SALT LAKE CITY — Exploring and celebrating Utah's pioneer heritage is made a little easier by how many artifacts are still intact and accessible today. The Pioneer Memorial Museum in Salt Lake City houses thousands of items owned by the first Utah settlers. It’s the largest collection of Utah pioneer artifacts in the world, and it’s right across from the Utah State Capitol. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers took FOX 13 News inside recently for a tour.
Perhaps the most important of the artifacts there is the wagon Brigham Young used during the initial trek to Utah in 1847.
That vehicle was used by Young as the council house and general headquarters of the Pioneer Company during the journey west.
Ellen Jeppson, the president of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, has studied pioneer history for most of her life. She showed us artifacts that have deep ties to Brigham Young and the early days of the church.
“He built two homes for his families at first, the Beehive House and the Lion House,” Jeppson said. “Every single night they gathered together for prayer. And he used to ring a prayer bell so that all the children and the adults, the moms, everyone else would come to prayer every single night.”
Replicas of some pieces at the museum are still around in the Salt Lake Valley.
“Brigham Young wanted to have an eagle gate at the opening of City Creek Canyon,” Jeppson said. “It was a symbol to him. He really admired the eagle.” The eagle that is in the museum is the original eagle, while a replica of the eagle is located at South Temple and State Street in downtown Salt Lake City.
Some of the collections at the museum are pioneer originals.
“Some of the pioneers were highly trained artisans,” Jeppson said. “There were four brothers from England with the last name of Eardley and they started a pottery crockery business in Salt Lake. The pioneers used pottery a lot for food preparation and food serving. These are beautiful pots that were made and fashioned from the clay and from the kilns that were built right here in the valley.”
Past Pioneer Day celebrations have generated their own historic and valuable memorabilia.
“In 1897, it had been 50 years since the Vanguard Company came into the Salt Lake Valley,” said Constance Huntsman, one of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. “They contacted the Tiffany Jewelry Company in New York City and they commissioned these pins to be made. In the center, there is a picture of Brigham Young. There are bees that are surrounding the outside. They were given to the pioneers who were still alive at that time.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but many of these artifacts show how the pioneers and life in Utah today are not all that different.
“I think they felt that they were regular people finding a place to live and raising their families just like we do, just doing the best job that they could with what they had,” Jeppson said. “They started the schools. They built the churches. They made it for us. And so we remember them and are grateful for what they did for us. And it's part of history. And the more we remember that history, the better we are. And I always like to say, the more we think about them, the more they think about us.”