Franklin railroad exhibit chronicles “Mormon” builders of the Transcontinental railroad

Susan Hawkes curator for the Franklin Relic Hall assembled a display of relics, photographs and jurnal accounts of Mormon pioneers who worked on the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads

FRANKLIN – The Franklin Relic Hall has a unique railroad exhibit that documents with early artifacts, photographs, and personal accounts the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint workers who helped build the Union Pacific, Central Pacific and Utah Railroads, all with a connection to the Idaho border town and Cache Valley.

This display talks about Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Bishop Lorenzo Hatch, who worked with ward members on the railroad and didn’t get paid. Hatch paid ward members out of his own pockets.

Also on display is a large collection of Utah Northern Railroad artifacts and other railroad memorabilia from throughout the west.

“The exhibit honors the many early Mormon Pioneers that settled Utah and Idaho territories and worked to build the transcontinental railroad joining the Union and Central Pacific Railroads,” Susan Hawkes, the Relic Hall curator said. The world famous event was completed at Promontory Point on May 10, 1869.

She said the most important part of the exhibit is the spotlight on the Latter-day Saint workers.

Nowhere does it talk about the women that went with their husbands and cooked for them,” she said. “Church leaders called on their congregations to help build the railroad.

“After the seagulls destroyed their crops, early pioneers were looking for a way to make a living and helping on the railroad sounded like a good thing,” Hawkes said. “We have a copy of the Deseret News advertisement on July 22, 1868.”

The advertisement said: Men Wanted. Hiring for the Railroad.

“Brigham Young ran the advertisement to get 1,000 men to work for Union Pacific, and another 1,000 men wanted to work on the Central Pacific,” she said pointing to the copy of the advertisement.

The Franklin Relic Hall’s railroad exhibit is on display until Saturday, August 10. The display has documents, early artifacts, photographs, and personal accounts of the workers that helped build the Union Pacific, Central Pacific and Utah Railroads.

“They brought their wives to cook for them and camped near the Chinese camps,” Hawkes said. “Mormon workers went home to eat and sleep at night, instead of causing a ruckus like other workers.”

Hawkes said she found an article on the National Park website written by Clarence Reeder for a dissertation.

The Mormon Railroad workers were a people working together in harmony under their religious leaders to accomplish a temporal task which they treated as though it were divinely inspired,” Reeder wrote.

When the work was done and the railroads connected, railroad companies failed to pay the church or the workers, leaving many exhausted and destitute.

She said both Union Pacific and Central Pacific owed Brigham Young and all the other sub-contractors money.

“The first payroll came through, but nothing after that,” Hawkes said. “It left them destitute.”

Brigham Young went back east to get payment, and he got some of the payment in railroad supplies, Hawkes said.

On display at the Franklin Relic Hall is a copy of an advertisement in the Deseret News seeking men to work on the rails.

The supplies helped Brigham Young build the Utah Northern Railroad, from Salt Lake to Ogden and on to Franklin, ID.

The rail line ended at Franklin. When all of the freighters started to go to Corrine, the Utah North Railroad went broke and was sold at auction.

One of the rails carried stone from a canyon for the Salt Lake temple, speeding up the construction of the temple.

Hawks said she spent a lot of time in the archives gathering information and photographs of the pioneer town’s connection to the driving of the golden spike.

The exhibit will be on display until Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019.

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1 Comment

  • pablo July 10, 2019 at 10:55 am Reply

    Seagulls destroyed their crops? That’s a new take on history. Why is the CALIFORNIA gull our state bird?

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