Category Archives: Utah County

Black Hawk: Ute Indian Chief

Published / by Jennifer Talkington / Leave a Comment

Write up by: Jennifer Talkington

Placed By: Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT)

GPS Coordinates: 40 0’16” N 111 44’48” S

Historical Marker Text Transcript: “BLACK HAWK – UTE INDIAN CHIEF When the Ute Indian Chief, Black Hawk, died on September 27, 1870 near Spring Lake and was buried by his tribe in a nearby ravine, there was laid to rest a man designated by Brigham Young as “The most formidable foe amongst the Redman” that the pioneers had encountered in many years. These words were prompted by the memory of Chief Black Hawk’s part in Utah’s worst Indian war which ended in 1867. The war commenced in April 1865 at Manti, Sanpete County. Three years later, when the Indians were finally brought to terms, 51 settlers had been killed and 25 settlements abandoned in 5 counties. The seriousness of the Indian depredations was such that during the three-year war, over 4,700 men of the Territorial Militia were called into service. Expenses incurred during the war were in excess of one and one half million dollars. Although scattered Indian raids continued into the summer of 1868, the Black Hawk War was regarded as officially closed in 1867.”

Historical Marker in Spring Lake Photo by: Jennifer Talkington
Close up of the emblem on the Historical Marker. Photo by Jennifer Talkington

Extended Research:

The Black Hawk War was fought between the Ute Indians and the Mormon settlers in central and southern Utah between 1865 and 1872. Tensions between the groups had been building since the Mormon settlers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 due to struggles over resources. The Mormon settlers chose the best land to settle, took productive fisheries such as Utah Lake, took timber, drove game away and diverted critical water sources for irrigating crops, leaving the Native people of Utah destitute and starving.[1] After almost twenty years of living together in relative peace, tensions became too much. No one single event sparked the war, as many skirmishes were happening on a small scale all around central and southern Utah. However, many historians suggest that a disagreement between two men boiled over into warfare in April of 1865.[2] A young Ute man named Jake Arapeen rode into Manti with Black Hawk and met up with John Lowry, a Mormon settler and employee of the United States Indian Office, to discuss the tensions. The discussion led to a heated argument between the two men. In anger, John Lowry pulled Jake Arapeen off his horse by his hair and they fought on the ground. Seeing this as the lowest of insults, Jake Arapeen and Black Hawk rode off together and that day decided an all-out war against the Mormons was the only option.[3]

The fiercest of the fighting took place between 1865 and 1867. Both sides were perpetrators during this war and sadly most of the victims were innocent of depredations. The Circleville Massacre of April 1866 was one such horrible event to come out of the Black Hawk War. A friendly group of Paiute Indians were camped near Circleville when a church order came down to disarm the Indians. The Mormon settlers were interested in self-preservation and so decided to round up the Paiutes and put them in a meeting house under security. Two Paiutes managed to break free and were shot as they were getting away. Paranoia got the best of the settlers and they decided they should kill the twenty-four remaining Paiutes.[4]  Brigham Young was disgusted by the murders and “later said that the curse of God rested upon the Circle Valley and its inhabitants because of it.”[5]

Also in 1866, the Ute’s raided horses and cattle from Scipio and the surrounding area totaling 350 head of cattle, a huge loss for Mormon settlers. As the settlers tried to regain their cattle, the Battle of Gravelly Ford began. The Mormons and the Utes exchanged gunfire, killing a 14-year-old Mormon boy and James Russell Ivie. During the battle, Black Hawk was shot in the stomach, but the Ute’s managed to escape.

