Granite For The Temple

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The Salt Lake City temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was dedicated on April 6, 1893. Construction had begun with a ground breaking on February 14, 1853. In the forty years between these two dates, the delays to completion were numerous and many, but the most visible was the difficulties of moving the granite construction materials from their quarry, twenty miles north to the temple site in Salt Lake City.

At first, sandstone was used as the temple foundation, but because of the planned size (and weight) of the building, was soon found to be inadequate. In about 1858-1859 after construction resumed following the troubles with the U. S. government and the coming of Johnston's Army, a granite quarry was opened at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

The temple site itself was located within but a few days of the Pioneers' entry into the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. In her 1931 biography of her father Brigham Young, Susa Young Gates relates how on July (?), Brigham Young stood in an open area bisected by City Creek and said, "Here we will build the temple of our God." At that time, the temple block was laid out covering ten acres, on the pattern of the ancient temple in Jerusalem: "It extends a full city block, -- one eighth of a mile in each of its four directions; and, it is interesting to note, these dimensions are practically the same as those which, according to Josephus, enclosed the grounds on which stood the Temple of Herod." (Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.115)

The formal decision to go ahead with temple construction was voted on less than four years later at the church's general conference on April 6, 1851. A general epistle issued by the First Presidency of the Church, on the following Monday, April 7, saying, "We contemplate laying a wall around the Temple Block this season, preparatory to laying the foundation of a Temple the year following." They addressed the needed transportation of building materials at the same time, "A railroad has been chartered to extend from the Temple Block in this city to the stone quarry and mountain on the east, for the conveyance of building materials; the construction to commence immediately." (Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.114)

The first railroad in Utah was to have wooden rails, with plans to use it to move sandstone from Red Butte Canyon, to the site of the LDS temple in Salt Lake City. After work started on the temple in 1853, they found that heavy wagons with wide wheels worked better, allowing two trips in a single day.

Construction of the first railroad in Utah began as early as May 1851, as evidenced by a note in the May 17, 1851 issue of Deseret News, saying, "The railroad grading is progressing well, considering the frequent hindrance by rain." Another mention came on November 15, 1851, "The railroad is progressing, the grading is completed to a considerable extent; nothing has been done on it since spring, until recently." More progress was reported on January 24, 1852, "The grading of the Rail-Road is progressing; all under contract. It is proposed to use broad tire on the grade, at present, without rails."

Work on the Salt Lake temple stopped in 1857, and remained halted through 1858 after the U. S. Army came through. Work resumed in the late fall of 1861, after the Army left the area. By that time, the temple builders had discovered that sandstone cracked due to the heavy stones above, and granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon was substituted. But the granite quarry was 20 miles away. A call went out for oxen and wagons, and the work began to move granite blocks, large and small, on a round trip that took four days.

A canal was started in 1854, taking its water from Big Cottonwood Creek, but its location would not hold water.

(Read more about the canals along Salt Lake City's east bench; includes a map)

With the railroad completed to Sandy, just five miles from the granite quarries, a branch was begun in 1872 to reach the granite quarries. But work was abandoned after a narrow gauge line was organized for two purposes, to get to the granite at the mouth of the canyon, and to get up the canyon to move the high-value gold and silver ore. The Wasatch & Jordan Valley Railway was completed to the granite quarries in April 1873, but financial problems and construction delays kept the line from reaching the mining town of Alta until 1875, serving the gold and silver mines discovered in Little Cottonwood Canyon in 1864.

(Read more about the Wasatch & Jordan Valley Railway)

April 5, 1873
The following comes from the April 5, 1873 issue of the Deseret Evening News.

James C. Livingston with a force of men were busily engaged in quarrying rock for the Temple, and as the railroad has now reached that point the transportation of the rock will henceforth be an easy matter, and a large amount of stone will, we were told, speedily be transported thence to the Temple Block in this city. Every stone is quarried the size required and then numbered, and it only needs dressing when it reaches its destination, before it is ready for its place in the structure for which it is intended. The first piece hauled from the quarry by rail was brought yesterday, on a flat in the train which President Young and party traveled. It was an arch stone, 5-1/2 feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet thick, and weighed three and three quarters tons. (Deseret Evening News, April 5, 1873)

(A photo by C. R. Savage, apparently taken on the day of President Young's trip, shows a scene at Granite, the transfer point between steam trains and mule-powered trains for both passengers and empty ore cars. The photo shows a mule powered train blocking the view of a steam train.)

The last large granite stones were moved in the winter of 1891-1892.

In 1914, granite from the same quarries was used for the state capital building, and the LDS church's administration building in downtown Salt Lake City, as well as the D&RGW freight house in Ogden. The Salt Lake & Alta railroad was organized specifically to move the granite for these two projects.

(Read more about the railroads of Little Cottonwood canyon; includes a map)

Another bit has come to light... Ron Andersen wrote in 1997: Vine Street follows the north bank of Little Cottonwood Creek and was apparently a trail used by Indians and probably animals before them. The first store and post office in Murray was at the corner of State and Vine. The road along Vine Street was narrow between the springs on the Mick Riley golf course and Little Cottonwood Creek. Wagons hauling granite rock to Temple Square would frequently bog down, if this stretch of the trail was wet.

The actual location of the church granite quarry appears to be near the intersection of North Little Cottonwood Road, and South Little Cottonwood Road, in the mouth of the canyon.

The community known as Wasatch, where the D&RGW standard gauge branch ended and the narrow gauge branch of the former W&JV began, along with being the interchange point between the standard gauge Salt Lake and Alta Railroad and the narrow gauge Little Cottonwood Transportation Company, appears to be near what today is known as Wasatch Resort, approximately one mile further east (up-canyon) from the granite quarry.

The community of Granite was centered around the Granite ward house, at the intersection of today's 9800 South and 3100 East. Granite was the community that grew up at the location where the granite wagon teamsters would overnight and graze their teams of oxen and draft horses.


Railroad Map -- The alignment of the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad, and the later D&RGW Wasatch Branch, was along today's South Little Cottonwood Road east from the intersection of 9400 South and Highland Drive. West of there, the alignment matches a diagonal line that includes today's Cy's Road, to the approximate center of historic Sandy at about 8800 South and 150 East.

