Progress in 175 years: Discovering new stories of Utah’s pioneers

Oct 2, 2022, 12:45 PM | Updated: Oct 3, 2022, 9:21 am
The new monuments at This is the place heritage park....
A crew begins to install a new monument honoring early Black pioneers at This is the Place Heritage Park. The new monument will be unveiled and dedicated on July 22, 2022. Photo credit: Joseph Reidhead.

SALT LAKE CITY — Mary Richards with the Church News returns to KSL NewsRadio to celebrate lesser-known stories of Utah Pioneers; from the early Black pioneers who helped settle the Salt Lake Valley, to early female politicians leading the suffrage movement, and innovative individuals who helped put silicone slopes on the map.

Richards is joined by “His Name is Green Flake” director Mauli Bonner, Senior State Historian of the Utah Division of State History Doctor Holly George, Better Days Education Director Tiffany Greene and Historical Director Rebekah Clark, and executive director of This is the Place Heritage Park, Ellis Ivory. Together they explore individuals who rooted the Beehive state in our pioneering heritage, and how we can connect to these predecessors in story, spirit, and place.

“His Name is Green Flake”

On July 22, 2022, a new monument honoring the pioneers was unveiled and dedicated at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City. The monument is the first to honor the African American pioneers who came in 1847. Specifically, it honors pioneers Green Flake, Brothers Hark Wales and Oscar Smith and Jane Manning James.

Bonner led the movement to get a monument in Utah featuring the Black Pioneers of 1847. He says, thanks to his film, he noticed the Beehive State did not have any monuments honoring these pioneers.

“It wasn’t until after the film did well and won awards, [that] I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, great. Let’s take a picture by the monuments,’ because I live in California,” he tells Richards. “I know Utah loves its monuments. So I just assumed that there were already established monuments of these black pioneers, and there weren’t … That’s when I realized that that’s what this film was all about. It was about starting to tell the stories that many have forgotten over the years.”

He says he admires the monument for not including “black pioneers” in its title.

“The monument, it’s called The Pioneers of 1847 … It doesn’t say ‘Black pioneers’ intentionally,” Bonner says. “Because we have to get to the point where we talk about a pioneer. It could be a Black pioneer, a white pioneer, a woman, a man, it could be any one of us. And so I just love that they’re integrated into the park the way it should be.”

Bonner draws strength from Green Flake and the other Black Pioneers of 1847.

“Green Flake was an African American that was born into enslavement. He [was] baptized into the church at an early age, a young teen,” he says. “And at the age of 19, he was assigned to be a part of the advanced team … that came through the valley on July 22, led by Orson Pratt. Green Flake is an incredible young man … When I [say] 19, I automatically think of missionaries and a lot of us are connected to missionaries, we think of our brothers, sisters [and] children. To know that this young man did the unimaginable, I just draw strength from him.”

Martha Hughes Cannon and women’s suffrage

Greene and Clark join Richards to discuss women’s suffrage throughout Utah’s history. Particularly, they discuss the first female state senator, Martha Hughes Cannon, who will soon be getting her own statue at the US State Capitol in Statuary Hall.

“Martha was very exceptional in many ways,” Clark tells Richards. “She was a doctor. She received four degrees by the time she was 25. This is in the 1800s when women were often not going on to pursue further education.”

Greene says Hughes Cannon was not born more exceptional than other women of her time.

“She was raised by a generation of females who taught her to be that way,” Green tells Richards. “And then generations in the future looked to Martha Hughes Cannon and her peers, and they taught the younger people how to become the people that would be helpful and contribute to their society.”

This passing along of Hughes Cannon’s character inspires Greene to be helpful and contribute to her society.

“Learning this history, really, for me, integrates me into that fabric and makes it really meaningful for me to continue the work in however I can today in my community,” she says.

This is The Place Heritage Park

What better place to learn more about Utah’s shared heritage than This Is The Place Heritage Park. Ivory joins Richards, talking about the park and the history within its parameters.

They open the discussion by talking about the very spot where Brigham Young’s uttered the words, “This is the place.”

“It all began with a single marker for 70 years, people in the valley here all knew that the pioneers came down Immigration Canyon. And then finally, in 1915, there was a decision to put a marker there,” Ivory tells Richards. “That marker, interestingly, was a cross. And that cross said, ‘This is the place Brigham Young 1847.'”

According to Ivory, this cross was the only marker in the area until 1921, when an obelisk was built to replace it.

The obelisk is one of many pieces of history found within the park.

“When people come to the park, it is our hope that they have a good time and enjoy things such as panning for gold and other things that feature the history,” Ivory says. “But also we want them to learn about history and to learn about and just feel the importance of this spot. Because it wasn’t just the beginning of the Mormon kingdom here. It was also the opening of the West.”

KellieAnne Halvorsen and Mary Richards contributed to this article.

Bonneville International Corporation, the company that owns KSL NewsRadio, is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Listen to the full special here:


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Progress in 175 years: Discovering new stories of Utah’s pioneers