In 1867, Black Hawk was sick from an infection caused by the bullet wound he received in the Battle of Gravelly Ford. He saw that his people could not win the war as the Mormon population kept increasing. Black Hawk decided he would go on a campaign of peace. He personally visited many Mormon villages he had raided to apologize for the pain he and his warriors caused. He was laid to rest on September 27, 1870 in the same place as his birth: Spring Lake Utah.[6]

Spring Lake in January. The place that Black Hawk was born and where he was buried. Photo by Jennifer Talkington

The death of Black Hawk did not bring an end to this war. The Ute people were starving, their population decimated through disease and loss of game. Periodic raids to avoid starvation continued by the Utes until 1872.[7] It was in 1872 that the federal troops took control of the area as the Nauvoo Legion was dismantled. The federal troops strictly forced the Utes to remain on the Uintah Reservation. Once the Mormon settlers were free from raids, they were able to go back to previously abandoned settlements. They also used Chief Black Hawk’s raiding trails to expand their territory even further.[8] This historical marker is in need of an update, as we now know that the number of settlers killed was at least 70.[9] It is thought that at least 140 Native Americans died during this conflict, likely more. The result of the war for the Utes was a move to the Uintah Reservation, giving up their traditional lifestyle for a life of dependency on the United States Government.  The result of the war for the Mormon settlers was the unimpeded colonization of Utah Territory, leading the way to statehood in 1896.[10]


[1] Gottfredson, Peter, ed. (1919). History of Indian Depredations in Utah. (Salt Lake City: Fenestra Books,2002), 20-22.

[2] Peterson, John Alton. Utah’s Black Hawk War. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998), 16.

[3] Peterson, Black Hawk, 17.

[4] Jones, Sondra. Being and Becoming Ute: The Story of an American Indian People. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2019), 166.

[5] Wells, Quentin Thomas Wells. Defender: The Life of Daniel H. Wells. (Boulder: Utah State University Press, 2016), 280.

[6] Gottfredson, Depredations, 227.

[7] Jones, Becoming Ute, 172.

[8] Petersen, Black Hawk, 396.

[9] Peterson, Black Hawk,  2.

[10] May, Dean. Utah: A People’s History. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987).

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Gottfredson, Peter, ed. (1919). History of Indian Depredations in Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah: Fenestra Books.

Secondary Sources:

May, Dean. Utah: A People’s History. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987).

Jones, Sondra. Being and Becoming Ute: The Story of an American Indian People. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 2019.

Peterson, John Alton. Utah’s Black Hawk War. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1998.

Wells, Quentin Thomas Wells. Defender: The Life of Daniel H. Wells. Boulder, Colorado: Utah State University Press, 2016.

American Fork Presbyterian Church

Published / by Courtney Worthen / Leave a Comment

Write-up by Courtney Worthen

Placed by: National Register Division of State History, No. 306

GPS Coordinates: 40.37815, -111.796178

75 N 100 E, American Fork, UT 84003

Historical Marker Text: “The First Presbyterian Church of American Fork: In 1877 Reverend George R. Bird arrived to begin activities of the Presbyterian Church in American Fork. Work on this modified Gothic revival church began in 1878. The cornerstone for the completed building was laid in September 1881 by Reverend Thomas F. Day. This building was used as both a church and a school until the school was closed in 1909. It has served as a Presbyterian church continuously since its construction. It was listed on the national register of Historic Places May 23, 1980.”

Extended Research:

On September 7, 1877, Reverend George R. Bird arrived in American Fork to establish the Presbyterian faith in the area.[1] The history of the American Fork Presbyterian Church is part of a wider history of the Presbyterian mission in Utah Territory. Presbyterianism was among the first protestant faiths to enter Utah amongst an overwhelmingly dominant Mormon population. This broader history adds context to the church’s activities in American Fork.  

Presbyterian influence first came to Utah through a Presbyterian clergyman named John Anderson in 1862. As a California volunteer who helped establish Fort Douglas, which overlooked the Salt Lake Valley during the Civil War, Anderson was in Utah on military assignment. While in Salt Lake City, Anderson held Presbyterian services in a tent he brought with him from California. Evangelizing in portable tents was a common practice in territories where Presbyterian churches were not yet established. This was especially true in Farron, a city in Emery County, where it is argued that Presbyterianism was first organized in Utah.[2] Other historians argue that the first Presbyterian churches in Utah Territory were organized in predominantly “Gentile,”or non-Mormon communites such as the railroad town of Corinne, or the mining community in Alta. In 1871, Reverend Norman McLeod officially organized a congregation in Salt Lake City. [3]

