Refusing to Die

Financial Crisis at Brigham Young Academy, 1877–1897



Joy abounded at the Sixty-Seventh Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints convened in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in April 1897. After fifty years of tension between the Church and the federal government, rapprochement had finally begun. The government had recently granted Utah statehood after returning much of the Church property it had earlier confiscated. This action had eased the Church’s heavy financial burdens that had intensified over the previous decade.1

This conference was an especially celebratory time for trustees of the Brigham Young Academy, the teacher-training (normal) school Brigham Young had founded in Provo in 1875. Since Brigham’s death in 1877, the trustees had clawed for funds to keep the school from closing, running the school’s debt to $80,0002 and incurring the wrath of outstanding creditors. Relief was secured once articles of incorporation for the school were prepared by Church authorities and sustained by the Saints. The First Presidency of the Church was “willing to assume said indebtedness” and henceforth “provide the necessary means to support and maintain said institution of learning.”3

Given the numerous challenges to the academy’s existence after Brigham Young’s death, surviving twenty years on its own seemed nothing short of miraculous to those who had closely followed the school’s history. This paper chronicles how Brigham Young Academy survived during these years (1877 to 1897) without a stable financial base. A principal and board of trustees, energized by a charge from Brigham Young, carried the school through troubled times when it might have otherwise closed. Yet, like many nonpublic school administrators of the nineteenth century who sacrificed financially to keep their schools afloat, academy officials did not work alone.4 The school could not have survived strictly on the efforts of its principal or trustees, for at critical junctures in the school’s history, these officials were dependent on the aid of those whom they petitioned. Academy officials welcomed assistance from students, parents, Church leaders, citizens, and even the late Brigham Young himself, appearing in vision. An entire community enabled the trustees to pull the academy through tumultuous times. In the end, the trustees believed God “gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6) to everyone’s efforts.

Four periods in academy history illustrate how the trustees and principal steadied the school when it teetered on the brink of suspending operations or closing down altogether. In each case, a series of critical factors brought the academy to a crisis, and academy officials acted decisively to pull the school through. More than simply fascinating, dust-covered episodes from the past, these events illustrate how individuals with resolve can form communities whose collective strength can overcome trying circumstances.

The Academy Is Created

Brigham Young Academy was the first of three schools Brigham Young founded toward the end of his life.5 His academy endowment came in three parts. The original endowment in 1875 consisted of a two-story brick schoolhouse (called the Lewis Building, after its original owner Jesse W. Lewis) and the acre of land on which the building stood. A second endowment came when he deeded to the school three acres of largely undeveloped land in the center of Provo City in the summer of 1877.6 Three months later, deeds for $40,000 in property and bonds—the largest endowment yet—were carried to Brigham Young’s desk, awaiting his signature, on the very day he took fatally ill. He died three days later with the deeds unsigned, and the academy trustees were left to seek substitutes for the endowment that never materialized.7

School administrators intent on keeping the academy open at all costs navigated the school around financial challenges. The president of the Brigham Young Academy board of trustees was Abraham Owen (A. O.) Smoot, a former territorial justice of the peace and mayor of Salt Lake City. Smoot had moved to Provo in 1868, at Brigham Young’s request, to unite local communities north and south whose squabbling threatened to divide the county. He was immediately installed as mayor of Provo City and as chief ecclesiastical officer of Utah County, an area coterminous with Utah Stake, which was not organized until 1877 with Smoot as president of ten thousand members who lived from Alpine to Santequin.8 Smoot led a board of seven trustees who were all handpicked by Brigham Young to manage his school. Four of the seven carried the burden of their callings for twenty years or more, and none of the trustees was remunerated for his or her service.9

To the trustees Brigham gave the task of preserving his highest values: a school whose “standard” texts were the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants and whose forbidden text was any “that misrepresents, or speaks lightly of the Divine mission of the Savior, or of the Prophet Joseph Smith, or in any way advances ideas antagonistic to the principles of the Gospel.”10 Echoing the rhetoric Brigham Young employed to describe his endearing commitment to his prophet-mentor, Joseph Smith, Smoot often told friends that he would be “ashamed” to face Brigham Young beyond the veil and there admit to having “fail[ed] . . . my trust.”11 Smoot’s earnestness was animated by a charge Brigham Young issued to him, to the other trustees, and to Principal Karl G. Maeser to “turn your influence and energies to the building up of that Academy” and to “help it with [your] influence.”12 This influence was pivotal in keeping the academy open, and later in extending its reputation, until the Church was in position to redeem the school from financial insolvency.

