Mormon Trail AssociationMormon Trail AssociationPioneer Cemetery - Block 49

(Discovered by accident during excavation, 1986)
(Bodies reinterred at This is the Place Heritage Park)

(Click pictures for larger size)

Block 49 map
West side excavation
Backhoe exposes graves
Closeup of exposed grave
Exposing body begins
Making progress
Body and coffin exposed
Closeup of excavated body
Conjoined Twins
Collecting & Identifying
Bones arranged in boxes
Body locations marked
Size and arrangement
Reinterment at This is the Place Heritage Park

Early in the spring of 1846, a group of Mormon pioneers known in history as the Mississippi saints, left their homes in Mississippi, expecting each day to meet the pioneers under the direction of President Brigham Young and go with them to the Rocky Mountains. They had not received word that the body of the saints had decided to winter in Council Bluffs, so on they journeyed. When they reached Fort Laramie they learned from trappers and scouts that Brigham Young and his group had not been seen along the route. A mountain man, Henri Richard, offered to guide them to Pueblo, where he was going for supplies. They accepted the offer and established winter quarters there. These people established what is sometimes known as the first Anglo-Saxon settlement in Colorado.

Early in the summer of 1847 they learned that the first group of pioneers was on its way to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. An advance company of seventeen persons, 5 wagons, 1 cart, 24 oxen, 22 cows, 3 bulls, and 7 calves, caught up with Brigham's company, June 4, at Ft. Laramie. This small group, headed by Robert Crow, consisted of ten persons with the last name of Crow and four (a son-in-law's family) with the name Therlkill. Trouble plagued the Crow family all the way to Salt Lake, but this group arrived in the Valley with the main vanguard company, July 22, 1847.

Aug. 11, 1847, Howard Egan wrote in his journal, "We were all much surprised & grieved by the unusual occurrence among us of an afflicting & domestic calamity. As Brother Crow was fetching a pail of water from City Creek, he discovered the body of his nephew, Milton Howard Therlkill, lying in the water near the dam the Mormons had built to re-baptize each other. The child had been seen playing with his younger brother by the side of the stream." Egan concluded he had fallen in some 10 minutes before being spotted.

Young Milton was immediately taken out and treated. "Notwithstanding every remedy usual in such cases was resorted to for its resusitation [sic], for an hour or more, they were at length obliged to give up the cause as hopeless."

Milton, the son of George W. and Martilla Jane Therlkill, was exactly 3 years, 8 months and 26 days old. "The grief of both parents was great, but that of the agonized mother baffles all description," Egan wrote. The heartbroken mother alternately "laughed, wept, walked to & fro, being apparently unable to become resigned to her domestic and melancholy bereavement."

The next day at 2 p.m., the pioneers buried the child on Brother Crow's lot. (It may have been where his grandfather had his wagons set up while the fort was being built. The Crow and Therlkill families were not given property in Platt A. They went to Brown's Settlement [Ogden] the following year.) Orson Pratt gave "a beautiful & affecting prayer" on behalf of the bereaved parents and friends. After a few remarks "by way of exhortation & instruction," Pratt concluded with "a brief consoling address to the parents & friends of the deceased."

Caroline Van Dyke Grant (age 29), wife of Jedediah M. Grant, was the 2nd person to be buried in the valley. Caroline had her 2nd child, Margaret, in Winter Quarters, leaving her in a weakened condition when she came west. Cholera struck the camp on the Sweetwater River and claimed the baby, Margaret, on Sept. 2. She was buried along the trail four days before her mother died. Carolyn succumbed to the disease, Sept. 26th, at the Bear River crossing, 75 miles from Salt Lake City. Jedediah drove night and day to get to Salt Lake, where she was buried 4 days later. He and his friend Joseph Bates Noble went back to recover the body of Margaret and found that wolves had ravaged the grave and body. Before they reached the grave, Grant confided to his friend, "Bates, God has made it plain. The joy of Paradise where my wife and baby are together, seems to be upon me tonight. For some wise purpose they have been released from the earth struggles into which you and I are plunged. They are many, many times happier than we can possibly be here."

His other daughter survived. Jedediah became Salt Lake City's first mayor in 1852. When Willard Richards died [he was buried on his city lot], he became a counselor to Brigham Young. He was tall and angular and had a little of the Abraham Lincoln look. He gave fiery speeches, especially during the Reformation of 1856. He called the people to repentance, helped re-baptize them as a token of their recommitment. Insurance papers listed the cause of death (he was in his early 50's) as "typhoid-pneumonia." Given the idea that he had spent long hours deep in the cold and unsanitary waters of baptism during October and November, his falling victim of either or both of these afflictions was at least likely. His home was where the west entrance to Z.C.M.I. is now.

