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66th Annual Utah History Conference

Transportation and Movement

September 27 – 29, 2018

It’s possible to read Utah history as a story of movement and transportation. The centrality of movement to exploration, industry, and travel—major themes in Utah history—is obvious. Less so is the way movement can be seen on a more conceptual level as a way to evaluate change over space and time: the variation and transformation of the landscape, the flow of ideas and people into and out of the state, the mobility of groups and individuals, the development of transportation-related infrastructure, and the transportation and communication networks connecting the state to regional and national systems.

The flow of ideas and people is now more global than ever before, rendering traditional boundaries that confined physical movement less operable.

The Utah Historical State Society, thanks to our generous sponsors, offers the conference free to scholars, writers, educators, students, and the general public. Registration is required.

Register to Attend! 


Thursday, September 27 
8:30 am–5:00 pm
Rio Grande Depot, 300 S. Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City
State Archives Building, 346 South Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City

Friday, September 28 
7:45 am – check in and morning refreshment
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Plenary, lunchtime keynote and awards presentation, history and panel sessions
Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 West 3100 South, West Valley

We are pleased to announce David Haward Bain, author of “Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad,” will provide the conference keynote address. Bain is the author of dozens of books and articles.

Empire Express is an epic narrative history covering not only the dramatic struggle to link the oceans with twin bands of iron but three decades in which America doubled in size, fought three wars, and discovered itself. A main selection of the Book of the Month Club and a selection of the History Book Club, Empire Express was a finalist both for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in History and the Francis Parkman Prize, and won the New England Historical Association’s and the National Railroad and Locomotive Historical Society’s annual book prizes; the author was elected a Fellow in the Society of American Historians. The work was featured on Brian Lamb’s C-SPAN show, “Booknotes” and adapted by PBS “The American Experience” into a 2-hour documentary. See

Is Utah Still the Crossroads of the West?

The panel will examine the notion in all its dimensions—in terms of the state’s geographic position but also cultural and economic influence—and whether the idea of crossroads is still a useful and accurate concept to think about Utah history and the state in the twenty-first century.

Panelist are David Haward Bain, John M. Findlay, Pam Perlich, and Fred E. Woods; moderated by Jeffrey D. Nichols

Saturday, September 29th
Pony Express in Utah Tour
Transcontinental Railroad Tour


Thursday, September 27

Using Volunteers to Expand Your Reach
Mary Buehler and Jacob Johnson
9:00 am – 3:30 pm (45 min break for lunch – on your own)
Zephyr Conference Room, Rio Grande Depot
300 S. Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City, UT

Have you thought about using volunteers in your work? Wondering what the first steps are to setting up a volunteer program? During this session, UServeUtah will use real-world examples and international best practice research to help you decide if volunteers are right for you. We will walk you through the first steps in deciding how volunteers can help your program and what you need in order to manage them. Come prepared with you questions!

Utah Geographic Names: how geographic names in Utah are proposed, managed, and officially reviewed
Arie Leeflang
9:00 am – 10:30 am
West Lecture Room, Rio Grande Depot

The names associated with natural geographic features often carry significant history, character, and meaning for the nearby communities or local cultural groups. Since 1890 and 1978 respectively, the U.S Board on Geographic Names and the Utah Committee on Geographic Names have been reviewing proposed geographic names in an effort to standardize naming efforts. This workshop will address how geographic names are proposed and reviewed – including the various national policies the state Committee and national Board follow. Resources on researching geographic names will be also covered. Finally, current trends and topics in geographic names, including the recent Grandstaff Canyon proposal, will be reviewed.

Family History Meets History
Holly George
1:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Board Room, Rio Grande Depot
300 S. Rio Grande, Salt Lake City

The world of family history has much to offer—both tools and stories—to the writers of history. At the same time, historical writing and genealogical work are not always the same thing.

