Sons of Utah Pioneers' Pioneer Village

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This page was last updated on June 10, 2022.

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Salt Lake City Location

The following comes from the July 23, 1995 issue of the Deseret News newspaper:

Pioneer Village hasn't always been at Lagoon. It first came together 41 years ago in Salt Lake City at 2998 S. 2150 East (Connor Street).

Horace A. and Ethel Sorensen were the founders of Pioneer Village. They acquired an extensive collection of old coaches and wagons. Since they were also in the furniture business, they obtained considerable antique furniture. On Oct. 24, 1948, they converted a former roundhouse for American Saddle-bred Horses on Connor Street into a small museum. In 1954, they remodeled a large barn to expand their five acres of pioneer exhibits. With the building of the Wanship Dam, east of Salt Lake, the little pioneer village of Rockport was to be inundated. Sorensen moved some of these buildings to his pasture site and with the addition of other old buildings, he soon had almost every kind of shop found in pioneer times.

Two years later in 1956, the Sorensens deeded the entire collection and property to the Sons of the Utah Pioneers.

Over the years, the impressive collection suffered from want of funds for adequate maintenance. The deficit ran as high as $5,000 a year.

This deficit occurred - despite the fact that Pioneer Village admission was never free. Admission was 75 cents for adults and 25 cents for children in the early 1970s.

The Sons of the Pioneers considered selling Pioneer Village as early as 1969. It talked with the Utah State Department of Recreation and Lagoon Corporation. By the spring of 1975, it was decided that it would sell the entire pioneer collection to Lagoon for $275,000. Lagoon also paid all moving expenses.

Lagoon was interested in making Pioneer Village an extensive bicentennial project and that's when it opened in Farmington - 1976.

(See also: a special Sugar House [SH] section in Deseret News, April 21, 1954, on the occasion of the centennial of Sugar House)

Pioneer Village was first opened in 1948, on the private property of the Sorensen family, with the "round house" serving as a museum for buggies, saddles, antique furniture and statues. In 1953, the property and 30 buildings were deeded to the National Society of Sons Of Utah Pioneers. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 27, 1969, on the occasion of Horace A. Sorensen being named as Man of the Year by University of Utah Phi beta Kappa. At the time, Sorensen was president and general manager of South East Furniture Co.)

Horace A. Sorensen was president and general manager of South East Furniture Co., as well as the company's sole owner. South East Furniture was a large retail furniture outlet located in Sugar House until the mid 1970s.

After the Utah State Prison was moved from the Sugar House area to Draper in 1951, the former prison grounds was being discussed as the site of a state park. Horace Sorensen worked hard to designate a portion of the new park to be a Mormon Pioneer Village, moving the collection of the Sons of Utah Pioneers from its Conner Street location to the new park, but his proposal was rejected.

Horace Sorensen was national president of the Sons of Utah Pioneers from 1954-56. He was an active collector of Pioneer artifacts and organized a replica Pioneer Village, which he presented to the SUP in 1953. First located in Salt Lake City, the village was later relocated to the Lagoon amusement park in Farmington, Utah. Horace Sorensen received Brigham Young University's "Many Feathers" award. The University of Utah named him "Man of the Year," in 1969.

At the November 6, 1953 meeting of the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, in which Mr. and Mrs. Horace A. Sorensen presented the property, buildings, and relics of the SUP Salt Lake City museum to the society, it was stated that Mr. Sorensen also spearheaded the movement to obtain the old Sugar House prison property as a site for the erection of a Mormon Pioneer Village. (Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 22, Number 1, January 1954, Historical Notes, page 88)

November 1953
The November 1953 issue of Bob Richardson's "Narrow Gauge News" indicates that D&RGW eight-wheel narrow gauge caboose number 0573 was loaded up for shipment to a town in Utah on November 10, 1953.

At the same time that D&RGW donated narrow gauge caboose 0573 to Pioneer Village, in November 1953, the railroad also donated narrow gauge boxcar 3576 and narrow gauge gondola 1051.

