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Self-Guided Tour of Historic Sites

1. The Davis Fort (site only) 700 North & 400 West

Soon after the first white families settled at Box Elder, they were disturbed by Shoshone Indians who begged for food and other commodities and were sometimes hostile. Church leaders commonly advised settlers to gather scattered inhabitants into safe places when threatened with Indian conflicts.

In the fall of 1851, a temporary fort was built to protect the people from Indian attack. This first fort, called Davis Fort for leader William Davis, was located about a mile northwest of the present city center. It consisted of a row of simple log cabins and measured 264 feet in length from north to south and about 99 feet in width from east to west.

Arriving with his wife and two children on October 6, 1851, George Hamson found the Davis Fort under construction. The Hamsons set to work adding their cabin to the fort. On December 8, George Hamson Jr. was born in the unfinished cabin, the first white child born in Box Elder. The cabin had no floor, and the dirt roof did not prevent the rain and sleet from dripping through. To complicate the problem, water from the creek overflowed and ran into the open dwelling.

Drainage was inadequate for high waters that spring, and the houses became infested with bed bugs and other insects. In the spring of 1852, the people were delighted to break up the fort and move out onto their individual farms.

2. Box Elder Fort (site only) 300 North & 200 West

The permanent settlers were alarmed when a group of transients camping near the settlement had a fight with Indians and a white man was killed. President Brigham Young advised them to move farther south, away from the creek, and build a second, larger fort for protection.

The fort was constructed in July of 1853. Individual log houses were built next to one another so that their walls formed the outer edge of the fort on three sides with the south end open. A stream of water was channeled across the front for culinary use, and a rock wall was built at the rear with holes to shoot through in case of Indian attack.

Later the fort was expanded to house new settlers, and a log school building was added in the fall. It was used for school on weekdays and church meetings on Sundays. Families were each allowed 33 feet or less for their separate cabins.

William Davis enforced Brigham Young's policy of feeding the Indians rather than fighting them. He and Simeon Carter settled many disturbances and soon won the Indians' friendship and trust. After the Indian danger passed, the people were free to leave the fort and move back to their respective properties.

3.William Knudsen Log Cabin approximately 200 West & Forest Street

The Knudsen log cabin was built by Porter Squires for Wilhelm and Laura Amelia Knudsen in 1855 and was one of the first permanent structures in Brigham City.

Following their marriage in 1854, the couple lived in the Box Elder Fort until their cabin was built on the corner of 1st East and 1st South. They lived in the cabin from 1856 until 1865, and six of their 13 children were born there during that time.

Members of the Box Elder County Daughters of Utah Pioneers met with the City Council early in 1929 and requested that the cabin be moved to Rees Pioneer Park where it could be preserved as an example of the homes of early pioneer settlers in Utah.

The cabin was moved to Pioneer Park on April 16, 1929. Local newspapers reported that the old logs were still in fairly good condition and that the mortar between the logs was well preserved. The original fireplace, which had been used for cooking and heating, was still intact. Some restoration was required; the cabin was plastered, the fireplace repaired, and a new door, window and roof installed.

D.U.P. members each contributed 25 cents, furnished pies, and ran a Peach Days concession to pay for the project. They furnished the cabin with typical pioneer furniture and household items and had it ready for dedicatory services September 8, 1929.

In 1993, the South Box Elder County D.U.P improved the historical accuracy and appearance of the cabin by replacing the roof with one similar to the original. They also installed a new protective fence.

4. Union Pacific Depot 800 West and Forest Street

The Oregon Short Line Company was established in 1878 to provide the Union Pacific Railroad access to the Pacific Northwest. The company announced in 1906 that it would construct a modern new depot in Brigham City. The depot was completed and opened to the public on May 19, 1907.

Over the years, this depot served thousands of train passengers. In 1891, the number of passengers leaving Brigham City by train each month had averaged 500 to 600. By 1926, an Oregon Short Line schedule listed 13 daily departures from Brigham City.

