April 21 - 27 is the fourth annual National Preservation Week. This event, sponsored by The American Library Association (ALA), promotes the role of libraries and other institutions in preserving personal and public collections and treasures. Steve Berry, New York Times best-selling author and National Spokesperson for Preservation Week for 2013, said, "Libraries serve to preserve our heritage. They are a record of who and what we are. Sadly, though, most times we lose these treasures not by fire, flood, or willful destruction but by simple neglect."
What are we as a community doing to help preserve our local history? Are we as individuals assisting in protecting and preserving the past, or are we perpetuating its destruction through simple neglect? Why is it that too often we don't value the treasures in our own back yard? I have lived in Roy City all my life, and I have loved visiting the Roy Historical Museum and seeing artifacts from earlier times. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to learn about the great legacy of the early settlers of Roy.
In 1873, William Evans Baker saw potential in the sandy, waterless, treeless, barren piece of land and decided to homestead the area that would eventually become the city of Roy. At the time, many people thought William crazy to homestead there, but he merely said he liked the location and wanted to see what he might be able to do with it. He convinced three brothers-in-law (Henry Field, Justin True Grover, and Richard Jones) to join with him in homesteading the area. These four families were related, and as their children grew up, got married, and settled in the area, Roy was unified and cemented by the bonds of a primarily blood-related community. This continued until the 1940's when World War II led to a huge influx of people from all over settling the area as they sought employment at nearby Defense Depot Ogden and Hill Air Force Base. With the influx of newcomers, many old-timers moved away to settle less congested areas. "Thus, the history of Roy was more quickly lost than in other communities. The newcomers burrowed down in the Roy confine unaware of the sacrifices, ingenuity, and resourcefulness of the early settlers; they knew naught the contributions made to their new habitat. They gulped down what was here, and because they were transplanted, the source of what they found was meaningless" (Emma Russell, Footprints of Roy, p. 351).
Emma wrote these words 34 years ago, and in the years since it seems the apathy and simple neglect have escalated alarmingly. My family was saddened and appalled when we recently learned that the Roy Historical Museum is on the verge of closing permanently. For years, this wonderful museum has been struggling. Numerous articles have appeared in the Standard Examiner concerning the need for more volunteers, for financial contributions, and well, basically the need for concerned citizens. Yet the public's response has been simple neglect, and now it may be too late. I certainly hope not.
I always loved visiting the museum. They had several cool "Seek and Find" coloring pages that had sketches of artifacts displayed in the museum. I enjoyed the hunt to find each one, and treasured the sticker and piece of candy I got upon completion. I thought the display of shoes was incredible. There were shoes from former mayors, governors, boxers, cowboys, and even former US Presidents. While I was relishing the relics and eclectic collection, I was intrigued by the white board in the front of the museum that listed the countries and states of recent visitors. Tourists from all over the world and all across the United States visited the Roy Historical Museum on their way to or from a visit to the Hill Aerospace Museum. A glance at the Visitor Log Book showed guest from cities and towns all across Utah, but very few were actually from Roy. I hope concerned citizens step forward and help save the museum before it's too late and the museum permanently closes and these treasures are lost forever.
Do we want to join with those who fail to preserve and protect the history of our community, or do we want to strive to take a stand and save the significant historic resources that give this area its unique character? If we want to save the Roy Historical Museum, it is up to us to find meaning in the legacy these early pioneers left us. The museum needs volunteers to serve as docents, and it needs concerned citizens who will take time to visit and learn about their local history. Of course the museum is in need of financial donations, but many small donations really add up. Harry S. Truman once said, "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know." May we begin to know and care about our local history and be instruments in saving and preserving it.
Kenji Nakayu is a resident of Roy and a student at Weber State University.