An interesting find in the Utah west desert

The Utah West Desert: perfect for social distancing.

Out on the border of the west desert in Utah, you’ll see some odd things: the salt flats, the Dugway bombing range scars, and strange plaques. This modified cairin and plaque in the Grassy Mountains were accessed by dirt bike; there are some nearby roads (primitive, “roads” is used loosely) on BLM land. This area is open for recreation: just on the west side of the Grassy Mountains is the Dugway proving grounds. Don’t wander into Dugway, aka Area 52 (as a former colleague and former Dugway employees tells me). This site used to be a test site for chemical weapons, though that was stopped years ago (check out the Dugway Sheep Incident for an incident involving Dugway in the 1960s).

The plaque in the Grassy Mountains.

Anyway, the plaque is definitely not anything official. It reads “This monument was made by Geo [George] Davis Bower in Dec 1895 herding sheep for Deseret Livestock Co plaque was made by Bower family put on Aug 15 1973.”

The map below shows the I-80 Grassy Mountains rest stop, the mountains directly north are the Grassy Mountains themselves. The marker is in the upper 1/3 of the mountains on the west side.

I was curious about this, so I sent an email to the Research Center of the Utah State Archives & Utah State History. The response was quick, and they’re very helpful and nice! They have no record of an official monument or plaque on the site, but they did find a young George Davis Bower on the 1880 census record for Croydon, Morgan, Utah (line 21 below). Also, there may be some evidence of polygamy in the census below. Three women heads of households with young children and the same last name (lines 9-18 below). This was in 1880, and Utah wasn’t granted statehood until early 1896 on the condition polygamy be outlawed. So, not illegal at this time, but still interesting. Utah’s late statehood was mainly due to the resistance to giving up polygamy.

They also sent me a bit of info on the Deseret Livestock Company, which was (and is) owned by the LDS Church. They had Mainly sheep, and now it seems another area owned by the same company is a bird refuge out in eastern Utah (according to the Audubon Society). The area out by this plaque was the Skull Valley Winter Range. The company wasn’t incorporated until 1891, so this monument must have been placed before it was “ officially “ a company. The Skull Valley Range was apparently purchased from the Iosepa Ranch in 1917 (so really this plaque may be off on dates or who actually owned the land when the monument was built). Iosepa is now a ghost town of a Hawaiian Mormon settlement. The town was actually deserted in 1917, when the Iosepa Ranch was also bought out. The area is really harsh, and it’s pretty easy to see why crops didn’t grow well before widespread irrigation was available. I have not been to Iosepa yet, and there’s not much of the buildings left. There is a monument and a cemetery that is still kept up by descendants, however.

For more information on the Deseret Livestock Company, I was sent this link to a digital book. If you happen to know anything about this area or monument/plaque please let me know! I’d love to learn more. Thanks for reading! I’ll update here if I learn any more.

Cliffs out in the west desert.

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