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Early Riverton and the Magnificent Dome Church

The first known residents of the Riverton area were the Yo No Indians, a poor tribe living along the Jordan River. Well-worn trails extended from Utah Lake where various tribes wintered, to Bear Lake where they rendezvoused during the summer. Much credit is due for the free use of their byways, exchange of leather goods and furs, relinguishing land, and their general friendly attitude. Four forts erected west of the river were never seriously needed for protection. They were: Wight’s Fort, north by the Oquirrh Mountains; English Fort at the Bennion Cemetery site; Fort Herriman, 5 miles west of here; and Cedar Fort to the south. In 1855, Abraham Hunsaker, a convert from Illinois and a member of the Mormon Battalion, moved his herds across the river to join Jesse Beckstead and Samuel and Thomas Butterfield who were already using the land for grazing. Abraham was the first man to own land and divert water. But Archibald Gardner was the first to live here and become the largest land owner; so for many years the area was called “Gardnersville.” Judge Charles Smith later named the town “Riverton”. From 1850 to 1881 most attempts to bring water to the land were inadequate, however, some succeeded. The fertile soil responded, and the permanent expanding settlement was here to stay. Sheep, cattle, alfalfa, beets, minerals, poultry, and dry farming all had their “hey day” and contributed greatly to the growing economy. A maturity milesone was reached August 8, 1886, when the Riverton Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized with 138 members. Orrin P. Miller served as the first Bishop. Plans were soon underway for a new meeting house. Richard W. Kletting was selected as architect. (He was also architect of the Utah State Capitol and the old Saltair Pavillion). Willard C. Burgon was named building contractor. With visions of new hope, the people geared for Riverton’s “Grandest Effort.” Construction began in 1899. This magnificently beautiful domed church, with the inscription “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” over the front door was erected at 12800 South Redwood Road on a two-acre site donated by Thomas P. Page. With its high dome, it was an inspiring edifice and could be seen for long distances. On January 21, 1900, Bishop Miller was sustained stake president, Gordon S. Bills was ordained bishop of the 346 member ward. The lower part of the building was in use by 1908. There were many financial hardships during construction, however, it was finally paid for and dedicated on December 20, 1920. The cost was approximately $25,000.00 plus much donated labor and materials. Because of its high ceilings, excessive maintenance and heating problems, it was razed in 1940 after just 30 years of use. Gone, too, are the brick kiln, Tithing Yard, molasses mill, flour mill, harness shop, the Commercial Building and dance hall built by Daniel Densley, and the Salt Lake and Utah Railroad (Orem Commuter Line) 1914-1945. Many fond memories linger in the hearts of the long-time residents, the “Pioneers” of Riverton. This monument is gratefully erected to their memory and integrity.

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