Our Oldest Cemetery


Whaaaaaa? October already? For you folk that love summer I’m sure you’re sad that cooler weather is upon us. I’m a fan of hoodies myself and I’m happy as hell to see that the ski resorts around the capitol city got a half foot of the first dusting of snow this past weekend. When it’s cooler weather I like to explore and kick the leaves that fall off of trees. My favorite thing to do is explore cemeteries.

Our REALTORS who work full time understand that buyers often love or hate the idea of living near the dead. A national real estate firm recently blogged that they found homes had sold near the main graveyard in a town went for 13% more than homes a block away from the cemetery. Realtor.com reported recently that six in ten people would consider buying a home near a graveyard especially if there is a supposed ghost living in the house. Some people like graveyards because they are quiet and park-like green space. Others find them spooky or grew up in a culture with specific rules about death prohibiting them living near a graveyard.

Our oldest cemetery in Utah (of white people) is underneath the Palladio Apartments on 300 South and 200 West on the east side of Pioneer Park. When developers dug the foundation for those apartments they found an old pioneer burial plot with bones from the 1840’s and 1850’s. These men, women and children had been put on top of an even earlier prehistoric Indian burial mound. The deceased were removed and the pioneers went to a graveyard created at Pioneer State Park (near the zoo) while he others were returned to a Utah tribe for a proper ceremony.

If you take TRAX to the U of U from downtown you pass another historic sanctified grounds- Mount Olivet Cemetery at 1342 E. 500 South. It’s on the right as the train turns left into the station at the stadium. This is the ONLY cemetery in the U.S. that was established by an Act of Congress as a place to bury any person, of any race, creed or color. The Act was signed in 1874 by President Ulysses S. Grant and it required that a religious person/minister and one layman from each of five chosen denominations in Salt Lake serve on a Board of Trustees to oversee the land. I had always heard that it was a burial site for members of the Masons and that no Mormons were allowed to be buried there at all, but that’s an urban myth a friend fed me at a party.

Here’s a few of the notable residents buried at Mount. Olivet:

-The earliest black solder (Andrew Campbell) was buried in 1922 after serving in Utah Johnson’s Army;

-Emma McVickers, the first woman state superintendent of schools; Emily Pearson, an Episcopal missionary and the first person buried in the cemetery-two years before it opened; Alvina Penney, the wife of J.C. Penney, who died suddenly at home when her department store magnate of a husband was out of town; and Susanna Bransford, the richest woman in Utah who died in 1905 and was known as the ‘Silver Queen’ for her ownership in the Park City mine of the same name;

-a whole bunch of names of the dead you’d recognize as past movers and shakers in Utah, from the Kearns, to the Keiths and the Walkers plus governors and mayors and Civil War heros.

The cemetery fell into financial problems in the 1990’s. After years of many meetings between the Board of Trustees, the Feds and Salt Lake City Corp Mount Olivet’s Board of Trustees worked out a deal so that the cemetery could lease out some of its land as an added income source. Since then a retirement center, school buildings/grounds for the U of U and Rowland Hall have been parsed out with the promise if plots were needed again, the buildings would be torn down. The cemetery is open @8 AM until dusk seven days a week.

Carriage Days


This holiday season you won’t be seeing horse drawn carriages in downtown Salt Lake City. The only company providing rides to paying customers has quietly closed-to the cheers of PETA supporters. You might recall the sad pictures in the press during the summer of 2013 when Jerry, the dapple gray horse belonging to ‘Carriage for Hire’ collapsed on the road during a brutally hot 97 degree August day. The poor animal was so weak that he couldn’t get up and his owners had to come lift him with ropes and drag him onto a trailer and take him away. The company tried to cover up the wellness of Jerry by later saying he had been put out to pasture, but we all later learned that the horse had died.

The City Council of Salt Lake was petitioned endlessly afterwards by PETA and others to make horse drawn carriages illegal and mounted a direct protest near the horse stands and on the Capitol steps after the horse’s demise. The City did not outlaw the carriage companies and the ability of people to hire carriages for rides around the Temple but the pressure was too much for the last surviving carriage company to stay afloat.

Horse transportation is of course an outdated mode of transportation to get from your uptown condo to your downtown job. But there are remnants of this past-gone era all over the city. In the Avenues and Capitol Hill residents are lucky to have enough land to allow for a garage, and what’s often there is merely an old carriage house left over from the turn of the century. Carriages or buggies were commonly some 5 foot wide. Unless you own a Mini it’s likely your car is over 5′ wide and would be hard to get into one of these old barns. Most often the horses for the carriages were kept somewhere else, like down the street in a community barn/pasture because of the flies and smell of their manure. Homeowners would share the costs of bringing in feed, grooming, and medical service in these communal plots. The evidence of these old days is also visible in the alleyways behind many homes. Basically, the horses might be kept down the street and brought up to the rear of the homes on a shared dirt road so that the animals could be harnessed to buggy or vehicle of some kind.

Not everyone could afford carriages and buggies before the early 1900’s. Horses were the primary mode of transportation before trains and cars came about.

We’ve got gas stations for our modern buggies. Back in the days of horses, citified animals had to have their hay and seed brought in by a delivery man. An average horse eats at least 2% of their body weight daily and needs a fair amount of water and grain supplements in its diet. If you happen to see an Avenues or carriage house in the valley that is two stories tall, that would be an indication of a place that stored hay and grain for the animals of the horse owners.

Sad to see a charming piece of history go away forever. I didn’t like seeing the horses plod along on our hot city streets either. At Burning Man creative artists replace the actual mammal at the front of creative carriages with plastic or metal versions. Hey, that’s it…bring the carriages back with artsy electric powered beasts to take folks on city tours for the 21st century!