Category Archives: News

A Monumental Controversy

In September 1996, President Bill Clinton made the controversial decision to draw on powers reserved to him by the 1906 Antiquities Act, and designate 1,880,461 aces of land in southern Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But did you know that sixty years earlier federal officials were pondering the designation of a similar monument that would have dwarfed the area covered by today’s Grand Staircase?

1936 Letter from Ray B. West to Governor Henry Blood (series 22028).

1936 Letter from Ray B. West to Governor Henry Blood (series 22028).

The story begins in 1936 when Utah State Planning Board Director, Ray B. West contacted assistant director of the National Park Service (NPS), A.E. Demaray about the possibility of the service building a federal park-to-park highway linking the remote southern Utah towns of Hanksville and Blanding. West’s contention was that this highway would serve a vital role in connecting Mesa Verde National Park to the proposed Wayne Wonderland area in central Utah (an area that would later become Capitol Reef National Park).

A response to West’s letter came from NPS director Arno Cammerer, who stated that the agency was considering making a recommendation to President Franklin Roosevelt to designate an enormous section of the state as a new “Escalante National Monument.” Cammerer further intimated to West that the Hanksville-to-Blanding road he had requested would face better odds of being completed if Utah government officials were willing to support the NPS proposal.

The 1936 NPS proposal was staggering in its scope, taking in 6,968 square miles of southern Utah land (approximately 8% of the state). Almost immediately the State Planning Board undertook a study, at the request of Utah Governor Henry Blood, to determine how monument designation might impact Utah’s grazing, mineral, and water rights along the Colorado River.

1936 map of the proposed Escalante National Monument.

1936 map of the proposed Escalante National Monument (series 22028).

Debate over the proposed monument became a hot topic in the state in the ensuing years. A December 1938 article in the Iron County Record spells out the concerns voiced by both sides, stating:

“The opposition maintains that the establishment of the monument would infringe on grazing rights, and would close the door to possible Colorado river developments for irrigation, flood control, and power development, etc., while those favoring the project maintain that the area has no grazing value, that irrigation would not only be impracticable, but impossible, and that the upper stretches of the Colorado and Green rivers afford much better flood control, irrigation, and power development possibilities.”

Opposition to the monument proposal grew in Utah, and in 1938 the parks service put out a second proposal for the monument, scaling dramatically back on its original size. This new monument would claim approximately 2,450 square miles of land along the Colorado River.

When the second park proposal was met with resistance from Utah officials, NPS administrators and Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, changed course. Federal agents backed off the idea of having President Roosevelt unilaterally claim the region as a national monument, and instead proposed that the U.S. Congress designate it a national recreation area. Under such a designation, the state of Utah would have maintained many of the development rights over natural resources, which had served as the greatest source of concern for state officials. Ultimately, however, the bill to create the Escalante National Recreation Area never made it out of congressional committee.

Map of the modern day Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Map of the modern day Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

This episode is played out in records held by the Utah State Archives from both the Utah Planning Board, as well as Utah Governor Henry Blood. As historian Sam Schmieding points out in his administrative history of Canyonlands National Park, “the failed Escalante proposals and conservationism’s discovery of canyon country dramatically altered the historical context and dynamics of scarcity that would influence how the National Park Service and American society classified and valued canyon country in the future.” In effect, this moment in Utah’s history reflects many of the ongoing issues between state and federal officials over federally held land in the state. It also helps us better understand the difficult nature of balancing the twin interests of preservation and resource development in Utah’s spectacular canyon country.


Highway 89 Digital Collections

THE HIGHWAY 89 DIGITAL COLLECTIONS PROJECT

The history of the American West is shaped and defined as much by its people as it is its landscapes. Nowhere is this more clear than in the winding path taken by Highway 89. On its 1,252-mile route from Mexico to Canada, Highway 89 passes through or adjacent to seven national parks, showcasing some of the most spectacular scenery in the American West.

Such distinctive landscapes make for a powerful history worth preserving and sharing. With this thought in mind, the Utah State Archives is proud to announce our participation with other cultural heritage organizations across Utah and northern Arizona to launch the Highway 89 Digital Collections Project.

Promotional artwork for the Highway 89 Digital Collections project created by John Clark.

The mission of the Highway 89 Digital Collections Project is to bring together the unique resources each member institution holds that help illuminate the history and stories of life lived along Highway 89. Digital items that have been uploaded to the site so far include photographs, postcards, and textual records.

Drawing on the latest in online exhibition technology, the Highway 89 Digital Collections website pulls together materials from a number of archival repositories and special collections including:

EXHIBITS

Exhibit pages on the Highway 89 Digital Collections website allow archivists and curators to draw on their skill and expertise in piecing together dynamic stories that illustrate the history of the road.

Image of a road sign on Highway 89 in Garfield County.

Two such exhibits from that Utah State Archives are currently accessible on the Highway 89 Digital Collections site. The first exhibit gathers together photographs that were taken by the Utah Department of Highways as part of a statewide inventory of road signs between 1965 and 1975. These simple plywood creations offer up a rich visual history of what travelers of that era would have seen as they made their way along Highway 89.

Ruins of a schoolhouse in Thistle.

A second exhibit features materials from the Utah State Archives that tell the story of the 1983 mudslide near the town of Thistle which flooded a section of the highway, destroyed the town, and created an earthen dam that fundamentally changed the landscape in Spanish Fork Canyon. For this exhibit, items from the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) were identified and digitized. They provide a monthly account of work done by state and federal workers to divert water from Thistle Lake, reroute important railroad lines, and physically move the section of Highway 89 that spurs off at the Thistle junction as it makes its way south towards the Sanpete Valley.

