A Tragedy at the Site of the Provo Lime Kiln
When Provo‘s colonists switched from making log cabins to building adobe homes, line became a critical product for masons to have on hand. They needed it to make the mortar used in the rock foundations of the larger adobe homes and Provo’s first tabernacle. Painters used lime to make whitewash to cover the interior walls. Tanner also used it to manufacture leather.
In order to manufacture lime, men brought limestone from the nearby mountains to specially constructed kilns where the rock was heated with flames until it burned into a white substance, lime. Joseph Mecham burned Provo’s first lime in 1851.
When entrepreneurs began manufacturing fired brick in the early 1860s, several brick kilns sprang up along the road between Provo and Springville. Manufacturers began burning more lime for mortar. J. Reese build a new kiln in 1866. Sometime around the turn of the century, Thomas Boardman build lime kilns in the foothills northeast of the Spring Creek Elementary School.
A tragedy occurred at these kilns during the fall of 1930. Roy Van Cott of Salt Lake City owned the kilns and Chris L. Peterson, who had worked at the kilns for 26 years, and Richard Fulkerson operated them, fueling them with coke now instead of wood.
On Friday, November 13, the men had lined a kiln with limestone and started the fire. The next day, Fulkerson checked from the top of the kiln to see if the fire was burning properly. The he went into the pit to get a better look. Carbon monoxide fumes overcame Fulkerson and he fainted. Luckily, Peterson and another workmen saw him fall and dragged him to safety.
About 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Peterson went alone to check on the same kiln. His foot slipped near the edge of the pit, and he hit his head on a railing and fell unconscious into the hole near the mouth of the kiln. When Peterson was gone longer than expected, his wife sent Nels Peterson to check on him. Nels found his brother’s lifeless body in the pit.