Thursday, July 25, 2013

TOLERANCE: Ogden's Legacy As A Mixed Community

Ogden's history is one of the most colorful of any city in the state.  Looking back through time, even to its most primitive settlement, it has maintained an interesting dichotomy of dueling community interests.

While Ogden in its heyday was a rowdy railroad town full of vice and merriment, it also boasted as many churches as it had saloons.  Perhaps both were used just on different days of the week, or perhaps that reflected a deeply religious community co-existing with its non-religious friends and neighbors.

For Pioneer Day, we visited the Pioneer Museum at 21st St. and Lincoln Ave. in Ogden and discovered a little about the men who made Ogden habitable and set the tone for what it has become.

The first personality to make its appearance is that of Miles Goodyear.  Miles came to the Ogden area in the late 1830s.  He was a fur trapper and mountain man.  He married a Ute chief's daughter and had two children.

 This log cabin, built in 1841, was the first home built by anyone of European decent in Weber County.

Miles Goodyear ultimately persuaded Mormon settlers to purchase his land and he moved to California where he died shortly thereafter.  

The second personality to arise in Ogden history is that of Lorin Farr.  Perhaps his legacy is better known due to his ample posterity in the area.  Lorin was a Mormon settler from Nauvoo, Illinois and became a giant in the community.  He was responsible for laying the city plat and organizing the early settlement.  

Interestingly, many of the early settlers to Ogden were Scotch-Irish.  Even though they were Mormon settlers, this heritage came with a strong culture of family honor and with that came confrontation. So, some of Ogden's earliest stories are of brawls between early Mormon settlers as they resolved personal differences with one another.

Perhaps this scrappy nature dovetailed to a degree with he railroad work crews that arrived in 1869 and launched Ogden to the forefront as a major participant in the national economy.  Regardless, when the non-religious crowds from Corinne arrived enmasse and Union Station was created, the settlers received them and found a way to exist together, for the most part, cohesively as a community.  

Yet, these distinctions between community members exist to a large degree today.  The posterity of the early Mormon settlers still live in Ogden, as do the children of their "Gentile" counterparts.  However, from my perspective, Ogden does not suffer the deep acrimony that sometimes afflicts diverse communities that contain a large minority population.  Mormons now constitute a minority of people (about 30%-35%) living in the city.

Thus, I consider Ogden one of the places most unlike Utah in the state.  As a faithful Mormon myself living in the city, I make it a point to build bridges and understand other people's faith, ethics, or world view and I share my own when appropriate.  My experience has taught me that there is no room in our community for disparaging other's beliefs.  Divisive speech breeds contempt.  It is my hope that regardless of creed, belief, or ethical system, that all members of the community will honor our founders' dedication, sacrifice, and tolerance as we work to make Ogden a greater place for everyone.  

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