Skip to main content

The City Journals

Midvale Historical Society to celebrate 40 years with treasure hunting

Jun 02, 2017 11:14AM ● By Ruth Hendricks

Bill Miller, president of the Midvale Historical Society, displays an old telephone switchboard. (Ruth Hendricks/City Journals)

By Ruth Hendricks | [email protected]

The Midvale Historical Society was founded on June 15, 1977. The society will be celebrating its 40th anniversary on Saturday, June 17 from noon to 4 p.m., which will include a chance to hunt for treasure in the museum’s backyard.

“For our anniversary party, we’re going to have the Utah Treasures Association come,” said Bill Miller, president of the society. “They’re a club of treasure hunters, and I’m talking about maybe stamp collecting, postcards, marbles, bottles and metal detecting of course is their big thing.”

Treasures will be planted in the back, where there is some bare ground. Members of the Utah Treasures Association will be there with their metal detectors and people can look for treasure. “What you find, you keep,” said Miller. “Now, I have no idea what you’re going to find, but I’m sure there will be some new coinage and some old stuff too.”

The goals of the Midvale Historical Society are to publish Midvale history and to support a museum in the city. Miller explained that 40 years ago the Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP) approached the cities to see if they wanted to take some of their artifacts and create their own museums since the DUP had so much stuff they didn’t know what to do with it.

“Boyd Twiggs was the mayor at that time,” said Miller, “and in order to raise funds for the museum, the city donated a spot in the city hall, and they would charge a family $500 for a display case.”

The museum’s current location at 7697 South on historic Main Street in Midvale is owned by the city, which also takes care of the lighting and some maintenance costs. Other than that, the museum is run by volunteers and features donated items.

“People ask what kind of museum is it, and I call it a family history museum, simply for the fact that the majority of the items are from the residents of Midvale,” said Miller.

“It’s a fun place. I want people to feel like they are part of the history. I want the people of Midvale to know that this is their museum.”

Miller likes that many things in the museum can be touched, and thinks that probably the most important item in the museum is an old typewriter. He said that kids who have never used a typewriter gravitate to it and enjoy trying it out.

“I just want you to feel comfortable and to keep coming back,” said Miller. “I have been here 12 or 13 years, and I swear, every time I walk up and down these aisles, I see something new.”

The museum has many historic photographs, including most of the old schools in the Jordan School District. “Whenever a school closes, we go in there and try to get a souvenir or two,” said Miller. The museum acquired an old piano from an elementary school that closed, and Miller let an 8-year-old boy play it recently.

Another important feature of the museum is that they have copies of the City Journal going back to 1925. Issues from 1925 to 1950 are being digitized now. “We have enough money to do that many and we have to come up with a solution to getting the rest of that money,” said Miller.

There is one mystery that Miller would like to solve. The museum has a collection of school yearbooks. One of those donated yearbooks was sent from Liberal, Kansas, and had some paperwork with it, including a check for $45. Miller said he’s Googled the address, but it just shows up as an open field. And he’s run the names, too.

“I’d like to return that check to the owner, which is probably the daughter of the person from Kansas,” he said.

Andy Pazell, a member of the society’s board, said, “I grew up in Midvale and I’ve always been nostalgic about how it was here. It was such a small town, a close-knit community. It was a great place to grow up. There was so much to do, we had stores and bowling alleys and a drive-in movie theater.”

“It’s always been a very sports-minded town,” said Miller. “You go back 100 years ago and we always had a sports league of some type.”

“It was a smelter town, and they always had baseball teams and a league,” said Pazell.

The biggest need for the historical society is to find more people to help. “We’re getting old, so we need to find new blood,” said Miller. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next five years unless we get some help.”

“We have a future here,” said Miller. “The city is absolutely fantastic, they support us 110 percent,” Pazell said. “I think our big thing is we really need to find the next generation of people interested in preserving the history.”