At Rest in Zion – OP #14

The Archaeology of Salt Lake City's First Pioneer Cemetery

Shane A Baker

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Subjects: Western History

9780975394557 (paperback)

In July of 1847 the first company of Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, having endured months of weary travel on their route to find Zion. The first recorded death in the valley, a 3-year-old boy, occurred just eighteen days after the group’s arrival. That small boy, and the other members of the company who died in the opening years of the new settlement, were buried in a small family plot on Block 49, the city block immediately east of Salt Lake City’s first pioneer fort. Within three decades the cemetery would be forgotten, covered by the building and growth of a rapidly expanding city. It would not be rediscovered until 1986, when new construction exposed the cemetery, allowing archaeologists to examine, study, and ultimately remove and relocate the burials.

This report details the protective efforts of archaeologists to excavate and document the burial grounds before they were destroyed by the construction. Subsequent forensic and osteological laboratory work has been coupled with intensive historical research in an effort to connect individual burials with names and histories, and to shed light on pioneer health, nutrition, mortality, and burial customs.