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The Old Rock Granary

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Write-up by James Delliskave

Placed by: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, No. 100 (1), National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, No. 33 (2)

GPS Coordinates: 40° 38’ 54” N, 111° 52’ 13” W

Historical Marker Text (1):

As early as 1845 Brigham Young advised the saints to store grain. December 14, 1876 Bishop Joseph S. Rawlins asked the sisters living in this vicinity to store wheat. February 8, 1877 the first donations were received. A temporary bin was built later. Later, a tract of land 20 rods wide was given for the granary. On July 13, 1877 Mary Rawlins was made chairman of the building committee. Some of the young men were asked to haul the rock. On May 17, 1878 the granary was completed. 

Historical Marker Text (2)

This area, 56th South and Vine Street, known as South Cottonwood, was one of the early religious and social centers for the church in the Salt Lake Valley. To the north of here about 600 feet was a campground used by the stone haulers for the Salt Lake Temple, the site being approximately halfway between the quarry and the temple ground. Also, may it be remembered that for those sturdy men who struggled here, the summer heat, spring and fall mud, and inadequate equipment made the task difficult. But they prevailed. 

Extended Research

South Cottonwood was a former town that now comprises the eastern portion of the City of Murray. Part of the western area of South Cottonwood was used as a rest stop at the approximate halfway point for the stone-haulers of the Salt Lake Temple on the way from Little Cottonwood Canyon.1 This work began in 1860, when granite was excavated from the canyon’s quarry and hauled to Salt Lake City by up to four yokes of oxen over a period of three to four days.2 However once the railroad was constructed in 1873, the rock was almost exclusively transported by rail.

Years after the site was used as a rest stop, on December 14, 1876, Bishop Joseph S. Rawlins of the South Cottonwood Ward met with the members of the Relief Society, the charitable women’s organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and had indicated that grain storage was not being done within the ward.3 Less than three months earlier in the October 15, 1876 edition of The Woman’s Exponent, the newspaper published by and for members of the Relief Society,Brigham Young asked the Relief Society sisters “to build storehouses for the storing of grain in the sections of country as they shall divide off”.4 Young counseled the men of the various communities to assist the women in the construction and financial backing of the construction of granaries. Emmeline B. Wells, the head of the Church’s general Relief Society captained the operation, and all grain storage activities were administered under her direction.5

However, issues in many Latter-day Saint wards or congregations began to arise regarding the storage of grain. Church bishops, who were the male leaders of each congregation, often sought to wrestle the control of grain storage facilities from the Relief Society so that they could distribute it to the poor and to serve the needs of the ward. Many bishops would continue to do so even when rebuked. This tug-of-war between Relief Society women and Latter-day Saint priesthood authorities would be constant and continuous.6

In the South Cottonwood ward, the members of the Relief Society gleaned in the local grain fields, and held fundraisers from the selling of household items, as well as holding a party, which collectively raised $32.50, the equivalent of $853.95 in 2022, for the purchase of the initial grain which they then stored. Local leaders then put Mary Rawlins in charge of the granary building committee on July 13, 1877, and in the meantime the grain was stored in a temporary bin in the granary personally owned by Bishop Rawlins. The Relief Society then purchased an additional $50.35 ($1322.97 in 2022) worth of wheat.

View facing the Northwest corner

Under the direction of Mary Rawlins, the committee selected a A 20-rod (330 feet) wide tract of land on September 13, 1877. Charles Walters, who had previously constructed the temporary bin in Bishop Rawlins’s granary was responsible for the carpentry on this structure, and Joseph Thompson performed the overall work on the building. The young men of the ward were tasked with hauling the granite needed for construction. The granite was sourced from the Little Cottonwood Canyon quarry and from stones found around the area. To pay for the granary itself, the Relief Society held a fundraising dance.7

View facing west, showing granite exterior mixed with local rocks. 

The finished structure was, upon its completion on May 17, 1878, 10 feet by 20 feet with an 8 foot ceiling. The walls were 18 inches thick and consisted of an interior layer of brick, with an exterior of granite and initially held 195 bushels of wheat. The grain stored was used to help people affected by war, poverty, and famine. 

At the end of World War I, the war had caused food shortages in Europe. The United States government asked for grain and other foodstuffs to alleviate the suffering. The LDS Relief Society sold 205,518 bushels of wheat and earned the thanks of Herbert Hoover, the then head of the US  Food Administration. Many years afterward the Relief Society program of storing grain was officially terminated in 1978, and the money that would have been directed toward storage was instead diverted toward Church welfare and health services.8

View facing the southeast corner

The granary itself is the last surviving pioneer-era building located in this particular section of South Cottonwood, at the time it was constructed it was adjacent to an 1856 adobe church near a cooperative store, a cemetery, a hospital, and a dairy.9 In 1995, the granary was restored and a small commemorative park was established. 

View facing east

  1. “South Cottonwood Temple Granite Rest Camp Park Dedication Program October 22, 1995.” (Murray, Utah, 1995). 
  2. Don F. Colvin “Quarrying the Temple Granite.” Ensign 5, No. 10. (1975)
  3. Murray City Museum, “The Rock Granary DC0392.” (1995).
  4. “Sisters Be in Earnest,” The Woman’s Exponent, 5. (1876): 76.
  5. Jessie L. Embry, “Grain Storage: The Balance of Power Between Priesthood Authority and Relief Society Autonomy,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15, No. 4: 60.
  6. Embry, 61-62.
  7. Murray City Museum, “The Rock Granary DC0392”. (1995).
  8. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “A Call to Save Grain.”
  9. Murray City Museum, “DC410”. 1995. 

For Further Reference

Primary Sources

“Sisters Be in Earnest,” The Woman’s Exponent, 5. (1876): 76.

Secondary Sources

Colvin, Don F. “Quarrying the Temple Granite”. Ensign 5, No. 10. (1975).

Embry, Jessie L., “Grain Storage: The Balance of Power Between Priesthood Authority and Relief Society Autonomy,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15, No. 4: 60.

Murray City Museum, “The Rock Granary DC0392”. 1995. 

Murray City Museum, “DC410”. 1995. 

“South Cottonwood Temple Granite Rest Camp Park Dedication Program October 22, 1995.” (Murray, Utah, 1995).