Cemetery of the Week #68: Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument

View from Young’s grave looking toward the front of the Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument

Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument
aka Brigham Young Family Memorial Cemetery
aka Brigham Young Cemetery

140 First Avenue
Salt Lake City, Utah 84103
Founded: 1848?
Size: one acre
Number of interments: 11 (although Findagrave lists 15 and other sites suggest there may be many more)
Open: Daily until 8 p.m.

Not to be confused with the Brigham Young Memorial Park, which sits on the corner of First Avenue and State, the Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument lies farther up First Avenue, sandwiched between apartment buildings. It helps to know that the even numbers are on the right side of the street as you walk uphill, the side of the street that’s toward town.

Near the cemetery fence stand matching monuments that remember two hymn writers of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as Mormons. One of these poets was Eliza R. Snow, who wrote many of the church’s best-loved hymns and served for 21 years as president of the Relief Society, the church’s women’s organization. She had been the wife of the first “prophet,” Joseph Smith, but married the second prophet Brigham Young after Smith’s death.

The other monument is dedicated to William Clayton, author of the hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints.” He is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Patriarch sculpture

Farther into the pocket-sized park are bronze statues of a patriarch reading to young children. In fact, you have to go to the back corner of the park to find Brigham Young’s resting place. An ornate fence surrounds it, but a plain concrete slab covers his grave. A brass plaque adorned with a cow skull explained that, from 1850-56, he served simultaneously as head of the church and the territorial governor.

Born in Vermont in 1801, Brigham Young was baptized into the LDS Church in 1832. After Joseph Smith was imprisoned and killed in Illinois, Young led the LDS migration from Illinois to Salt Lake City. Mormons consider him “the American Moses.”

Brigham Young’s grave, with Mary Ann Angell and Lucy Decker beside him

Young died in 1877 of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix and was buried in a corner of his own land that had been set aside as a graveyard. The bronze marker was added in 1938 by the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Associations, which had been organized under Young’s direction.

Beside Young lie six of his 29 wives. Some of these wives have ornate slabs of marble covering their graves. Others have only a modern paper marker stuck into the sod. The rest are buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery on the other side of town.

Of these wives, only Mary Ann Angell – whom he married after the death of his first wife – is legally recognized as his wife. Lucy Ann Decker became Young’s first plural wife in 1842, after he had a vision that God would allow Mormons to take multiple wives. She was 20. He was 41. Her 16-year-old sister Clara became his fourth wife two years later.

Originally, Mormon women were not allowed to own property in their own right, so they had a difficult time making a living after they were widowed. It was considered an act of charity for a man to marry widows and raise their children. Of course, he increased his property holdings with every widow he married.

Also in the cemetery are the remains of Young’s eldest son, his first child with his second wife, Mary Ann Angell (also buried here). The third of Brigham Young’s 56 children, Joseph Angell Young was a teenager when the family settled in Salt Lake City. As a young man, he traveled to England as an LDS missionary. Upon returning home, Joseph Angell Young served three terms as a member of the Utah Territory’s House of Representatives and six terms in the territory’s senate.

Information on the cemetery is contradictory and hard to come by, but it appears the original burial in the Brigham Young Family Cemetery was Alva Young, son of Brigham and Louisa Beeman Young, who was buried October 1, 1848. Historian Kate B. Carter wrote, “The earliest burial date [on a tombstone] in the cemetery is 1874 and the last, 1892, but there must have been burials before [the earliest date] for ten of Brigham Young’s children died in infancy to childhood. . .. It is presumed that at least some of these individuals were interred in their family burial ground.”

In 1927, Young’s descendant Richard W. Young, president of the Brigham Young Cemetery Association, signed over the deed of the cemetery property to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on the condition that the burials there “shall in no manner or way be disturbed.”

The land was left pretty much alone until 1974, when church president N. Eldon Tanner dedicated the Brigham Young Family Cemetery to the memory of the 6000 Mormon pioneers who died crossing the plains trying to reach Utah between 1847 and the opening of the railroad in 1869.

The park was redesigned and restored in 2000, when the statuary and poets’ monuments were added.

Useful links:

GPS information and satellite map

Text on the marker on Young’s grave

Text of the All is Well Pioneer Memorial Monument

Pioneer burial grounds of Salt Lake City

Other Mormon memorial sites

Other Salt Lake City cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #54: Salt Lake City Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. Scribner published my favorite essays from Morbid Curiosity magazine as Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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3 Responses to Cemetery of the Week #68: Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument

  1. coastalcrone says:

    So very interesting – well done! So much history there.

  2. Pingback: An introduction to graveyards in the West | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

  3. Pingback: Cemetery of the Week #94: Tombstone’s Boot Hill | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

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