 1953 and placed in the Tabernacle. It was among the many losses when the building caught fire. (10)


    1. Richard W. Jackson, Places of Worship: 150 Years of Latter-day Saint Architecture (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), 74-75.
    2. C. Mark Hamilton, Nineteenth-Century Mormon Architecture & City Planning (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 72-73.
    3. N. LaVerl Christensen, Provo’s Two Tabernacles and the People Who Built Them ([Provo]: Provo Utah East Stake, 1983), 120.
    4. Susan Easton Black, Glenn Rawson, and Dennis Lyman; The Story of the Provo City Center Temple: Commemorative Edition (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2015), 8.
    5. D. Robert Carter, Tales from Utah Valley ([Provo]: Daily Herald, 2005), vol. 1, 91.
    6. D. Robert Carter, Tales from Utah Valley ([Provo]: Daily Herald, 2005), vol. 1, 87-91.
    7. N. LaVerl Christensen, Provo’s Two Tabernacles and the People Who Built Them ([Provo]: Provo Utah East Stake, 1983) 160.
    8. N. LaVerl Christensen, Provo’s Two Tabernacles and the People Who Built Them ([Provo]: Provo Utah East Stake, 1983) 124.
    9. “The First Large Factory in Utah,” Utah History to Go (http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/statehood_and_the_progressive_era/thefirstlargefactoryinutah.html), accessed 17 Dec 2015; Tabernacle to Temple: The Past, Present & Future of Provo’s City Center, Daily Herald Supplement, 21 Jul 2013, 16.
    10. Anna Jean Backus, Provo Pioneers and Their Tabernacles (Hurricane, Utah: AJB Distributing, 2004), 54-56.

  • Electricity came to Provo in 1890. It started with generators at A. O. Smoot’s Provo Woolen Mills and supplied power for 16 street lights in Provo. The Woolen Mills had contracted with the city to provide electricity for three years (1). The Provo Tabernacle was wired for electricity and supplied with three chandeliers by employees of the woolen mills(2).  During 1890 the Brigham Young Academy was wired for electricity and supplied with 10 electric lamps(3).  

    Sometimes the lights failed and the city wanted to re-negotiate the contract. So the streets of Provo went dark again in the spring of 1892 and for 6 months a period of re-negotiation ensued. In October the lights returned under a new contract containing a stipulation that the city was to be reimbursed for any lights that failed to burn(4).

    Serious power arrived in Provo with the advent of Lucien L. and Paul N. Nunn, brothers who had established that hydroelectric power could be generated, transmitted, and used to power mining equipment in Telluride, Colorado. Arriving in Provo they proposed a power plant on the Provo River. Initially supportive, Provo objected when they heard the plans to construct an 80-foot dam in Provo Canyon. The Johnstown flood of 1889 had killed 2,200 and was all too present in recent memory. The fight went to the Utah Supreme Court and the dam was reduced to 16 feet. Nunn’s plant was completed in 1897. It generated 40,000 volts that were transmitted 32 miles to the mines in Mercur. This was the longest power transmission in the world at this time(5).

    Nunns Power Plant Provo Canyon

    Nunn's Power Plant on the Provo River

    The Nunn brothers expanded with lines to Eureka (1900) and Provo, interconnecting the Provo plant with another plant in Logan, and constructing the larger Olmsted Plant at the mouth of Provo Canyon (1903), the beginnings of a grid system in connecting with another power plant in Logan. Paul Nunn published a nice overview of the Nunn brother’s accomplishments in a 1905 article in Cassier’s Magazine(6). 

