STATE OF UTAH MORMON BATTALION MONUMENT COMMISSION
Agency History #624
The Utah Mormon Battalion Monument Committee, forerunner to the Utah Mormon Battalion Commission, was created in 1915. The Eleventh Legislature authorized the Governor to appoint a committee to be comprised of seven resident citizens of the State and charged the members to "select a proper site upon the Capitol grounds and procure a suitable design for a monument to commemorate the important contribution made to the early settlement and development of the State of Utah, and the western portion of this country by the Mormon Battalion" (Laws of Utah, 1915, Chapter 62). An initial appropriation of $1,000 was made to the Utah Mormon Battalion Committee, which was charged to report its acts and recommendations to the twelfth session of the legislature.
A movement began in 1905 to honor the Mormon Battalion, over 500 U.S. Army volunteers who made the longest infantry trek in U.S. military history by marching over 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego, California, during the 1846 War with Mexico. Battalion members are regarded as Utah's first military heroes.
Initially confined to descendants of battalion veterans with a desire to "perpetuate in a concrete way the memory of their fathers and the part they played in the development of this western empire," the project gradually broadened in scope as the historic march grew in significance.
After ten years of raising contributions on their own, the Daughters of the Mormon Battalion in 1915 appealed to Governor William Spry and the legislature to erect a fitting memorial on the grounds of the newly completed Utah State Capitol building. In their petition they argued that "Utah's first memorial should commemorate the first national and patriotic event in her history." The legislature responded by creating the Utah Mormon Battalion Monument Committee.
Committee members met with members of the State Capitol Commission (Agency #225) to review possible sites for the monument. A site in the southeast corner of the Capitol grounds was the unanimous choice of both groups and was recommended as the proposed location for the monument.
The legislature accepted the joint recommendation of the two committees. A bill creating the Utah Mormon Battalion Commission and authorizing and directing the erection of a monument on the Capitol grounds to honor the Mormon Battalion was passed by the Twelfth Utah Legislature (Laws of Utah, 1917, Chapter 86). This measure was approved by Governor Simon Bamberger and took effect on May 8, 1917. The ultimate cost of the monument was not to exceed $200,000, one-half to be raised through private donations and one-half to be appropriated by the State legislature. A $100,000 appropriation was made to the commission "upon the condition that before any amount of said appropriation shall become available there shall have been subscribed and placed in the hands of the treasurer of the State of Utah the sum of one hundred thousand dollars to be applied toward the erection of said monument." No part of the appropriation was to be due or payable prior to Jan. 1, 1920. The commission was required to make of full report of its proceedings to the legislature biennially.
Individual committee members consulted nationally prominent local artists and corresponded with several art agencies in the east. A brochure entitled The Mormon Battalion and Its Monument: A Compilation of Data for Sculptors and Architects was prepared "to place in the hands of sculptors and architects such information as will give them . . . a sketch of the Battalion's story; and . . . the right viewpoint respecting the call and the service of this body of United States volunteers." A fund was established to give the artists of the state an opportunity to submit a design.
A nationwide competition was held to select a design for the monument. Between 20 and 30 models were shipped to Salt Lake City by various nationally prominent sculptors. These were placed on exhibition for members of the legislature and the general public. First prize was awarded to Riswold, Morison, and Walker of Chicago. The Riswold design was recommended to and accepted by the legislature.
Before engaging in raising funds, an education campaign was launched. With the cooperation of the education community, a text book with supplementary material about the battalion was prepared for use in public schools throughout the state. Essay contests were held in colleges, high schools, and junior high schools.
Activity by the commission was brought to a virtual standstill by World War I. Money raised for the monument was placed in government hands during the war.
Following the war, a joint house and senate committee investigated the possibility of constructing a Memorial Hall to honor all of Utah's veterans but eventually decided to go ahead with the Mormon Battalion Monument project.
Local committees throughout Utah and surrounding states were organized in 1920. Some 400 committeemen aided in collecting funds. Rising costs made a second major fund-raising campaign necessary in 1925. The 145th Utah Artillery Band was utilized in this effort.
