Pioneer Life Revisited
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“Pioneer Life Revisited,” Ensign, July 1986, 40

Pioneer Life Revisited

The 1847 deuel log cabin has been restored.

It stood on Temple Square for many years. Now, after a year of restoration, the Deuel log cabin is back and open to visitors.

Situated west of Temple Square on the plaza between the new Genealogical Library and the Museum of Church History and Art, the cabin is a tangible reminder of the time over a century ago when the Saints first entered the desert valleys of the West and struggled to make them blossom.

That struggle is vividly portrayed in this newly restored exhibit of the Museum of Church History and Art. Tools and toys, furnishings and crafts fill the cabin, and docents—volunteers dressed in typical 1840s dress—illustrate the patterns of life led by the early Salt Lake Saints.

The Deuel cabin was built in 1847, soon after the Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Six people—Osmyn M. and Mary Whiting Deuel and William H. and Eliza Whiting Deuel (the Deuel brothers married sisters) and William and Eliza’s two daughters, Minerva and Mercy Ann—lived in it from October 1847 to May 1848. The cabin was part of the north extension of an adobe fort and stood about a mile southwest of where the present-day Museum of Church History and Art is located.

It is likely that when the Deuels moved, they rented the home to other settlers. In 1849, they sold it to Albert Carrington, who placed skids under it and, with ox teams, moved the cabin to his property at West Temple and First North. In 1852, Christopher and Maryann Riding and their five children were living in it. Brother Carrington gave the home to his daughter, Francis, and her husband, Zebulon Jacobs. They lived in it briefly, and years later offered it to the Church as a historical relic.

The cabin was dismantled and moved to the Deseret Museum, where it was displayed until about 1919 when it was moved to Temple Square. It stood there until 1976, then was put into storage. In 1984, the cabin was placed on the plaza in its present location.

Restoration of the cabin began in 1985. Under the direction of Don Enders of the museum staff, information from historical sources was gathered, then the home was dismantled and treated with preservatives and restorative chemicals. The cabin was then reassembled to appear as it would have looked in 1847. Set in a native Utah landscape designed by Esther Truitt of the Church’s Ground Services, the cabin is furnished with antiques and reproductions from the pioneer period.

The photographs show the exhibit’s re-creation of the pioneer life-style of 1847.

Photography by Marty Mayo

Latter-day Saint pioneers generally stored wheat, flour, and sugar in barrels or sacks; some items were stored in baskets or boxes. The rings above the man’s head are dried squash and pumpkin slices. Not all pioneers had stoves, but records of the Charles C. Rich company (of which the Deuels were members) indicate that some families brought cast iron stoves with them, which they used en route for cooking. Since the Deuels were fairly prosperous, they probably had a stove.

Wallace Abrams portrays a wagoneer. His wool pants have been “stressed” and patched to make them look worn. His leather suspenders, hat, boots, and hand-spun woven shirt are authentic styles of the period.

The cabin sits between the new genealogical library and the Museum of Church History and Art.

Museum volunteers, under the direction of Shirley Ann Cox, wear period costumes and illustrate pioneer crafts. Demonstrations teach museum visitors about the lives and trades of pioneers in early Utah. All fabrics and patterns used in the costumes are historically accurate.

The cabin’s logs and roof poles date to 1847. These roof poles are of lodgepole pine; the walls, sheathing, floorboards, shelves, door frames, and window frames are all of red pine, a native variety of Douglas fir. Walls are whitewashed for cleansing and illumination. The chest of drawers and the blanket chest are original to the period, as are the chairs and both the hooked rugs. The stuffed rag doll is homemade.

Jayne Burt Clifford wears a cotton maternity dress with a denim work apron. Her bonnet contains thin slats of wood or cardboard held in sewn channels and has a bavolet, or curtain, in the back to shield her neck from the sun.

Breena Todd is wearing a calico-print child’s dress that is displayed in the cabin. Her pantalettes are typical of those worn by children in the mid-nineteenth century.

The Deuels probably brought beds with them, such as this one from the Nauvoo period. They would have stored small items on shelves above the bed. Left of the small barrel are homemade candles and a candle mold. The Jacquard coverlet at the foot of the bed dates to 1829. The quilts were made by hand, under the direction of Bill Ormond. They feature patterns and fabrics used in the 1840s. The pillow shams feature handwork by Carma de Jong Anderson, who also designed the docents’ costumes, the clothing hanging in the home, and the bed and window curtains. The wooden paddle was used for beating the straw tick mattresses.

A berry dryer and storyteller in the living history program, Garnet Cooper wears a long-sleeved dress with a calico apron, a straw bonnet, and kangaroo-skin shoes.