The Presbyterian mission in Utah had both religious and educational purposes. Before 1890, Utah did not have a free public school system. When Presbyterian missionaires realized their proselyting efforts were not very successful among Mormon adults they decided youth education might be an effecitve means to bring Christianity and American values to Utah. By 1880 the Presbyterian mission had twenty four schools ranging across Utah and by 1890 they reported thirty three schools and four academies. In American Fork, Ida Kingsbury and other teachers offered a Presbyterian education to children in their community. Kingsbury opened American Fork’s day school in 1879 with eleven students enrolled. In 1890, the Utah legislature passed laws to begin a public school system in the state; as a result, the Presbyterian educational mission began to decline. American Fork’s day school continued to operate until 1909.[4]

The relationship between the Presbyterian mission and the Mormons in Utah was hostile for many years. However, one historian claims that the relationship between Presbyterians and Mormons “varied due to time frame, geographical setting, and the interactions of different personalities.”[5] For example, in 1871, Brigham Young invited Presbyterian Henry Kendall to speak in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle to a large Mormon audience. The audience was respectful and attentive and Young later encouraged members to allow “every reputable person” who wished to preach “the privilage of doing so” no matter what their religion.[6] Alternatively, in 1872, Reverend Norman McLeod’s anti-Mormon speeches created so much anger amongst Salt Lake City’s Mormon population that he fled East after receiving harrasment and death threats.[7] During the nineteenth century, Presbyterians and Mormons struggled to understand each other, and they frequently perceived each other harshly. Prebyterian day schools, anti-Mormon publications, along with polygamy and other Mormon doctrines exacerbated unkind feelings between the faiths.   

The Mormons were well aware of the Presbyterian’s “Christianizing” agenda in providing education to Utah’s youth. In order to raise funds for day schools, Presbyterians published newspapers and pamphlets such as The Kinsman, which accused Mormons of being un-American, attacked polygamy as barbaric, and highlighed other doctrines Presbyterians perceived to be heretical. Presbyterians raised money in the East on the grounds that their mission efforts might rescue Mormon youth from their parents’ religion. They especially concentrated their efforts on Mormon girls.[8] Knowing of the Presbyterian’s mission to reach Mormon children, and finding their anti-Mormon publications to be offensive, Mormon authorities discourgaged their members from allowing their children to participate in Presbyterian schools.

Presbyterians, in turn, reported harrasment from Mormons. In an 1880 letter, the Presbytery of Utah complained to Mormon leaders that in Logan, American Fork, Springville, and Payson Presbyterian meetings were “frequently disturbed by hooting through the windows, cursing against the teachers, and by boisterous singing and shouting round the doors.” Presbyterians further claimed that buildings had been “defiled in unmentionable ways, our property injured by stoning, and our books cut to pieces and scattered under the seats by those attending our services.”[9] According to one historian, Mormon apologists were equally fierce in their condemnation of Presbyterians as Presbyterians were of Mormons. Charles W. Penrose, then editor of the Deseret News, called Presbyterian ministers “snuffling, collection-taking hypocrites” who Satan himself would not be seen with.[10] During these years Presbyterians felt ostracized as religious minorites and their claims of harrasment were often dismissed by Mormon leadrship.[11] As Utah gained statehood and assimilated into the United States, Presbyterian periodicals reduced their coverage of Mormons and fortunately, both denominations learned to coexist as friends as they strove to build good relationships.

Beginning his ministry in American Fork, Reverend George R. Bird was more fortunate than many of his collegues. Upon arriving, Bird rented a social hall, in the upstairs of “Chipman’s Store,” and held American Fork’s first Presbyterian service two days later on September 9, 1877. [12] According to a history written by Ruth Teuscher, Bird had thirty Sunday School students in attendance by September 30. On November 27, Bird was able to offically establish a congregation with five members. The Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church helped Bird purchase a log house near Main Street in American Fork to use as a temporary chapel.[13] Bird’s growing congregation was made up of, “mostly Scots, some English, and a few Scandinavians and Americans.”[14] Reverend Bird ministered to his congregants in American Fork for three years before Reverend Thomas F. Day replaced him in 1880. Before leaving American Fork, Bird appointed Ida Kingsbury, from Indiana, to oversee the day school. Reverend Day later married Kingsbury.

