Local Societies’ Projects Enliven West Jordan’s Oldest Cemetery
Apr 08, 2016 10:36AM
● By Tori La Rue
By Tori La Rue | [email protected]
West Jordan - When Lyman and Harriet Wight’s baby son died in the early 1850s, they chose to bury him next to a grave of an Indian infant, just south of the fort where they lived in the West Jordan area.
When they buried their child next to the infant, they gave root to a pioneer cemetery that still exists today.
Their story is found in historical documentation kept by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers — a national society that reveres and preserves the heritage of the Utah pioneers.
The local chapters of Daughters of Utah Pioneers and its brother society, Sons of Utah Pioneers, plan to dedicate and revitalize this landmark, now known as Wight’s Fort Cemetery, by restoring its plaque and installing a memorial in April and May.
The cemetery, located at about 9000 South 3480 West, is the oldest cemetery in West Jordan, and people are still being buried there, Elaine Crane, captain of the local chapter of Daughter of Utah Pioneers, said.
“My family’s lived in West Jordan for 32 years, and we’ve driven past the cemetery countless times, but it is almost lost with buildings around it,” she said. “One day while driving past [the cemetery] I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun as a group to put an arch up over the entrance naming it?’”
In September 2014, Crane proposed her idea to the board, and they agreed to move forward with the initiative. Board member Colleen Barlow was especially supportive, according to Crane.
Barlow raised her children in a house right across the street from the cemetery where the Jordan Valley Medical Center now stands.
Her family would always go to the American Legion’s gun salute at the cemetery each Memorial Day, and her sons enjoyed playing spooky pranks on their friends at the cemetery.
The cemetery must have made an impact on her sons, because they are now helping with the arch project, Barlow said.
Barlow’s son Reed Barlow, a professional engineer, drafted the plans for the archway that were presented to the city council in December 2014 and approved in February 2015. The arch will be 16 feet wide and 16 feet tall with the words “Wight’s Fort Cemetery, Established in 1853” etched into it, according to Elaine Crane.
Colleen Barlow’s son Hyrum Barlow, a professional metal worker, will be building the steel archway that will be powder-coated forest green, and her sons Joshua, Henry and Jacob Barlow will install the archway at its position at the cemetery, she said.
The Daughters of Utah Pioneers raised money for the arch by selling homemade aprons, blankets, tablecloths, dollies, toys, dolls, bonnets and other staple items of the Utah pioneers at the city’s Independence Day parade and Pioneer Day Rodeo in 2015.
They had enough money to begin construction of the archway but are still accepting more donations through Elaine Crane at 801-569-2180.
Crane said she believes the arch will be finished by mid-May. They’ll have a ceremony to introduce the arch and dedicate the grave site on May 21 at 10 a.m., because it’s not known if the site was previously dedicated, she said.
Elder Allan Packer, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will dedicate the grave, and light refreshments will be served, Crane said.
The Sons of Utah Pioneers will be hosting their own ceremony with Wight’s Cemetery to restore the naming plaque monument that’s been in the cemetery for years. The ceremony will take place on April 16 at 10 a.m. and is open to the public.
Jim Crane, Elaine Crane’s husband, said he and the other local members of the Sons of Utah Pioneers are replacing the old plaque with a new one because it’s faded and has become difficult to read. The plaque gives the history of the Wight’s Fort Cemetery, he said.
Elaine Crane said both organizations hope that these installments in the cemetery will give new life to an old historical site.