Future contributions from the Utah State Archives to the Highway 89 Digital Collections project will focus more on textual records created by various agents of Utah State government who have played important roles in making decisions that have impacted the growth and evolution of Highway 89. As we continue to add miles of digital content to the route, we will look forward to seeing you along the digital Highway 89!


Research Center Closed Friday

Book and Lamp (Dover Spot 0307)The Research Center will be closed Friday, October 25 to allow staff to attend training. It will open again Monday, October 28 at 9 a.m.


Archives Month: Ann Torrence on U.S. Highway 89

All Events for Utah Archives Month | RSVP on Facebook | Get Directions

Thursday, October 24 at Noon

Ann Torrence - Highway 89

U.S. Highway 89: The Scenic Route to Seven Western National Parks

U.S. Highway 89: The Scenic Route to Seven Western National Parks is a visual guide to seven of America’s favorite national parks, hometown events and quirky roadside attractions linked by U.S. 89. Scenic Highway 89 traces the stories of legendary trappers, missionaries and homesteaders. Widened in the Roaring Twenties to satisfy America’s motoring enthusiasts, but bypassed by modern interstates, the 1,600 mile route from Canada to Mexico retains its back-roads charm. From Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, beauty queens to working cowboys, Ann Torrence’s stunning images and engaging text capture the enduring spirit of the west.

Writer and photographer, Ann Torrence drove over 15,000 miles to research and photograph U.S. Highway 89. Her documentary style explores the interplay of the human element and landscape; transformations of culture–what is kept, lost, and reinvented; and the iconography of the American West.

Following Ann’s remarks, staff of the Utah State Archives will provide a public demonstration of the new Highway 89 Digital Collections online initiative. This project is designed to gather and document the prized historical collections from various institutions throughout the region, all of which detail the important history that has happened along Highway 89.

 


Archives Month: 25th Street Confidential by Val Holley

All Events for Utah Archives Month | RSVP on Facebook | Get Directions

Monday, October 21 at Noon

Val Holley - 25th Street

Buy the Book

25th Street Confidential traces Ogden’s transformation from quiet hamlet to chaotic transcontinental railroad junction as waves of non-Mormon fortune seekers swelled the city’s population. The street’s outsized role in Ogden annals illuminates larger themes in Utah and U.S. history. Most significantly, 25th Street was a crucible of Mormon-Gentile conflict, especially after the non-Mormon Liberal Party deprived its rival, the People’s Party, of long-standing control of Ogden’s municipal government in 1889. In the early twentieth-century the street was targeted in statewide Progressive Era reform efforts, and during Prohibition it would come to epitomize the futility of liquor abatement programs.

This first full-length treatment of Ogden’s rowdiest road spotlights larger-than-life figures whose careers were entwined with the street: Mayor Harman Ward Peery, who unabashedly filled the city treasury with fees and fines from vicious establishments; Belle London, the most successful madam in Utah history; and Rosetta Ducinnie Davie, the heiress to London’s legacy who became a celebrity on the street, in the courts, and in the press. Material from previously unexploited archives and more than one hundred historic photos enrich this narrative of a turbulent but unforgettable street.


Newly Processed: September 2013 [Updated]

All public records at the Utah State Archives are accessible through the Research Center. However, once processed the records are easier to use with proper storage and fuller descriptions, including online series inventories. The following list includes record series that were processed during the month of September 2013:

Cedar City (Utah)

District Court (First District)

Heber City (Utah)

Holden (Utah)

Kanab (Utah)

Kanosh (Utah)

Kingston (Utah)

La Verkin (Utah)

Levan (Utah)

Liberty Cemetery Maintenance District (Utah)

Minersville (Utah)

Nephi (Utah). Sexton

Orderville (Utah)

Payson (Utah)

Riverside Cemetery Maintenance District (Utah)

Tremonton (Utah)

Uintah County Cemeteries Department (Utah)

Warren-West Warren Cemetery Maintenance District (Utah)

Edited to add three series that were missed:

Division of Health

Ogden (Utah). City Recorder

Tremonton (Utah)

Laketown Cemetery Maintenance District (Utah)


Browse Death Certificates Online, 1962

Although fully searchable name indexes are not yet available for all the latest death certificates, we are now able to offer digital images online that may be browsed by date and county, similar to the process when visiting the Research Center.

Narrow results by choosing both year and county. Within a folder, certificates are chronological by date.

Links will also be added to the series inventory. Death certificates become public 50 years after the date of the death.


Browse Birth Certificates Online: 1912

Birth Certificate, 1906

Birth certificate images for 1912 are now online at archives.utah.gov/digital/81443.htm. Although they are not indexed by name yet, if one knows the birth date and county it should not be difficult to locate the correct folder and browse through a few images for the time being. Saving and printing of images is available.

Would you like to help index birth certificates? Or other records? Join our team of volunteers for a rewarding experience handling, describing, or making accessible original records from throughout Utah’s history. Read more about our Volunteer Program.


Newly Processed: August 2013

All public records at the Utah State Archives are accessible through the Research Center. However, once processed the records are easier to use with proper storage and fuller descriptions, including online series inventories. The following list includes record series that were processed during the month of August 2013:

Benjamin Cemetery Maintenance District (Utah)

Eureka (Utah)

Nephi (Utah) Sexton

Secretary of the Territory

Springville (Utah)


Newly Processed: July 2013

Levan (Utah) Cemetery record

Levan (Utah) Cemetery record

All public records at the Utah State Archives are accessible through the Research Center. However, once processed the records are easier to use with proper storage and fuller descriptions, including online series inventories. The following list includes record series that were processed during the month of July 2013:

Orderville (Utah)

Kanab (Utah)

Levan (Utah)

Office of the State Engineer


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