Research Notes

Red Butte to Temple Block Railroad

April 7, 1851
"A railroad has been chartered, to extend from Temple block in this city, to the stone quarry and mountain on the east, for the conveyance of building materials; the construction to commence immediately." (Fifth General Epistle, Deseret News, April 8, 1851; See also: The Latter Day Saints Millennial Star, Volume 13, Number 14, July 15, 1851)

May 17, 1851
"The railroad grading is progressing well, considering the frequent hindrance by rain." (Deseret News, May 17, 1851, page 4)

September 1, 1851
"The city and mountain railroad has been commenced; the sleepers and rails contracted for, and a part of them delivered by the brothers Gardner. The river Jordan is found to be navigable from the city to Gardner's mill, and if no obstacle is found above the mill, its navigation from that city to Provo city will prove highly useful at no far distant period." (The Latter Day Saints Millennial Star, September 1, 1851)

November 15, 1851
"The rail-road is progressing, the grading is completed to a considerable extent; nothing has been done on it since spring, until recently." (Deseret News, November 15, 1851)

February 14, 1853
Discussing the need for a railroad to get stone for the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, Brigham Young stated, "While the brethren are before me, let me say, that we cannot commence to lay rock here without time, and we cannot get the stone for the foundation without the railroad from this place to the quarry is completed; these two items must be attended to. This is sufficient to say upon that matter." (Brigham Young, delivered on the temple block on the occasion of dedicating the ground where the temple was to be built, Great Salt Lake City, February 14, 1853; Journal of Discourses, Volume 1, page 279)

January 24, 1852
"The rail-road is progressing; all under contract. It is proposed to use broad tire on the grade, at present, without rails." (Deseret News, January 24, 1852)


After work started on the LDS Salt Lake City temple in 1853, heavy wagons with wide wheels were used to move sandstone blocks from Red Butte canyon to the temple site. The short distance allowed two trips in a single day. Work on the temple stopped in 1857 when the U. S. Army came through, and resumed in 1862. When work resumed, they discovered that sandstone cracked due to the heavy stones above, and granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon was substituted. But the granite quarry was 20 miles away. A call went out for oxen and wagons, and the work began to move granite blocks, large and small, on a round trip that took four days, much too long to complete the project in the time period desired.

To expedite delivery and also to reduce the cost by three-fourths, a canal was proposed on which the granite stones could be delivered on barges. Though conceived as early as 1849 the canal was long in coming. A first attempt was begun in 1855, taking its water from Big Cottonwood Creek, but its location would not hold water.

(Read more about the canals along Salt Lake City's east bench; includes a map)

Salt Lake Temple

In his "Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869", Eugene E. Campbell wrote:

The foundation was initially of sandstone but was torn up when a large granite quarry was located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, twenty miles southeast of the city. Except during the Utah War, several hundred tithing artisans worked steadily on the structure. Other workers brought lumber from a sawmill in Big Cottonwood Canyon. About fifty teams from the various wards in Salt Lake Valley hauled rock from the quarry to the temple site, where stonecutters dressed the large stones. Three or four yoke of oxen were required for each load, which consisted of one huge block and two smaller blocks. Larger granite blocks weighed as much as five tons; blocks weighing three tons were common. Cattle yards to take care of three hundred head of cattle were constructed near the Little Cottonwood quarry. Hay was furnished by the public works, and each ward was asked to furnish grain for the animals. The drivers lodged near the corral in tents. With luck, teams could go from Salt Lake City to the quarry and return with a load to the temple site in two days.

In general, church leaders tried to restrict the use of tithing funds to the purchase of imported machinery and supplies and, after the construction of a railroad to the quarry in 1873, to pay for the freight. Construction of the railway made it possible for whole trainloads of granite blocks to be rolled onto the temple grounds every few days as needed. Threatened famine from grasshoppers and other natural crises interrupted the work repeatedly, and it was also suspended in 1868-69 during the construction of the transcontinental railroad.

July 22, 1857
"On the 22nd of July, 1857, a great procession of people might have been seen wending their way along the eastern hillsides of the Salt Lake Valley on their way to a lake in Big Cottonwood canyon. The night of that day, they camped at the granite quarry from which the rock was then already being hewn for the foundation of the Temple. On the following morning, President Young and the leaders of the Church led the procession up through the canyon to a place selected for the celebration." "Next day being the Twenty-fourth, ten years had passed since the faithful pioneers entered the Valleys of the Mountains. At noon, Bishop Smoot, Judson Stoddard, Judge Elias Smith, and O. P. Rockwell arrived in camp. The first named two brought the unhappy news with them from the East that the government had withdrawn the mail contract, and were sending a new governor, judges, and 2500 troops to Utah to suppress an insurrection that had never existed." (Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, As Recorded In His Daily Journals, Prepared For Publication By Matthias F. Cowley, 1909, page 382)

October 1861
"The foundation walls of the temple, which were temporarily covered up when the work there on was suspended in 1858 to prevent injury while the war cloud then approaching from the east, was passing over, have recently been uncovered and the rubbish cleared away preparatory to the recommencement of the work of building early in the in the coming spring." "There has been a large quantity of granite blocks hauled from the Little Cottonwood quarry during the last two months, most of which have been squared and fitted for the places they are to occupy in the walls." (Deseret News, December 18, 1861, "last two months")

When the Utah Southern reached Sandy in September of 1871 and the Sandy station was finished, the granite blocks quarried in Little Cottonwood Canyon for the Temple, previously carried by ox-drawn carts, were now transported by rail to the depot in Salt Lake City from which a spur had been built to the temple grounds. It was then that Church officials and others planned the construction of a narrow-gauge branch to run east to complete connections with the Church granite quarry and the mining district at Alta. The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad was organized and the line was completed to the quarry on April 4, 1873. (An Enduring Legacy, Volume Ten, p.299)

August 27, 1872 -- On July 31st the first car load of granite for the Temple 10 or 12 tons, entered the Temple Block, being hauled on the street railroad track by two span of horses and two yoke of cattle. It moved along very smoothly, and was a wonderful improvement on the old ox team arrangement. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 16, p.18)

October 2, 1872
The masons on the Temple Block are engaged in laying two additional courses of rock on the walls of the Temple. The courses on the East wall are nearly completed, which enables a person to form a better idea than formerly of the magnificent character of the building and what it will be when it is completed. The progress being made in the erection of the house of God cannot be otherwise than gratifying to every true-hearted Latter-day Saint. The greatest care is exercised in the performance of the work in the building of the house. All the mortar used is put through a horsepower mill and ground before it is applied to the structure, in order that it may be rendered as fine as possible, making it impervious to air and moisture, and thus precluding the possibility of early decay. The greatest nicety is manifested by Brother Angell, who superintends the work, in having the stone laid to a "hair's breath." Several car loads of granite were brought to the block this morning, by locomotive, which is a frequent occurrence. Deseret News, Oct. 2, 1872. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 16, p.15)

Saturday, May 3, 1873 -- The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railway was completed to Granite, at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 17, p.4)

October 8, 1873
"We have now gained an advantage that we never had before -- that is, railway communication directly with the granite quarry. It is true that we have to change from narrow to broad gauge, causing a little trouble; we bring from two to four carloads a day of this granite on to the Temple Block. There are some eighty men cutting these stones, and there is a party of men now engaged in laying them." (George A. Smith, delivered at the Semi-Annual Conference, held in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, October 8, 1873)

May 10, 1874
"For the last year we have had from sixty to ninety men engaged in cutting stone on [the temple block], and a number of other mechanics to supply them with tools and other necessaries; last summer we had a considerable force of men laying these stones on the walls. In Little Cottonwood Canyon we have continually at work a force of from twenty-five to sixty men quarrying granite, and every day, Sundays excepted, two or three carloads of this granite, from ten to twelve tons each load, are brought from the quarry to the Temple Block." (George A. Smith, delivered at the Semi-Annual General Conference, held in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, May 10, 1874)

Description of the Salt Lake Temple (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3):

SITE SELECTION. Several days after the LDS pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847, Brigham Young planted his walking stick at a certain point while traversing the ground with some associates and exclaimed, "Here we will build the temple of our God" (Gates, p. 104).