Surviving after Brigham Young’s Death: 1877–1883

Brigham Young died on August 29, 1877, two days after the beginning of the second academic year, leaving the academy trustees to mingle their tears with humble yearning to know exactly what Brigham would now have them do. They were certain he would have the school remain open, with or without his pocketbook, but now his plans for funding had not matured. Brigham Young had never cowered from hardship; as guarantors of his wishes, neither would these trustees. So the school continued, limping out its next four terms, or forty weeks, until the end of the academic year in June 1878.

The academy trustees could suddenly no longer afford a Dr. Williams, “linguist and classical scholar,” hired shortly before Brigham died, to teach instrumental music and complement the salaried faculty of four.13 Somehow they wriggled free of the contract and instead hired James Daniels, a local journeyman, for $50 a year.14 The trustees may have counted this savings large, but a tuition total of just $1,700 for the 1878–79 school year allowed them to pay faculty only 60 percent of full salary.15

Tuition alone could never cover all the academy’s expenses, but higher enrollment would have helped. At this early point in the academy’s career, attracting students was a challenge. Many parents who had children of academy age were first- or second-generation Latter-day Saint immigrants who came out of traditions slow to adopt habits of formal secondary schooling. Other parents farmed land that for them typically required their children’s labor. Surviving from day to day was more important than paying to educate children; public clamor for fully tax-supported public schools would not rise for still another decade. In the late 1870s, less than two-thirds of Utah children ages six to sixteen were enrolled in school and less than half of the same population regularly attended.16 Only about 3 percent of young people nationally ages eighteen to twenty-one were enrolled in postsecondary schools.17 The academy drew from both these age populations: the younger population attended the primary and intermediate departments, which were often taught by the older students enrolled in the normal department. During the academy’s early years, tuition ranged from $3 to $8 per term, although most students, arriving late in the fall after harvest and leaving early in the spring before planting, paid a simple percentage, often in kind.18 Just eighty-eight of 333 enrollees remained through the end of the 1877–78 school year. Under such conditions, fiscal problems were inevitable.19

Teachers would have been worse off were it not for Smoot, an erstwhile farmer and lumber store owner whose reputed wealth was, like Brigham Young’s, always greater in popular imagination than it was in reality.20 As chief Church and civic leader in Utah Valley, Smoot led out among his people when he gave $320 to the academy during the school year after Brigham Young died. The cooperative over which Smoot presided, the Provo woolen mills, chipped in another $70.21 Such gifts were certainly appreciated but could not fill the mammoth financial shortfall left by Brigham Young’s departure. Smoot’s two bequests comprised all but $20 of the total donations to the academy for the entire school year.22

Solicitation Increases Attendance. Brigham Young had recognized that high ecclesiastical position could be utilized to promote the academy’s interests. “Call upon the people to patronize” the school, he had counseled the trustees, four of whom were bishops of wards in principal settlements of Utah County.23 Church leadership positions were valuable tools for academy trustees to call local Saints’ attention to the academy’s financial needs. Utah Stake and ward minutes before and after Brigham died record the trustees’ pleadings for parents to support the academy as they might other Church programs, such as the Sunday Schools or Mutual Improvement Associations. Smoot and his fellow trustees believed the academy’s founder, along with its gospel curriculum, hallowed the school enough to justify reminding congregations of the first day of an academy term. The school meshed seamlessly with official Church movements intended to create self-sustaining Saints.

Sermonizing converged on either acquiring donations or increasing enrollment. “In great Ernistness,” William Bringhurst called upon his congregation in Springville “to lend there [sic] aid for support” of the academy “not only as a duty but also as a great Privilege.”24 Smoot testified that it was “not God’s plan” to “rule the Bible out of the Schools.” He asked parents in Payson to “trust your children” to Principal Karl G. Maeser, a “true hearted, established Latter Day Saint” and “the best teacher in Utah.”25 Harvey Cluff solicited help from stake priesthood leaders “in the purchasing necessary improvements of ap[p]aratus” to “greatly facilitate” the academy’s capabilities.26 At stake conference, Leonard Harrington “spoke in eloquent terms of the blessings” awaiting students who attended the academy, and, of course, awaiting parents who sent them.27 After seeing how the academy had cultured his eighteen-year-old son, Marion, who worked days at the woolen mills and studied Greek in the academy’s night school, Myron Tanner even “exhorted parents to take a course” alongside their children at the end of the workday.28 The undercurrent in all these public exhortations was the academy’s financial condition, which the petitioners felt measured the righteousness of the Saints. A prosperous school evidenced a people doing God’s will; a school financially stricken told the trustees and the people everyone had more work to do.

