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.