Just before he died, he had a remarkable visit to the spirit world, which he related to Heber C. Kimball, who told of it at his funeral. He saw many persons that he knew but only had conversation with his wife Caroline. She was the first person that came to him. She looked beautiful and had their little child, that died on the plains, in her arms, and said, "Mr. Grant, here is little Margaret; you know that the wolves ate her up, but it did not hurt her. Here she is all right."

Nancy O'Neal Rich, wife of Joseph and mother of Charles C. Rich, arrived Oct. 2 and was buried 4 days later, next to Caroline Grant. Clara Decker Young, Brigham's wife on the vanguard company, wrote, "I followed (Caroline) to the grave next morning, which made me very lonesome." Feb. 11, a granddaughter, Eliza N. Rich (age, 3 months) was buried next to her. North of the west end of Grand Avenue, Salt lake Cemetery, is a memorial monument to her, the first woman to die in the Valley, and her son, Ben E. Rich.

City Ordinance. On Feb. 26, 1856, Mayor Jedediah M. Grant signed an "Ordinance in relation to removing and burying the Dead," which stated that "1. No person shall be allowed to inter their dead within the limits of this City, except in the Public Burying Ground (City Cemetery), unless by permission of the City Council. 2. All deceased persons within the limits of this City, not interred in the Public Burying Ground, are hereby required to be removed by the relatives or friends of the deceased to said Ground, on, or before the first day of May next, unless on petition to the City Council, such bodies may be allowed to remain. 3. Any person or persons failing to comply with the requirements of this Ordinance shall be liable to pay a fine in any sum, not less than twenty nor more than fifty dollars at the discretion of the Court having jurisdiction."

On the of April, at the City Council session held in City Hall, a motion carried, "That the deceased family of Pres. H.C. Kimball now interred upon his City Lot be suffered to remain. That the remains of the departed Father and Mother of George A. Smith, viz. John Smith Patriarch and (Bathsheba) Smith his consort be permitted to remain where they are interred on Blk (? - probably 86, west of Temple Square, George had Sections 1, where the Fam. Hist. Lib. is now, 2 and 3, and John had Section 8, where the Hist. Museum is). That the remains of Willard Richards deceased, continue in its present place of interment (he had property on 3 blocks, one of which was 76, immediately south of Temple Square)."

E.F. Sheets successfully petitioned in behalf of Brothers Wright, (?), and his own deceased friends, that they might remain where they had been buried some years. A motion carried that the remains of the friends of J.M. Grant, V. Shirtleff, General Rich and others buried on the mound in the lot belonging to V. Shirtleff (Section 7, Block 49) be permitted to remain.

Developments since 1984

The grave sites were soon forgotten. In 1984, the RDA saw block 49 as a blighted area, bought the old buildings belonging to a few marginal businesses, razed them and sold the block to Bono Development Inc. Bono borrowed $13.5 million in bonds from the Salt Lake Housing Authority on the condition that 20 percent of a proposed 300-unit apartment complex be for low-income and elderly tenants. In the last week of July, 1985, Bono Development paid a Colorado company , Gilbert-Commonwealth, $19,835 to conduct a search of the property for the pioneer graves. After crisscrossing part of the block for a week, all they had to show for their labors was a few animal bones and left town. Hopeful descendants were heart-broken.

Construction began in 1986. Sunday, July 6, Charles Maurie climbed under the fence at the site about 10 a.m. to look for old bottles, but after only 5 minutes found the remains. He went to the car where his wife, Shawnna, was waiting. She asked, "Didn't you find anything?"

"Just a coffin, Charles said.

"You've got to be kidding. You found those bodies?"

The construction company had dug a trench about 25 feet to the north of where the previous year's efforts stopped. One grave had been disturbed but not reported. The Mauries returned with some other amateur archaeologists, a veterinarian, who confirmed the bones were human, and Bill Nielsen. Poking around they found a second coffin, largely intact. Nielsen had an 1889 map that showing the site of the discovery to be in back of several homes on the block. Police sealed off the area. Construction was halted. BYU archaeologists were given a contract and came to excavate. Complicating the work, the remains were buried on top of a Fremont Indian garbage dump. Excavating began, July 24th, and ended, August 8th. The coffins were made with little or no room to spare. The tops had all disintegrated and sometimes the sides. Children were buried 3 to 4 feet closer to the surface than the adults - some no more than 18 inches below the present ground level. Most archaeologists were confident that the cemetery was now empty, though bodies assumed to be there were not found (eg. a man and an infant supposed to be in the same grave, etc.).