These petitions undoubtedly helped enrollment but resulted in no new donations. Not to be dissuaded, academy officials cut a wider swath when they published in the summer of 1879 a circular “to the Saints of Utah, Wasatch, Juab and Sanpete Stakes of Zion.”29 The circular requested Saints to join together “in the maintenance of this Academy as their central institution on the co-operative principle.”30 Maeser and Smoot presented an early draft of the circular before the priesthood of Utah Stake, whose vote to raise $2,000 for the academy was noted in the version of the circular published later in the month in the Deseret News.31 “By these means” and those contributed by the other stakes, the trustees “hoped that the anxieties until now attending the financial management of this institution will be avoided in the future.”32 The trustees had observed the public outpouring in response to recent calls for temple funds and were counting on similar results.

Temples were one thing, schools another. Donations for schools came begrudgingly on the cash-poor frontier, where homes often served as schools but where homes never served as temples. When the subscription circular brought in less than $200 from the four stakes combined, academy officials abandoned their active quest for donations, took out a few small loans, and focused on increasing enrollment.33 While the trustees took to the pulpit, Principal Karl Maeser seconded their pleas in private discussions. Maeser had spent several weeks out of each of his first four summer vacations at the academy in a horse and buggy, riding long stretches of dusty road in Utah County and counties south, where in prescheduled meetings he petitioned parents to send their children to Provo.34 In the summer of 1880, after the circular failed to bring desired results, he recruited north of Salt Lake City for the first time, canvassing for six weeks in Davis, Weber, Box Elder, Cache, Rich, and Morgan Counties and even into southern Idaho.35 Maeser held about forty meetings in all, captivating audiences with common gospel discourse in one breath, and arcane lectures, such as the “Pyramids of Egypt,” in the next.36 He reassured suspicious parents with promises that he would shepherd their children and board them with the finest Latter-day Saint families in Provo.37 Maeser’s barnstorming and the school’s growing reputation for excellence worked wonders. By 1882, almost half of the academy’s 461 students came from outside Provo—including 18 students from Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona.38

The timing of all this solicitation was ideal. Utah’s school-age population burgeoned in the late 1870s, and the call for trained teachers was loud. Some teaching slots were filled from among an increasing number of non-Latter-day Saints who settled in Utah after the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869. Some of these teachers came intent upon rescuing young Saints from the throes of Mormonism, and even those who did not were still looked upon with distrust. Simply the appearance of Protestant mission schools in Utah Territory was enough to alarm parents who still vividly remembered the persecutions they once suffered in the states at the hands of God-fearing Christians. Who could protect the children against encroaching Babylon? The academy’s daily theological instruction gradually became more of an essential alternative than simply an attractive one.39 The context of sudden and unsettling change transformed the school into a symbolic bastion for the young and for parents who worried over them.

Maeser’s personal appeal made decisions to send children to the academy easier. Some parents needed convincing because the concept of a boarding school was new and ran counter to the needs of farmers with few farmhands. Maeser’s hearty German accent made him just human enough for fellow immigrants to trust him with their children, while his noble bearing and oratorical skills gave him a mysterious, almost irresistible allure. Maeser also eased the transition into the technocratic world Utah was rapidly entering as overpopulation across the Salt Lake Valley made farming an unlikely occupation for many of the rising generation.40 His talents were in primarily nonscientific fields: small-town people could admire his learning without being fearful of it.41 Perhaps most important for gaining confidence, Maeser’s learnedness never overshadowed his testimony.

The academy had become widely known within three years of Brigham Young’s death. The school’s excellence was both the creator and creation of public acclaim: Maeser’s term statistical reports were included in the Deseret News by 1879. A near doubling of enrollment between 1877 and 1880 allowed the school to significantly cut into its debts to teachers.42 The academy’s reputation for taking any student, even the poor, tuition in hand or not, spread far and wide. This was not ideal but still suited the trustees, since promises to pay later were always better than leaving desks empty with no better prospects of filling them. And yet a packed house brought no more donations than did an empty one. Without a trusted ally, the trustees had no real insurance against costs that tuition receipts could not meet.