Westminster College. The Presbytery of Utah at American Fork. August 1894. Photograph. American Fork, Utah. Special Collections. J. Willard Marriot Library.

The Presbyterian mission enjoyed the height of its membership in nineteenth century Utah during the 1880s before experiencing a decline. The subsequent decline in membership mirrored the decline in the number of day schools. Mining in American Fork Canyon sustained church membership in American Fork better than other missions in the state, however, the church experienced a lull in membership when the mines closed. The outbreak of World War II witnessed a revival, especially when Geneva Steele brought more Protestants to the area. Church membership in American Fork peaked in the mid 1960s with about 135 members.[15]

Architect  Peter Van Houghton is thought to have designed the Presbyterian church in American Fork in a “modified Gothic Revival style”.[16] In 2020, the exterior of the church resembles its original state even though the building has experienced a variety of modifications over the years. In the mid 1940s a kitchen was added to the back of the building. The original building had clear glass which was replaced by stained glass in 1976. On July 12, 1952, the bell tower was struck by lightning which caused fire damage to the exterior of the belfry. The damage remained for 44 years, until 1997, when the American Fork Legacy Committee helped restore the belfry as part of Utah’s sesquicentennial celebration. Minor interior renovations occurred in 1975 reversing classroom separations which were added in the 1940s.[17] The church has also been featured in two Hollywood films: Footloose and The Butter Cream Gang.[18] In 1940, Reverend Elias Jones changed the name of the church from The First Presbyterian Church to its current name: Community Presbyterian Church.


Notes:

[1] American Fork Presbyterian Church, Papers, Utah Historic Building Records, Marriot Library, Utah. 55. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=1495212

[2] George K. Davies, “A History of the Presbyterian Church in Utah ,”Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society (1943-1961) 25, no. 1 (1947): 46-67, Accessed February 22, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23324258.

[3] Douglas R. Brackenridge, “Hostile Mormons and Persecuted Presbyterians in Utah, 1870-1900: A Reappraisal,” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 3 (2011): 162-228, Accessed February 23, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23292727.

[4] Utah Historic Building Records, 74.

[5] Brackenridge, “Hostile Mormons and Persecuted Presbyterians in Utah,” 167.

[6] Brackenridge, “Hostile Mormons and Persecuted Presbyterians in Utah,” 169.

[7] Brackenridge, “Hostile Mormons and Persecuted Presbyterians in Utah,” 170.

[8] Jana K. Riess, “Heathen in Our Fair Land’: Presbyterian Women Missionaries in Utah, 1870-90.” Journal of Mormon History 26, no. 1 (2000): 165-95, Accessed February 23, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23288593.

[9] Brackenridge, “Hostile Mormons and Persecuted Presbyterians in Utah,” 213-214.

[10] Brackenridge, “Hostile Mormons and Persecuted Presbyterians in Utah,” 176.

[11] Brackenridge, “Hostile Mormons and Persecuted Presbyterians in Utah,” 166.

[12] Utah Historic Building Records, 74.

[13] Utah Historic Building Records, 55.

[14] Theodore D. and Marian E. Martin, “Presbyterian Work in Utah, 1869-1969,” (SLC, Wheelwright Lithography Co, 1971): 3-4, Quoted in American Fork Presbyterian Church. Papers. Utah Historic Building Records, Utah. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=1495212

[15] Utah Historic Building Records, 65.

[16] Utah Historic Building Records, 5.

[17] Utah Historic Building Records, 5.

