Transitions

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the Beehive Archive blog. 

Unfortunately, I am saying good-bye to the blog. the radio program, and the Utah Humanities Council, as I have accepted a new position at the National Endowment for the Humanities.  It’s my hope that the Council will find a new staff person to continue the blog.

All the best,

Brandon Johnosn

The Suicide of Mary Cook

© 2007 Utah Humanities Council

The Story:

In 1894, a young Pleasant Grove mother named Mary Cook swallowed a bottle of strychnine, and according to a description printed in the Salt Lake Tribune, “died in terrible convulsions.”  It turns out Cook had forged a check for a little more than $10 at a local millinery store a few days earlier, signing the name of O. E. Carey.  The check passed from one bank to another for payment, until the forgery was discovered and the check was sent back to Pleasant Grove.  Local businessman Frank Beers zeroed in on Cook as the forger and when he confronted her with his theory, she admitted the bad check was hers, paid Beers $5 on it, and then returned home to take her life.

Cook’s suicide seems extremely rash in proportion to the rather petty crime of writing a bad check.  We can never know exactly what she was thinking at the time she took her life, but it’s easy to imagine that the disgrace she felt at having her misdemeanor revealed in public had something to do with it. 

There is, however, more to the story, details that shed more light on Cook’s decision to end her life.  It turns out that she and her child had been abandoned by her husband when he up and joined a splinter group of the national movement called the Industrial Army.  Elements of the Army, under the command of Ohio businessman Jacob Coxey, had blown into Utah on their way to Washington, D.C. where they planned to put pressure on the federal government to end the rampant unemployment caused by the deep economic depression of the 1890s.  While here, the Army won some new recruits, including Mary Cook’s husband.  Then they moved on. 

 Deserted at the height of a severe depression, without money or a job, Cook made the desperate decision to forge a small check in order to help make ends meet.  When the plan backfired, and she lost face in her small town, she must have felt trapped, with no other choice but to swallow the strychnine and end both her humiliation and her poverty.

Sources:

See the Salt Lake Tribune, June 23, 1894.  Also see the December 1996 collection of the History Blazer, a joint project of the Utah State Historical Society and the Utah State Centennial Commission.

“Man-Eater”Alfred Packer and Preston Nutter: Cannibalism on the Way to the Colorado Gold Mines

© 2009 Utah Humanities Council

The Story:

In 1873, a man by the name of Preston Nutter traveled with a friend to Provo after hearing rumors that miners in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains were striking it rich.  When they reached Utah County, Nutter and his companion joined up with a group of nineteen men also itching to make fortunes in the Colorado gold fields.  But according to Nutter, the group foolishly selected as their guide a man named Alfred Packer, a choice that at least for some of the men in the party would turn out to be disastrous.

Alfred Packer Courtesy Wikipedia

Alfred Packer Courtesy Wikipedia

By the time the expedition reached Colorado it was late in the season, making any attempt to cross the high mountain passes reckless at best.  Chief Ouray of the Utes tried to convince the party to stay with him and wait for the spring thaw.  Nutter and most of the miners decided to wait it out with Ouray.  But five men followed Packer, who claimed he was familiar with the San Juan country, into the mountains.  When spring came, Nutter crossed over to the Los Pinos Indian Agency near present-day Gunnison, Colorado, just as Packer arrived in town, remarkably fat and healthy, despite a long, miserable winter in the high country.  Nutter was immediately suspicious as were local authorities, who questioned him about his time in the mountains.  Eventually, Packer cracked and admitted that his group had become trapped in the heavy winter snows and fell into cannibalism.  He was the lone survivor, he confessed, because he’d killed his last remaining companion and had eaten him. 

Packer was arrested and convicted of murder, though his sentence was eventually commuted.  Nutter, my contrast, became a wealthy Utah cattle baron.  No doubt he was happy he hadn’t made the mistake of trooping into the Colorado mountains with “man-eater” Alfred Packer.