Church Assistance Begins. Academy officials naturally looked to Brigham Young’s successor, John Taylor, to help cover costs Brigham would have paid had he lived. The line dividing Brigham’s private and Church business remained hazy for Principal Karl G. Maeser, whose pen nearly wept in a letter to President Taylor six weeks into the new school year early in October 1878. “Please, dear President, do something for us,” Maeser pled, “for thus far I [have] had to strain my physical, mental, and private resources to their utmost capacity” and “must necessarily give out in all these directions” in a “comparatively short time.”43 Maeser insisted the academy “must be placed under the direct control of the Presidency of the Church, or it will perish of its undefined semipublic-private character.”44

President Taylor was not convinced—at least, not yet. The Church had struggled for a quarter of a century to pay for the Salt Lake Temple, still incomplete, and had recently invested in construction on temples in St. George, Manti, and Logan. Church funds were also increasingly applied to lobbying efforts against further antipolygamy legislation then under contemplation in Washington, D.C.45 Although President Taylor lauded the academy’s work both in public and in private, his attempts to meet large needs with small purses could not bring him to “look upon [schools] financially as exclusively Church matters.”46 Were the Brigham Young Academy given special treatment, he reasoned, the Twelve would feel responsible for the “similar applications from other Stakes” sure to follow.47 This stance was complicated by an elected office President Taylor then held: Utah Territorial Superintendent of District Schools, responsible for distributing territorial school funds. Tact and caution were required at this time when even unfounded rumors of favoritism could dash Utah’s chances for statehood.48

President Taylor’s refusal to finance the academy did not prevent the trustees from keeping the school’s need in front of him. They invited him to commencements and consulted with him on curriculum, while, at the same time, waiting patiently upon the Lord to deliver financial assistance. The wait, as it turned out, was two years long. Zina Young Williams, Brigham Young’s daughter who taught needlework and drawing at the academy at that time, later remembered calling on President Taylor at his home, in 1881, “to relieve my mind upon the subject that had so distressed us all”—academy finances. Zina vented her frustration before a prophet as only a prophet’s daughter dared do. President Taylor, forever a British gentleman, listened until she finished and then kindly took her hand in his “fatherly way.”49 “I have been visited by your father,” President Taylor began. “He came to me in the silence of the night clothed in brightness and with a face beaming with love and confidence told me many things of great importance.” Among these, “the school being taught by Brother Maeser was accepted in the heavens and was a part of the great plan of life and salvation.” Brigham’s message, as John Taylor recited it, riveted itself into Zina’s memory: “Christ himself was directing, and had a care over this school.”50

Concern for privileging one stake’s schooling over another’s vanished. Shortly after the vision, President Taylor appeared at the academy’s 1881 commencement exercises and there publicly announced a Church benefaction of $200 cash, a rare commodity in those days.51 The following year, he established ten one-year tuition scholarships, to be given annually on the basis of merit and need, to students in the academy’s normal department.52 These initial appropriations, modest in sum but colossal in import, brought the Church into the academy’s family. The school now had an ally willing to lend assistance even when giving that assistance strained logic. More importantly for the trustees was their belief that God had confirmed both the desirability of the academy surviving at all costs and the trustees’ ability to guide the school through crises. This was knowledge that the trustees could cling to through years to come.

Surviving Fire: 1884

Shouts of “Fire!” and peals from the academy bell pierced the frigid air at about 10:30 on the night of January 27, 1884. Locals who converged on smoke billowing from the center of town found flames dancing behind the Lewis Building’s second-story windows. Provo, population 4,500, had no fire department.53 Those first on the scene ran to the nearest well a block away, where a bucket brigade formed and was soon joined by every able body. “Can you for once imagine . . . the hor[r]or that consumed our minds” to see the school enflamed, asked an incredulous Lars Eggertson, the student janitor. Fire engulfing a solid brick structure—this of all Provo’s buildings—was a sight least expected.54