This workshop will address
1) How to use the tools of family history research in historical writing
2) How to craft family stories into articles for journals such as Utah Historical Quarterly

Utah History in 3D: The Use of 21st Century Technologies in Archaeology
Shawn Lambert
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
West Lecture Room, Rio Grande Depot
300 S. Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City

When people think of archaeology, they mainly think of excavations and artifact recovery. There is another facet of archaeology that involves photogrammetry and 3D printing technologies. In this workshop, you will receive an introduction to photogrammetry and 3D printing and their applications in archaeology and public outreach.

Friday, September 28

7:45 am – 9:00 am:  Check in and morning refreshments
9:00 am – 10:15 am: Opening Plenary
History Session 1:  10:30 am – 11:45 am
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm:  Lunchtime Keynote Speech by David Haward Bain, author of “Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad” and Outstanding Achievement Awards Program, by Dina Blaes, Chair, Board of State History
History Session 2:  1:45 pm – 3:00 pm
History Session 3:  3:15 pm – 4:30 pm

**Detailed session information will be finalized and announced in June

Saturday, September 29th

Pony Express in Utah Tour
Time: 8am to 6pm

Description:  To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, the Bureau of Land Management’s Salt Lake field office is offering an auto tour of the Pony Express National Historic Trail on National Trails Day, Saturday, September 29. During the tour, which will take place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., BLM staff and Utah historians will guide participants across a landscape largely untouched since the trail’s creation in 1860.

The tour will begin at the Home Depot parking lot located at 222 E. 2400 North, Tooele, and return to the Wasatch Front via I-80. Numerous stops will allow participants to visit Pony Express Station ruins and view traces of the trails.

Limitations: Sign-up is limited to the first 15 cars. Backcountry travel will be on a gravel road; a well-maintained vehicle with good tires and a spare is necessary. Participants should be ready for variable weather and terrain, and include plenty of water, good sturdy shoes, a hat (for sun or shine) and other outdoor clothing! For more details contact BLM outdoor recreation planner Ray Kelsey by phone at 801-977-4300 or email at

Transcontinental Railroad Tour
Time: 800am to 600pm

Description: As we quickly approach the 150th Anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 2019, the Bureau of Land Management would like to invite the public to join cultural resource staff and historians on a guided tour of some important locations in western Box Elder County. Tour will stop at the important railroad towns of Kelton and Terrace, along with some important engineering feats such as the Dove Creek Fill and Peplin Cut.

Tour will begin at the Love’s Travel Station at Snowville, Utah (just off I-15) at 800am, and will return to this location at the end of the day (around 6pm).

Limitation: Sign-up is limited to the first 10 cars. Backcountry travel will be on the historic transcontinental railroad grade, so there is a risk of flat tires from railroad spikes. Good off-road tires, medium to high-clearance vehicle and a spare is required. You are responsible for your own lunch and water. Participants should be ready for variable weather and terrain, and include plenty of water, good sturdy shoes, a hat (for sun or shine) and other outdoor clothing! For more details contact BLM archaeologist Michael Sheehan by phone at 801-977-4300 or email at

2018 Outstanding Achievement Awards – Nominations are Now Being Accepted

The Utah Division of State History’s annual awards recognize individuals and groups who have made a significant contribution to history, prehistory or historic preservation in the state of Utah. Whether these efforts on behalf of the past are quiet or prominent, they benefit the state’s citizens in tangible and intangible ways. Utah State History therefore invites nominations of persons or organizations who have given extraordinary service or completed outstanding projects in the field of Utah archaeology, preservation or history, or in support of one of Utah’s heritage organizations. This project or activity may include research, preservation, education, fundraising, community programs, volunteerism, journalism or other activities.

Thank you to our generous conference sponsors!


Register to Attend! 

For general conference, award nominations, or session proposals questions, please contact Alycia Rowley at or 801-245-7226

USS Utah

The USS Utah During World War I and World War II

On December 7, 2017, the bell was placed on permanent display in the University of Utah’s Naval Science Building.