Of the 32 pioneer bodies found, 9 were adults, the others were adolescents, children, and babies. There was an Indian body found, but is not included in the maps and was not reinterred at This is the Place Heritage Park. Some persons felt that more graves would be found west and/or north of the present site. More persons died in the Valley the first few years than were located. Some journals indicate burials at the mound on the Shurtleff property. Funding would not permit further excavation work.

Following forensic work in Wyoming, the remains were transferred to Pioneer Trail State Park (now This is the Place Heritage Park) and were reinterred in a scaled down but faithful replication of the original and dedicated, Memorial Day, 1987.

Bono Development went bankrupt, plunging first into Chapter 11, then Chapter 7, proceedings, and then finally freezing action on the block from 1987 to 1991. The city's RDA repurchased the block and a master plan that included a hotel, apartments, a cultural center, and stores was developed under mayor DePaulis. It didn't happen.

Following DePaulis, Mayor Corradini picked the site for an Olympic speed-skating oval but was met with protests and threats of lawsuits from several quarters and abandoned the idea. In developing the property for the Marriott Corporation, an attractive monument on the northeast corner of Block 49 stated that the graves were located 200 feet south and 30 feet west from that point. Apparently the dotted cemetery on the map should have been in Section 7 (Shirtleff property) rather than in Section 8, where the Colorado company searched in vain.

(Note: A marker for the cemetery has been placed on the northeast corner of Block 49, which is the same as the southwest corner of 200 West and 300 South. Dale Beecher, LDS Museum of Church History and Art, wrote the text of the monument. Relatives of those buried here were also involved.)

Early deaths in Salt Lake City area, some of which were buried on Block 49.

1. Milton Howard Thirlkill, age 3, drowned in City Creek, 11 Aug 1847. The location became his Grandfather’s city lot in 1848.
2. Caroline VanDyke Grant, age 29, wife of Jedediah M. Grant, died near Bear River, 26 Sep 1847, buried next to Milton, 30 Sep.
3. Adam McDonald, age 57, died of dysentery, 3 Oct 1847, one hour before arriving in the valley.
4. Nancy O’Neal Rich, age 65, mother of Charles C. Rich, died 5 Oct 1847 of pneumonia, buried next to Caroline.
5. Elizabeth Covington, age 27, in delicate health on arrival, died of a severe cold 7 Dec 1847.
6. Mary Eveline Stewart, age 13, died 15 Dec 1847, being the first to become terminally ill after arriving in the valley.
7. Hannah Cheney, less than a year old.
8. (Baby) Carrington, 4 Jan 1848.
9. (Bishop) Jacob Foutz, age 47, buried 11 Feb 1848. Death caused by a gunshot to the thigh.
10. Helen Snow, 14 days, twin child of W. T. Snow. Buried in same grave with F. K. Shed.
11. Franklin K. Shed, age 22, died 22 Feb 1848 from eating poisoned roots.
12. John Edward Brewer Ockey, age 5, killed instantly by a log rolling from the saw pit, 27 Feb 1848.
13. Lorenzo Young, Jr. age 6 months, died with fits, 22 Mar 1848.
14. Susan Shurtleff, age 1, died with fits, Apr 1848, daughter of Vincent.
15. Conjoined twins, born just before arriving in the valley, according to Patty Session’s 16 Sep 1848 journal entry.
15. Susan Harvey Snow, age 41, crippled and deformed, wife of W. T. Snow, died in childbirth, 11 Jan 1849, baby lived.
16. Eliza Ann Rich, age 3 months, 11 Feb 1849, buried next to Grandmother Rich.
17. Lola Eliz. Clawson Allen, age 42 & baby, Mar 1849.
18. Laura Esphena Rich, 7 months, died 9 May 1849.
19. Amelia E. Richards (Willard’s wife), 23 Feb 1850, autopsies by Priddy Meeks.
20. Malatiah Luce, age 77, died 6 February 1849
21. Anderson, William, age 51, died 6 Mar 1850
22. Child of Buelo, Buelow, or Buel, died 11 May 1850
23. Shurtleff, Luther Gorham, age 1, died 30 Oct 1850.
24. (Doctor) Vaughn, 14 Feb 1851 (shot last Sunday by Hamilton).
25. Noble, Mary Adeline Beman (wife of Joseph Bates Noble), age 40, buried 16 Feb 1851.
26. Watson, John, adult, died 28 Feb 1854.
27. Baker, Martha, age 33, died 2 Mar 1854 (no friends in the valley).
28. Fenton, Clara S., 3 weeks, died 24 Oct 1854.
29. Lane, Thomas, age 9, drowned 2 Jun 1855 - N. Jordan Bridge (at N. Temple)
28. Dixon, Mary Elizabeth, adult, died in house of George Shell, 23 Sep 1855.
29. Buttle, Mary Ann Acomb, age 26, died 1 Nov 1856.

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