CONSTRUCTION. Construction on the temple began on February 14, 1853, with Brigham Young turning the first shovel full of dirt in ground-breaking ceremonies. That April 6, the cornerstones were laid, following the pattern established for temples by Joseph Smith (cf. TPJS, p. 183). By this date, Truman O. Angell and William Ward, architect and assistant, had completed plans for the foundation and part of the basement, and Brigham Young had approved them. Sandstone from nearby Red Butte Canyon provided the basic material for the foundation and footings. The great walls of the building were to be granite from a vast mountain deposit in Little Cottonwood canyon about twenty miles away.

The foundation was completed in 1855, and some granite blocks were assembled on the site. Then, in 1858, under threat of an approaching U.S. army unit (see Utah Expedition), the Saints evacuated Salt Lake City and temporarily moved southward. They buried the foundation of the temple, leaving the appearance of a plowed field.

Work on the temple was not resumed for several years. Some deterioration of the foundation was discovered when it was re-excavated, and replacements were made with stone of the best quality. The exterior walls from the ground up, eight feet thick at ground level and six feet thick at the top, were painstakingly prepared and fitted from solid granite.

Transporting the granite from the mountain quarry proved to be a severe challenge. The builders tried using a wooden railroad spur, a canal, special roads, and even a uniquely constructed wagon. Although it was less than forty miles, a round trip required four days. The arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 and the later laying of a spur into the canyon for mining purposes resolved the transportation problem.

As many as 150 men worked on the temple at any given time. During the forty years from the beginning to the end of the project, they also completed the construction of the great domed Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall, the Temple Annex, and a 15-foot-high wall that, a century and a half later, still sequesters Temple Square from the city that surrounds it.

COMPLETION AND DEDICATION. The capstone was laid April 6, 1892, one year before the dedication, amidst a tremendous spiritual outpouring of appreciation and anticipation. After the large spherical capstone was put in place, the people unanimously adopted a resolution to complete and dedicate the building one year from that date. That afternoon, the 12-foot-high gold-leafed copper statue representing the angel Moroni was placed on the central eastern spire, anchored through the capstone with huge weights suspended into the tower below.

Granite For the Temple

The Temple Block, a square of ten acres, was laid off in 1847.

At the General Conference of the Church held in April, 1851, an official vote was taken whereby the erection of the Temple was authorized. A general epistle issued by the First Presidency of the Church, April 7, 1851, reads as follows: "A railroad has been chartered to extend from the Temple Block in this city to the stone quarry and mountain on the east, for the conveyance of building materials; the construction to commence immediately." (See Contributor, Vol. XIV: No. 6. April, 1893; p. 248.)

In April, 1851, the members of the Church, assembled in general conference, voted unanimously to build the temple.

The following comes from Treasures of Pioneer History, Volume 6, pages 392-393:

The temple is built of gray granite taken from the mountain of that enduring material at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, twenty miles southeast of the city. Many blocks of granite in the walls are so large that four yoke of oxen were required to haul each of them, occupying four days in transit. This process of hauling rock by ox-teams from the quarry to the temple site was so slow and expensive that President Brigham Young decided to have a canal constructed to carry the rocks by boat. Accordingly, the canal was dug, at a great cost, from the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon across the bench land.

Some idea of the massiveness of the building, and of the enormous amount of rock used in its construction, may be obtained from the following figures: Foundation, or footing wall, sixteen feet wide and eight feet deep; basement walls, eight feet thick; upper story walls, six feet thick. The extreme length of the building is 186 1/2 feet; extreme width, 118 1/2. Height of side walls on the main building, 107 1/2 feet; east center tower, 210 feet high; west center tower, 204 feet. Inverted arches are constructed in the foundation, to distribute evenly the enormous pressure of the massive walls. The entire area is 21,850 feet.

The architecture of the Temple is composite and original. The six towers, three on the east and three on the west, are built entirely of granite. Within each of the four corner towers there is a spiral staircase. There are 172 granite steps, and four landings, in each of these stairways. Each step is six feet long, and weighs over 1,700 pounds. (Treasures of Pioneer History, Volume 6, pages 392-393)

We contemplate laying a wall around the Temple Block this season, preparatory to laying the foundation of a Temple the year following; and this we will be sure to do, if all the Saints do not pay their tithing, we can neither build nor prepare for building; and if there shall be no endowments, and if they do not receive their endowments, they can never attain that salvation they are anxiously looking for." (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.114 - p.115)

Temple Construction Started

The site was dedicated and ground first broken for the foundation February 14, 1853. The occasion was a notable one, and was observed by the Saints as a day of general rejoicing. Between the date of breaking ground and the time of the next succeeding conference of the Church, preparations for the laying of the corner-stones were carried on with determination and vigor. The glad event occurred on the 6th of April, 1853, -- the twenty-third anniversary of the organization of the Church, -- and was celebrated by the people with such evidences of thanksgiving and genuine joy as assured their devotion to the work so auspiciously begun. Civic and military bodies took part; there were processions with bands of music, and solemn services with prayer. The mayor of the city was marshal of the day; the city police served as a guard of honor, and the territorial militia marched with the congregation of the Saints. The placing of the corner-stones was celebrated as an accomplished triumph, though but a beginning. (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.115 - p.116)

The plan of the building was given by Brigham Young, President of the Church, and the structural details were worked out under his direction by the Church architect -- Truman O. Angell. A description by the latter was published as early as 1854, both in Utah (See "Deseret News," Salt Lake City, August 17, 1854.)and abroad (See "Millennial Star," Liverpool, Vol. 16, p. 753. "The Illustrated London News" of June 13, 1857, contains an article, "Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City," in which are given many specifications of construction. In connection with the text appears a large woodcut of the great building in perspective; and this picture is a true representation of the finished structure except as to details of spires and finials.) (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.119)

Let it not be imagined that the work was carried through without hindrance of set-back. The foundation was commenced at the south-east corner June 16, 1853, and was completed July 23, 1855. A course of rubble was laid on the actual foundation and this was succeeded by courses of flagstone. The work had gone forward but slowly, when, in 1857, a serious interruption occurred. At that time the people prepared to abandon their homes, temporarily at least, and seek an abiding place elsewhere in the desert. The cause of the portending exodus was the approach of an armed force sent by the United States government to subdue an alleged rebellion in Utah. This military movement had been ordered through an utter misunderstanding of facts, based on vicious misrepresentation. The coming of the soldiery had been heralded with dire threats of violence; and while the people knew themselves innocent of any act of disloyalty toward the government or its officers, they had not forgotten the harrowing scenes of organized persecution in Missouri and Illinois, due to misapprehension, and they preferred the uncertainties of the desert to the dread alternative of a possible repetition of the past. In the saddening preparations for departure, the people carefully covered the foundation work on the site of the Temple; excavations were re-filled, and every vestige of masonry was obscured. At that time no part of the foundation had been carried above ground-level. When the covering up process was complete, the site showed nothing more attractive than a remote resemblance to the barren stretch of a roughly plowed field. (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.116 - p.117)

