October 17, 2020 – A wildfire on the north slope of Provo Canyon and spreading to the Orem foothills.
Vivian Park was apparently named after Vivian McBride. The daughter of Melissa Duggins McBridge who owned and operated the first Post Office and grocery store along the Provo East Bench. According to Barbara Reichenback, “A gentleman who frequently came into the store on business told Melissa (McBride) that Vivian was a beautiful child and he planned to name his park after her.” It is probable that this “gentleman” was Billy Ferguson who first held patent to the Provo Canyon land that became Vivian Park.
You could say that Vivian Park had its beginning when U.S. Army Captain J.H. Simpson described the area in 1859 as being the “first sufficiently wide place (from the mouth of Provo Canyon) for ox teams to corral….” It would be almost thirty years later on May 15, 1888 when the federal government would issue a land patent to William W. Ferguson for 160 acres of ground which covered the area from what would be Nunn’s Park to Vivian Park. Ferguson, or Billy as he would be called, settled at Ferguson Flat (now Frazier Park) which is a far cry from his birthplace in Scotland. His home because known as “Billy’s Place” and served as a motel and cafe for canyon travelers. Visitors often marveled at Billy’s expertise in preparing good food, entertaining, and at the “special” room where he kept all manner of flowers, even during the cold winter months.
Ferguson deeded most of the grounds to L.L. Nunn in December, 1896, just a few months before his untimely death on February 19, 1897 in a snow slide that swept down the canyon walls destroying his home and taking his life while he slept.
In its “heyday” Vivian Park was home to many and a resort getaway for countless others. It was reported on June 3, 1900 that a dance pavilion was being built. During the summer of 1901, hundreds made Vivian Park a “vacation getaway.” Big bands made frequent appearances playing for large gatherings and providing dance music. At one time, Vivian Park had its own Post Office and Sheriff. Visitors could rent horses, cabins, boats, tents, together with purchasing picnic supplies, trout dinners, food, bait, and just about anything else you could find in the “big city.” Later, there was a dance hall proper, an ice skating rink, and access to the Heber Creeper railroad. The Vivian Park pond and Provo River provided swimming, boat rides, and fishing. Although the dance hall and some other popular places were torn down in the 50’s Vivian Park continues even today to provide a place for visitors to get away from life in the “big city” while still providing some of the amenities.
The name of James W. Slick appears on the Utah County maps circa 1900 as residing at what was to become Vivian and Frazier Parks. It is likely that he was the one who discovered the snow slide that killed Billy Ferguson. The Slicks, James and Anna, had two children, James Nielsen and Vivian. Vivian Slick was probably named after Vivian McBride since James W. would have been familiar with both the Melissa McBride store and Provo Post Office as well as with Billy Ferguson and his reason behind naming the area Vivian Park. Although the name may have applied earlier, the first time it shows up on Utah County records is in 1911 when the county commission office was first presented with a proposal to develop the area with building lots and other improvements. Deeds to this area passed from Samuel Evans in 1911 to Frederick Steigmeyer and then on to Grover and Edna Purvance in 1914. The Purvances later shared ownership with John F. and Mary Carter. It was during these years immediately preceding World War I that the Vivian Park area began to see significant development. Dance facilities, a lodge, a cafe, cabins, homes, boats, ice skating, and all other types of recreational facilities were available. In 1929, the property was deeded to the Vivian Park Resort Company and then, finally, to Utah County in 1974 who has maintained it as a public park ever since.
Vivian Park is a historic location that has been a part of Provo Canyon practically from the time Utah Valley was first settled. This particular area was first deeded to a William Ferguson in a land patent dating back to 1888. Ferguson began operating what became known as “Billy’s Place”, a convenient resting spot and eating place for canyon travelers. Around the turn of the 20th Century, the area came under different ownership and was promoted as a vacation getaway. Cabins were built and the entire site was soon filled with recreation of all types including a dance hall featuring live bands, some fine restaurants, and a boat rental business.
According to one seemingly accurate account, the present name of Vivian Park can be attributed to a young girl named Vivian McBride, whose mother worked at the nearby Post Office. The resort owner thought the young girl was so pretty that her name was added to his canyon retreat. Over the years, many of the early activities and attractions fell by the wayside, but Vivian Park users today can still find lots of room to enjoy the sunshine, eat a meal, fish the Provo River, or enjoy a myriad of other interests including the Heber Creeper steam engine ride. There are pavilions, barbecues, a fishing pond, playgrounds, volleyball areas, and plain old shade.
This plaque marks the site of the first 44,000 volt hydroelectric plant in America. Built in 1897 by Lucien L. Nunn at an estimated cost of just $50,000, this plant harnessed the power of the Provo River to generate electricity and transmit that power over a distance of 32 miles to mining operations in Mercur, Utah. This was almost three times the voltage of any existing line in the nation at that time, and was by far the longest.
Although Nunn sold his interests to Utah Power and Light Company in 1913, his innovative ideas and successes helped shape the future of electrical power for all of us.
Nunns Park is named after L.L. Nunn, a pioneer in the field of hydroelectric power, who became the operator of the first 44,000 volt hydro-power plant in America harnessing the flows of the Provo River. Built on this site in 1897, the plant provided electricity for mining operations near Mercur, Utah. In time, Nunn sold his interests to Utah Power and Light, who eventually sold the ground to Utah County as a park site. Located alongside the Provo River Parkway and nestled in a grove of trees, Nunn’s Park offers overnight camping, picnicking, fishing, biking, jogging, and just plain escape from the traffic of life. There are plenty of family campsites on a first come, first serve basis; a pavilion can be reserved for family or group use; there are open areas just right for contemplating nothing but your favorite pastime. If you look, there are even a few reminders of the century old power plant that once turned the lights on in a remote Utah mining town and put Utah and the Provo River in the electrical history books. Public parking is limited and there is absolutely no parking on the state road or outside the county park. Groups with reservations cannot limit the public parking to only members of their group. Groups exceeding allowed parking will be asked to leave and no refund will be given.(text from utahcounty.gov)
The Deer Creek Reservoir section of the Provo/Jordan River Parkway Trail is an enjoyable hiking and walking trail along the west shore of the Deer Creek Reservoir. Although there is a highway on the other side, you hardly notice. This broad gravel path is part of the Provo River Parkway – Jordan River Parkway system. It runs the hillside above the northern shore of Deer Creek Reservoir. Length is 8.03 miles, with about 400 feet of total climbing. While mostly straight, there are occasional sharp turns during descents into small canyons. Make sure you bring water and a lunch plus a fishing pole.