Friday, September 16, 2011

Should a Mormon Apostle be a US Senator?

     The other day I concluded reading one of the most interesting books on early Mormon politics called The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon ApostleReed Smoot was elected to the United States Senate in 1903.  However, at the time he was an apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which will be referred to as the LDS Church.

     This election was extremely controversial because many in Washington D.C. felt that Smoot's election was the LDS Church trying to control the political arena in Utah.  Further controversy arose due to the continued practice of polygamy, even after the LDS church stated that they discontinued it (while I understand that this can be a contentious point for several people.  This is at least what the book argues).  Many in D.C. felt that Smoot may himself be a polygamist in addition to hostilities between Mormons and Protestants.  This resulted in several members of the Senate refusubg to seat him.  A huge trial commenced, called the Reed Smoot Hearings, which I believe has the largest collection in the US Library of Congress of trial evidence of any trial in US history.  It was a big deal (and is a really interesting read).  Here is a comic of the Smoot Hearings:

Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Smoot was eventually seated in the Senate despite several objections from fellow senators.  He ended up serving in the senate till 1933 and was a very influential and powerful member.  The whole story is a very interesting, and I feel not a well know part of US and LDS history.

     Smoot has a strong connection to Provo, Utah, and his house is located near downtown at 183 E. 100 S. (it is on the corner of 200 E and 100 S).  Smoot lived there from  1892 until his death in 1941.  The house is National Historic Landmark list;  there are only 15 places in Utah that are on the list, including Ft. Douglas, Temple Square, and the Brigham Young House.  It is also the only located on the list in Utah County.  The list is pretty exclusive and quite an honor for the house to be there.

     Here is a picture of the house at some time when Smoot was living in it (he is located on the far right in the top picture) and what it looks like today:

Courtesy of the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah

     The plaque on the front of the house reads: "This house was built for reed and Ellie Eldredge Smoot [his wife who is in the picture above] in 1892.  Richard K. A. Kletting was the architect.  Reed Smoot, born in Salt Lake City in 1862, served as a member of the Quarum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church from 1900 until his death in 1941.  Senator Smoot represented Utah in the United States Senate from 1902 [although this date is controversial, since he wasn't seated until later] until 1933 and became a national leader of the Republican party.  Reed Smoot was the son of Abraham O. Smoot, pioneer, civic, business and Mormon church leader."  The house is still owned by relatives of Reed Smoot and some of his descendants work and live in the Provo area (I met one while researching another blog entry).

    The history surrounding Smoot is extremely interesting, and his legacy is a great addition to Provo.  To answer the question in the title, although the LDS church does not encourage Apostles to be Senators (and I think they may have just come out and forbidden it) in the 1900's the situation was different and they did encourage an Apostle to become a Senator from Utah.  I encourage anyone who has a little bit of time to read a little bit more about Reed Smoot.  Below are a few additional pictures of the house:

     I have to add one additional photo.  I love the neighborhood surrounding the Smoot House and feel that it is one of the best in Provo.  Also the orange house below was an inspiration for my sister's own house which she painted orange.  I thought that I'd add a photo of those as well.  Here they are:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Provo Mayor's House

     Today I wanted to continue with a historic home near the McCoy home.  Today's focus is known as the Ray House and is located at 415 S University Ave in Provo.  It is a beautiful house that I have always been interested in.  Also, I heard a rumor that it was once the designated house for the elected Provo mayor.  Here is what it looked like in the 1970's and what it looks like today:

Photo courtesy of

On Wikipedia, it states that William Ray (after who the house is named) was "born on December 30, 1864 to William and Martha E. Ray, in Gentry County, Missouri. WIlliam H. Ray grew up on a farm. After becoming certified as a teacher, Ray worked in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, before settling in Salt Lake in 1890. Once in Salt Lake, Ray worked as a car inspector for the Union Pacific Railroad and then the Oregon Short Line Railway Company, and in addition to this invested in real estate. 'In spite of limited salary from the railway company and therefore limited investment funds, in a period of five years he had advanced to become the senior partner in W. H. Ray Company, the largest real estate business in the area (Provo City Library p. 1).' In 1894 William H. Ray married Lottie L. Chappell, and had six children. Ray was a member of the Provo Community Congregational Church. Ray died on October 31, 1936 and was buried in Provo." 

The house is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.  The plaque on the front of the house reads, "The William H. Ray house, built c. 1898, is historically significant for its association with William H. Ray, an important turn-of-the-century entrepreneur in Provo.  He was a financier, banker, broker, and mayor of Provo.  The Ray House, which was probably designed by Richard C. Watkins, a prominent Utah architect, is architecturally significant as the most distinctive Provo example of the influence of the Romanesque Revival style on residential design."

On important achievement of Ray is that he was one of the founding members of the State Bank of Provo.  I had never heard of this bank so I did a little investigating.  The State Bank of Provo merged with the Springville Banking Co. in 1966 and became the Central Bank and Trust (the focus of another blog entry that I did), which was at the time the largest bank in Utah County.  The best information about the State Bank of Provo can be found on the Central Bank's website.  The State Bank of Provo was formed in 1902 by a random group of 16 men.  The bank prided itself on personally knowing every one of its customers.  It continued to grow after its start until its merger in '66.

I don't think that this house was ever the house for the elected mayor of Provo.  I believe that the rumor probably began because it was the house of the Provo mayor for a time, when Ray was the mayor of Provo.  The house is currently divided and used as several different apartments.

Here is one additional view of the house: