Lehi gets new historian, new archives center

2013-04-05T00:29:00Z 2013-10-10T06:33:37Z Lehi gets new historian, new archives centerCathy Allred - Daily Herald Daily Herald
April 05, 2013 12:29 am  • 

John Haws is a familiar face to most who have lived in Lehi for a decade or two. He also is the latest city historian for Lehi and very, very busy.

"I think he is as dedicated an historian as I have met. He is thorough. He is passionate about it," said Russ Felt, who has worked with Haws.

At a crossroads in his life, Haws went back to school at 56 with the encouragement of his wife, Jeanette Haws.

"I just loved it, I just loved it," Haws said. "It really was fun."

Graduating magna cum laude from UVU at 58 years old, he received his teaching certification as well as his bachelor's of science degree in history.

Haws used to greet customers with a ready smile at Kohler's on Main Street. Those he greets now are students, both young and old, but his amiable approach to people hasn't disappeared.

As a teacher at Lone Peak High School, his debate team placed second in the state this school year. He also has seen success as a historian.

"He has got that thing organized where it is accessible and people can find it. I can't say enough good about him and his willingness to work," Felt said.

Former Lehi historian Richard VanWagoner wrote the city's history and was extremely knowledgeable. His unexpected death in 2010 left his Lehi historical archives incomplete and unorganized.

As part of Haws' UVU archival project, he asked Lehi City leaders if he could organize VanWagoner's life's work.

"I wish I could ask him some questions," Haws said contemplatively of his predecessor.

After months of filing and recording, 5,500 items have been categorized and filed alphabetically. There are more than 10 cabinets and Haws needs more for the four boxes of VanWagoner's left to categorize and file.

Want to know more about the Wines family? Haws has a file for that.

"We cover everything from the pioneers to the LDS Church, because the church was such an integral part of Lehi history," he said.

After graduating, Haws approached Lehi city once again and proposed working for them as the Lehi historian. City leaders opened the old library branch building on 2151 N. Pointe Meadow Drive for Haws to use as the new Lehi Archives Center.

They also created web pages for Haws at lehi-ut.gov. To find the site go to "Discover," then "Lehi archives."

Friends of the Archives has organized and members are helping Haws to build and preserve Lehi's history. They are soliciting for more residents to join the organization.

On another page, there is a list of archive donors. Boy Scouts wanting to do Eagle projects are asked to contact Haws -- he has more than 14 projects they could choose from -- and there is an archive donation guide page.

BYU students love the new Lehi archives center because everything is readily available.

"They call and they want to come here, yes," Haws said. "They want to do research here because it's all in one place. At the BYU library one little piece is here and then one piece is over here."

He said there has been a lot of interest in Porter Rockwell, with the Utah pioneer's 100th birthday on June 2.

There are several items of interest at the Lehi Archives building. A cowboy boot ice skate sparkles from atop a bookshelf. Miss Utah Jackie Hunt of Lehi wore those skates on a float in 2001 and became a top 10 finalist for Miss America.

Haws pulls out a photo showing what Utah Lake looked like the year it went dry in 1935.

Recently donated to the archives is a recipe for Brigham Young's doughnuts.

"He loved buttermilk cake doughnuts," Haws said.

He said is hoping people will donate their old recipe books, particularly their old Lehi ward and family cookbooks, instead of throwing them away. Old phone books also are considered historically valuable.

Haws said the phone books show who lived in Lehi before the digital age when cell phones replaced land lines.

"What would you do if you were cleaning out your parents' house if you found them? Throw them away. But see, it becomes a valuable thing to me," Haws said.

Photos of people and buildings also are being sought for the archives. Also, journals, letters and Lehi books are welcome at the archives center.

"What is going to happen is they may know about their parents now but 10 years, a generation down the line -- all of this stuff will go to the relatives that like it. Those who didn't like it, now their kids want to find out about it. Now they can come here, they can find out about their history," he said.

-- Cathy Allred is responsible for north Utah County coverage in the cities of Lehi, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs and the small towns of Fairfield and Cedar Fort. You can follow north Utah County news on Twitter at @NorthUtahCounty.
Read more from Cathy Allred here.

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