Brigham Young, Personal Fitness Trainer? Sort of …


Union Station’s history library is a treasure trove of a lot more than just railroad stuff.


Sure, the tiny rooms on the station’s second floor  have lot of that, even some train-related children’s books. Over the years people have donated vast collections of pictures of trains, books about trains, movies about trains and a whole basement storage safe full of railroad signs, tools, uniforms and literature.


But the library also holds a good-sized collection of general Utah history.  Utah’s history is intertwined with the trains, for good or ill — the coming of the Transcontinental Railroad destroyed many Utah industries and plunged the state into economic depression — so everything is relevant.


And a lot of fun. I spent a couple hours just wandering through the Utah history section, grabbing books at random, and found these nuggets.


— The book “An Enduring Legacy,” published by Daughters of Utah Pioneers, contained this interesting quote from an 1878 Deseret News editorial arguing for women being allowed to vote and take part in politics:


 “We believe in the right of women to occupy every position for which she is adapted by nature and qualified by education and experience, and no other. And we think that the good sense of men, and the natural dignity, grace and keen perception of women, will not be lowered in  the least by the presence and assistance of ladies in a nominating convention for the selection of candidates who are to be voted for by both sexes.”



— A reprint of LDS Prophet Brigham Young’s diary from 1857 contained a variety of nuggets. For example, Young was a huge fan of physical fitness as a matter of military readiness, to the point he felt riding horses made people soft. You can almost hear him muttering about “these young people today …” in his entry from June 25. (Spelling and punctuation is his — back then neither was standardized):


“Had a conversation with Bro. Wells in which I deprecated riding on horseback So much as is practized by the valley youth, as I think that a person brought up to walking is Superior in Strength & powers of endurance, and should mobs ever compel us to act on the defencive the mountains where horses could not be used would be our resort.”


“Bro. Wells” was Daniel H. Wells, commanding general of the territorial militia, superintendent of the public works of the Mormon church and one of Young’s counselors. 


Again on June 29 he says “At 4 o.c. PM met with officers of Nauvoo Legion for the purpose of giving them Some Items in regard to their establishing the custom of walking in place or Riding on horseback So much do I think that a constant practice of horse riding is one of the most injurious of practices for youth. Had the Mexicans In place of trusting to their horses taken to the mountains on foot. They would have been unconquered to this day, and the United States would have been completely worried out.” 


Another entry shows him to be rather blunt in helping with the marital problems of one of his fellow church leaders, Orson Pratt. 


On July 8 he wrote, “Visited Historian office one of O Pratt’s wives called at Tithing office and rehearsed to me her many wrongs by Sarah, Os first wife. I told her to either Leave Orson or Stop talking about it.” 


A footnote says Orson, who had 10 wives, and Brigham didn’t always see eye-to-eye. If one of his wives dumped him on Brigham’s advice, you can imagine why.


— There’s a handmade history titled “Gilbert Belnap Lawman,” prepared by Belnap’s great grandson, Wesley Cox, for the Belnap family reunion in 2008. Belnap was the first marshall of Ogden City, apparently appointed in 1850, although there is confusion and the author  finally  says that Belnap “was arguably the first marshal of Ogden, Territory of Utah, by 23 October 1852.”


He did everything. Dog catcher? One of his first duties, on May 17, 1851, was to “notify the pound keepers George W. Hill and Charles McGary to erect the pounds immediately.”


But he could be tough. In an undated anecdote: “Late one night a company of men from Missouri arrived at the Fort after the Ferry had been tied up for the night. They prevailed upon Captain (James) Brown (who bought Fort Buenaventura from Miles Goodyear) to take them across the river (Weber) by offering him extra money.


“So Brown recalled some of his men and the wagons were ferried across the river. The men refused to pay. With curses and threats, the Missouri caravan drove on as far as the Ogden River where they camped for the night.

“A complaint was signed the next morning and Marshal Belnap was sent to bring the Missouri captain into court. Still cursing the Mormons, the man walked back and forth beside the marshal’s horse. Belnap reached down and grabbed the man’s coat collar and  headed the horse to the court house (located on 24th Street.) The curious boys and girls living along Washington Boulevard took up the chase while their mothers screeching “come back here!” followed. The captain paid all charges and was released.”


Belnap also served as the Ogden sexton, running the graveyard and keeping records of deaths, and led the Weber County regiment of the Nauvoo Legion. 


He was elected sheriff of Weber County in 1862 and served eight years.