Brigham was on the Union Pacific main line and handled small railway express packages and large shipments of coal from Helper and Price with 50 tons of coal per car.

Locally grown produce, including peaches, tomatoes, cherries, apricots, watermelons and cantaloups, went out by rail. The Knudson Brothers located their fruit packing and storage business within easy access of the railroad, directly south and east of the depot. A short spur track ran in front of the Kundson Brothers building for loading freight. A cannery was loated on the west side of the tracks, directly north of the depot, so that canned fuit could be readily located onto freight trains.

Mail service was another important feature on the trains. Mail bags and parcels from the local post office were picked up at the depot and taken to postal cars. Local residents remember taking mail directly to the mail box at the depot to get it out quickly.

During World War II, rail use increased. Servicemen were transported to and from assignments, and the wounded were brought to Brigham City's Bushnell Military Hospital for treatment. Freight, including military and medical supplies and coal to heat the facility, were taken to Bushnell. A spur track was built for direct access to the hospital.

In February 1994, the depot was deeded to the Golden Spike Association of Box Elder County for restoring the building as an educational center for railroad history.

5. Tithing Office 66 South 100 West

The two-story brick Tithing Office was built in 1877 on an acre lot. Construction was supervised by tithing clerk Peter F. Madsen. William Cox and Hyrum Stow laid all the home-made brick, and James Pett and William Wrighton did the carpentry work.

Mormons in good standing are required to contribute one-tenth of their earnings as tithes to the Church. During that period, instead of paying cash, farmers and industrialists gave a tenth of their net production. The new Tithing Office had several ground-level storage rooms for perishable goods such as butter, eggs, cheese, and meat as well as non-perishable merchandise. A rock wall was built around the large yard to confine animals received as tithing.

Offices for local church leaders were built on the second floor, and a baptismal font was installed in the basement for the baptism of Mormon children and new converts to the faith.

When tithing was paid primarily in cash instead of animals or produce, the tithing office was no longer needed by the church. The old stone wall was torn down in 1920 and the Tithing Office building sold to Alfred Fawson of Brigham City in 1937. Mabel Fawson Davis, his daughter, recalled that the family removed the upper story and used the bricks to add a ground-level wing on each side.

6. Box Elder LDS Tabernacle 251 South Main

Local leaders had chosen the corner of Main and Forest streets as the site of the Tabernacle. When Brigham Young visited, however, he led the leaders to "Sagebrush Hill" the highest point on Main Street and said, "This is the spot for your tabernacle." From this site, the building would be visible for many miles across the valley. President Young and Territorial Surveyor Jesse W. Fox laid the cornerstones on May 9, 1865.

Construction began in 1868. Settlers hauled limestone and sandstone from the mountain quarries. Workers in the Co-op masonry department shaped and laid the stone. Mountain pine was cut and used for joists, rafters, beams and lumber for the floor, roof, pulpit, benches and doors. The women donated produce from their gardens and all eggs gathered on Sundays to raise funds for an organ, a silver sacrament service and ornate volumes of scripture.

Progress was slowed when local manpower was recruited to help with the transcontinental railroad. The Tabernacle was completed and dedicated in October of 1890 only to be gutted by fire February 9, 1896. The townspeople decided to rebuild it as quickly as possible, and a year later the building was finished with many improvements over the original structure. It was dedicated March 21, 1897.

Through the years, the building has housed community events as well as religious services. It is a landmark building, one of the most photographed buildings in Utah, and annually attracts many tourists.

The Church closed the Tabernacle down in 1986-87 for a major restoration project, including replacement of mechanical systems, rebuilding exterior pinnacles, and cleaning brick and rock. All interior wood surfaces were repainted and hand grained to make them appear as oak or marble. The interior plaster cornice was painted and accented to complement the ornate chandeliers.

The Tabernacle was reopened and rededicated in April 1987. The building is still used for LDS conferences, concerts and other meetings. In 1971, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, one of the first buildings in Utah to be so honored.

Guided tours of the building are offered free of charge during the summer months.

