July is our birthday month and we are celebrating 42 years of collecting, preserving and interpreting the past of Iron County. We thought it appropriate to share our story over the next few weeks.
In 1962, the history department at the College of Southern Utah, now Southern Utah University, sponsored a workshop in conjunction with the college’s Founder’s Day celebrations. Representatives from all the local historical groups and civic clubs in town were invited. One of four projects discussed was the creation of a community museum. In 1966, Dr. George Strebel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Institute of Religion was selected to head a committee that would further study the museum issue.
The results of the Strebel museum committee led to the creation of the Iron Mission Park Commission. This group of civic and community minded individuals researched possible collections, developed plans, and actively sought funding for a museum in Cedar City. Their efforts resulted in the acquisition of the Gronway Parry horse-drawn vehicle collection which would become the cornerstone of what is now named – Frontier Homestead State Park.
Gronway Parry’s hobby of collecting and restoring horse –drawn vehicles began as early as 1911. During the 1930’s Gronway began to actively restore and display his wagons and coaches. He later stated that: “An era was dying and its relics should be preserved.” He bought or made his own tools and his wife Afton sewed the upholstery. His collection quickly became nationally known and many of his pieces were used in motion pictures. Gronway felt strongly that his collection remain whole and in Cedar City. In 1968 he sold everything to the Iron Mission Park Commission for half its value. He considered the rest a gift to the people of Cedar City.
The Iron Mission Park Commission diligently strove to not only acquire the Parry wagons, but other donations as well including the Melling log cabin, the Osborn blacksmith tools, Native American artifacts collected by William L. Palmer, and the Alva Matheson gun collection. Community and LDS church leaders rallied support for the project. A.E. Whatcott wrote:
“We are pleased to learn that plans are moving ahead for the acquisition of the Gronway Parry horse-drawn vehicle and farm implement collection. Also to learn of plans to house this valuable Southern Utah pioneer memorabilia. As you now launch this campaign to enlist the support of the citizens of Iron County and Southern Utah may we add our hearty endorsement and best wishes as well as to pledge our personal support. We shall further be happy to encourage the members of the Cedar Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to support this vital and worthwhile project.”
CEDAR STAKE PRESIDENCY
By A. E. Whatcott, PresidentWith community support increasing, choosing a location would prove to be the next challenge. More on that next time.