In the morning session of the general conference of the Church held in the Old Tabernacle, April 6, 1864, President Wells addressed the conference on the aims of the Public Works, urging the necessity of the wards in the Territory furnishing teams to haul the granite rock from the quarries during the spring and summer for the Temple, in order to meet the demands of workmen for labor during the fall, winter, and following spring. He called attention to the rock and timber required for the erection of the New Tabernacle for the approaching fall. Large red sandstone blocks quarried in Red Butte Canyon were brought to the site on heavily-constructed drays that sometimes required 2 or 3 yoke of oxen and by July 26, 1864, enough rock had been provided to lay the cornerstone, which was probably the first stone in one of the piers which supported the roof. Gradually the piers or pillars which were to support the roof were constructed, and sometime in late 1864 were completed. At this point, it is said, Brigham Young advised the superintendents to stop work for some months so that the pillars might settle before the massive roof was built. In the meantime, however, materials that would be needed for the large construction were being gathered. More than three-fourths of the timbers were supplied by Elder Joseph A. Young. Several hundred thousand feet of finishing lumber was furnished by President Wells, and a large quantity was provided by Elders Feramorz Little, Samuel A. Woolley and a few others. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 11, p.80)

Construction Stops Due To The Arrival Of The U. S. Army

It is pleasing to note that a peaceable adjustment between the army and the people was effected. The Saints returned to their homes; and the soldiers established a camp, -- afterward to become a post, -- at a distance of forty miles from the city.

The interruption in building operations thus occasioned was followed by a short period of comparative inactivity, after the return of the people. The foundations were uncovered; but, before the resumption of stone-laying, it was found that the rubble overlying the foundation proper and immediately under the flagstone layers seemed to have less stability than was required; and straightway both flagging and rubble were removed. Stone of best quality was substituted, and the work of actual construction was continued with renewed energy. The reconstruction was a work of years.

The temple enclosures was for a brief period the communal center of mechanical industry, -- the one great work-shop of the intermountain commonwealth. The Church had established there its public works, comprising a power plant in which the energy of City Creek was harnessed to the wheel, air-blast equipment, iron foundry, and machine shops for the working of both wood and metal. Much of the work here done had no connection with the extensive building operations on Temple Block. (For description of this feature of early enterprise, see an admirable article, "The Salt Lake Temple," by James H. Anderson, in "The Contributor," Vol. XIV, No. 6, April, 1893. The article gives much detailed information concerning the work of erecting the Great Temple.)

Beside the interruptions and delays already noted, other hindrances were inevitable, and, under the best of conditions progress could be but slow. Not until years after the "move" incident to the entrance of the federal soldiery, had the material of the main structure been decided upon. As far back as the October conference of 1852 the question of material had been considered. Oolite from the quarries in Sanpete County, red sandstone from the hills near-by, adobes with intermixed pebbles, -- each had been suggested; and the matter was brought to vote, though it must be admitted, the question presented was somewhat indefinite in form. At the forenoon session of the conference on October 9, 1852, President Heber C. Kimball submitted the question: "Shall we have the Temple built of stone from Red Butte, adobes, rock, or the best stone the mountains afford?"  In reply a resolution was adopted by unanimous vote to the effect "that we build a Temple of the best materials that can be obtained in the mountains of North America, and that the Presidency dictate where the stone and other materials shall be obtained."  The action is significant as showing the faith, reliance, and determination of the people. The Temple they were about to rear should be in every particular the best the people could produce. This modern The House of the Lord was to be no temporary structure, nor of small proportions, nor of poor material, nor of mean or inadequate design. It was known at the outset that the building could not be finished for many a long year, for decades, perhaps, and by that time this colony would have become a commonwealth, the few would have grown to a multitude of souls.  The Temple was to be worthy of the great future. Sandstone, oolite, adobe blocks, each and all were considered, and in turn rejected. The decision was to this effect, -- the walls should be of solid granite. An enormous deposit of this durable stone had been discovered in the Cottonwood canyons, twenty miles to the south-east, and to those faith-impelled people it was enough to know that suitable material was available. At whatever cost of toil and sacrifice, at whatever toll of self-denial and suffering, it should be procured. (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, pages 117-119)

The so-called "temple granite" is in reality a syenite, and occurs as an immense laccolith in the Cottonwood section of the Wasatch. The erosion of long ages had cut deep canyons through the eruptive mass; and glaciers, descending with irresistible force, had dislodged and transported countless boulders, many of them of colossal size. These isolated blocks, known as erratics, furnished the supply of building stone; it was not found necessary to quarry into the granite mountain-mass in place. In the canyon the boulders were divided mostly by the use of hand-drills and wedges, though low power explosives were used to a small extent. The rough blocks were conveyed at first by ox-teams; four yoke were required for each block, and every trip was a labored journey of three or four days. A canal for the conveyance of the rock by water was projected, and, indeed, work thereon was begun, but the plan was abandoned as the prospect of railroad transportation became more certain. (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.119)

The temple was constructed of gray granite taken from a mountain of that enduring material in Little Cottonwood Canyon, twenty miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Many of the blocks of granite in the walls are so large that four yoke of oxen were required to haul each of them, occupying four days in transit. This process of hauling rock by ox teams, from the quarry to the Temple site, was so slow and expensive that President Young decided to have a canal made to carry the rock by boats. Accordingly, the canal was dug, at great cost, from the mouth of the Canyon across the bench land to an outlet in City Creek, near Temple block. But in 1873, before the canal was sufficiently completed to be made available for the main purpose in view, a line of railway was laid which supplanted this contemplated use of the canal. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 14, p.415)

The entrance of the Union Pacific Railway into Utah, in 1868, served temporarily to retard the work on the Temple, as the call for laborers on the great trans-continental line was deemed imperative. Eventually, however, the activity in railroad construction operated as a great assistance in the undertaking; for, to the main line, branches succeeded; and, by 1873, a side line had reached the granite quarries. From the city station a track was constructed up South Temple Street, and into Temple Block. (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.122 - p.123)

The work of construction proceeded so slowly as to arouse a feeling akin to impatience in the hearts of over-anxious Saints, and mild restraint was called for. At other times gentle urging was necessary. The work was apportioned to the people of the Territory, which, for convenience, was divided into temple districts. Stakes and wards and quorums of the Priesthood were assigned their parts, and an effective system of divided labor and responsibility was developed. (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.123)

Wagons drawn by oxen were driven down Fifth East loaded with blocks of granite stone to be used in the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. The folks living along the street enjoyed watching them pass by. Anyone living above or below Fifth East had their view blocked by sunflowers along the street growing so high that the wagons could not be seen. The rumble of the heavy wagons and the call of the drivers to their oxen was a signal to hurry out to the street if one wished to see them. (An Enduring Legacy, Volume Three, p.98)

