Thanks to my fourth-grade teacher Rowe Harrison, I fell in love with Utah history and geography at a tender age.
Dinosaurs, Colorado plateau, Lake Bonneville, Goshutes, handcarts, hole-in-the-rock, and memorizing counties and county seats all fascinated my 10-year-old mind.
However, the driving of the golden spike and the story of the transcontinental railroad intrigued me the most.
A few years later while walking home from junior high school, I asked my friend Craig Erickson, “If you could be anywhere in the world today, where would that be?”
He gave me a puzzled look and replied, “I dunno. How ‘bout you?”
“On May 10, 1869,” I excitedly replied, “Promontory Point.”
The historic site is where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads connected the western United States with the eastern rail network.
Many historians acknowledge the uniting of the rails as the most significant 19th century event.
When the Golden Spike Sesquicentennial rolled around this year, I made sure to journey to western Box Elder County and join the throngs in the celebration.
Since three young grandchildren joined us, we decided to skip the morning speeches and focus on the afternoon hands-on festivities.
Gov. Gary Herbert, Rep. Rob Bishop along with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhill all delivered remarks.
Prior to our arrival, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, arrived via helicopter to avoid the miles-long lines of cars and buses of 16,000-plus attendees traveling the one-way-in, one-way-out stretch of rural road.
Here are some excerpts from President Nelson’s speech:
“We are honored and blessed to be able to gather at this historic spot to commemorate the gargantuan accomplishment and the people who made it possible.
“Their hard work, sacrifices and spirit to get the job done helped connect this country in a way that has allowed generations of Americans and immigrants to fulfill their dreams.
“This iron spike is engraved with these words: ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ These words honor and thank our Lord, who watched over His people as they completed the link to the nation’s new train system.
“When I learned of the theme of today’s celebration — ‘As One, I thought about people — the thousands of Chinese and Irish immigrants, the newly freed slaves from the southern states, the veterans who recently fought in the Civil War, the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were trying to settle this harsh land, the Native Americans whose land was altered forever, and the many immigrants from Italy, Germany and other places that came together to build this railroad that crossed a vast country. They came together ‘As One.’
“Diverse people working as one had the ability to transform and unite a nation. These hardy laborers achieved a oneness that can guide us, as a people, to move forward to fulfill God’s plan for this nation, the world and all of His children.”
I am grateful I took the day off for the celebration. I might not be around for the bicentennial merriment when I’m 114-years old.
Charlie Roberts previously served as a bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.