The commission's fundraising efforts were not limited to Utah. While most of the 75,000 private donors were citizens of Utah and Idaho, contributions were also received from residents of California, Colorado, New York, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., as well as from people in Canada, Mexico, South America, South Africa, and Scotland. The Rotary Club also contributed. The state legislature of Arizona, a land which figured prominently in the battalion's historic march, also made a $2,500 appropriation to help build the monument. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided office space for the commission in addition making to monetary contributions.
The contract to construct the monument was let in 1921. Shortly thereafter the sculptor, Gilbert P. Riswold, moved to Salt Lake City and opened his studio.
Ceremonies for breaking ground, laying the cornerstone, and dedicating the monument were organized and directed by the commission. Ground was broken April 15, 1924, by Governor Charles R. Mabey. Governor George H. Dern laid the cornerstone on April 7, 1925.
The completed bronze-and-granite monument to Utah's first military heroes was unveiled and dedicated on May 30, 1927, following a Memorial Day parade. Commission vice chairman Wesley E. King acted as master of ceremonies. A souvenir brochure with an account of the monument and a history of the battalion was prepared for the occasion.
The Governor was given authority to appoint seven resident citizens, with the consent of the Senate, to serve on the commission. The term of office was set at four years, or until a successor was appointed and qualified. Commission members (a total of 17 during the 12-year duration of the commission) were required to "give bond to the State in the penal sum of $5,000.00, conditioned for the faithful performance of their duties." Anyone with a pecuniary interest, directly or indirectly, in any contract business or transaction entered into by or on behalf of the commission was excluded from membership. A quorum of five members was required to transact business.
The authorizing legislation specified three officers--a president, a vice president, and a secretary-treasurer--all of whom served without compensation.
All contracts entered into by the commission were subject to the approval of the State Board of Examiners (#368). Board approval was also necessary before payment could be made on any claims and expenses incurred by the commission.
UTAH GOVERNORS, 1915-1927
William Spry, 1909-1917
Simon Bamberger, 1917-1921
Charles R. Mabey, 1921-1925
George H. Dern, 1925-1933
COMMISSION OFFICERS, 1915-1927
Brigham Henry Roberts, President, 1915-1927
May Belle Thurman Davis, Secretary-Treasurer, 1915-1927
Samuel C. Park, Vice President, 1917-1920
William W. Armstrong, Vice President, 1920-1921
Wesley E. King, Vice President, 1921-1927
Commission Members, 1915-1927
Mary J. Clawson, 1915-1917, 1921-1927
John K. Hardy, 1915-1917
George F. Goodwin, 1915-1917
John S. Bransford, 1915-1917
William H. Pettigrew, 1915-1917
Thomas N. Taylor, 1917-1921
Charles H. Hart, 1917-1927
Heber Scowcroft, 1917-1919
Annie M. Wallace, 1917-1919
Frank Evans, 1919-1921
James H. Douglas, 1919-1927
Glen Miller, 1921-1927
Sculptor: Gilbert P. Riswold
Architects Frank Chase Walker and James R.M. Morison
Architects Advisory to the Commission Don C. Young, Jr., and Ramm Hansen
COMPILED BY: W. Glen Fairclough, Jr., September 1989
Deseret News, Monday, May 30, 1927, pp. 1, 3, 7
Deseret News, Tuesday, May 31, 1927, p. 1
Laws of Utah, 1915 (Chapter 62)
Laws of Utah, 1917 (Chapter 86)
Madsen, Truman G., Defender of the Faith: The B.H. Roberts Story, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980).
The Mormon Battalion and Its Monument: A Compilation of Data for Sculptors and Architects (Salt Lake City: Mormon Battalion Monument Commission, ca. 1917).
Mormon Battalion Monument Souvenir Brochure Program and Historical Sketch (Salt Lake City: Mormon Battalion Monument Commission, 30 May 1927).
Report of the Capitol Commission 1915-1916, p. 43, in Public Documents, 1915-1916, vol. 1, section 5.
Utah: A Guide to Capitol Hill, brochure, n.d.
Utah Mormon Battalion Monument, East Tablet, State Capitol grounds