Among the principal attractions was the temple block, surrounded in 1860 with a wall of red sand-stone, on which were placed layers of adobe, fashioned in imitation of some richer substance, and raising it to a height of ten feet. On each face of the wall were thirty pilasters, also of adobe, protected by sandstone copings, but without pedestals or entablatures. Up to the year 1860 the cost of the wall and the foundations of the edifice already amounted to $1,000,000, a sum equal to the entire outlay of the temple at Nauvoo. The block was consecrated on the 3rd of February, 1853, and the corner-stones laid with imposing ceremonies on the 6th of the following April. In August, 1860, the foundations, which were sixteen feet deep and of gray granite, had been completed, but no further progress had been made.... (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 4, p.5)

April 6th, 1853, the Temple in Salt Lake City was commenced. It is constructed of granite. The rock was hauled, the first fifteen years, with ox teams, a distance of sixteen miles, two yoke of oxen frequently being required to draw one huge stone. But many years before the completion of the Temple, the locomotive, with many ear loads of stone at a [p.58]time, rolled into the Temple block and left its cargo by the side of the growing edifice. The capstone of this magnificent house of the Lord was laid by electricity. The current was applied by the finger of God's Prophet, Wilford Woodruff, then eighty-four years of age, and one of that noble band of one hundred forty-three who entered Salt Lake valley July 24th, 1847. President Young was instrumental in laying the foundation of four temples in Utah, at Salt Lake, St. George. Logan and Manti. All have been, years ago, completed; the Salt Lake Temple being dedicated April 6th, 1893, by President Wilford Woodruff. The ordinances of salvation for the living and the dead are performed in the temples, and tens of thousands have been officiated for since their completion. (Matthias F. Cowley, Cowley's Talks on Doctrine p.57)

Granite Community, Salt Lake County

The following comes from "Our Pioneer Heritage," Volume 20, pages 445-446.

In the 1860's, a town named Granite was located at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon by ore miners of Alta, Silverton and Tannersville. Its desertion began as the mines closed about 1882. The surrounding country had been settled by Latter-day Saints. Granite Ward organized July 1877 chose Solomon J. Despain, bishop. A rock ward house was used for worship and school until the completion in 1890 of the one-room building on this block.

A stone quarry was established in Little Cottonwood Canyon in 1859 to furnish granite for the erection of the Salt Lake Temple. This and the need of a stopping place for the miners working in the canyon brought about the existence of a town near the mouth of the canyon. Latter-day Saint farmers settled in the area, providing stability to the town.

Property obtained about 1875 through the homestead act by Joseph and Sarah Despain was deeded to the town for a school in 1890. This building consisted of one room and was constructed of crude lumber and rock. It also was used as a meeting place for the Church. A few years later a substantial rock meetinghouse was erected on the new townsite. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 20, pp. 445-446)

The following comes from "An Enduring Legacy," Volume Three, Pages 234-235.

The history of Granite began about 1859, when the LDS quarry was first operated at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. This quarry opened when work was resumed on the temple after the return of the Saints from the general exodus south to avoid Johnston's Army. After that time a regular force of men was kept steadily at work getting out granite rock for the temple until it was completed. These workers used the Granite area as a camping ground for several years until the easily accessible granite became scarce and the quarries had to be moved further up the canyon. Then the quarrymen selected Wasatch Resort as their home base.

In August of 1861, Solomon J. Despain, a convert to the Church from Illinois, arrived with his family in the Salt Lake Valley. Looking for a place to build his home, he selected a tract of land on the Little Cottonwood Creek, a short distance below the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon; thus he and his family became the first permanent residents of the town of Granite. He owned and operated a saw and shingle mill in the canyon and farmed.

In 1868, when the Little Cottonwood Mining District was organized at Alta, extensive mining and smelting began in the canyon. Granite was founded in 1870 during the mining period, and for several years it was a town of considerable importance. There was a telegraph office at Solomon Despain's home. During its greatest prosperity (1872-74), Granite City consisted of about fifty buildings, mostly stores, saloons, boardinghouses and cabins for the accommodation of the workmen employed at the Flagstaff and Davenport smelters and the teamsters who hauled the ore from the Alta mines down to the smelters. In fact, teaming was the main support of the town for some time.

In the late 1870s when the mines in Alta petered out and the smelters ceased operations and were moved elsewhere, the mining town of Granite became extinct.

In the meantime, Latter-day Saint farmers began to settle at different points along the creeks. In 1873 Andrew Hansen was the first to homestead land on Danish Road. Little Willow Creek supported the farm of Thomas Wilkinson, the first settler of Butlerville in 1869. Even earlier than this, the settlers on Big Cottonwood Creek had made many improvements on the land.

The following comes from the web site of the Granite Community Council.

In 1859, a stone quarry was established at the mouth of the canyon on the north side of the creek to provide granite for the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. The quarry operated intermittently from 1860 to 1870, when James C. Livingston was sent to the quarry to establish a permanent operation. In 1874, the Church quarrymen moved one and one half miles further into the canyon following the route of the newly constructed railroad to its terminus at Fairfield Flat to a site where the stones were large and numerous and seemed to be of a higher grade material than those at the mouth of the canyon. The town of Wasatch was established at the terminus site not far from the quarry. The town grew from 13 people in 1874 to 300 people in 1883. The town flourished until the quarry discontinued operation in 1893 when the temple was completed. However, the remains of Wasatch continues today as Wasatch Resort, with several summer homes as well as some year around homes dotting the landscape.

In 1869, rich mineral deposits were discovered in Little Cottonwood Canyon at Alta and several other locations. with the influx of miners and teamsters resulting from the rich ore discoveries in Alta as well as the increase of workers at the quarry, plus the lumberjacks and other workers at the sawmills in the canyon, a town called Granite was established in 1870 at the mouth of the canyon adjacent to the quarry site. At the time of its greatest prosperity, 1872 to 1874, Granite consisted of about fifty buildings, mostly stores, saloons, boarding houses and cabins. A telegraph office and two smelters, the Maxfield and Davenport, were also built. A great many of the residents of Granite were teamsters who hauled ore from the mines to the smelters.

The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad, a branch line to serve the mines in Little Cottonwood Canyon at Alta, was incorporated in October 1872 by both Mormon and non-Mormon business interests. Construction began in Sandy November 4, 1872 and was completed to Granite and the granite quarry in April, 1873 and was finished to Fairfield Flat in the fall of 1873. The line to Alta was not completed until September 12, 1875 due to financial and construction problems resulting from the steep terrain (3,200 feet in 8 miles from mouth of canyon to Alta or a 7.7 per cent grade) in the canyon. Most of mines were worked out or closed down by 1883 and Granite was deserted. While all the activity was taking place at mouth of and in the canyon, Mormon farmers were moving into the area. Solomon Despain, who homesteaded a farm in 1861 near the mouth of the canyon, was one of the first settlers. When the Granite LDS Ward was organized in 1877 he was the first bishop. After the mines closed, a new town of Granite was established a mile west of the former town in the area around 3100 East and 9800 South.