7. First Ward Meeting House 311 South 100 East

The oldest church still standing in Brigham City was begun in 1884 and completed in 1886. Built as the First LDS Ward building, it was made of stone, and a wooden recreation hall was later added to form a T with the main building.

The church was also used as a school called the Old Rock School until the 1911-12 school year when Lincoln School was completed.

The Presbyterian Community Church bought the building in 1954. At present it houses worship services for the Victory Assembly of God Church.

8. Brigham City Archway Sign Spanning Main between Forest Street & 100 South

Soon after the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge was established west of Brigham City, local businessman J.E. Ryan started campaigning to have a welcome arch installed across Brigham City's Main Street. Such arches were popular in small-town America between 1915 and 1940.

The Commercial Club (later the Brigham City Chamber of Commerce) sponsored the project and collected donations to finance it. By the time the sign was installed in September of 1928, they had received all but $200 of the total cost of $2,400 in citizen donations.

On September 6, the steel girders were hoisted into place 23 feet above the street by block and tackle, and power was supplied by caterpillar tractors. The sign itselft, which was attached the following week, measured 9 by 33 feet and bore the words: "Welcome to Brigham, Gateway World's Greatest Game Bird Refuge." The 12-inch-high letters in the words "Welcome to" were opalite glass, and the word "Brigham" was written in 30-inch channeled letters. A painting of wild ducks and the installation of more than 350 electric lights embellished the finished sign.

It was dedicated September 13, 1928 during the local Peach Days harvest celebration. The dedication program consisted of speeches, presentations, and music from the Brigham City Municipal Band before the lights were turned on to illuminate the sign.

In December 1984, the sign was taken down and replicated with newer materials. Improvements to the sign were made by Young Electric Sign Company, the same company which had built the original sign. The sign's north side had been removed and used as a pattern for the new faces of the sign which maintained original colors and wording. New clear neon tubes replaced the older ones. The $26,000 cost of the project was paid for by the Redevelopment Agency, consisting of the Brigham City Council. The new sign was erected during the morning hours of December 27, with the job completed and the street reopened by noon.

9. Box Elder County Courthouse Main & Forest streets

The County Courthouse was begun in 1855 or 1856, the first public building in Brigham City. As soon as the basement walls were built and windows and doors installed, a temporary roof was added so it could be used for meetings and theatrical productions.

By 1857, two stories of adobe brick were built, but before the walls were finished, a strong wind blew some of them down. These walls were then rebuilt, and the building was completed before the end of 1857. Lorenzo Snow asked builder James Pett to install a roof that would stay. He accomplished this without nails, using wooden pegs and horse hide.

As the only public building, it was used for drama, religious services, recreation, and school as well as for city and county meetings and business.

Simeon D. Carter Jr. attended school there and told his family about it. His daughter wrote: "Father often told us of the furnishing of the school room in the court house where he went to school and Sunday School. It consisted of long slab seats without backs, and the legs made of rough boards stuck through the holes bored in the slab. One long slab was hinged to the wall for the desk, where the boys and girls went to practice penmanship. They laboriusly followed a copy, set by the teacher, at the top of long sheets of 'foolscap' paper. Chidlren from the ABC class to the grown girls and boys were all in the same classroom."

In the early 1870s a large bell in the Courthouse tower signaled work time, lunch time, and quitting time for the Brigham Cooperative enterprises. It was also a fire bell.

In 1883 Peter F. Madsen, Probate Judge of Box Elder County, had the Courthouse renovated and had trees and shrubs planted.

A major remodeling in 1910 completely changed the courthouse's appearance. A large section extended the front of the building, and stone columns and a new tower were added. The original building became the rear wing.

District Court and judicial chambers were housed in the courthouse until the summer of 1994 when they moved to a new building. All county government departments remain in the courthouse at present.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

10. Old City Hall/Fire Station 6 North Main

The old City Hall/Fire Station was built in 1909 and orignally housed the fire department on the ground floor and city offices on the second floor. The bell in the building's tower sounded a nightly curfew.

