County Archives Intern Report, 2016

My name is Amanda Lundberg, and I’m currently pursuing a degree in American Studies at Utah State University. I’ve been lucky enough to be an intern for the Salt Lake County Archives these past few months. I’ve completed a project indexing the elected county officials from 1852 to the present day and putting all of the information together in one database.

In order to complete this task, I searched through all of the Probate Court, Commission, and Council Minutes records to find documentation of every elected official for each year, and then would transfer the information to an easily-accessible excel spreadsheet.

To say that I’ve learned a lot through this internship position would be the understatement of the year. I learned all about this county’s government history, such as the changes from Probate Court to Commission to Council. I also learned how complex county government is. There are so many elected positions, and each position comes with its own set of responsibilities.

One of my favorite aspects of this project was seeing all of the drama (for lack of a better word) involved with these county officials. From one person filling multiple positions, to people resigning in the middle of a term for any number of reasons, to a County Surveyor’s oath of office being delayed because he wasn’t exactly a “registered surveyor,” there’s a lot going on behind the names that fill the county positions. But don’t just take my word for it—no one can explain it better than a former county official:

“[B]eing elected to a county office is kind of like receiving a kidney transplant from a bed wetter—you are awfully happy to have it, but sometimes the side effects are not exactly what you expected.”

Mr. Vaughan Butler, Former County Surveyor

A HUGE thanks is due to everyone at the Salt Lake County Archives—especially Karri, Darrell, and Michaele—for helping me get one step closer to earning my degree, and for giving me hands-on experience in a field related to what I’m studying. As one who has never had a career goal in mind, I’ve chosen to study what I love—American history and government. It has been truly incredible to see what kind of opportunities are available within a subject that I am so passionate about!

Staff Note: Amanda will be finishing her undergraduate degree at Utah State University within the next few semesters.  Her excellent work during this internship will be available on our website under “County History” in the near future.  

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Pickled Squirrel Heads

Salt Lake County used to offer a bounty on an assortment of pests – including sparrows and ground squirrels. To collect the bounty a citizen had to bring in sparrow eggs, or in the case of squirrels, their tails. However, over time people started cutting the tails in half so they could claim the bounty for two squirrels (2 cents each, with a minimum of 50 tails per payment). The county caught on and realized they had to come up with a new way to pay out the bounty for squirrels, so they decided to count heads instead. So people started collecting squirrel heads and pickling them in jars to take to the county.

This may seem like a gruesome and antiquated practice from the past, but it also offers some perspective. When you are having a rough day at work just stop and think, at least you’re not spending your day counting pickled squirrel heads.

ground squirrels

Salt Lake County Proof of Publication, 1906.  Series CM-337, Salt Lake County Archives.


Entry contributed by Dr. Michaele Smith, Archivist, Salt Lake County Archives.

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Follow Up: The Spry House

Thanks to a comment on our last post regarding the attempted bombing of the house of Governor William Spry in 1916, we were able to track down some images of the house from the Tax Appraisal Cards and Photographs collection.  The photo below, taken in 1936, is of the house in its original location at 368 1st Street.

09-32-352-006 croppedThe house was later moved to 128 I Street, where it still stands today.  This photo shows the home shortly after it was relocated in 1978.

img20160629_11052691The house replaced two four-plexes that had been previously at that site, one of which is pictured in the image below.


Source: Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, serial 04-0443; parcel 09-32-352-006.

Thanks to Nelson Knight of Utah State Historic Preservation for the info regarding the move of this house!

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Aftermath of an Execution

On December 27, 1916 the Salt Lake County Commissioners approved the offer of a $500 reward “for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who placed the bomb in the yard of Governor Spry’s home.”


Excerpt from the Salt Lake County Commission Minute books for December 17, 1916

The bomb, which contained nitro-glycerin and metal fragments, had not exploded.  The police theorized that a heavy snowfall had somehow kept the bomb from detonating and, even if it had, it would have missed its intended target – Governor William Spry wasn’t home, although his family was.


Front side of a Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Card for 368 First Avenue.  Governor Spry’s wife Alice, who is listed as the owner of the house in 1936, was in the house on the night of the attempted bombing.

Reverse side

Reverse side of the Tax Appraisal Card, showing the plot plan of Governor Spry’s house at 368 First Avenue.