Students and townspeople conceded their defeat within an hour.55 The blaze died only after it had ripped through both stories and charred the solid brick walls. At dawn, less than an empty shell remained. The front wall lay fallen and the other three stood smoldering. The interior walls were reduced to miserable rubble. Chattel snatched from the flames—benches from the lower rooms, books, laboratory apparatus, musical instruments, and the school organ—rested on a frozen icepack in the middle of Center Street. The New York Times, which was probably wired the story, estimated damage at $30,000, though local estimates were about half that.56 The school, of course, had no insurance.57

Students doubted the academy would continue. On the night of the fire, they were told to return to the rubble the following morning, at regular school time, and there be instructed “what was going to be done.” All “spark of hope had fled” from us that morning, recalled one student.58 Nels L. Nelson, a teacher in the intermediate department, observed with the same gloom, “No note of hope left in the undertone conversation of the little knots grouped here and there. The only question seemed to be how soon they could get ready to start for home.”59

If ever academy officials needed an excuse to shut down, this was the perfect one. Questions with no easy answers abounded. Where could four hundred students possibly be housed? Assuming temporary accommodations were found, at what cost and for what length of time could these be procured? Where could funds for a new building be located? Smoot had given $3,000 out of his own pocket for an addition to the Lewis Building in the summer of 1882, although he was quick to acknowledge that this money came only after “the Lord had opened the way.”60 Should the trustees now expect the Lord to open a much larger way? The third term of the academic year was to begin the morning after the fire. Should the students be dismissed now so they could enter other schools without getting behind in their studies? These were just some of many issues academy officials would no doubt have silently pondered in those early morning hours after the fire had jeopardized the very life of their school.

Temporary Quarters Arranged. The school was not dead. Loss of the Lewis Building, academy officials insisted, could no more kill the academy than death of the body could extinguish the spirit. “The Academy is not burned,” Maeser rallied his fellow teachers, “it lives forever.”61 Academy trustees agreed. They met early on the morning after the fire and resolved to continue classes “without delay.”62 Maeser conveyed the message while standing upon a chair, in the middle of the street, facing the students, whom he invited to a meeting to be held later in the morning, three blocks up the road in the Provo meetinghouse, where a plan for the school’s continuance would be announced.63

Leaders roused support for the school’s continuance by making sense of the disaster. “Acknowledge the hand of the Lord” in this fire was the main message twenty-one-year old Ferdinand Ericksen took from the meeting. Maeser, Smoot, and Elders Erastus Snow and Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve wanted students to “leave it to Him from whom all blessings come, and He would see us through alright.”64 A correspondent to the Deseret News heard Elder Lyman testify that “the Lord would not allow this institution to fail.” Lyman prophesied that in the disaster’s aftermath, “Brother Maeser should grow younger instead of older in body, and in spirit.” 65 Maeser, for his part, predicted the academy “should arise Phoenix-like from its ashes.”66 Lars Eggertson affirmed how these powerful messages filled students with renewed hope “and a better determination to go forward and help their teachers to bare [sic] their burdens.”67

Smoot’s influence on locating new accommodations was apparent. Like a concerned father, he assured that “all will be made as comfortable as possible” in the “places provided.”68 The higher departments would meet in the upper rooms of the newly completed building of the First National Bank, of which Smoot was president and one of six directors.69 Nels L. Nelson described how this “grand old man” waved off other competitors then vying for that very rental space and convinced his fellow directors to give room to the academy at a modest price.70 The lower departments were housed in the basement of the Provo meetinghouse for the next few days, until Samuel S. Jones’s new mercantile store, located several doors down from the bank building, was fitted up for them.71 Jones, Smoot’s close friend, leased space to the school at a cheap rate—provided his children received free tuition.72 Academy officials saw God’s hand in these arrangements, for had the fire come weeks earlier or later than it did, space for the school would likely have been unavailable.

