The Founders’ Rescue Wagon
Faced with the Herculean challenge of deep, early winter snows and a legal deadline to complete the first building for the Branch Normal School within eight months, the founders of Southern Utah University pursued this seemingly impossible goal with inspired determination.
On the morning of January 5, 1898, a party left Cedar City for the Heber Jenson Saw Mill, located at Mammoth Creek on Cedar Mountain, some 30 miles from the campus. The group intended to haul out 15,000 board feet of lumber that had been cut and left at the mill the previous fall – lumber which would be used to construct the framework of Old Main. After three grueling days on the trail, the men managed to reach the mill and load their wagons; but heavy snows forced them to abandon the precious lumber.
In danger of surrendering for good the right to host the school, five men remained on the mountain to dig out the wagons while the others returned to town to stock up on provisions and enlist additional help. Digging foot by foot through the drifts, the men worked their steady way home – and on January 11, the wagons arrived in Cedar City with the first load of lumber. The Branch Normal School had been rescued.
This original wagon, recently restored, was used to haul logs from the forest to the saw mill, and was among several that saved the school for the people of Cedar City. Its design points to its use in handling heavy logs in winter conditions, with its protected hubs and spokes, its heavier running gear, and its braking system, which allowed the driver to perch on the logs and operate the brake by foot pedal while leaving his hands free to manage the teams.
This vivid reminder of the Founders’ courage and sacrifice was donated to the Cedar City Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers by the Jack Jenson family, and then by SUP to Southern Utah University. Preservation and restoration work was completed by Blaine Allan of SUP.