    Interior of the Provo Power Plant

    Interior of the Provo Power Plant

    Lucien Nunn was an ambitious, shrewd, and tenacious businessman. Although he never finished high school or college, he operated schools of electrical engineering at his power plants pairing education with work experience. Nunn developed a progressive educational model and went on to found the Deep Springs College in California in 1917.7 Nunn’s Telluride Power Company generated the power, but there were separate companies which retailed the power to the populace. Provo’s power by this time was supplied by A.O. Smoot’s Electric Company. They were located at 95 North Academy Avenue (now University Avenue) and carried a “complete line of all kinds of electric appliances such as lamps, shades, chandeliers, wire, bells, cord, flat irons, batteries, etc.”(8)

    1. John S. McCormick, The Power to Make Good Things Happen: Past, Present, Future: The History of Utah Power & Light Company (Salt Lake City: Utah Power & Light, 1990) 14.
    2. “The New Provo Tabernacle Dedicated,” Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Apr 1898, 7.
    3. BYA Faculty Minutes, 20 Aug 1890, p. 193; 1 Oct 1890, p. 199 as cited in Ephraim Hatch, Brigham Young University: A Pictorial History of Physical Facilities, 1875-2005 (Provo, Utah: Physical Facilities Division, Brigham Young University, 2005) 18.
    4. McCormick, 20.
    5. L. Jackson Newell, The Electric Edge of Academe: The Saga of Lucien L. Nunn and Deep Springs College (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2015) 27.
    6. P.N. Nunn, “Pioneer Work in High-Tension Electric Power Transmission,” Cassier’s Magazine, vol. 27, no. 3 (January 1905) 171-200; digital version available on the Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/cassiersmagazi2719041newy).
    7. For the complete story see L. Jackson Newell’s, The Electric Edge of Academe: The Saga of Lucien L. Nunn and Deep Springs College (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2015).
    8. William M. Wilson, Pictorial Provo: An Illustrated Industrial Review of Provo, the Garden City of Utah ([S.l.: s.n.], 1910).
  • Provo UtahCenter Street p13   With donkeys

    The world is becoming a bit of a scary place.  New disasters are reported every day and I would like it to stop. So, I’ve decided to invent a time machine and go pack to Provo in…say the late 1870s.  I think I would enjoy a slower pace and a simpler time.

    In preparation, I’ve been perusing our copy of the city ordinances from 1877, just in case the laws have changed over the years, because nothing spoils a time-traveling vacation quite like getting thrown in jail. Here is a list of some of the ordinances I may need to know about:


    You better get hitched!
    If you own a hotel, store, shop, or private residence, fronting on any street of the city, you must supply a hitching post and maintain it. And if you have an animal outside a residence or business, you must use said hitching post. (Title 7, Chapter 4, Sec. 128 & 130)

    Provo Utah p40   Street Scene

     

    Lock it up, or it’s fair game. Between November 1st and the April 1st anyone with a stack of hay or grain in any area without a lawful fence cannot complain if any animal trespasses on or consumes any of it. (Title 9, Chapter 3, Sec. 164)

    Please play responsibly. Obstruction of the sidewalk or street could result in a fine up to ten dollars.  This includes activities like playing ball, quoits, marbles, jumping, rolling of hoops, flying of kites, or other games that “annoy”. (Title 9, Chapter 4, Sec. 174)

    Provo Utah p10   Children playing

     

    Enforcing your day of rest.  Do not fish, hunt or indulge in “secular out-door amusements, or conspicuous or noisy secular labor” on Sunday. (Title 9, Chapter 8, Sec. 185)

    Approved skinny dipping hours. Do not bathe “nudely” in the Provo River or any canals or streams in view of a house or road between the hours of 4:00 am and 8:00 pm. (Title 9, Chapter 8, Sec. 187)

    Wagons Freighting P43

    Tone it down a little.  Be sure not to disturb the peace by the “ringing of bells, blowing of horns, or other instruments”. (Title 9, Chapter 6, Sec. 181)

    Freedom for fowls.  Keep your chickens contained between October 1st and April 1st or they can legally become your neighbor’s dinner. (Title 7, Chapter 2, Sec. 124)

    Polling your weight.  All men between the age of 21 and 50 are required to pay a poll tax in the form of up to two day’s labor for the Supervisor of Streets.  Or you can just pay $1.50 in lieu of each day of work. (Title 6, Chapter 2, Sec. 87)

    Interested in performing your own investigation into the matter? Stop by our Special Collections to find these or other historic Provo documents. 

    Reference: 

    Provo City. Provo City Council. Revised Ordinances Of Provo City. Provo, UT, Utah: Provo City, 1877. Print.