School began immediately, as the trustees had resolved. “Notwithstanding the burning of the Brigham Young Academy building last night,” Smoot wired across the territory, “this institution will open regularly to-morrow morning.”73 Students turned out that afternoon and “with helping hands” hauled desks and books and chalkboards up the street into the classrooms.74 Regular devotional was held the following morning in the Provo meetinghouse, located at the center of town, before students separated to classrooms as usual.75 Maeser later credited “the spirit manifested by the board, the faculty, the students and friends of the Academy, [who] made it possible that only one day [of school] was lost.”76

Subscription for a New Building. No argument was necessary to convince people the academy needed help after the fire. Everyone knew the academy was poor. Prior to the fire, newspapers had often mentioned penury in their accounts of the school’s history. The pitiable tone conveyed by reporters reminded parents that the humble beginnings of this school resembled those of the divinely sanctioned Church the school represented. In Ogden, far away from the academy’s workings, the Daily Herald concluded less than twenty-four hours after the fire that “the people of Provo and of the Territory”—not the academy trustees—should “soon make up the loss and decide to build another structure for the school.” This institution “has no funds,” the paper reminded readers.77 Elder Erastus Snow described the public sentiment when he compared rebuilding the academy to a “public work, of which all will feel the responsibility.”78

The trustees’ responsibility after the fire, then, was more to channel than to create what Smoot called “wide-spread sympathy” for the school.79 President Taylor immediately led the charge to rebuild by heading a subscription list with $5,000, for and in behalf of the Church.80 Prominent citizens Smoot and George Q. Cannon, first counselor in the First Presidency, each publicly committed to $500.81 “Let the funds flow,” encouraged a Deseret News editorialist, “that the academy may, as a creditable institution, be placed firmer than ever on its feet.”82

The trustees felt “compelled to appeal to the sympathies of their fellow citizens for help” in erecting a building worthy of the academy’s reputation.83 To every stake in the Church the trustees sent subscription lists, with an appeal signed by their representative, A. O. Smoot:

This institution has acquired such a reputation in the community for the excellence of its management, that the feeling for its loss is one of universal regret. The institution has struggled through many difficulties, and has been gradually growing in influence, and was emerging from serious embarrassments that had beset its pathway in the past, when this misfortune occurred.84

Subscription promises soared to $15,000 by mid-February through the assistance of Zina Young Williams, whom the trustees temporarily released from her teaching duties to solicit donations from among her many friends in Salt Lake City.85 The Salt Lake Tabernacle held a benefit concert, and a traveling theatrical troupe split the proceeds on performances, for which Williams, her half sister Susa Young Gates, and trustee Harvey Cluff, representing the academy, sold tickets. Utah Southern Railroad officials enticed attendance at the theater by offering theatergoers half-price fares to Provo.86 Rebuilding the academy became a rallying point for the entire territory.

ZCMI Rents Room to the Academy. Public optimism gave rise to grand expectations. Subscripted funds were reserved for a new schoolhouse costing an estimated $40,000.87 Rather than salvage the Lewis Building or rebuild upon its property, the trustees scoured Provo for an entirely new lot. They narrowed their choices to two and then called on their chief beneficiary, President John Taylor, to decide between them. One proposed site, several acres of unplatted land a mile north of the center of town, was owned by Smoot and offered to the school free of charge. The other site, two blocks south of the Smoot lot, was a four-acre city block owned by Mary Lewis, widow of Jesse Lewis, who had built and later sold the Lewis Building to Brigham Young.88 After visiting each site, President Taylor directed the trustees to purchase the Lewis property, which they did on March 24, 1884, for $2,250.89 Two months later, after volunteer teams had cleared the underbrush, the ground was dedicated and broken, and construction on the new academy building began immediately.90 Two years was the estimated construction time.91

In the meantime, the trustees sought another location to hold school. Rooms in the bank building and the Jones store were notoriously cramped and may have been offered on condition the academy locate another home after the academic year ended in June.92 More attractive accommodations were in order when postfire enrollment slumped from the year before.93 Seeking to consolidate students under one roof, the trustees wrote the president of Zion Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) of Salt Lake City in early March 1884 asking to use a portion of the institution’s massive Provo warehouse “for the ensuing [school] year and until a new building can be erected.”94 As for rates, the trustees requested “kind consideration of our recent heavy loss” and of the school’s “benefits accruing to the public.”95

Fortuitously, President John Taylor was also president of ZCMI. His advocacy of the trustees’ proposal was all the ZCMI directors needed to grant the school the entire second floor and back half of the first beginning August 1884.96 The directors granted free rent for one year, after which “there shall be a charge made” at a figure “equitably determined” by the ZCMI superintendent and the academy trustees.97 That summer an elated academy board prepared for entrance by plastering ceiling and walls, enlarging the staircase, and erecting pine partitions between rooms capable of accomodating four hundred students at any one time—about the same capacity as the Lewis Building.98 That fall, classes opened in the warehouse, and once again at the trustees’ behest, an academy advantage came as a community gift.