Background of the USS Utah

President Theodore Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy William H. Moody proposed naming a battleship for the state of Utah on their visit in 1903. The proposal became reality when Congress authorized its construction on May 13, 1908.

Built by the New York Ship Building Company and launched on December 23, 1909, the USS Utah was sponsored by Alice Spry, daughter of Governor William Spry.

Commissioned in August 1911, the USS Utah joined the Atlantic Fleet in 1912 after Captain William S. Benson led this ship through its shakedown cruise.

In 1914 the Utah participated in action at Vera Cruz during the Mexican Revolution. She assisted in the transport of refugees to Tampico, Mexico and sent a landing force to occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico to prevent weapons and ammunition from being delivered to General Huerta.

After the United States entered World War I, the USS Utah was stationed at Bantry Bay, Ireland and served as the flagship for Admiral Thomas S. Rodgers, Commander of Battleship Division 6. Her main responsibility during the war’s final months was to protect supply convoys. She ended her service in Europe by joining the honor escort carrying President Woodrow Wilson to France.

After the London Naval Treaty of 1930, the USS Utah was redesignated as a “miscellaneous auxiliary ship.” She now served as a remote controlled target ship to train anti-aircraft gunners. She effectively filled this role for the Navy from 1931 to 1941.

On December 7, 1941, the USS Utah was moored on the northwest side of Ford Island opposite Battleship Row. In the first minutes of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Utah was struck by at least two torpedoes and began listing heavily to port. The order was given to abandon ship and by 0812 the ship had rolled over and sunk. Six officers and fifty two enlisted men were killed, including Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

After the attack, the Utah was partially turned “… inshore to clear the approach to an adjacent pier.” The Navy began to assess the damage to determine if she could be repaired and if salvage operations could begin. On September 5, 1944 she was declared “out of commission, not in service” and was struck from the Navy’s list of ships on November 13, 1944.

How Did the Ship’s Bell from the USS Utah End-Up at the University of Utah?

The ship’s bell from the USS Utah was originally presented by the United States Navy to the Utah State Historical Society in April 1961. Transfer of the bell was arranged through the office of Senator Wallace F. Bennett and was given to the Historical Society on an indefinite loan basis. For almost six years the bell was housed at the Historical Society’s offices in the Kearns Mansion on South Temple.

Discussions began in 1965 to loan the bell to a new Naval History Museum that was to be located in the Naval Science Building on the University of Utah campus. The museum was to be an affiliate of the Utah State Museum of Natural History. In January 1965, the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society passed a resolution supporting the creation of the museum.  Everett L. Cooley, Director of the Utah State Historical Society and Major Gaut, curator of the Naval History Museum, began communicating to arrange the loan of the ship’s bell and other items from the Historical Society’s collection. The bell was to be loaned to the museum with the condition that the Historical Society could ask for its return if in the future a new Utah State History Museum was established. The bell was transferred in February 1966 with the intention of either displaying it inside the Naval Science Building or on an appropriate foundation outside the building.

Pearl Harbor’s Forgotten Hero: The Story of the USS Utah

1961 Press Release from Senator Wallace F. Bennett

1961 Press Release from the Clearfield, Utah Naval Supply Depot

USS Utah The Utah Daily Chronicle Feb. 10, 1966

USS Utah Salt Lake Tribune April 11, 1961

Utah World War I Commission

April 2017 marked the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, a defining conflict of the modern era.

To commemorate the sacrifice and involvement of Utahns in the Great War, the Utah WWI Commission will provide information and resources to the public.

Utah’s World War I Monuments, which details WWI memorials throughout the state, is available for free as a PDF.


The commission is offering small grants to encourage Utahns to recognize the impact of WWI in their communities.


Educational resources, archival finding aids, and much more.


Event listings will be updated regularly. If you know of a WWI-related event in Utah, email us at


Coming soon: photo gallery, list of Utah’s WWI dead, and monuments.

Contact Us

Valerie Jacobson, WWI Commission Project Manager

300 S. Rio Grande Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84101