Emmaville - No. 381

In the 1860's miners, granite quarry freighters and stagecoach drivers used a halfway camping ground 333 yards to the south west on Little Willow Creek. Others built homes, boarding houses, 2 stores, 3 saloons, a slaughter yard, blacksmith shop, warehouse, livery stable. F. A. Hoofman & Co. Real Estate Office, John W. Lawrence, Agent. Population reached about 500. After 1871, town was moved to Little Cottonwood Canyon and renamed Ragtown. Several unmarked graves are all that remain. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 20, p.455)

Brighton Camp, Far South East Salt Lake County, Utah

In May 1972 this marker was placed at 8600 South Wasatch Blvd., commemorating the pioneer village of Emmaville, a halfway place where passenger stages, freighters and others could stop on their way between Salt Lake City and the mines in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The stage running between Alpine and Salt Lake also stopped here. Teamsters hauling granite rock from the quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon for construction of the Temple would arrive in Emmaville from Salt Lake City by the first night. The second day they would proceed to the quarry and load a single block of granite, which was suspended by chains beneath the frame of the wagon. They then returned to Emmaville to stay the second night. On the third day they made the return trip to Salt Lake.

At the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon two smelters were built to process ore from the famous Emma mine. Later a narrow-gauge railway was built to transport ore. There were no schools or churches located in this settlement and it existed for only about five years. An epidemic hit and several persons died. The entire settlement moved one and one-half miles into the mouth of the canyon and was renamed Ragtown. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 20, p.455)

South Cottonwood Ward Cemetery

There was a strip of high bench land, completely surrounded by low land, at the intersection of Vine Street and 56th South, lying toward the north on both sides of Vine Street. It was considered almost worthless by the first settlers. They mutually agreed that no individual should fence or take title to it, but that it should be set aside and considered as belonging to South Cottonwood Ward. Before and after the advent of the pioneers, this land was used by the Indians as a camping ground, as water and grass could be obtained on either side of it and the enemies could not approach without being seen long before coming to the high ground. In 1853, when teamsters commenced to haul granite rock from Little Cottonwood Canyon to the Salt Lake Temple, they made it a halfway camping ground.

The south end of the tract was selected as the site on which the South Cottonwood Ward erected their meetinghouse in. In June 1856, the ward leadership planned a cemetery on the high land tract, using the north one-fourth of the tract on the west side of Vine Street, and soon after, the land was cleared, leveled and fenced. The first grave dug was for the burial of John Benbow, who died May 12, 1874. In August 1917, the ward cemetery was deeded to the City of Murray. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 20, pp. 161-164)

Jordan & Salt Lake City Canal

(View a map of the canals along the east bench of Salt Lake Valley)

(Read more about the Jordan & Salt Lake City Canal)

Visits To The Quarry

Visit To the Quarry, April 16, 1873:

By invitation, the following gentlemen accompanied President Brigham Young on a trip to the granite quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon, yesterday afternoon: Hens. George Q. Cannon and William Jennings, Bishops L. D. Young and John Sharp, and H. B. Clawson, Jesse W. Fox, David McKenzie, Thomas Williams, T. G. Webster, Orson Arnold and W. Rossiter, Esqrs. The party left the depot of the Utah Southern at 1 o'clock, where in good time they reached Sandy, where they alighted and got aboard a car on the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad, a narrow gauge line now in course of construction from Sandy to Alta City, in Little Cottonwood Canyon, a distance of 20 miles, and of which six and a half are already completed.

No time was lost by delay at Sandy; but as soon as all were aboard, the trip to Granite, or rather to the quarry, was commenced. It was of a very exhilarating character, the road being of continual ascent until you are fairly in the mountains. The little steamer did her work gallantly, running along at about twelve or fifteen miles an hour. About five miles from Sandy the form of the road is that of a perfect horseshoe, the ends of which are probably a mile apart.

In about a half an hour the quarry was reached, and there a superintendent, James C. Livingston with a force of men are busily engaged in quarrying rock for the Temple, and as the railroad has now reached that point the transportation of rock will henceforth be an easy matter and a very large amount of stone, we are told, will be speedily transported to the Temple Block in this city. Every stone is quarried the size required and then numbered, and it only needs dressing when it reaches its destination, before it is ready for its place in the structure for which it is intended. The first piece hauled from the quarry by rail was brought yesterday, on a flat in the train which President Young and party traveled. It was an arch stone 5-1/2 feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet thick, and weighed three and three-quarters tons.

The party left the quarry a few minutes of 4 o'clock, reached Sandy a few minutes later and arrived in this city a quarter past 5 p.m., having had a very pleasant journey.

The Wasatch and Jordan Valley railroad, the second narrow gauge line in Utah, will prove an immense benefit to the miners of Little Cottonwood, affording them a ready means of transporting their [p.396] ores from the mines, and helping immensely in the development of that entire region of country. The company was organized about the beginning of last November with the following officers: President and Superintendent of Construction, William Jennings; Board of Directors, William Jennings, H. S. Eldredge, James T. Little, Warren Hussey and W. H. Hooper; Secretary, Frank Fuller; Treasurer, James T. Little. The capital stock was $500,000, twenty-five per cent of which had already been assessed.

In that portion of the road now completed there are several heavy cuts, from one of which, just beyond the quarry, seven thousand cubic yards of soil were taken. The work in the cuts is very hard, the subsoil containing a great amount of gravel and many large boulders. The highest grade of the road is 560 feet to the mile, the lowest 100. In the first mile from the junction in Sandy, the rise is 230 feet. Mr. Charles Hardy is the surveyor of the road.

The company has now one locomotive, one mail and baggage car, and ten flats; they have in course of construction at Connellsville, Pa., two first class passenger cars, ten flats and another engine which will possess Colonel French's invention to aid in climbing very steep grades. The engine they now possess has six "drivers" and weighs seventeen tons. They can run from fifteen to twenty miles an hour [p.397] with ease; and have hauled a load of forty-five tons up a grade 224 feet to the mile. The iron on the road weighs ten pounds to the foot. The severe weather of the past winter suspended operations in building the road, but they are now being resumed with great energy. Mr. Jennings informed us that it would be finished to Granite--about three quarters of a mile beyond the quarry--in about ten days, and the intention was to push it through to Alta City by fall. It is ballasted thus far with gravel and granite, and judging by the character of that portion of the road already completed, which reflects great credit on the company', it will be one of the best and most substantially built roads in this or any other part of the country. (Treasures of Pioneer History, Volume 6, pages 396-397, from Deseret News, April 16, 1873; See also: Our Pioneer Heritage, Volume 17, pages 21-22)

Visit To The Quarry, September 17, 1873 (Treasures of Pioneer History, Volume 6, pages 397-398, from Deseret News, September 18, 1873)

Yesterday [September 17, 1873] at about twenty-five minutes to 1 o'clock, a party of gentlemen, on the invitation of Hon. William Jennings, left the depot of the Utah Southern R. R. in this city', on a special train, on a trip to Fairfield's Fiat, the present terminus of the Wasatch and Jordan Valley R. R. in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The party included President Brigham Young, George A. Smith and Daniel H. Wells, Hons. George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith, W. H. Hooper, William Jennings, Horace S. Eldredge, Esq., vice-president of the Deseret National Bank, Bishops Edward Hunter and John Rowberry, and several other gentlemen.

