Old West Mormon Settlers Depicted in Historic 1938 WPA Mural



The settling of the Wild West during the great expansion period of US History in the middle of the 1800s was greatly attributed to the leadership of Brigham Young (then President of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Mormons) with the unparalleled migration of 10,000s of people in search for religious freedom and protection from mob violence and persecution in the Eastern and Central US.

The Great Salt Lake region was their, then secluded, capitol but the movement of these international Mormon pioneers quickly expanded into all of the western states. The settling process of communities was often accomplished by inexperienced immigrants looking for new opportunities. The settling of the area meant the initial arrival of a few folks... then a trickle of people joined them until a town formed. This was the story of my ancestors in Beaver, Utah... a country filled with hunting and trapping opportunities.


Such were the beginnings, of Price, Utah in South Central Utah among the layered tabletop fossil filled desert landscape that worked so well as the hideout of the famous outlaw Butch Cassidy.   


It all began in 1877 when Caleb Rhoades (Rhodes) and Abraham Powell came into the valley to trap and homestead. It was wild country and the story goes that Powell was killed by a bear.  But within a couple of years family members of the trappers and other settlers were moving in.


Not long later, with the discovery and refinement of coal as a natural resource, the area around Price boomed. Once the coal industry began its exploration, construction of the Denver and Rio Grand railroad began to spread through the valley in 1881 and Price was set up as a RR station.


It was during this industrial development that Bishop George Frandsen established the LDS Church organization in 1882. Under the direction of Bishop Frandsen, the townsite was surveyed, The Price Water Company was formed to bring water to the townsite and city building construction began including a church building, a school and a Price City civic building. (1)



In the 1930’s Depression Era WPA City Hall of Price City (only 50 years after its creation), there is a remarkable mural that documents the history of this area and includes, prominently, the early LDS congregation.  The mural is remarkable because, out in the middle of Billy the Kid country one is surprised to see a quality mural... and a big one at that!


The panorama historical WPA mural is 4' high and 200' feet long and depicts the life of the area’s original pioneers and cowboys... truly a time capsule of the Old West. Renown artist, Lynn Fausett, a native of Price, Utah was just the right person in 1938 to pull together this historically accurate mural of his country. The Works Progress Administration (the name was changed to the Work Projects Administration a year after it got started) funded a municipal building in Price that was the perfect place for Fausett’s talents and vision for the mural. Based on photos, entries in archives and his own personal experiences, he planned the composition of this historical rendering of his town for the mural. Fausett had lived his life among the buildings in this mural and knew these people. This mural is an authentic historical record of actual people (whose names are written below their portraits), buildings, customs and the process of taming the Wild West. The mural is a documentation of the pioneer settlers, the beginnings of society in the newly constructed town and the development of the area and its industries.


35 years ago my painting conservation career in the USA (I studied and started working in Italy) started in Utah and I’ve known Lynn Fausetts painting style, having worked on the restoration of his paintings previously and looked at many others. This mural was considered so well done and so historical that it was a main reason why the entire WPA funded building was added to the US Register of Historic Properties, a considerable honor.


City officials began to be aware of the mural looking dingy and flat and water infiltrations had stained a few hard-to-see areas a few years ago. Bret Cammins, an affable get-it-done kind of city manager looked for a professional mural restoration expert to discuss the options. Fine Art Conservation Laboratories is honored to have been called and entrusted with the health and art restoration of this historical mural, so important to the City of Price and to the area.





The results of the mural conservation treatments were that the deterioration of the painting was stabilized, it was returned to its best appearance and the mural was protected for future generations... which should help make some more history.  I love my job. It feels like my work is socially conscious!




(1) Utah Division of State History, Markers and Monuments Database – Carbon Tabernacle/Price River Valley



If you would like to know more about our background in mural restoration, see the other art conservation videos on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCemzUslcaXyj4KEx26bnLDw


Scott M. Haskins
Fine Art Conservation Laboratories
(FACL, Inc.)
805 564 3438 office
faclartdoc@gmail.com




Link to Art Conservation Lab: http://www.fineartconservationlab.com


If you would like to know more about what you can do to protect and preserve your original family history items, click on this link for a free copy of Scott M. Haskins book Save Your Stuff – Collection Care Tips, 210 pages with 35 embedded how-to videos.

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