Sources:

See Virginia N. Price and John T. Darby, “Preston Nutter: Utah Cattleman, 1886-1936,” Utah Historical Quarterly 32 (Summer 1964): 232-251 Also see Paul H. Gannt, The Case of Alfred Packer, The Man-Eater (Denver: University of Denver Press, 1952).

Medical College of Utah

 
Doctor Frederick S. Kohler (Courtesy UtahyState History)

Doctor Frederick S. Kohler (Courtesy UtahyState History)

The Story:

On January 31, 1880, papers were filed incorporating the Medical College of Utah in the tiny town of Morgan.  For eighty dollars a term, students would learn all the newest medical techniques at the hands of Doctor Frederick Kohler.  Kohler, who came to Utah from Ohio, was a sort of medical Renaissance man.  According to one source, he was as comfortable extracting teeth and preparing the dead for burial as he was setting broken bones and delivering babies.

Of the students that attended the college during its short life was Emeline Grover Rich, the polygamous fifth wife of Mormon Apostle Charles C. Rich.  Rich had already gained some renown as a local healer and midwife, but came to Morgan in pursuit of her medical degree.  Within four months she had her diploma, and a short time later, she was added as a member of the faculty, specializing in obstetrics.

Rich didn’t have much of an opportunity to teach at the college as it was forced to close its doors after only two years of operation.  The Salt Lake Herald had gotten wind of the school’s existence and had launched an investigation into its practices with the help of two Salt Lake City medical practitioners.  The paper didn’t like what it found and denounced the college.  It’s hard to imagine that the Herald’s campaign against Kohler and his school was not in some way influenced by the medical establishment in Utah’s capital city, perhaps irritated by the possibility of a medical school operating in a seemingly insignificant town.  Yet even though the Herald was finally successful in shutting the Medical College of Utah down, it wasn’t able to erase its legacy.  Frederick Kohler, Emeline Rich and others associated with the college continued to practice medicine for years in rural Utah.

Sources:

See Linda H. Smith, A History of Morgan County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society and Morgan County Commission, 1999), 330 and 344.  See also the May 1995 collection of the History Blazer, a joint project of the Utah State Historical Society and the Utah State Centennial Commission.  The History Blazer can be found on the Utah History Suite CD available from the Utah State Historical Society.

Text © 2007 Utah Humanities Council
Images courtesy of Utah State History

Salt Lake City’s Historic Mormon Chapels

Salt Lake 20th Ward

Salt Lake 20th Ward

Peggy Fletcher Stack’s recent article in the Salt Take Tribune on historic Mormon meetinghouses is definitely worth a read.  Stack’s question about who decides which of the LDS Church’s buildings will be renovated and which will not is an important one, especially in light of the 1971 razing of the Coalville Tabernacle.  The fate of the tabernacle clearly had a galvanizing effect on Utah’s historic perservationist community, and helped to bring preservation-related issues to the attention of many of the state’s citizens, LDS and non-LDS alike.

Yale Ward

Yale Ward

“In recent years,” Stack writes, the LDS Church “has developed a systematic way to manage the tension between the desire to preserve historic structures and the reality of contemporary congregational needs.”  Naturally, money plays a part in the decision-making.  “If one of these historic chapels needs a major repair,” writes Stack, “such as replacing a roof, boiler system or plumbing—Salt Lake City’s codes may require the church to include costly seismic or other upgrades.  Such upgrades could make renovations impractical.”

But decisions aren’t necessarily top-down edicts.  According to Steve Olsen of the LDS Church’s historic sites committee, judgments about properties  with historical value are “are negotiated in good faith by all parties involved—from the physical-facilities managers to local ecclesiastical leaders to architects and historians.”

Salt Lake 2nd Ward

Salt Lake 2nd Ward

Don’t miss the Tribune’s multimedia tour of such architectural gems as the Highland Park Ward (2535 Douglas Street), Salt Lake 20th Ward (107 G Street), and Forest Dale Ward (729 E. Ashton Avenue) meetinghouses.

