| Launching a fundraising campaign to rebuild Dewey Bridge, documenting rock art and researching the rock house at Castleton for nomination to the National Register, establishing an office -- ideally as part of a greater archival repository for historical records -- designating various buildings around town with historical plaques, and producing a local history photo-book are among proposed goals this year of the county’s expanded historical preservation board.
Created by county resolution 22 years ago, the Grand County Historical Preservation Commission (HPC) became an “official” advisory board to the County Council in 2008, with passage of Ordinance 466.
Now established by lawful ordinance, the HPC is charged primarily with the duty of preserving historical records, gathering human histories, and developing and enhancing historical and cultural resources.
Approval of the ordinance March 18, 2008 was an historical moment in the history of county government, as the document replaced a resolution approved by the three-member County Commission in 1986. Restating Resolution 2062, the new ordinance concluded that “substantial public interest exists” in preserving local history, and related political and social institutions founded on historical preservation.
Also of historical significance, the Council enlarged the board from five to seven members, allowing up to two commissioners representing San Juan and Emery counties -- an action that broadened the scope of preservation efforts to include the Elgin/Green River and southern Spanish Valley and Pack Creek areas in particular “in light of the fact that early regional history has no boundaries.”
To aid HPC goals, the state periodically provides a small grant to cover projects over an 18-month period, under the Utah Certified Local Government Program that allocates certain federal funds. The volunteer members of the historical board match the funds with “in-kind” labor and professional services in order to qualify for ongoing assistance. Among projects funded the past year with CLG assistance were a feasibility study on rebuilding Dewey Bridge, free public lectures on rock art, news releases and other public awareness and education efforts, historical research, and rock-art documentation and archival training.
The HPC functions separately from the nonprofit Southeastern Utah Society of Arts and Sciences, which operates the county-owned Dan O’Laurie Museum of Moab. However, both groups support goals for ongoing cooperative efforts in 2009.
Especially as fears grow over an impending economic depression, people need to avoid losing track of their personal and family histories, and remember how the county has gotten through hard times before, said HPC Chairman Bruce Louthan.
“We need to keep track of our identity of historical places and monuments that help us remain focused on who we are and where we’re going, in the midst of the confusion of everyday life,” he said. “People lose track, in the security of getting up daily and driving the same streets and doing the same routines, that the places and buildings are still there from the past, and we need to preserve and commemorate them and the events that will live on when we’re gone.”
Bruce Louthan of Moab was among three charter members who created the county-governed body of the Grand County Historical Preservation Commission (HPC) in 1986.Assistant district manager for Support Services of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management - Canyon Country District, Louthan is HPC chairman. An Illinois native with a master’s degree in New World Archaeology, he was inclined toward agricultural engineering like his father; then later leaned toward prehistory when, he said, “my stepfather taught me how to find arrowheads.” He said that “like a lot of archaeologists, as I walk I stare intensely at the ground.” His studies included
Egyptology and the cultures of Mesopotamia. He served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, accepted a fellowship to Brigham Young University in Provo to study archaeology and history, did graduate work in anthropology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake, and became acquainted with southeastern Utah in college-level fieldwork. He moved to Moab to work for the BLM, has served on the boards of the Grand County School District, the Grand County Centennial Commission, the nonprofit Southeastern Utah Society of Arts and Sciences (Dan O’Laurie Museum), is an active Scout Master and member of the Utah Professional Archaeologist Council and the Moab Rotary Club.
Vicki Barker, a native of Moab, says she and her twin sister are among the “UraniumBoomers” born during the Baby Boom (1946-1964), which for the most part coincided with the local Uranium Boom.Barker, who serves as HPC secretary, is also a member of the Moab Camp of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. Her grandfather settled in Moab in the early 1900s and was a Pony Express rider. Other ancestors pushed handcarts and rode wagons into Utah from 1847-50. Barker earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Utah State University in Logan and developed a radio and newspaper career. She also worked in seasonal jobs for the National Park Service and local nonprofits established for outdoor education and park interpretation. She gained archival systems training through the HPC and secretary-clerical skills from jobs in the Hospital Service District and tourist industry. Her media experience began at age 9 when her parents bought the local AM radio station, KURA. She was managing editor of a weekly newspaper in Logan, and then a reporter for daily papers in several states. She returned to manage KURA, was a “stringer” for the Salt Lake dailies several years, and later served on the board of Moab Public Radio. Family geneology “got me passionate about history about the same time I was hiking all over this area photographing rock art,” she said. “I was always into historic preservation.”