November 13, 1953
A ceremony donating the equipment to the newly organized Pioneer Village was held with D&RGW Vice-President R. K. Bradford acted as presenter for the D&RGW. Accepting for the Sons of Utah Pioneers were Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr., president and Horace A. Sorensen vice-president and chairman of the museum committee. This was for their new museum that recently had been dedicated. (Green Light December 15, 1953, courtesy of Jimmy Blouch via Narrow Gauge Discussion Forum, February 8, 2009)

November 1953
"Re-Creating the Past -- An event of more than passing interest was the official opening last week of the Sons of Utah Pioneers museum and collection of historical culture of early Utah. Thousands of guests visited the unusual collection over the week end, viewed the relics and witnessed the actual operation of many crafts and activities of an earlier day. The three-acre park, donated by the Horace A. Sorensen family for the exhibit, is designed to house the Pioneer collection until a permanent Pioneer Village can be established on a part of the old prison site. This institution, which would be permanent memorial to the early settlers of the West, and would also serve as an orientation center for thousands of tourists, is envisioned as a 25-year program of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, and when completed should be one of the most remarkable historical establishments in the country. The Sorensen family, Nicholas G. Morgan Sr., president of the National Society, Sons of Utah Pioneers, and all others who contributed to the creation of the village museum and exhibit are to be congratulated on their efforts to preserve the history and honor the memory of the early settlers of the West. Their announced program is an ambitious one, but they have made a notable start on it." (Deseret News, November 25, 1953)

July 24, 1958
The Union Pacific depot at Kaysville was to be moved to its new home at Pioneer Village in Salt Lake City. It was to be the home of a museum of railroad lore. (Bountiful, The Weekly Reflex, July 24, 1958)

New Home

In 1972 there was a proposal to move the entire Pioneer Village collection to new "Pioneer Trail State Park" near the present This Is The Place monument, as part of the preparations for Utah's celebration of the nation's 200th anniversary in 1976. The move depended on funding from the state legislature.

Negotiations started in January 1975 for Lagoon to purchase the entire collection and move it to the Lagoon amusement park in Farmington, Utah. (Deseret News, January 11, 1975)

Lagoon Location

In 1975, the entire Pioneer Village collection was sold to Lagoon for $275,000.

December 10, 1975
The former UP Kaysville depot was moved from the original Pioneer Village site in Salt Lake City, to the new location as part of the Lagoon resort. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 10, 1975, with photo)

Pioneer Village at the Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington, Utah, had on display a D&RGW boxcar and gondola, along with an 8-wheel caboose. They had previously been displayed in Salt Lake City as part of the Sons of Utah Pioneers collection. The three pieces of equipment sat adjacent to the former Union Pacific Kaysville depot, which was moved to Lagoon's Pioneer Village at the same time. There was hope at the time that D&RGW 223 would be moved to the same location from its pad in Liberty Park, but that didn't happen.

(Read more about Pioneer Village, and the Pioneer Village Railroad)

Move To Ogden

In 1989 the three pieces of narrow gauge equipment at Lagoon's Pioneer Village (D&RGW boxcar 3576, gondola 1051, and caboose 0573) were moved to Ogden. The small steam railroad was removed at the same time. The move was necessary to make way for a water park called Lagoon-A-Beach, which itself replaced a 50-year-old "Million Gallon" swimming pool.

May 16, 1990
The "Lagoon A beach" attraction opened in July 1989. Some portions were not yet complete, so the Grand Opening was delayed until May 1990. (Deseret News, May 16, 1990)

All three pieces narrow gauge railroad equipment were burned in March 2006 when a building adjacent to the storage location in Ogden caught fire and was allowed to burn.

Source Material

Potential source material for additional research may be available among the Horace August Sorensen papers at Utah State History in the former Rio Grande depot in Salt Lake City.