On a Friday morning as Albert Bottema drives through Tooele, Pine Canyon, Erda, Lake Point, Tooele and Grantsville, he points to old homes and buildings and provides brief histories of the structures for his passenger. At times he appears frustrated when he doesn’t know more about a particular building.
His quest is to take photographs and document historical buildings in Tooele County and beyond before they are destroyed to provide space for new housing developments.
“I’ve always had an interest in the history of Tooele and think it would be good if we could publish a book with photographs about Tooele’s historic features similar to the book Grantsville has about their historic homes,” Bottema said.
Everywhere Albert and his wife Dorothy travel they love to delve into the area’s history and try to spot historical structures. Albert is a member of the Tooele chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, and Dorothy is the director of the Tooele Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum on Vine Street.
“I’ve been able to go to most spots in the county and take photographs to save those images for posterity. Pandemic restrictions have made that easier for us to do. I wish I had taken more pictures during the 46 years I worked for the school district, but it was more difficult and expensive back then when you had to use film. It’s easier now and less expensive with digital cameras,” Bottema said.
When the Bottemas travel they look at the National Register of Historic Places and make sure to find those sites.
“I developed a love for Ibapah and the Deep Creek area when I started working with the school district. We rented a home out there for 10 years and had a lot of fun with the family. Same thing with my church calling in Rush Valley. I learned about the history of the area,” he said.
The settlement was originally named Johnson’s Settlement for Luke S. Johnson, an early settler.
“I have been trying to find old pictures about Tooele schools and old homes. There is a ton of history and it’s not just Church history. Tooele has a rich history with mining and railroads. There possibly are people who are still alive who remember back to the early 1900s and remember these places. I just want to preserve the history before it’s all gone. I’d like to know when the buildings were originally built and who built them,” Bottema said.
He indicated how the military has impacted Tooele County with the Tooele Army Depot, Dugway, Deseret Chemical and Wendover.
“How many know that the Enola Gay B-29 flew out of Wendover during World War II, and 20,000 people lived in Wendover for a time,” Bottema said.
He also mentioned Danger Cave State Park near Wendover which is well-known for having been occupied by humans going back at least 11,000 years.
“We’re also looking for help and hoping we can find photographs and information about places that already have disappeared. I just feel like we need to preserve our heritage,” Bottema said.