While the identity of the bomber might have been in question on December 27, the motivation behind the bombing was not.  In November of that year Governor Spry had chosen not to stay the execution of Joseph Hillstrom (also known as Joe Hill).  Hillstrom, a well-known member of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), had been convicted of murdering a grocery store owner and his son.  The evidence against Hillstrom was suspicious but circumstantial, and the case sparked international debate as to whether Hillstrom’s association with the I.W.W. had influenced the trial.  In spite of petitions from all over the world, including a request from President Woodrow Wilson to delay the execution, Spry allowed the sentence to be carried out on November 19.

The $500 reward wasn’t Salt Lake County’s only role in the aftermath of the Hillstrom execution. On November 22, 1916, the County Board of Commissioners received a letter from the County Sheriff requesting the sum of $317.80 in order to cover the costs associated with execution, which was then approved by the County Clerk.


Letter from the County Sheriff to the Board of Commissioners.

The attempted Christmas bombing was one of several death threats that Governor Spry faced as a result of Hillstrom’s case.  In fact, another bomb addressed to Spry had exploded in a railroad car in Montana in June 1916.  Spry survived the threats against him, dying of a stroke in Washington, DC in 1929. The Hillstrom case remains an interesting, and controversial, moment in Salt Lake County history.


Salt Lake County Commission Minutes, December 1916, series CM-002. Salt Lake County Archives.  

Salt Lake County Petitions to the Commission, series CM-333. Salt Lake County Archives.

Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards and Photographs, serial 04-130. Salt Lake County Archives.

“Giant Bomb at Spry’s Home; Move in IWW Revenge Plot,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 27, 1916, Utah Digital Newspapers.

“Bomb Sent to Governor Spry Explodes in Car,” Los Angeles Herald, June 15, 1916, California Digital Newspaper Collection

The State v. Joe Hill: Records from the Utah State Archives

~Blog entry contributed by Dr. Jenel Cope, Processing Archivist at Salt Lake County Archives.  

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Hit the Beach

Temperatures have soared across Utah during the past week, so take a break and cool off with a dip at the Sunset Beach resort by the Great Salt Lake.

Both frosted malts and speed boating were available:


Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photograph, taken July 15, 1948.

And you could change in to your swimsuit in one of four bath houses:

27-377 (2)002

Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photograph, taken July 15, 1948.

There was also a bar, a dance hall, a cafe, and of course, many restrooms for beach visitors:

27-377 plot plan003

Plot plan of Sunset Beach buildings, 1959.

Source: Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards and Photographs, 27-377.  

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30th Anniversary Open House: Recap

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 marked the 30th Anniversary celebratory Open House for Salt Lake County Records Management and Archives.  We were pleased to have a large turnout from Salt Lake County government, including Mayor Ben McAdams, Deputy Mayor Lori Bays, and Council Member Aimee Winder Newton.

Mayor McAdams choosing from our large spread.

Mayor McAdams choosing from the light refreshments available.

Director and Assistant Director of Administrative Services, Sarah Brenna and Megan Hillyard, also attended, along with officials from the County Recorder’s office, Information Services, and Facilities.  Thanks to our colleagues from the Utah State Archives and Brigham Young University Special Collections for also spending time with us!

County Council member Aimee Winder Newton holding the minutes from the first County meeting in March 1852.

County Council Member Aimee Winder Newton holding the minutes from the first County meeting in March 1852. Image courtesy of Council Member Aimee Winder Newton.

Many of our regular patrons also celebrated with us, including UDOT Architectural Historian Elizabeth Giraud, K.E.E.P. Yalecrest History Director Kelly Marinan and friends.

Celebratory swag.

Celebratory swag.

Detail from original artwork from the Hansen Planetarium Collection.

Detail from original artwork from the Hansen Planetarium Collection.

Early Salt Lake County government history exhibit.

Early Salt Lake County government history exhibit created by Archives staff.

Mayor McAdams, Records Manager Maren Slaugh, and Asst Director of Administrative Services Megan Hillyard in the reading room.

Left to right: Mayor McAdams, Records Manager Maren Slaugh, and Assistant Director of Administrative Services Megan Hillyard looking at historical records in the reading room. Image courtesy of Tiffany Erickson.

Thank you to everyone that celebrated with us!


All images courtesy of Roylene Bailey, except where noted.

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Anniversary Trivia Contest, the Final Question

To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Salt Lake County Records Management and Archives we are holding a trivia contest every Tuesday in May.  To enter just provide an answer in the comments section below by May 31st, and we will randomly choose a winner from the correct responses.  The winners will receive fun prizes like commemorative magnets and mugs!

Our final question is:

Salt Lake County Archives currently has two collections which are digitized and available online.  What are they?


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