Write-Up by Lindsay Adams
Placed by: Division of State History (national register)
GPS Coordinates: 40.6353494, -111.8640506
Historical Marker Text (Currently not on Display):
Utah Historic Site: Henry J. Wheeler Farm
The Henry J. Wheeler Farm is one of the best remaining examples of a turn of the century farmstead in the Salt Lake Valley. The farm was developed after the marriage of Henry J. Wheeler and Sariah Pixton in 1886. The modest Victorian style house was constructed in 1898 for the Wheelers by Sid Gills and Hans Yorgensen. In 1969 the farm was acquired by the Salt Lake County Recreation Department. Development of the property as a historical farm and recreational complex began in 1976.
In 1886 Henry J. Wheeler and his wife Sariah established their farmstead in the Little Cottonwood area, on current day 900 East and 6351 South. First generation children of pioneers, Henry and Sariah’s families emigrated to Utah within the first decade of LDS settlement. Henry’s family traveled to the new territory from England in 1852, while Sariah’s family traveled to Utah under the leadership of Brigham Young in 1848. Sariah’s mother, Elizabeth, traveled alone in this company, driving the wagon herself the entire way.Henry and Sariah married in 1886, setting up their farm shortly thereafter.
The farm originally consisted of seventy seven acres, with Little Cottonwood Creek providing irrigation for the land.The semi-arid landscape of Utah required Henry to respond creatively to the needs of his land, and as such he chose to diversify the property and the holdings. Wheeler included sheep, orchards, ice, and dairy distribution as part of his farm which made him both successful and progressive.Originally the farm included a small adobe dwelling, however Sariah dreamed of more. She wanted a house in the grand victorian style, and eventually this dream became a reality. In 1898 the Wheelers built the victorian style mansion which stands on the property today. Henry Wheeler credited the design of the house to Sariah’s knowledge of architecture. The finished structure boasted ten rooms, and was made of adobe and brick. The family pulled the adobe from their previous house, using it to insulate the new house. The victorian house therefore stood tall and strong, and the adobe provided good insulation for cold winter months.
During the height of the farm Henry built many out buildings which contributed to the success of his farm. These included an ice house, various barns, and a garage for his Pierce Arrow automobile. The victorian mansion also provided a cozy space to host the Wheeler’s seven children. Henry Wheeler trained his dog to fetch the mail and newspaper from the mailbox, to the amusement and delight of his grandchildren. Sariah Wheeler’s expansive dining room became a gathering place for her family and extended family. Sariah’s table sat up to twenty people and during Thanksgiving she served her children and grandchildren a dinner made from turkey raised on the farm and weighing forty pounds.
After the death of Henry Sr. in 1943 the farm was purchased by Richard Madsen (owner of Sterling Furniture Company). During this time it became a dairy and cattle ranch. In 1969 Salt Lake County purchased the farm with plans to turn the property into a sports and park complex. Luckily, in 1974 the Junior League of Salt Lake asked the county if they could preserve the farm, much of which (including the buildings) had fallen into disrepair. After extensive research and renovation the farm was included on the National Historic Registry, and opened to the public officially in 1976 as Wheeler Historic Farm.
Since it’s opening as a preserved site, the farm has provided visitors with a glimpse of what farm life was like in the Salt Lake Valley between 1880 and 1910. The farm boasts a collection of almost 6,000 farming artifacts important to the history of Utah farming. It also houses animals such as sheep, goats, horses, cows, turkeys and chickens. The farm has engaged in community outreach and learning, including renting out garden plots, grassroots music festivals, Sunday farmers markets and Halloween corn mazes.Meticulously preserved, visitors can tour Sariah’s grand Victorian farmhouse for a nominal fee Monday through Friday. Visitors can lead themselves on a self-guided tour through the rest of the farm any day of the week. The farm continues to provide glimpses into Utah’s past, as well as a place of learning and gathering for Utah families.
For Further Reference
Biographical Record of Salt Lake City and Vicinity: Containing Biographies of Well Known Citizens of the Past and Present. (National Historical Record,1902), 429.
Mastrim, Beverly Wheeler. A number of oral interviews with Ms. Mastrim are available on the Salt Lake County Website
“Family Gardening,” Salt Lake Community College Newspaper(Salt Lake City, UT), October 4, 1989.
Lamborn, John E. and Peterson, Charles S. “The Subsistence of the Land: Agriculture v. Industry in the Smelter Cases of 1904 and 1906” Utah Historical Quarterly53 (1985): 310.
Marriott Library Digital Collection, Original managed by Murray City Museum.
Salt Lake County, “Story of Wheeler Historic Farm.”
Photo taken and owned by author.
Biographical Record of Salt Lake City and Vicinity: Containing Biographies of Well Known Citizens of the Past and Present, (National Historical Record, 1902), 429.
Biographical Record of Salt Lake City, 429.
John E. Lamborn and Charles S. Peterson. “The Subsistence of the Land: Agriculture v. Industry in the Smelter Cases of 1904 and 1906” Utah Historical Quarterly53 (1985): 310.
Biographical Record of Salt Lake City and Vicinity: Containing Biographies of Well Known Citizens of the past and Present. (National Historical Record,1902), 429.