In 1935, the fire department moved into larger quarters. A remodeling project that year removed the large garage door, changed the building's facade, and doubled the city's office space. During the next three decades, the building housed all city departments, the police department, civil defense headquarters, and Circuit Court.

The police department moved out in 1966, and the remaining city departments left in 1973. The Brigham City Chamber of Commerce took over the building's main floor in 1974 and continues to occupy it at present.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

11. Brigham City Co-op Store 5 North Main

The three story mercantile store built on the corner of Main and Forest streets in 1890 was the last building constructed for the Brigham City Co-op. The federal government had levied a tax on Co-op scrip and then reversed its decision and returned some of the money. The rebate was used to build the new merchantile store.

The building was finished by January 20, 1891, and merchandise was moved from the old store. The store was opened for business on May 24, 1891. A fire broke out in the store on December 19, 1894, and the business never fully recovered from the finanical losses from the fire. The mercantile store went bankrupt, and the cooperative organization went into receivership the following year.

Since the Co-op closed, the building has housed numerous business and professional offices. The building and grounds were taken over by Deseret Savings Bank of Salt Lake City and deeded to the First National Bank Company in 1901. All or part of the first floor has housed a banking business from that time to the present.

Stohl Furniture moved into the north end of the building in 1904. They sold coffins as well as furniture and later expanded the business to include embalming. The mortuary moved to a west annex of the building. In 1909, a room on the main floor was used as a U.S. Post Office.

Some of the occupants of the second-floor offices since 1904 have been real estate and insurance companies, abstractors, attorneys and dentists. The third-floor, built to accomodate social dancing and theatrical productions, became quarters for the Commercial Club (later the Chamber of Commerce) in the 1920s and was a theater for a high school drama group from 1972 to 1995.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 as part of a multiple listing of existing Co-op buildings.

12. Box Elder Academy of Music and Dancing 64 North Main

In 1903 a small red souvenir book was circulated throughout Brigham City with this announcement:

"It is with pardonable pride that the management opens the New Academy of Music and Dancing for the use of those who appreciate education and refinement. . . To amuse, entertain and educate, is the design to be accomplished . . . Music and Dancing . . .should be a part of the education of every thoroughly equipped young person."

Managers of the new Academy, Christian and Peter Christensen, had learned music from their father Lars Christensen, Danish immigrant and early Brigham City settler. They had also been a part of a popular orchestra which played for dances throughout Northern Utah and Southern Idaho.

The elegant new two-story building measured 116×46 feet, with the upper floor used for dancing, and the lower level an open-air pavilion and refreshment area. In addition to well-attended dances, the Academy offered dance instruction. A former pupil Evelyn S. Kay recalled:

"We learned the waltz and the two-step and the quadrille -- all those pretty dances. They gave a big cotillion every once in a while. It was a beautiful building, and the atmosphere was lovely."

Christian and his wife Elizabeth had four sons, all trained from infancy in music by their father and in dance by their uncle Peter who had studied ballet in New York. Three of these four sons became national figures in the ballet world: William as founder of the Portland Ballet and Utah's Ballet West; Harold as director of the San Francisco Ballet School; and Lew as director of the San Francisco Ballet.

The Christensen family sold the Academy building in 1909, but its name and use continued through the 20s. It was subsequently used as a roller skating rink, a bowling alley and the office space for Thiokol Chemical Corporation. In 1953 it was purchased to house American Sportswear, a clothing company. The building was vacated in 1980.

13. Grist Mill 327 East 200 North

The Box Elder Grist Mill or Flouring Mill was the first industrial building constructed in Brigham City. It was designed by Frederick Kesler, one of the most important architects in the development of the Utah's pioneer mills.

The mill was intended to form the northeast corner of a rock wall surrounding the town. The wall was built as protection against hostile Indians, and the mill itself was used as a fort with armed guards posted in the upper levels to protect townspeople. The mill was completed in 1856 but did not begin operating until 1857 when the local wheat crop was sufficient to supply the mill. Production of flour was vital in the development of the small community.

