Celebrating Utah statehood

Jan 3 2011 - 12:39am


Audrey Godfrey
Audrey Godfrey

One hundred fifteen years ago tomorrow at 9:13 a.m., the superintendent of Western Union from his Salt Lake City office door held a gun aloft and fired three volleys into the air. A young boy dove for cover. Thus was announced that President Grover Cleveland had signed into law statehood for Utah.

Two days later, on January 6th, a day of celebration commenced throughout the state. Even though snow covered the ground and temperatures were chilly, the people of northern Utah joined the rest of the state in festivities.

An Ogden resident, Nonnie Bond, found she was the winner of a competition to guess the minute, day and time of the proclamation signing, coming within two minutes of the actual time. An entrepreneur of the city jumped at the chance for new business by advertising his expertise in changing terretorial seals to state seals. Women were admitted free to a dance in the Family Theater because the new state constitution allowed women to vote. [ My column in March with be on this new privilege for Utah women.]

Further north, Snowville's celebration featured a picnic and coffee, a children's dance, and an adult dance later in the evening. A correspondent reported, "Everything and everybody, even to the babies, smiled and rejoiced" and were "Merry as a bell." Utah is as happy as a "boy with a new pair of red topped boots."

In the little hamlet of Portage, a gathering of citizens rose to their feet to yell with "full voices"three cheers and a "tiger" while waving handkerchiefs. No doubt this meant a loud growl at the end of the shout. Several other towns employed this same expression.

"Everbody and their cousin" attended Clarkston's unusual "spicy" program. It began with the congregation rising to sing "Utah Is Free," followed by a talk in German translated for the audience by Dr. Almy Jenson. (No subject reported.) Then Capt. John Buttars recited "A Utah Boy," followed by a dance presentation where male participants invented on the spot 45 new steps. The surprise of the day (as if the dancing was not enough) was a violin number by John Shumway who played vigorously, another surprise for the audience who were unaware John could play. The program ended with the audience singing"Utah is a State," no doubtedly composed for the occasion.

Logan residents decorated the Logan tabernacle with a 20-foot American flag complete with a new 45th star. Amanda L. Pope made the flag and George L. Langford and C.S. Vaterlaus painted in the stars. An ecumenical program featured an emotional Apostle Moses Thatcher of the LDS Church, and Presbyterian Reverend N. E. Clemenson who wished the people of Utah a happy new year and stated that they had received "the greatest New Year's gift which the power of the government of the United States could bestow." The choir sang the "Hallelujah Chorus" and as an encore sang "The Spring" beautifully. The Logan brass band played several "national airs"causing so much patriotic applause that the band rendered the tunes again."

North of Logan, Jim and Leona Cantwell, a brother and sister, laughed and enjoyed making up words to a timely ditty, "Rah, Rah, Boom-de-aye" which Jim sang later on the town program. Leona, only 10 at the time, still relived the fun of the day after she became Leona Kirkbride.

Brigham City celebrated not only statehood but that no new cases of diphtheria had been reported. The tabernacle there featured large silver letters spelling Utah, a nod to the fact the state entered as a silver state, a subject being debated at the time in Washington, D.C. During the city's parade Valentine Anderson "bit the dust" when accidentally shot by a charge of powder and wadding. The wads penetrated his clothing and, although painful, the shot caused no serious injury. Up the road from Brigham City the people of Corinne, in their exuberance, rang the $200 town bell so hard it cracked and was rendered "useless."

After the gunshots, the orations and music faded, and the merrymakers returned home, night fell. In response to Governor Wells's request, candles and lanterns appeared in windows and businesses to make a "blaze of light" showing that "patriotic Americans" lived and worked in these edifices. The lights also symbolized that the citizenry had emerged from the "darkness of Territorial conditions to the full light of 'Statehood."

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