B’nai Israel

Temple B'nai Israel (Courtesy Utah State History)

Temple B'nai Israel (Courtesy Utah State History)

The Story:

In 1864, when Jewish settlers in Utah celebrated the high holy day of Yom Kippur, they did so in a private home.  The territory’s Jewish community was still in its infancy, and grew slowly as westward-bound Jews made their way to the Great Basin.  Many of the early Jewish migrants to Utah were merchants intent on taking advantage of new opportunities in the American West.

By 1881, Jewish pioneers had established Congregation B’nai Israel and had bought a plot of land for a synagogue and school at the intersection of Third South and First West in Salt Lake City.  Two years later, due in no small part to the sacrifices of the congregation, the school and temple were finished.  When the congregation decided to move to a new synagogue on Fourth South a few years later, the commission for the new building went to Philip Meyer, the nephew of Frederick Auerbach, one of Salt Lake’s leading businessmen.  Meyer, who lived and studied in Germany, came to Utah at his uncle’s expense intent on building a structure that would please Utah’s Jewish community.  What he designed was a scaled-down version of Berlin’s Great Synagogue, a magnificent structure that unfortunately was destroyed by Allied bombers in World War II.

After the synagogue was built, Meyer returned to Germany (where he later died at the hands of the Nazis), and Congregation B’nai Israel struggled on.  The rise of a new congregation, this one made up of mostly Eastern European Jews, eventually challenged the dominance of the original group of worshippers, causing the Jewish community to split into factions.   Through it all, the B’nai Israel temple remained a potent reminder of the pioneering spirit of Utah’s first Jewish settlers.

Sources:

See Eileen Hallet Stone. A Homeland in the West: Utah Jews Remember (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2001), 1-20; Jack Goodman, “Jews in Zion,” in The Peoples of Utah, ed. Helen Z, Papanikolas (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1981), 187-220; and Ralph M. Tannenbaum’s entry on the Jewish Community in the online Utah History Encyclopedia at www.media.utah.edu/UHE.

Text © 2007 Utah Humanities Council
Images courtesy of Utah State History

Armistice Day in Utah, 1918

Courtesy Utah State History

Courtesy Utah State History

© 2007 Utah Humanities Council

The Story:

On November 11, 1918, the signing of the armistice with Germany that effectively ended World War I became the spark that ignited a series of all-out, raucous celebrations across Utah.  It’s not hard to imagine why Utahns met the news of the war’s end with more than a touch of loud revelry.  The United States had only been involved in the war for a little more than a year and a half, but in that time more than 100,000 American soldiers had been killed or died of disease.  (More than 600 of those fallen soldiers had come from Utah.)  On the home front, Utahns sacrificed by going without meat on certain days, using meat and sugar substitutes, donating to the Red Cross, and buying war bonds.

When the war ended, people were understandably ecstatic.  In Sevier County, citizens poured into the streets, bells rang nonstop, cannons roared, and flags began appearing outside homes and around public places.  The people of Richfield arranged an ad hoc parade, complete with a giant effigy of Kaiser Wilhelm, the German leader, chained to the bed of a truck.  According to the local newspaper, a nighttime raid on a stockpile of dynamite in Salina provided a troop of merrymakers with enough ammunition to make people wonder if they were hearing “an allied bombardment of a German front line.”

Courtesy Utah State History

Courtesy Utah State History

Festivities in Price and Manti were more subdued, but no less genuine.  Another effigy of the Kaiser was hung up in Manti and burned, and the entire town turned out for a community barbecue, while the mayor of Price declared an official holiday and citizens hauled giant logs down from the surrounding mountains to build a bonfire that eventually warmed more than two thousand revelers.  The war was over, and celebrations like these seemed to function like a collective sigh of relief.

Sources:

See news reports about how Utahns celebrated the end of World War One in the following Utah newspapers: Richfield Reaper (November 16, 1918); Manti Messenger (November 15, 1918); and [Carbon County] News-Advocate (November 14, 1918).