[18] Utah Historic Building Records, 63.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Westminster College. The Presbytery of Utah at American Fork. August 1894. Photograph. American Fork, Utah. Special Collections. J. Willard Marriot Library. University of Utah. Salt Lake City Utah.  https://utah-primoprod.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=digcoll_uuu_11wc_pc%2F1094197&context=L&vid=UTAH&lang=en_US&search_scope=EVERYTHING&adaptor=Local%20Search%20Engine&tab=everything&query=any,contains,american%20fork%20Presbyterian%20church&offset=0

American Fork Presbyterian Church. Papers. Utah Historic Building Records. Utah Division of State History. Salt Lake City, Utah. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=1495212

Secondary Sources:

Brackenridge, R. Douglas. “Hostile Mormons and Persecuted Presbyterians in Utah, 1870-1900: A Reappraisal.” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 3 (2011): 162-228. Accessed February 23, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23292727.

Brackenridge, R. Douglas. “Presbyterians and Latter-day Saints in Utah: A Century of Conflict and Compromise, 1830—1930.” The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-) 80, no. 4 (2002): 205-24. Accessed February 23, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23336401.

Davies, George K. “A History of the Presbyterian Church in Utah (Continued).” Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society (1943-1961) 24, no. 3 (1946): 147-81. Accessed February 23, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23324121.

Davies, George K. “A History of the Presbyterian Church in Utah (Concluded).”Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society (1943-1961) 25, no. 1 (1947): 46-67. Accessed February 22, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23324258.

Molascon, Allen R. “The Presbyterian Mission in American Fork, 1887-1896.” 1968. Special Collections. J. Willard Marriot Library. University of Utah. Salt Lake City Utah. 

Riess, Jana Kathryn. “”Heathen in Our Fair Land”: Presbyterian Women Missionaries in Utah, 1870-90.” Journal of Mormon History 26, no. 1 (2000): 165-95. Accessed February 23, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23288593.

Battle Creek

Published / by Brittney Carter / Leave a Comment

Write up by Brittney Carter

GPS COORDINATES

40°21’48” N 111°42’2” W

Elevation 5260

Marker originally placed by: Jared Warburton, 1997

Battle Creek monument text

Marker Text:

“This monument is in memory of the first armed engagement between the Mormon pioneers and the Native Americans that inhabited Utah Valley, and serves as a reminder of the extreme sacrifice given by both people. This skirmish at the mouth of Battle Creek Canyon gave it its name.”

Extended Research

Kiwanis Park at Battle Creek

Battle Creek, which is now known as Pleasant Grove, was the site of the first battle between Native Americans and Utah pioneers. Mormon (LDS) leaders in Salt Lake City ordered militiamen to investigate reports in Utah Valley that Indians were killing cattle and that they had stolen Brigham Young’s horses. The accusation of horse theft proved untrue. As a result, the militiamen received new orders from Salt Lake City “stating that as the horses were not stolen . . . we need not spend any more time in search of them.” They were, however, directed to continue the expedition to investigate the killing of cattle. As Hosea Stout, one of the militiamen recalled, “the nature of our expedition was not in the least changed.”(1).

Battle Creek Marker

After a few days of travel, the militiamen made it to what is now American Fork and rested over night with a band of Ute Indians. Hosea Stout wrote, “the Company [got] an early start and traveled south to the Provo, a fine large stream and well timbered in the valley. This is a beautiful farming country. Here we found the Utahs, who . . . received us friendly but were much excited being evidently afraid of us. After spending an hour or so with them and learning what we could, respecting those we were in pursuit of and also explaining the object of our visit we traveled on. Little Chief accompanied us about three miles up the Provo where we encamped for the night”(1).

The militiamen split into two groups after they came upon a few Native Americans at Battle Creek Canyon who were still sleeping. When the Indians awoke and saw that they were surrounded by white men they tried to flee farther up the canyon, only to find another group of militiamen waiting for them. Before fighting began, an interpreter from among the militia tried to get the Native Americans to surrender.

As Hosea Stout recalled: “Our interpreters talked to them and told them our errand, and asked them to give themselves up. They refused. Our guide talked to them and reasoned with them, but all to no purpose, fight they would unless we went away, then they said they would come out. The guide told them they must come out then or die. . . . The first one shot was their leader. Then such a howling and crying, I think white men never heard before” (1).