The run from the depot of the Utah Southern to Sandy was made in twenty-eight minutes, when the party changed cars and immediately commenced their trip on the Jordan Valley narrow gauge railroad up into Little Cottonwood. The road has a continual and heavy up-grade and the track, in places, is close to the lofty natural embankments. The traveler can scarcely help feeling exhilarated while breathing the pure mountain air, and if he has any love for the beautiful he will enjoy the splendid view of the country southward.

Granite, the first mining town in Little Cottonwood Canyon, was soon reached. It possesses few if any features of interest to the tourist or pleasure seeker, being like most young mining towns, merely a collection of irregularly placed frame buildings, most of them of a very unpretending and unpicturesque character. Life and bustle are there, however, and there are evidences of considerable business being done. Not far from Granite, a little lower down the canyon, quite a number of men are busy getting out rock for the Temple.

Fairfield Flat is about a mile and a half from Granite. Between Granite and Fairfield the line of the road is necessarily very crooked, owing to the peculiar conformation of the canyon, and the ascent considerable, ranging, we were informed, from one to two hundred and fifty feet to the mile. Notwithstanding the steep grade the ground is passed over quickly, the iron horse panting and puffing and giving an occasional jerk as if distressed. The road runs on the north side of the creek, and between Granite and the terminus there is a back switch fourteen hundred feet long, which raises it about forty feet.

The continuation of the line to Alta city will not be attempted until next season, and at Fairfield, preparations are in progress for the erection of a station, and a wagon road is being made to facilitate the transportation of goods to and from Alta, a distance of some seven or eight miles, the grade of which, we are informed, is not less than 100 or 150 feet to the mile.

To overcome all the difficulties of transportation by rail when completed from the present terminus to Alta the company has purchased, or ordered a locomotive of the patent-improved climbing variety, manufactured by French of Virginia which, it is said, is capable of making ascents of four hundred feet gradient to the mile, the climbing apparatus acting as a brake on the down grade.

In the construction of the Wasatch Jordan Valley road it seems as if almost every imaginable engineering difficulty, likely to be met with in the construction of railroads through a narrow mountain gorge has been, or will have to be met. Thus far, they have been overcome, and the company is sanguine of overcoming all others.

The road, as far as it goes, is substantial, the accommodations for passengers and traffic are good, and the ride is one of the most romantic conceivable.

Business is brisk, two passenger trains going each way every day and sometimes four or five freight trains, ‘according to the amount of business to be done.

After staying a short time at the terminus yesterday. examining the work now going on, the party started on their return to Sandy, which was speedily reached: when they again changed cars, they were landed on the end of the track, near the Tabernacle in the city, a few minutes past 4 o'clock. having had a pleasant trip of .about three hours and a half duration.

Letter From Brigham Young to Albert Carrington, April 19, 1873 (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 17, p.22):

You will be gratified to learn that we are now shipping granite from the quarry to the Temple Block by rail all the way. A narrow-gauge road is building, mostly by our own people, running up from a junction with the Utah Southern at Sandy Station. On April 4, I witnessed the loading of the first rock shipped over this road, and we brought it on our train. My resignation of various offices of a secular character, has given rise to much speculation by the eastern press. Mr. James G. Bennett, of the N.Y. Herald, solicited from me and obtained a lengthy telegram on this subject, which would probably be published on the 11th inst. We have not received the paper yet, owing to a snow blockade on the U. P. R. R. - Brigham Young

President Brigham Young died in 1877, at which time the granite walls of the Temple had reached a height of about twenty feet above ground. During the administration of his successor, President John Taylor, the work was continued without important interruption for another decade, and thereafter was urged with even greater vigor under the direction of Wilford Woodruff, the next President of the Church. As the concluding laps of a race are generally marked by increased energy incident to the final spurt -- the supreme effort to reach, the end in glory and triumph, as in a powerful drama, interest becomes more intense, and action more concentrated with the approach of the finale, so, in this great undertaking, the fact that the end was looming above the horizon of sight called forth redoubled energies on the part of the people. When the granite had risen to the square, and when the spires began to appear in place, a feeling of almost feverish anxiety was manifest throughout the Church. (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.123 - p.124)

Our brethren can observe that a very handsome addition has been made to the foundation of the Temple here since the last Annual Conference, and they can now begin to form some idea of how the work is going to look. When you realize that all the granite that is in that immense foundation has been hauled some seventeen miles with oxen, mules and horses, you must realize that a very great job has been accomplished. But at the present time we have a railroad almost into the quarry, and the result is that the labor has been greatly lessened, and the rock and the sand and other building material can be brought here at vastly less expense than formerly, and consequently we will be able to push the work forward more rapidly. We want the brethren and sisters--all of them, to feel an interest in the tithes and offerings for the Temple, and in the labor upon it. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.14, p.370, George Albert Smith, April 6th, 1872)

Wasatch Resort

Wasatch Resort (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 8, p.460):

Granite for building the Salt Lake Temple was taken from a quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon. A Mr. Livingston was foreman of the project where he and the workers lived in small cabins built with wooden floors and wooden sides a few feet high, topped with tent roofs. These cabins were surrounded with flower gardens, lawns and attractive walks, and each had its own small stream of clear cold canyon water with dipping facilities. These cabins were on the south side of the Little Cottonwood stream; a bridge crossed the north side where the larger cookhouse was located in which meals were prepared for all employees in the quarry. In reference to the beautiful appearance of the spot, Donette S. Kesler said, "The whole place was a dream."

After the Temple capstone was laid in 1892 and the quarrying stopped, the families of the prominent Church leaders joined in summering at Wasatch. The cabins, now enlarged, were filled with families, and happy children ran through the garden paths and climbed the granite mountain slopes to the wild raspberry patches farther up.

On week days, passengers, mail and necessities were taken to the resort by steam car, arriving at 9 a.m., and returning to the city in the late afternoon. A mule car on a track met the train, taking [p.461] passengers and supplies to the mining town of Alta near the head of the canyon. Then the mules were unhitched and turned loose to go home by themselves while the car guided by a brakeman coasted down the canyon on its rails.

Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad

(Read more about the railroads in Little Cottonwood Canyon)

Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad

(From Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 10, pp. 148-150):

When the Utah Southern reached Sandy in September of 1871 and the Sandy station was finished, the granite blocks quarried in Little Cottonwood Canyon for the temple that had previously been carried by ox-drawn carts were now transported by rail to the depot in Salt Lake City from which a spur had been built to the temple grounds. It was then that the Church officials and others planned the construction of a narrow gauge branch to run east from Sandy to complete connections with the Church granite quarry and the mining district at Alta. The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad was organized and the line completed to the quarry April 4, 1873.