Lorenzo Snow retained control of the mill during the cooperative period, but the property was never sold to the association. The Grist Mill was one of four industrial buildings located along the Box Elder Creek during the 1870s. The other three were owned by the Co-op. When the cooperative failed, all four industrial facilities, including the flouring mill, were sold to private businessmen.

John H. Bott worked as a stone cutter on the construction of the Salt Lake LDS Temple. In 1877, he took Lorenzo Snow's advice and opened a stone-cutting and monument business on Brigham City's Main Street. When his business grew enough that he needed larger facilities, the Grist Mill was available, and in about 1890 he bought it and the whole city block where it stood for $300.

The flour mill was converted to a monument factory, and John H. Bott operated it until his death in 1914. His sons continued the business, incorporating under the name of John H. Bott and Sons Company in 1917. This family business, billed as the oldest monument company in Utah, has continued under the ownership and management of four generations of Botts to the present time.

The building is considered the best-preserved Kesler mill in the state of Utah today. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 as part of a multiple listing of Co-op era buildings.

14. Relief Society Granary 100 North and 400 East

Brigham Young asked the Relief Society women's organization throughout Utah to collect, store, and distribute grain to the needy. The women accepted the assignment and the first year stored a total of 10,465 bushels of wheat. Women and children obtained the wheat by gleaning in the fields after the men had harvested the grain.

Brigham City's Relief Society Granary was built in 1877 by the cooperative association. Children collected old glass which was crushed and mixed with the mortar used in the building to discourage mice from making holes in the walls and entering the building. Some mice did get in, however, and Relief Society President Harriet S. Snow set mouse traps inside the granary to keep them from the grain.

Located on the corner of the present Box Elder Middle School playing field, the granary is now owned by Box Elder School District who purchased it in 1913. It was used as a food storage facility for the school lunch program until 1987. It has been vacant since that time.

The granary was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 as part of a multiple listing of Co-op buildings.

15. Woolen Mill 56 North 500 East (site only)

The Woolen Mill was one of the major home industries of the Brigham City Co-op and its most expensive venture. Construction began in 1869 and was completed in October of 1870. Installation of machinery took most of the winter of 1870-71, and the woolen mill began operating in February 1871. By 1873, the factory was in full production, manufacturing $700 worth of cloth each week on 200 spindles and seven looms. In the first 44 weeks of 1877, the mill produced $42,000 worth of cloth.

The woolen factory also required the establishment of two new cooperative business ventures: a sheep herd to provide wool for the mill and a cotton farm in southern Utah to supply warp for the weaving process.

The woolen mill was destroyed by fire in 1877 and rebuilt the following year. After the closure of the Co-op, James Baron, who had worked at the factory, continued to operate it as a private venture. In 1889, he relocated his business in Hyrum, Utah, and left the mill vacant. It was operated by Anthony A. Jensen for a short time and was again destroyed by fire in 1907. James Baron's son, Thomas, and his own two sons returned to Brigham City, rebuilt the Woolen Factory, and began processing wool there in 1923. The Baron family continued the business until June 24, 1988 when the mill was sold to Sherwood Hirschi. Hirschi retained the Baron name and operated the woolen mill until the business went into bankruptcy in 1992.

In March 1993, Bob and Marva Sadler bought the mill and resumed the wood production business under the traditional name of Baron Woolen Mill.

Baron Woolen Mill was submitted for the National Register along with the other Co-op buildings. Because of remodeling to the building, it was determined to be ineligible at that time. The building as consumed by fire in 2015.

16. Planing Mill

The Planing Mill was built by James Pett in 1875 when the Brigham City Co-op was at its peak. It was already operating 29 successful departments and providing the supplies and goods necessary for life within the pioneer community.

Producing cabinetry and furniture, the Planing Mill enhanced the Co-op's construction enterprises already in operation. Square nails were also produced at the mill during the cooperative period.

