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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Volunteers bringing Cottonwood Heights history to life

May 21, 2020 10:24AM ● By Josh Wood

Residents can read about the old Cottonwood Heights paper mill in the Historic Committee’s book. (Courtesy Utah State Historical Society)

By Joshua Wood | [email protected]

Recent events have made the present chaotic and the future seem murky. The past, however, is getting new life. A dedicated group of Cottonwood Heights residents has been working to bring the community’s history to life. The city’s Historic Committee has worked to preserve the roots that shaped the character of Cottonwood Heights. They hope to make the community’s stories more accessible to current and future residents.

For a city less than two decades old, Cottonwood Heights boasts a rich history that stretches back to the earliest years of the Salt Lake Valley’s settlement by Mormon pioneers. The Historic Committee has worked to bring to life both the history of the early settlers as well as more recent stories from longtime community residents.

“There are people on the committee who were born and raised here and can tell stories about a community you wouldn’t recognize today,” said Historic Committee member Ken Verdoia. Verdoia is leading an effort to capture oral histories from residents who have seen firsthand many of the developments that have occurred in the community over the past several decades.

These stories help bring to life a not-so-distant past that can seem like a different age subsumed by the rapid economic and demographic growth of the area.

Another way the Historic Committee works to bring local history to life is by helping people explore that history in person. During a recent committee meeting, Carol Woodside detailed a series of historical walks that the committee is working on. Eventually, people will be able to walk historical areas of the community while reading about past events that occurred in those spots.

The crowning achievement thus far for the Historic Committee is the publication of “City Between the Canyons: A History of Cottonwood Heights, 1849-1953” by Allen D. Roberts. The book was published by Cottonwood Heights City in 2018 as a move to preserve and celebrate the community’s rich history. Copies of the book, which shares a wide array of stories of different times and locales in Cottonwood Heights, can be purchased through the city.

“Our role is to serve as an entity that’s there to answer any historic questions and to raise awareness of the community’s history,” said Historic Committee chair Jim Kichas. “We’re trying to give people a degree of appreciation and a sense of place.”

The face of Cottonwood Heights has changed considerably over the years. But the city’s character remains unique, and the Historic Committee works to preserve that character by highlighting how it was forged.

Residents can read about people like Daniel Bankhead Freeman, the first freeborn African American in Utah and places like the Old Mill, Knudsen’s Corner and Poverty Flats. While the City Between the Canyons continues to grow, it does so on a foundation build long ago. A team of dedicated volunteers works to keep the community’s past close to heart.