     

  • On the morning of January 4, 1892, Karl G. Maeser and the students of the Brigham Young Academy met for one last time in the ZCMI warehouse.  Their school building had burned down eight years before, and they’d been meeting in the warehouse while they slowly gathered the funding to build a schoolhouse that would meet the needs of a rapidly growing community.  After a benediction, the students marched in a procession a few blocks down the street to their new home.  When they reached the outside of the building, Dr. Maeser looked up at it and said, “The old man taught school in a log cabin, but they have built a palace for his boys.” (1)

    One of my favorite parts of working as a librarian at the Provo City Library is giving tours of the historic wing, better known as the Brigham Young Academy building.  I grew up in Provo, but despite Maeser’s pronouncement that this building was a palace, my memories of the old Brigham Young Academy are of a sad, neglected block of buildings that was a bit of an eyesore right in the center of town.  

    library under construction 2 20130625 1888594852

    Fifteen years ago, the debris was cleared out and the building was restored thanks to the efforts of local citizens who care for our history.  Re-named the Provo City Library at Academy Square, it’s been a thriving part of our community ever since.  We keep a record of the reconstruction process on our website, but some of my favorite pictures can be seen below. 

    construction collage

    With the recent rebuilding of the Provo Tabernacle and its conversion into the Provo City Center Temple, I’m not the only one who has noted the similarities between two buildings with such deep roots into our city’s past. Both of these buildings were originally built around the same time with funds raised by the community, meant to be used and appreciated by everyone in the community. Both buildings have had many different uses over the years.  And when both buildings finally gave way to time and weather and age, both were raised up and given new life and purpose.

    And so, while celebrating the rebirth of the Provo Tabernacle and the revitalization it will give to downtown Provo, I’m taking a minute to celebrate the rebirth of the Brigham Young Academy as well.  It is a palace once more.  Thank you to everyone in the community for supporting the library.  We look forward to many more years of service.

    REFERENCE

    1. Butterworth, E. (1975). Brigham Young University: 1000 Views of 100 Years. Brigham Young University Press, p. 31

  • postcards of provo

     

    Last Sunday, I spent a good portion of my day browsing old photos of some of my grandparents and great-grandparents that someone posted online, and it got me excited about historical photos! I love looking through historical photos (as I've mentioned before). You see things that are simultaneously familiar and foreign, looking at a city scape and seeing a horse tied up next to what is now one of your favorite restaurants. It's the kind of time travel we can all actually manage. 

    While browsing a collection of Provo's historic photos, I found several postcards, and decided they were too cool not to share. As usual, these photos leave me with more questions than answers, and I love it! 

    pc center street

    Here's a view of Center Street in 1879. I have so many questions. Why does it look like Center Street is a river? Is that small child just tired or having a tantrum? What would kids in 1879 throw a tantrum about (I imagine the same thing my child throws a tantrum about--he wants more candy)?

    pc academy ave

    Here's a view of University Avenue (called Academy Avenue at the time). A horse. A bicycle. Poles right in the middle of the street. Yet, if you cover parts of the photo (mostly the horse), so little has changed about this block! 

    More questions: Was horse thievery super common? I know that hitching posts were required by law, but I don't know that there were hitching post locks. What's to stop someone from walking up and just taking your horse? Human decency? 

    pc tabernacle

    Circa 1920s, this postcard of the Provo Tabernacle shows the Tabernacle sans center tower. They seem to have left the platform behind, which looks like maybe a great place for a party. It wasn't a temple then, so rooftop parties could totally have been a thing. 

    I've saved my favorite for last, mostly because it was actually used as a postcard and I can't get over this understated phrase: "It is certainly dreadful for you to experience so many earthquakes." Certainly dreadful, indeed! I also love how casually this author is able to work ore sampling into the conversation. "I'm just up here. Ore sampling. NBD." Makes me think that postcards are the texts of the pre-phone age. Just a quick message, scrawled on top of an insane asylum. 

    pc insane asylum

    If you'd like to see more historic photos, Carla wrote a post that explains all the best places to find them. Happy browsing!