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Historians have shed new light on some minor mysteries surrounding the Salt Lake City tomb of Mormon pioneer prophet Brigham Young.
Crews from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are renovating the Little Avenues Cemetery as part of work that includes adding improved lighting and other upgrades to better protect the historic site from a recent increase in vandalism and trespassing.
Radar penetrating the cemetery floor before this construction work detected more than 40 burial sites, of which only about a dozen were marked, a church history curator told city officials earlier this year.
Church officials have since declined to elaborate on comments by Utah-based Faith Historic Sites Curator Emily Utt that she delivered in July to the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission in its review of renovations.
But a retired church historian who has studied relics of Utah’s pioneer past said the finds came as no surprise. Nearly 48 graves are documented in burial lists and death records tied to the family cemetery at 140 E. First Avenue, Randy Dixon said, including wives, children, grandchildren and some neighbors from the polygamous leader of the Latter-day Saints.
The radar survey, according to Dixon, was not intended to locate all of the cemetery’s burial plots, but rather to identify those in sections where the cemetery’s walkways, trees and perimeter wrought-iron fence are being destroyed. revision.
Burials at the cemetery, located on land formerly owned by Young, predate the powerful leader’s death in 1877, said Dixon, who retired from the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. The one-third acre site was used long after his burial for extended family members and those associated with large families who survived him.
“Over the years, these markers have deteriorated and disappeared, but at this point they’re not trying to identify all these other burials anyway,” he said. “They just wanted to make sure it wouldn’t disturb anything in the area where they were working.”
As with Temple Square a block to the west, the border-era graveyard, which is now surrounded by homes and apartments, is being improved, according to church plans released to the media. ‘city Hall.
As part of replacing its distinct stone paths, walls, lights and mature trees, church officials in April sought approval to raise the height of the decorative wrought iron fence 32 inches around the cemetery, also known as a mormon. Pioneer Memorial.
Church officials have sought to raise the fence between 5 and 9.5 feet as an additional security measure in light of an increase in vandalism over the past two years, including graffiti on Young’s plaque and the theft of several tombstones.
The Brigham Young Family Cemetery is designated a historic landmark in the city’s Avenues Historic District. This gives the Historic Landmarks Commission authority over the proposed changes and commission members had refused in July and September to approve the church’s plans to alter the fence.
The wrought iron fence mounted atop a stone wall around the cemetery and a similar enclosure around Young’s grave were designed and fabricated by William J. Silver, a prosperous ironworker in Salt Lake City.
Although they expressed sympathy for the security concerns, commission members and city employees concluded that the church’s plans to temporarily weld new wrought iron bars to the bottom of the existing fence, then attaching this taller structure to the stone wall surrounding the cemetery “does not have any historical basis.
Then, around Thanksgiving, as the church unsuccessfully appealed the commission’s decision, the fence disappeared from the cemetery, in apparent violation of a city ordinance that approved further work on the site.
In documents filed three days before Christmas, officials essentially sought clearance retroactively with a request for approval. “We propose to remove the perimeter fence to make necessary repairs and improve structural performance,” church officials wrote – after the fence disappeared.
“These repairs are easier to do in a shop than on-site,” they wrote, noting that the removal would also spare neighbors the noise of sanding and painting the fence and minimize “potential damage to other elements of the fence.” site”.
“Each section of the fence will be tagged and cataloged before being removed to ensure that all pieces are reinstalled in their original location,” church officials wrote. The same care, they said, would be taken with a smaller fence surrounding Young’s white engraver, which was also removed around Thanksgiving.
Off-site work on the perimeter fence was to include lengthening its anchor points in the stone wall, depending on the application, replacing and repairing missing or damaged parts, and removing some L-shaped brackets added to the fence over the years.
And in accordance with the city’s approval of the application on December 22, no changes are being made to the height of the existing fence at this time.
In a statement released Dec. 7, a church spokesperson said, “The historic wrought-iron fence that surrounds the cemetery has been carefully removed and is temporarily stored offsite for safekeeping.”
“It will be restored and reinstalled as part of the project,” the spokesperson said. Meanwhile, a 6ft chain-link perimeter fence still surrounded the cemetery on Monday as renovations continued.