John Finley Merrell, who worked at the planing mill for the Co-op, bought it on November 30, 1892. For many years he ran the business in partnership with his sons and sons-in-law, each in charge of a different department.

In 1905, the company name was changed from John F. Merrell & Co. to Merrell's Lumber Company. After John F.'s death in 1931, his sons continued the business. It was subsequently taken over by his grandsons, John D. and Paul R. Merrell, who ran the business until 1983 when the Planing Mill stopped its full-time operation.

The Planing Mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 as part of a multiple listing of Co-op buildings.

17. Lorenzo Snow Grave Brigham City Cemetery, enter at 400 East

Although William Davis was the founder and early leader of the Box Elder settlement, Lorenzo Snow became its colonizer. Under his leadership, the town plat was surveyed; the community was renamed Brigham City; and homes, public buildings, and industries were built. He was the founder of the Brigham City Mercantile and Manufacturing Association which became the prototype for other pioneer settlements implementing similar economic systems. He encouraged recreational and educational activities along with the spiritual development of his people. He was the political and religious leader of the community for more than 40 years.

In 1899, Lorenzo Snow was ordained President of the LDS Church and moved to Salt Lake City. After his death on October 10, 1901, and funeral in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, his body was returned to Brigham City for burial.

His remains, lying in a white coffin, were transported by special train to Brigham City. A second funeral was held in the Box Elder Tabernacle. A glassed-in hearse pulled by white horses took the body from the depot to the tabernacle and then to the cemetery. Children strewed flower petals in the path of the funeral procession as a cortege of Brigham City people followed to pay their last respects to their beloved leader.

18. Bushnell Hospital/Intermountain Indian School

Bushnell General Hospital

In 1942, Bushnell General Hospital, a 1500-bed U.S. Army Hospital, was built by the federal government to treat World War II wounded. In late January 1942 the War Department acquired 235 acres of property in south Brigham City. Construction began March 1, 1942, and the hospital was completed and the first patients admitted on October 10, 1942. The cost of the 60-building hospital was $9 million.

Housing was scarce because of the inundation of workmen building the hospital. Local residents opened their homes and offered virtually every spare bedroom for these workers and later for families of patients. Perc and Verabel Knudson, whose home was filled to capacity, also prepared meals for the workers in their restaurant, the Idle Isle.

Mrs. Knudson recalled, "You never thought of making money. The people of Brigham City went out of their way to help in whatever way they could. We weren't open at the store on Mondays. We had to get a breathing spell, but we opened our home up, and we told those boys at the Bushnell that if there was anything we could do for them, they could come down and we'd feed them whatever they liked, and every Monday we had the house full of these amputees, these soldiers that came. It was a different atmosphere, and nobody regretted anything that they were able to do to help the boys."

The hospital was named for famed tuberculosis specialist Colonel George E. Bushnell. Colonel Robert M. Hardaway was appointed commanding officer. Bushnell Hospital was one of the first medical facilities to use penicillin. Bushnell was closed in 1946 following the war. Approximately 13,000 army personnel were treated during the hospital's life of less than four years.

Intermountain School

Intermountain Indian School, which operated in Brigham City from 1950 to 1984, was the Bureau of Indian Affairs largest Indian boarding school. It was established as a solution to two problems then facing the federal government - the search for a new occupant for the former Bushnell General Hospital and the provision of adequate education for Navajo children. The conversion from hospital to school cost $4,250,000.

Although the boarding school was designed to accommodate 2,000 students, only 500 children were enrolled for the initial five-month period from January to May 1950. Enrollment increased gradually until it peaked at 2,150 in 1952.

Intermountain School continued successfully as a Navajo boarding school until the early 1970s when more students went to schools nearer the Navajo tribes, changing the name to Intermountain Inter-Tribal School. The school closed May 1984.

The Intermountain properties were deeded back to Brigham City Corporation, and an 18-hole golf course was developed on the south section. Lilly Pond Developers purchased the remaining property for marketing and developing. USU Brigham City, ShopKo, and several smaller companies, including two auto parts and woodworking businesses are now occupying sections of the property.