Saturday, August 6, 2005
By Charles F. Trentelman
OGDEN -- If all the descendants of Erastus Bingham turn out for the dedication of a new monument to his memory today, Second Street west of Wall Avenue should fill up.
"We kind of wanted to let as many people as possible know because there's about 30,000 descendants," said Steve Johnson, president of Our Families Roots, the family group set up to keep track of those on the family tree.
He said Bingham, one of the earliest settlers of the Ogden area and builder of Bingham's Fort, had five wives and 10 children. Each of those children had several wives, so the family grew quickly.
The dedication begins at 10 a.m. Keynote speaker will be Mary Johnson, president of the International Society of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, which set up the first monument to Bingham and his fort more than 50 years ago.
Bingham's Fort was built to protect one of the original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pioneer settlements in the Top of Utah after Brigham Young told outlying settlements to "fort up" because of trouble with American Indians.
There were 21 such forts around Utah. Mound Fort Middle School in Ogden gets its name from another, and Ogden's Wall Avenue is so named because the beginnings of a fort were built there but never finished.
The monument was originally set up by the DUP in 1951 at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Second Street in Ogden. Johnson said the DUP put it there because that was the location of the local LDS ward, which has since moved, and the early town of Lynne, which was annexed into Ogden in 1890.
The plaque on that monument referred to the fort three blocks west. Now that Second Street has been rebuilt and is being developed, residents who want to preserve the fort's remnants thought the monument should be on the site of the fort's west wall, Johnson said, at 301 W. Second St.
The monument has been moved and a new plaque, with a more accurate history of the area, is being installed. The original plaque is being left on what is now the back of the monument.
Bingham built the fort in 1853 to take in portions of his and neighboring farms.
A quirk of history preserved the area from development after World War II. During the war, the military established Defense Depot Ogden, closing off public access to the area at Second Street, turning most of the area west of Wall Avenue into a virtual dead-end.
It stopped most development in the area but it also preserved the pioneer farms.
One was Bingham's, now called the Stone Farm and still in operation. A year ago, the Stone Farm was added to the National Historic Register.
One of Bingham's descendants, Brent Bingham, owner of Bingham Engineering, had the contract to design the 2002 rebuilding of Second Street. Bingham said that when new utility lines were being dug along the street, he told crews to look for foundations of the fort wall.
Crews did find the foundation, now marked with a pressed concrete crosswalk.
Bingham, who is Erastus Bingham's great-great-great-grandson, said work on the project gave him a much closer connection to his heritage. He will give the dedicatory prayer at today's event.
Anna Keogh, owner of part of Stones Farm, said the monument dedication is only part of the ongoing work to commemorate the fort and the historic farms in the area, which she said are about the only pioneer-era farms still existing in the state.
A small park is planned north of the Bingham monument, she said. A housing subdivision is going in there, but preservationists managed to buy one lot with a pioneer-era tree mentioned in many early journals.
Unfortunately, Keogh said, "because of decay and age, the decision was made the tree is going to go down, and we're going to take slices of the trunk and do a time chronology," showing historic events by marking the tree's rings.
Subdivision developers have donated $5,000 to assist with that project, she said.
Work is also under way to move Erastus Bingham's log cabin from Pioneer Village at Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington back to its original site near the monument, Johnson said, who added that Bingham died in the small home.