JoAnne Chandler, the newest member of the HPC, says “a lot of folks in Moab may know me as ‘Gabby,’ and I worked with ‘Pickles,’ ‘Mumbles,’ and ‘Radar,’ at Ray’s. We all had reasons for our nicknames.” Basically, Chandler is talkative and passionate about southeastern Utah history, and river history in particular. She developed and became manager of the Green River Archives in the John Wesley Powell River History Museum after working two years as a volunteer and then as a senior-in-training until 2005. She is also a member of the Powell Museum board of directors. She calls herself a “Navy brat…born in Georgia and raised in Virginia.” Chandler moved to Utah at age 16 when her father began working at the now-defunct Green River Missile Base. She “kind of fell into” her current role as an archivist after nurturing an interest in geneology that grew from a visit to her future mother-in-law’s house in Salt Lake City. There, she studied a four-foot-square pedigree chart and couldn’t wait to get started on her own family history. She left Utah for awhile, then returned and got involved in museum projects. With help from assistant Annalee Thayn, Chandler recently produced a 127-page photo-book on Green River and Gunnison Valley, published by Arcadia Press. She will be working with the HPC this year to produce a similar publication on the Moab-Spanish Valley and Canyonlands area.
Bette Stanton, author of the history book on filmmaking in the Moab area, “Where God Put the West” (Four Corners Publications, 1994), has served on the HPC for 15 years. “I absolutely love history. When I was 21, I set some goals and one was to build a personal library for research and writing,” Stanton said. She accomplished that goal, which serves her well in various ongoing book projects. Born in Colorado, Stanton first visited Moab at age 14, resided here in the 1960s while she raised a family of three, moved north and worked in planning and grant-writing for Salt Lake and Tooele counties, then returned to Moab in 1982 to offer general business support services. She successfully applied for mineral-lease funding to establish a business-support office (Central Services Unit) that served the Moab Film Commission, Moab Community Economic Development, Moab Chamber of Commerce, and Grand County Travel Council Convention Bureau. Realizing that her ancestors, who settled areas in south, central and eastern Utah, were rarely mentioned if at all in local histories, she started researching her family history in the 1980s, then got involved in oral history projects for others’ families when she retired in 1996. “It was important to me that some of these people got their stories documented,” Stanton said. “It was like doing a patchwork quilt, and everyone I interviewed changed the pattern of the quilt…and it was beautiful.”
Joe Tuomey, one of three archaeologists on the HPC, is a recent hire at the BLM. His duties include archaeological documentation of thousands of prehistoric sites in a 2-million-acre area. Including Tuomey, the BLM has 2.5 archaeologists to cover San Juan and Grand counties, he said. Tuomey is from the East Coast but spent most of his life in the Southwest. He arrived in Moab with eight years of experience in archaeology with the BLM and National Park Service, and in Arizona helped prepare various nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. He is currently involved in a proposal to nominate local rock art sites to the Register. Tuomey said he has always looked to older generations “to choose the best lifestyle, characteristics and traits to model myself after.” History has always been of interest to him, and studying history is a satisfying way of getting engaged in life, he said. Tuomey decided to join the HPC because he believes people need to become personally involved in protecting archaeological and cultural resources. “This area is very interesting in the way it was settled, and also in its prehistory,” he said. Recently, Tuomey told a group of volunteers who were in training to help document archaeological sites, “We’re archaeologists for the same reason you’re here. We want to get out there and look at that stuff, but we can’t always get out into the field as much as we want.”
D.L. Taylor, from a long line of cattlemen, is a fifth-generation resident of Grand County. He formally joined the HPC in 2008 after participating as a volunteer on historical preservation projects for years. He served 12 years on the Grand County Planning and Zoning Commission, 13 years on the board of the Hospital Service District, and counts 15 years with the Water Conservancy District. He was a two-term member of the County Commission when it was a 3-member body, is a board member of the Utah Cattlemen’s Assn. and past-president of the Eastern Utah Cattlemen’s Assn. Taylor said his ancestors brought the first cattle to Moab -- about 20 years after the Mormons’ attempt to cultivate harmony with the Indians and sustain a fort failed. “My forebears had the same kind of experience, but they didn’t lose any people -- just left cattle. They came back to settle in 1871.” Taylor still runs cattle at the family’s Fisher Valley Ranch, near Fisher Towers. His pet project is researching the history of a downtown building -- now serving as a mortuary -- where his grandparents were married, his father was born, and he got married. He has completed a list of owners of the land, dating to 1887, and has plans to develop 18 acres when the economy improves. Taylor’s ancestors were among Mormon pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 by wagon train.
Leigh Grench, also a BLM archaeologist, joined the HPC this fall. Her specialty role at the BLM is Native American coordinator for the Moab Field Office. Prior to moving to Moab, Grench filled a similar position for the Buffalo Field Office in Wyoming, where she dealt with archaeological matters associated with oil-and-gas leases on public lands. Here, she will oversee the BLM volunteer Site-Steward Program, which engages civilians in documenting archaeological and rock-art sites. Grench earned her master’s degree in archaeology from the University of Kentucky, and has spent six years in the field. Prior to gaining employment as a professional archaeologist, she spent 25 years in jobs related to recreation and outdoor education, she stated in her application to the HPC. “This provided me opportunities to do outreach in such subjects as historical events, prehistorical events and workshops, and contribute to numerous special event weekends.” She particularly enjoyed opportunities for hands-on experiences in “historical lifeways.”