At Rest in Zion – OP #14

The Archaeology of Salt Lake City's First Pioneer Cemetery

In July of 1847 the first company of Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, having endured months of weary travel on their route to find Zion. The first recorded death in the valley, a 3-year-old boy, occurred just eighteen days after the group’s arrival. That small boy, and the other members of the company who died in the opening years of the new settlement, were buried in a small family plot on Block 49, the city block immediately east of Salt Lake City’s first pioneer fort. Within three decades the cemetery would be forgotten, covered by the building and growth of a rapidly expanding city. It would not be rediscovered until 1986, when new construction exposed the cemetery, allowing archaeologists to examine, study, and ultimately remove and relocate the burials.

This report details the protective efforts of archaeologists to excavate and document the burial grounds before they were destroyed by the construction. Subsequent forensic and osteological laboratory work has been coupled with intensive historical research in an effort to connect individual burials with names and histories, and to shed light on pioneer health, nutrition, mortality, and burial customs.

Shane A. Baker is a senior archaeologist with the Environmental Affairs Department of the Idaho Power Company. He has served as adjunct faculty member at Brigham Young University, as assistant director for historic archaeology with the Office of Public Archaeology, and as curator of collections for the Museum of Peoples and Cultures at Brigham Young University.

Table of Contents:
List of figures
List of tables

1. All is Well
Trials on the Trail
The Block 49 Pioneer Cemetery

2. A History of Block 49
Site Development History
• History of the Cemetery on Block 49
• Land Use and Urban Development of Block 49
• Historic Business on Block 49
Site Discovery

3. Research Issues and Methods
Pioneer Research Issues
• Personal Identification
• Mortuary Practices
• Morbidity Patterns and Demography
• Osteobiological Profiles
• Excavation Procedures
• Laboratory Analyses

4. Pioneer Cemetery Excavations
The Physical Environment
Historic Feature Descriptions
• Stratigraphy
Historic Burials

5. Artifact Analysis
Burial associated artifacts
Non-burial associated artifacts
• Historic Glass
• Provenience
• Conclusions
• Historic Ceramics
• Unmodified Faunal Remains

6. Mormon Settlers Along City Creek
Pioneer Cemetery Research Issues
• Personal Identification and Mortuary Practices
• Morbidity Patterns
The Future of Early Pioneer Archaeology in Salt Lake City