Current Issue

Spring 2022 Utah Historical Quarterly

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In This Issue

On summer evenings, LeGrande Davies and his grandfather Otto Kesler loved to sit outside their Cove Fort home and watch the sunset, while a group of coyotes began its serenade. Davies recalled that “‘Grandpa would always say, “Ah. Can’t they sing well. Can’t they sing well.” There was a peacefulness that would come because the wind quits blowing in the evening.’” So notes Rebecca Andersen in the opening article of the spring 2022 Utah Historical Quarterly, which focuses on land in the Intermountain West and a handful of the entities—whether personal, familial, or corporate—that have made a living off it. The action in this issue takes place mainly in Utah but also in Nevada, Wyoming, and other neighboring states, on the traditional homelands of Indigenous tribes, a testament to the reality that watersheds, economies, and interpersonal networks do not always adhere to neat political boundaries.

In 1903, William Henry Kesler moved his family to Cove Fort. Ira N. Hinckley had built the fort, located in Millard County at an elevation of some six thousand feet, in 1867. By the time Kesler arrived, it was almost a ruin. But over the course of the twentieth century, generations of Keslers renovated and cared for Cove Fort and the land it occupied, using it as a ranch, way station, and destination for tourists. Drawing from oral histories, Andersen contextualizes the Keslers’ experience within the broader changes of the twentieth century as the family “fought to maintain sense of autonomy, a way of life and understanding of the past that shaped their identity and relationship to the land.” 

Next, Sara Dant presents an extensively researched history of log drives along the Weber River and other waterways. A regional market for timber grew in the final decades of the nineteenth century, stimulated in large part by the development of railroads and mines. Entrepreneurs in Utah and elsewhere answered this demand by cutting thousands of trees in mountain forests and driving the hewn logs down river to their next destination. As Dant observes, “In the arid West, water is the essential element,” providing both sustenance and “highways of timber commerce and trade.” This financially significant industry also had a negative impact on the region’s forests and waterways, a fact that was observed by Albert Potter, Reed Smoot, and others.

Our third article continues the theme of regional resource extraction with William Parry’s account of William S. Godbe’s mining activities. From the 1860s onward, Godbe and his eight sons were deeply involved in the mineral development of Utah and Nevada. The Godbe men opened mines, combed through tailings, founded companies, created new chemical processes, and much more in their search for mineral wealth. In these endeavors, they met with only partial success and, unfortunately, damaged their own health and, presumably, the health of their employees and the land.

Laurie Bryant rounds out the issue with an article that pieces together the history of Utah’s first hospital for the mentally ill: an institution run both publicly and privately that had a decidedly rocky career and became part of the religious and cultural tensions that were so present in late-nineteenth-century Salt Lake City. In reconstructing a history of the asylum, Bryant also pays tribute to its patients—people who endured much and yet whose lives were infinitely valuable.