After fighting broke out there were several casualties according to Oliver B. Huntington:

“All the bodies we could find were carried together to one place for burial: seven great, fat stout men. . . . When we got back to where we left the dead, there was neither dead nor living anywhere to be found. We did not think them worth hunting for anymore, and started home.” (2).

Mormon pioneers soon settled the land in Utah Valley because of the richness of the soil that militiamen witnessed on this expedition. Brigham Young had already planned to expand further south. As one history of Provo recounted, “Initial Mormon settlement thus was on the site of Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, Young planned to explore all valleys, and, when opportunity permitted, establish settlements in those sufficiently well-watered” (3). Mormon leaders selected Utah Valley as one area for settlement which led to further conflict with Ute Indians in the region.

Battle Creek falls

Battle Creek remained the name of the area until years later when Mormon pioneers decided to change it to Pleasant Grove. The monument that is left at the base of Battle Creek Canyon, which leads to Battle Creek Falls, stands as a reminder of the first battle fought between Mormon pioneers and Native Americans. It also serves as a reminder that Mormon settlement came at a significant cost to Native Americans, in loss of life, land, and culture.

 

 

SOURCES

  1. On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844–1861, Vol. 2, Edited by Juanita Brooks, (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1964), 344-347.
  2. Diary of Oliver B. Huntington, 1847–1900, Vol. 2, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 47–55, 331-341.
  3. Writers Program, Provo, Pioneer Mormon City (Portland, Oregon : Binfords & Mort1942), 36-44.

For Further Reference

Primary Sources

On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844–1861, Vol. 2, Edited by Juanita Brooks, (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1964).

Diary of Oliver B. Huntington, 1847–1900, Vol. 2, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Secondary Sources

Jared Farmer, On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (Cambridge: Mass: Harvard University Press, 2008).

Writers Program, Provo, Pioneer Mormon City (Portland, Oregon : Binfords & Mort1942).

First Icelandic Settlement

Published / by Charles Wolfgramm / Leave a Comment

 

First Icelandic Settlement Monument, Spanish Fork, Utah

Write up by Charles O. Wolfgramm

Placed By: Daughters of Utah Pioneers

GPS Coordinates: N 40° 06.280 W 111° 38.458

Image result for picture of plaque on the first icelandic monument in spanish fork ut

Historical Marker Text: First Settlement of Icelanders in the United States. Leif Eiriksson, an Icelander, discovered America in 1000 a.d. Eight centuries later 1855-1860 sixteen pioneers from Iceland established in Spanish Fork the first permanent Icelandic settlement in the United States. They were Samuel Bjarnason & wife Margaret; Thordur Didriksson & wife Helga; Gudmundur Gudmundsson; Loftur Jonsson & wife Gudrun;  Jon Jonsson & wife Anna; Gudrun Jonsdottir; Magnus Bjarnason & wife Thuridur; Vigdis Bjarnadottir (Holt); Gudny E. Halfidiason; Ragnhildur S. Hanson and Mary H. Sherwood.

Mt. Flonette Camp & the Icelandic Association

Image result for picture of plaque on the first icelandic monument in spanish fork ut

Extended Research:

On September 7, 1855 the first immigrants from Iceland arrived in Utah Territory, and between 1855 and 1914 there was a total of 410 Icelandic immigrants that made this journey. All of the Icelandic immigrants that came to Utah Territory were converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they were sent by the leaders of the church to Spanish Fork. This was a perfect community for these new Icelandic immigrants because it was already home to immigrants from Scandinavian countries, so they were able to share some common cultural values. The Icelandic marker was placed in Spanish Fork on August 1, 1938 by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and the Icelandic Association of Utah. The monument is a lighthouse with a viking ship on top of the lighthouse. There are sixteen names listed as the first Icelandic immigrants to arrive in Utah. Lighthouses are located all over Iceland because of its location in the middle of the northern Atlantic Ocean, so this is an appropriate monument to remember the Icelandic members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Iceland is geographically isolated from other Scandinavian countries, but similarities between Iceland and Scandinavia still exist. Religion is one example. The Lutheran Church dominates in most Scandinavian countries and this is also true for Iceland where eighty percent of the population are members of the Lutheran Church. Other religions can have a difficult time gaining converts because of the popularity of the Lutheran Church in Iceland. Icelandic citizens might even have to leave the country in order to be exposed to other religious beliefs. This is how Guðmundur Guðmundsson, the first Icelander to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, learned of the upstart American born faith. He was born in Iceland, but his conversion happened in Denmark.

