Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 18, 2022
Tooele’s Story

Told by Sons of Utah Pioneers 

Right off of Main Street on East Vine Street sits the Tooele Pioneer Museum that houses some of Tooele County’s most unique Native American artifacts, maps of old Tooele, other historical artifacts from a variety of time periods, and lots of stories of Tooele’s pioneers past.

The museum, officially known as the James L. Bevan Pioneer Museum, is located at 47 E. Vine Street in Tooele City and was opened in 2000 by Bevan, a member of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.

“This was Jim Bevan’s dream and he was a descendant or an original Tooele settler,” Albert Bottema, museum secretary said.   

Bevan was born March 10, 1931. During his life, Bevan concerned himself with educating others about the struggles and sacrifices that were made by early pioneers.

The museum is now operated by the Sons of the Utah Pioneers, an organization dedicated to preserving the legacy and studying the history of the pioneers.

“The word pioneer has a broad meaning but historically in Utah, they refer to the pioneers as the people who came prior to 1869 when the railroad came through,” Bottema clarified.

Originally, part of the museum was the Andrew Carnegie Library, which was originally opened in May 1911 as the first free public library in Tooele. The library was opened with a $5,000 grant from millionaire and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  

The library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

The other part of the museum, which was added in the 1970’s is the former home of the Tooele City Library.

When the library was relocated in the late 1990’s, the Tooele County Historical Society, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, and the Tooele Settlement Canyon Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers got together and created the museum.

“There were several people that inquired about [the building] but I got these organizations to put out a bid for it and they finally granted us permission to put the museum in here,” said Bevan before his death in 2016.

The Sons of Utah Pioneers worked hard to establish the museum with artifacts and pieces of history donated by members of the community.

“The idea here is to preserve some of the early history of Tooele,” Bottema said, taking the Transcript on a tour of the museum.

Through the entrance of the museum and immediately to the left sits the Native American artifact collection of Lee Nix, which Bottema said is his favorite exhibit.

Nix grew up in a family of sheep herders and began collecting Native American Artifacts when he was 3 years old.

Nix’s collection includes thousands of arrowheads, old pots, bowls, clothes, weapons, pottery, and a large pile of string made out of weeds.

“If I had a favorite, this would be my favorite, because these artifacts are from all over,” Bottema said. “Nix collected these and preserved them.” 

Nix passed away last year but his family opted to keep his collection in the museum which takes up a whole room and a glass case around the corner.

Located on the wall across from the doors, there is a large painting of what the Tooele Valley looked like before the pioneers arrived.

Bottema showed the Transcript the different mountain ranges on the painting, which is set from the perspective of where modern-day Adobe Rock is.

“The grass in the valley was literally up to the bellies of the animals,” Bottema said.

Located near the painting is a huge covered wagon, perhaps one that the Latter-day Saint pioneers may have used to travel to Utah.

“This wagon carriage is an original wagon carriage. The rest of it has been added on,” Bottema said.

Bottema showed the Transcript a model of the original first fort in Tooele, located at Settlers Park near Gophers Gas Station.

The model shows around 100 houses with a partially built wall around the fort.

Located near the fort, are maps of the city as it expanded.

Also located in the newer part of the building is an old well, a map of the Pony Express trail showing areas of modern-day monuments in the county, early Tooele County appliances and tools, a well, and a carriage.

In the Carnegie Library building, sits Bottema’s favorite photo of a wagon train near a locomotive train.

“I love this picture,” he said. “You have the beginning of one era and the ending of another. I have no idea when it was taken but I know it was after 1869.”

This half of the museum also showcases several replicas of pioneer homes, telephones and cell phones dating back to the 1900’s, an old typewriter, Tooele County’s first organ, and an Army Depot exhibit.

The museum also has any type of book about Tooele County you could ever want, along with Tooele High School yearbooks dating back to before the 1930’s.

Tooele County’s oldest pioneer, Hilda Erickson, has a statue dedicated to her near the front of the museum.

“She was quite a lady,” Bottema said and included that he knew her personally.

The museum is funded by tourism grants and donations from generous community members.

It is open Memorial Day through Labor Day on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment by calling Glen Stevens at 435-882-3168 or Joe Brandon at 435-843-9784.

To join the Sons of the Utah Pioneers, please visit the museum and fill out a form or call Alan Jeppesen, chapter president at 435-840-4512.

 

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