Article by Dick Dixon
Quarries – January 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine
STONE FROM THE UTE TRAIL AREA via Salida Granite Co. received national acclaim May 30, 1927, when the Mormon Battalion Monument in Salt Lake City, Utah, was unveiled before a crowd of 15,000 people.
Located on the southeast corner of the Capitol Building grounds in Salt Lake, the monument commemorates a 2,000 mile march that began in May of 1846 and lasted until July 16, 1847.
During that march, Mormon volunteers in the U.S. Army took physical possession of much of the Mexican-owned southwest for the United States during the Mexican War. And in addition, the Mormon Battalion then carved out the first southern wagon road to California.
The Mormon Battalion Monument to honor this endeavor cost $200,000 with the state of Utah paying half and with private subscription covering the remainder.
Although the idea was born in 1905, work didn’t begin until 1920. The monument took five years to assemble with an additional two years for granite carving. On June 8, 1927, Wesley King, vice president of the Mormon Battalion Monument Commission, wrote thanking F.W. Gloyd, president of Salida Granite Corp.
We believe we have the very finest piece of sculptor work in the country and we feel sure also that we have the very finest and the best character of granite for this kind of a monument. It is beautiful almost beyond any power to describe and not only the members of the commission, but the citizens at large of the state of Utah, are delighted with and exceedingly proud of it. We feel, Gloyd, that we are most fortunate indeed in being able to secure your granite for this magnificent memorial.
The American Granite Association, in an article published October 4, 1927, in The Salida Mail, was profuse in its praise of the fine granite. The association said only two other quarries — both in Vermont — had stone which even approached the superior quality of that which went into the Mormon monument.
Responding to a set of photographs sent to the American Granite Association in Washington, D.C., Lucian O. Holman, secretary, said he had never seen pink granite of this type and wanted a sample. He wrote that the monument “is strikingly original in design and the carving around the base is executed with unusual delicacy and accuracy. I do not believe there is another piece of granite carving anywhere in the country done in such delicate detail.”
Holman added, “It is the general belief over the country that delicate carving cannot be executed in granite. I believe that the marble people make a great deal of that point. We all know anything that can be carved in marble can be carved in granite if it is planned, designed and executed with proper knowledge of the cutting of granite. Your Mormon Monument is good proof of that.”
The Mormon Battalion Monument took 22 standard gauge carloads — more than 439,000 pounds or about 4,000 cubic feet — of Salida Rose Pink granite for the sculptural portion.
The monument proper is constructed of 71 individual stones. The largest is six and a half tons, and the average weight of each stone is about three tons.
Although there were other smaller monuments carved from Salida Rose Pink, most of the big boulders in the Ute Trail area were quarried to provide stones for the Salt Lake City project. The local supply was nearly exhausted.
The monument mass is roughly triangular with concave sides. It’s 29 feet high, the front face is 30 feet wide and the east and west sides are 19 feet each.
Surrounding the monument are walls, two reflecting pools planted with colorful flowers, concrete benches, sidewalks, wide stairs on three sides and display locations for three large bronze plaques, creating a site 138 feet long and 72 feet wide.
Aggregate for the concrete in walls, benches, and other trim was made from spall — chips and dust carefully saved from construction and carving.
The sculpture is hollow, originally housing a small steam boiler to heat water for fountains in the reflecting pools, allowing them to flow year around.
Architects and contractors Frank Chase Walker and James M. Morrison came up with the idea in 1905. They eventually sold their dream to the State of Utah and the Mormon Battalion Monument Commission was created to carry out construction. The stone carver was Gilbert Riswold.
The work includes 33 near life-size figures, and three other figures created in larger than life “heroic size.”
Renovation of the monument, estimated to cost $360,000, began May 30, 1992, exactly 65 years after its unveiling. As with original construction, money came half from the State of Utah and half from private subscription.
Work included sand blasting and cleaning the stone to restore its warm, skin-tone pink glow, restoration of stone joints, and repair of deteriorating concrete which forms the perimeter of the monument site and enclosures of the two reflecting pools.
Work was nearly done by June, 1997. Concrete walkways with pink-aggregate trim were refurbished, chips in concrete walls were patched with almost no evidence of restoration, and the old boiler was removed.
The reflecting pools which began to leak decades ago were planted with colorful flowers and restoration plans called for once again filling the pools with water. However, the possibility of drowning for children prompted the restoration committee to again plant pool areas with flowers.
A bronze plaque names the contractors and stone carver in addition to all the members of the Mormon Battalion, but nowhere is Salida Granite Co. or any of its employees mentioned.
Triggered by publicity from Utah, the State of Idaho ordered Salida Rose Pink granite for a $25,000 monument to Governor Frank Stunenberg who was assassinated by terrorist Harry Orchard — the subject of a current best-seller, Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lucas. And Orchard had been active in Colorado, since he was also implicated in the dynamiting of a railroad depot near Cripple Creek.
Because most of the Ute Trail supply was exhausted for the Mormon Battalion Monument, pink granite for the Stunenberg monument came from a quarry 34 miles east of Salida near Texas Creek, but it was sold as Salida Pink.
The bronze plate on Stunenberg’s memorial reads, “When in 1899 organized lawlessness challenged the power of Idaho, he upheld the dignity of the state, enforced its authority, and upheld law and order within its boundaries for which he was assassinated in 1905. Rugged in body, resolute in mind, massive in the strength of his convictions, he was of the granite hewn. In grateful memory of his courageous devotion to public duty, the people of Idaho have erected this monument.”
Although neither quarry workers nor their company are named on either monument, they are nevertheless monuments to those workers and to the mineral which finally paid off. Miners sought immortality in gold, but permanence came in the form of indestructible granite monuments in other states.
Granite monuments from the Ute Trail area became a part of American history as those who made that history sought to remember it.
Dick Dixon teaches journalism and American history at Salida High School, and is working on a book about the Turret granite quarries. He is the author of several books of local history, among them an account of the smokestack in Smeltertown.