Back in 2006/2007 I was searching out the historic markers placed by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, #83 (see information here) was at the Pioneer Heritage Cemetery in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Here are a few photos I took back then:
As you can see there wasn’t much to look at, a monument and an arch and a weed-filled field.
Well they have since really made it quite nice, plaques with stories, a nice lawn, headstones in rows. It’s a great place. Here are some more photos that I took the other day when I stopped by with the family.
Settlers to this area built some of their first homes directly below this pioneer cemetery. During warn weather they loved in tents or four foot wide wagon boxes. Many settlers dug into the ground or hillside for shelter during the winter. There were once so many dugouts built in the area that Spanish Fork was known as “Gopher Town.”
One family who came to this area was quite astonished to see the women coming out of the “holes,” along the hillside like gophers. During a very wet spring, one of the dugouts started to leak. More dirt was placed on the top of the roof. This extra weight caused the support beam of the family’s root to break killing the father. He is buried here not far from his home.
Early settlers often faced multiple deaths and burials in one family. On May 5th, 1851, John and Elizabeth Hancock Redd’s 17 year old daughter, Mary Catherine Redd, suddenly because ill and died within hours. She was buried on this bluff overlooking the River Bottoms. John and Elizabeth suffered another loss as their 15 year old son, John Holt Redd, was thrown from his horse on November 15, 1853. His heartsick mother died three days later. Then on June 15, 1858 John Hardison Redd died after being kicked by a horse. All four family members were buried in the Redd Cemetery, now known as the Heritage Pioneer Cemetery.
This Cemetery has also been called The Old Palmyra Graveyard, the East Bench Graveyard, and The Upper Cemetery.
In the spring of 1854, Mary Ann Boice took a Native American child, Alpharetta, into her home. Alpharetta was brought to her by the child’s father after his wife died in childbirth. She took care of the infant, along with her own infant son Alfred. Alpharetta soon died of measles and was buried here. Later, Mary Ann and her husband John were called to settle Kamas. While traveling to their new home, their wagon was surrounded by a band of angry Native Americans covered with war paint. A brave, Alpharetta’s father, recognized Mary Ann, got down from his horse and convinced the cheif to let them go in peace.
Helen Whytock McKell was born in Scotland. She married there, and her husband died leaving her with a son to raise. She then married Robert McKell and together with her son emigrated to Utah.
Brigham Young called Robert and Helen to enter into the practice of polygamy. Within days of the polygamist marriage, Helen became ill and died. Robert McKell’s journal said that she was “buried in the old cemetery on the brow of the bench land near the Vincent farm in the River Bottoms.”
When Robert died later, the family brought Helen’s broken headstone to the new cemetery and placed it beside Robert’s.
Early settlers in Spanish Fork took care of their family burials with the aid of friends and volunteers. The winters were severe and often the ground was frozen hard. Those assisting with burials had to clear snow and sagebrush, mark off the grave, then make and tend a fire that would burn all night to soften the ground.
The first burial in the Pioneer Cemetery was Mary Catherine Redd in 1851. Some of the people buried here were later moved to the Spanish Fork City Cemetery. In 1866 a sexton was appointed to start keeping records of burials which were already being made in the City Cemetery.
(This is DUP Marker #557, click here for more info)