This Is the Place Monument

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Purposefully nestled near the mouth of Emigration Canyon is the This Is the Place Monument. Lore has it that on July 24, 1847, Brigham Young entered the valley lying in the bed of a wagon due to a serious illness he contracted on the Mormon pioneer journey from Illinois. He rose up, looked at the Salt Lake Valley, and declared, “This is the right place. Drive on.”[1] [2] That first company of Latter-day Saint pioneers, and others who came in the years following, set to work settling the mountain desert region and making it “blossom as a rose.”(See Isaiah 35:1.)

A wooden cross, placed in 1915, marked the specific location where Brigham Young stopped.[3] Then a much smaller obelisk, placed in 1921, marked the spot. The obelisk still stands in the This Is the Place Heritage Park. The monument was refurbished and rededicated in 2007 under the direction of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers.

According to the Deseret News:

"The foothill site sat, at the time, upon the Fort Douglas military reservation. George Albert Smith, president of the Utah Pioneer Trails & Landmarks Association (and later an LDS Church president) had to petition Secretary of War George H. Dern (helpfully, a former Utah governor) for acreage upon which to build the monument.
Dern and Congress approved, of course, with instruction that the memorial honor all those peoples whose faith and courage constitute an important part of Utah's historic fabric.[4]

In 1937, a Utah state commission selected Mahonri Young, a grandson of Brigham Young, to design and create a more fitting monument to be unveiled at the state centennial. From 1939 to 1947, Young sculpted a much larger monument that celebrates the early Mormon pioneers and the explorers and settlers of the American West.

The granite monument stands sixty feet tall and eighty-six feet long and is flanked by bronze statues and bas-reliefs. Atop the center pedestal are Brigham Young with two other early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Heber C. Kimball and Wilford Woodruff. Depicted at the base are Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow, who were members of a scouting party and the first to enter the valley on July 21, 1847. Other members of the scouting party are depicted on the sides and include: Orrin Porter Rockwell, Joseph Matthews, John Brown, Jesse C. Little, George A. Smith, John Pack, and an unidentified pioneer.[5] Shown on the opposite side of the center pedestal is the Donner-Reed party, whose route the Mormon pioneers followed.

On the west side of the monument, the first pioneer company is depicted in two wagon trains, with Brigham Young visible in Woodruff's carriage at the rear. The first company was comprised of 143 men, 3 women, and 2 children. Those portrayed on the monument include Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, Lorenzo Dow Young, Clarissa Decker Young, Ellen Saunders Kimball, and Harriet Page Wheeler Decker Young. Children include: Lorenzo Sobieski Young and Isaac Perry Decker. Horsemen on the north side of the monument include:

Along the east side are bas-relief sculptures of six men who were significant figures in early regional history: Etienne Provost, Chief Washakie, Peter Skene Ogden, Captain Benjamin Bonneville, Father Jan DeSmet, and John C. Fremont.

On the shorter north column, the 1820s trappers and traders are represented. They came to the American West and were the first white men to see many of the region’s mountains, rivers, lakes, and valleys. William H. Ashley of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company is the figure sitting astride the horse.

Figures on the shorter south column depict Spanish explorers who came into the area in 1776. The Dominguez-Escalante expedition came as far north as Utah Valley attempting to find a practical overland route to Monterey, California.

A plaque on the front of the monument reads:

"This is the Place" Monument, dedicated July 24, 1947, commemorates the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers into the valley of the Great Salt Lake 100 years before, and also the role of others -- Spanish Catholic Fathers, trappers and fur traders, official government explorers and California emigrants, who contributed to the successful founding of an empire in "The Top of the Mountains." Driven from their homes in Missouri and Illinois because of political and religious prejudice, the Mormons began their historic fifteen hundred mile trek from Nauvoo to the Rocky Mountains February 4, 1846, an event that had been prophesied by the Prophet Joseph Smith four years earlier. As early as September 9, 1845, leaders of the Church had determined to found their "Zion" in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Because of the intense gold and deadly source of cholora, the four hundred mile trek across Iowa in 1846 was the most trying of the entire exodus. These handicaps, together with the furnishing of 500 volunteers - the Mormon Battalion - to fight in the war against Mexico, forced the Saints to halt temporarily on the Missouri River. Winter Quarters was established on the present site of Florence, Nebraska.
From this place on April 7, 1847, the pioneer company left for the Rocky Mountains. The train consisted of 143 men, 3 women, 2 children, 72 wagons, 93 horses, 66 oxen, 52 mules, 19 cows and 17 dogs. Seventeen additional members of the Crow and Therkill families, with three wagons who had wintered at the site of modern Pueblo, Colorado, were added at Fort Laramie, and six members of the Mormon Battalion joined them at the crossing of the Green River, making in all a total of 171 souls who came into Great Salt Lake valley, July 22-24, 1847.
Fort Laramie was reached June 1, South Pass, June 27, and Fort Bridger, July 7. On July 13, Orson Pratt was directed to take 23 wagons and 42 men and proceed ahead to determine where the Reed-Donner Trail crossed the mountains. Two days later, Orson Pratt's company discovered the trail which ran southwest for fifteen miles from the present site of Henefer, Utah and then turned west over the mountains. Following this route, Orson Pratt and John Brown ascended Big Mountain, and from its summit, on July 19, saw for the first time the Great Salt Lake.
Two days later Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow proceeded from the foot of Little Mountain, four and one half miles down Emigration Canyon, ascended a hill near the entrance of the valley, and in the words of Orson Pratt "beheld in a moment such an extensive scenery open before us (that) we could not refrain from a shout of joy which almost involuntarily escaped from our lips the moment this glad and lovely scenery was within our view. Although we had only one horse between us, we traversed a circuit of about twelve miles."
On the morning of July 22, a party of nine horseman, headed by Orson Pratt and George A. Smith, rode into the valley for the purpose of locating a place to plant crops. On the same day, Willard Richards led a train of sixty wagons into the valley. Temporary encampment was made seven and one-half miles southwest from the mouth of the canyon. Early next morning permanent encampment was made two miles north on the banks of the south fork of City Creek. On the same day, the waters of City Creek were turned upon the hard, baked soil, thus inaugurating the system of modern, scientific irrigation in America. Meanwhile, Brigham Young, who had been seriously ill with Mountain Fever, entered the valley on July 24 with the remaining fifteen wagons. Of this historic occasion, Wilford Woodruff, in whose carriage Brigham Young rode, says: "When we came out of the canyon in full view of the valley, I turned the side of my carriage around, open to the west, and President Young arose from his bed and took a survey of the country. While gazing on the scene he was enwrapped in vision for several minutes. When the vision had passed he said, 'This is the right place, drive on!'"

The monument was dedicated by Church president George Albert Smith on July 24, 1947, the 100th anniversary of the pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley. It stood in isolation for many years. The nearby pioneer village grew and the monument became part of the This Is the Place Heritage Park. The monument was rededicated on June 29, 1996.