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Local historian shares Provo’s rich history at 175th birthday celebration

By Curtis Booker - | Apr 3, 2024
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Historian Linda Trotter talks about the early beginnings of Provo during a presentation at Pioneer Village on Monday, April 1, 2024, to commemorate the city's 175th birthday.
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The Carriage House sits inside of the Provo Pioneer Village, pictured Monday, April 1, 2024.
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Inside the Pioneer Village general store, manager and board member Jon Clark and volunteer Verna Nelson pose for a photo Monday, April 1, 2024.
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A wagon at Provo Pioneer Village is seen Monday, April 1, 2024.
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Volunteer Elaine Brewster speaks to the crowd inside the Carriage House at Provo Pioneer Village during a celebration Monday, April 1, 2024, to commemorate the city's 175th birthday.

The city of Provo is blowing out 175 birthday candles.

To honor the occasion, dozens gathered at Provo’s Pioneer Village on Monday during the Founders Day celebration.

The village itself tells a visual story of Provo’s early days dating back to the mid-to-late 1800s. It contains many original houses and structures, as well as artifacts and tools.

Visitors also can see a real blacksmith, mercantile store and wagons, and get a “sound box” tour.

Inside the Carriage House, historian Linda Trotter took a small group of community members ranging in ages from adults to small children on a journey back in time.

She detailed the “early beginnings” of Provo when pioneers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established it as a permanent settlement in 1849.

The city is named after a Canadian fur trapper, Etienne Provost, who died in 1850.

The area had traditionally been home to the Ute tribe, which settled near Utah Lake to be close to their primary food source, fish.

Trotter explained there were roughly “150 people, 30 families and a few single young men” in the first group of Mormon settlers.

“Most of the families had at least five children, and a few of them didn’t have children yet at all. So some of the families were a little larger” she said.

Trotter detailed how the settlers traveled through the Jordan Narrows and crossed the American Fork River in an area now known as Pioneer Crossing.

They would eventually arrive at the Provo River along what’s presently Geneva Road.

Early settlers built acres of structures into Fort Utah, a defensive location with exterior walls for protection from wildlife and enemies, Trotter explained.

In the early days, conflicts between Latter-day Saint settles and Native Americans would arise, until years later when they would being live peacefully amongst each other.

By the early 1850s, homes and infrastructure began to take shape.

In 1875, Brigham Young Academy was founded, ultimately growing into Brigham Young University.

Today, Provo is the fourth-largest city in Utah with over 113-thousand residents.

It’s nationally recognized for a bustling economy, quality of life and access to nature.

Along with local history, City leaders also are honoring the continued progression of Provo.

“As we celebrate Provo City’s 175th birthday, we honor not just its history, but its remarkable journey of growth and progress,” remarked Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi in a statement provided to the Daily Herald. “From its humble pioneer beginnings, Provo now sets high municipal standards nationwide as a vibrant hub of innovation while maintaining its welcoming community.”

With all of the modern conveniences in Provo, volunteers at Pioneer Village also invite residents to learn more about the history of city.

“Everything here is from 1847 to 1869, almost everything in the whole village,” Elaine Brewster told the Daily Herald.

Honorary mayor of the village Steve Nelson passed away last December. Brewster said he had a special saying he would tell children in hopes that they appreciate and cherish the history of the village.

“He’d say to the fourth graders … ‘Children, do you know why everything looks so old here? It’s because it is,” she said. “That was also his way of letting them know to be careful with it. And we really value all these artifacts and buildings.”

To learn more about Provo’s history, Pioneer Village is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day and during the Christmas holiday.


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