Guðmundur was born in 1825 in a farm town in Artun in the Rangarvalla district of the Oddi Parish in Iceland. He was baptized a member of the Lutheran Church a few months after he was born. He left Iceland as a teenager to be educated and pursue a career as a goldsmith in Denmark. While in Denmark he converted to Mormonism. Around the same time, Guðmundur’s childhood friend, Pórarinn Hafliðason, also converted in Denmark. The two friends reunited and were called to survive as missionaries for their new found faith in Iceland.  The new Icelandic converts were not very successful in the mainland of Iceland so they went to an Island called Vestmannaeyjbaer or Westman Island, southwest of the capital Reykjavik, .

Image result for vestmannaeyjarImage result for first icelandic plaque in spanish fork ut

The two missionaries were able to find many new converts in this part of Iceland but they did face a lot of opposition form the established church in the area. Samuel and Margret Bjarnason, along with Helga Jónsdóttir who were converted on the island by the two native missionaries  were the first Icelandic members to make the move to Utah. Samuel and Margret arrived in Utah on September 7, 1855 and were told by Brigham Young, the leader of the LDS Church to go and settle in Spanish Fork. Scandinavian saints were already in the area and so Brigham Young felt this would be a great place for the Icelandic saints to build a community. Hundreds of Icelandic Saints would eventually make their way to Utah in the following years until about 1914 when WWI began. During this same time the Icelandic Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was closed due to the war, and general immigration from Iceland ended.

Einar Eiríksson was the last missionary to serve in Iceland before the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Courtesy of the Icelandic Association of Utah

For the next fifty years the LDS Church did not exist in Iceland. In 1977 Iceland was again dedicated for Mormon missionary work to continue. Twenty years later in 1997 the president of Iceland and his wife were invited to celebrate Iceland Days marking the centennial of the first Icelandic members of the LDS Church to settle in Spanish Fork.

Finally on June 30, 2000 a monument was erected with the names of 410 Icelandic Mormons who made the journey from the Westman Islands to Utah Valley between 1857 and 1914.

Image result for icelandic monument spanish fork utah who put it there

This monument is a testimony of the faith and dedication of the Icelandic members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who sacrificed so much for their beliefs.

Image result for first icelandic plaque in spanish fork ut( This rock was transported from the Westman Island. It is significant because the first baptism for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Iceland was Performed in the Westman Island. The rock is a volcanic rock from the Westman Island. In 1973 the Eldfell Volcano on the island erupted and this almost lead to a permanent evacuation of the Westman Island.)

Primary Sources: 

Autobiography of Peter Gottfredson, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Letter from Charles R. Savage to John Taylor, Millennial Star 18, no. 13 (1856): 206.

Manuscript History of the Icelandic Mission, 1851–1914, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Preaching in Iceland,” Millennial Star 64, no. 27 (1902): 427–28.

“The Icelanders,” Millennial Star 48, no. 32 (1886): 507.

“The Life of Einer Erickson,” 21—23, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Torgeirson, John.  “The People of Iceland,” Deseret Evening News, 24 January 1887, 2.

Secondary Sources

Carter, Kate.  “The First Icelandic Settlement in America,” Our Pioneer Heritage, (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1964), 7:477—556.

Mulder, William. Homeward to Zion. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1957. 

Woods, Fred E. “Icelandic Conversion and Emigration: A Sesquicentennial Sketch,” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: Europe, ed. Donald Q. Cannon and Brent L. Top (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), 1–21.