The officers of the company were William Jennings, superintendent; A. B. Banzon, assistant superintendent; B. W. Jennings, general freight agent; T. W. Jennings, secretary. The company had three engines, fifty flat, one baggage and two passenger cars.

From the Deseret News of November 18, 1872, we quote:

Work has at last begun in good earnest on a narrow gauge railroad to connect the mining district of Little Cottonwood with the Utah Southern. The practicability of such a road has elicited considerable discussion and has been doubted by many; but the report of the engineers who have been employed by the new corporation, sets all doubts at rest. From the initial point at Sandy Station, to the mouth of the kanyon, the grade is 146 feet to the mile and [p.149] very gradual. Up the kanyon to Alta it varies from 150 to 233 feet to the mile, which is to be considerably lessened by back switching. Several miles will thus be added to the length of the line, which will be abundantly compensated by the lessened grade.

The roadbed up the kanyon will be generally elevated above the wagon road, and will be constructed chiefly on the north side of the defile to secure the benefit of sunshine in keeping the track clear of snow in winter. Sheds will also be employed wherever necessary. By these means it is expected to keep the road open for traffic through the severest winters.

The locomotives ordered are of peculiar construction, having great steam capacity with less than the usual weight of iron. In these machines mechanical adhesion of traction takes the place of adhesion induced by the weight of the locomotive. This is effected by the application of a very simple and ingenious device, the invention of Col. James S. French, formerly President of the Washington and Alexandria Railroad, running over the Long Bridge from the District of Columbia to the Virginia side of the Potomac. A third or supplementary pair of driving wheels is swung in the rear of the ordinary drivers, and connected with the latter so as to revolve at the same rate of speed. These additional drivers have a grooved thread, and are hung in such a manner as to be lifted from contact with the track, at the will of the engineer. In climbing grades or starting trains the grooves sit astride the rail and compel advance motion with each revolution of the drivers, instead of allowing the wheels to "slip" as is ordinarily the case with heavy trains and steep grades. Numerous vexatious delays are thus avoided and greater rapidity of transit is secured. The invention has been tested on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad with very satisfactory results. It is evidently destined to solve the problem of railway construction in many localities heretofore deemed inaccessible to this kind of traffic.

The title assumed by the corporation having this enterprise in charge is "The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad Company." Its officers are among our most enterprising business men, and their names afford an ample guarantee that the work commenced yesterday will go rapidly forward to completion. The enterprise commences with 3 1/2 miles of excellent roadbed already made, the same having been secured from the Utah Southern, which was chartered to run a branch to the mouth of Little Cottonwood, but which prefers to push its main trunk southward and leave the feeders to the enterprise of others. This three-and-a-half mile start renders it certain that the road will be completed and running to the mouth of the kanyon before winter fairly sets in. Iron and rolling stock have been ordered, and unless the season closes in with severity, work will be prosecuted unceasingly to its completion. The capital needed for the purpose is secured, and will be expended with discrimination and economy. The interesting ceremony of "breaking ground" took place between Sandy and the mouth of the kanyon yesterday afternoon, and was [p.150] participated in by all the officers of the company, several of the stockholders, and invited guests. Instead of formally throwing a single shovel full of earth, as is customary, a good rod of excellent road bed was made by the Directors, in person. Hon. William Jennings, President of the company, threw off his coat and went at it with such energy as to render it apparent that the grading would surely be done, even though he had to do it himself. Hon. Delegate Hooper, Vice-President, did his full share of the work, as also did the Secretary, Hon. Frank Fuller, and the Treasurer, James T. Little, Esq. as well as two other members of the Board of Directors, Messrs. H. S. Eldredge and H. B. Clawson, Messrs. M. A. Baldwin, of Troy, New York, and L R. Thompson, of Brooklyn, New York, both stockholders, fairly split their kid gloves in their determination to be reckoned among the able-bodied diggers. While the engineers of the line, Messrs. Jesse W. Fox and Charles W. Hardy, directed operations in such a manner as to save the region from utter ruin for all future purposes.

The whole affair terminated with speeches, cheers and mutual congratulations on the successful inauguration of a much needed enterprise, the speedy completion of which no reasonable doubt can be entertained, and the necessity for which is universally admitted. (End of quote)

Between Wasatch and Alta the grade was too steep for even the most powerful locomotives, being at one place nearly six hundred feet to the mile; consequently, the empty cars had to be drawn up by horses. The loaded cars were allowed to coast down over a line completely covered, above Granite, by snowsheds, a trip agreed to have been quite a thrilling experience. The traffic consisted almost entirely of ores from the Alta mines bound for the sampling works at Sandy.

The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad was acquired by the Rio Grande Western on Dec. 31, 1881. Because of the excessive grades it was never too profitable to operate; and with the failure of some of the mines in the 1880s that section between Granite and Alta was abandoned. The lower part was later repaired and for a few years was used in hauling granite from the quarries at the mouth of the canyon.

South Cottonwood Campground

5600 S. & Vine Street, Murray, Utah
Sponsor: Murray Chapter, 1990

During the building of the Salt Lake Temple, when granite stones were being hauled by team and wagon the 20 miles from the Little Cottonwood Canyon quarry to the temple site, a stopover camp used by the drivers was established at South Cottonwood. This site was approximately halfway between the quarry and the temple grounds. In 1870 a rock granary was built and still remains standing today as a historical landmark.

Throughout its period as a territory, and for several years after becoming a state, Utah did not have a physical location for its executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government. For just a brief period, in 1855 and 1856, the legislature met in a newly constructed building in Fillmore, but they moved back to Salt Lake City and continued to meet in several different locations spread throughout the city. In 1909 a commission was formed to see to the design and construction of a building that would house the state's government. After considering building materials for the exterior of the state capital building from as far away as Vermont and Indiana, and from quarries in San Pete County, the commission selected granite from the same Little Cottonwood quarry used to furnish granite for the temple.

A twenty-acre plot was donated to the state for the purpose by Salt Lake City in 1888, but conflicting interests and the lack of funds continued to delay construction.

Ground broken on December 26, 1912; opened to the public on October 9, 1916.

Granite Or Not

Although it is a difference known mostly only to geologists, the stone quarried from Little Cottonwood Canyon is actually known as quartz monzonite, a "cousin" to true granite. Almost all documentation, either from the time of construction, and across the years since, states that the temple is built using granite, but a geologist might say that granite was never used in the construction of the Temple, because large quantities of true granite were not available in Utah. (Wikipedia article for Quartz monzonite) (Wikipedia article for Granite.)

Granite Quarries After 1913

Quarrying Granite, 1913-1917 -- Information about shipping granite from the Little Cottonwood quarries for the state capitol, the D&RGW freight terminal in Ogden, and the LDS office building in Salt Lake City; all of it shipped over the Salt Lake & Alta Railroad, organized and built for the purpose.


Gates, Susa Young. The Life Story of Brigham Young. New York, 1931.

Campbell, Eugene E. Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869. Signature Books; Salt Lake City, Utah, 1988.

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