Shadows had not yet fallen on the academy’s good fortunes as the summer of 1884 waned into fall. Saints inside the territory and out had promised to assist the trustees erect a building worthy of the school’s reputation. These promises allowed construction to proceed on a plot Smoot had dedicated to God for the expressed purpose of erecting a “building unto Thy name for the purpose of the promotion of Thy Zion upon the earth.”99 Smoot knew that Zion would never be built without opposition. Future fiery trials would rival those past, giving cyclical relevance to the handwriting specimen students were asked to copy in penmanship class three days after the fire: “The Academy can no more be destroyed by fire than can the soul of man by death.”100

Surviving Antipolygamy Raids: 1885–1888

Academy trustees were not entirely surprised when school opened in the ZCMI warehouse with just ninety students. Enrollment always started small in the autumn months before growing through the winter. Enrollment the term before the fire, one of the highest ever at the school, could not be realistically expected so soon after disaster and so long as the academy convened in a building the public believed was better suited for wares than for school. Yet this fall also presented an unexpected challenge when a nationwide grain glut persuaded some farmers to hoard their yields and prevented others from selling them altogether.101 Some parents who ordinarily sent their children to the academy kept them home or sent them to tax-supported schools until times improved. Times would not improve soon. The grain glut was just the beginning of an economic crisis that would bedevil the Saints in Utah Territory for much of the 1880s.102 Here was another fire academy officials would be called to fight.

The trouble began when a territorial grand jury in October 1884 upheld Rudger Clawson’s conviction on charges of polygamy and unlawful cohabitation. Clawson, a bookkeeper from Salt Lake City, was the first polygamist tried under the Edmunds Act of 1882, which mandated severe punishment of those found guilty of polygamy. Clawson was sentenced to pay $800 and serve three and a half years in prison.103 This landmark conviction signaled the beginning of a six-year witch-hunt orchestrated by U.S. lawmakers and played out by federal marshals and their minions.104 Some polygamists and sometimes their wives and children, bent on avoiding subpoena, left homes and businesses for the “underground.” In this confusion, crop yields shrunk, business volumes sagged, and cash evaporated across the territory.105

Antipolygamy raids shorted the academy of a commodity essential to its livelihood: students. Some families, both polygamist and monogamist, needed their children, particularly older children, at home during this chaotic time; others who did not were still pressed for funds as was everyone else. The impact on the academy is clear: in 1884–85 enrollment dropped 25 percent from the year before, and tuition receipts dropped 33 percent. The ratio of tuition paid in cash to tuition in produce and merchandise fell from 3:1 to 2:1. Student dropouts, on the rise from past years, peaked at 26 percent during the early months of 1885, about the time President John Taylor and other polygamists went underground.106 “When the ship Zion is passing under the dark shadows of hovering storm-clouds,” confessed Maeser, “it cannot be expected otherwise but that an institution so closely identified” with the “fortunes of the whole Church, should experience the same depression of circumstances.”107

The trustees sought help to pay bills the school’s treasury could not cover. President Taylor delivered his subscription as promised, but most of the others were never paid.108 An empty building fund meant construction on the new building halted indefinitely after 1884 with the basement floor complete six feet above ground level. The school remained in the ZCMI warehouse. A $1,200 bill for rent came when the one-year free rent period expired in the fall of 1885.109 Academy trustees could not pay the bill because they were already buried in debt from the new lot, construction, warehouse remodeling, and back pay to teachers.110 Instructor of sciences James E. Talmage lamented how his salary “to a very great extent unpaid” prevented him from meeting “a number of pressing debts.”111 By the spring of 1886, the amount due teachers alone had run to about $3,400, a sum equivalent to more than two-thirds the entire faculty payroll from the year before.112

As depressed as its own circumstance was, the Church became the academy’s last hope. Smoot declared the school would have to close unless outside assistance soon came, and Maeser wrote President Taylor on April 14, 1886, with sobering news:

As all the teachers have been forced to incur debts, and the financial condition of the Academy gives them no hope of meeting their obligations, nor to support their families until the commencement of the new academic year in August, and there being even then no prospect of better times, they all will be under the necessity of seeking positions elsewhere immediately after the close of the present term, May 21.113

Maeser categorically placed the academy’s future in President Taylor’s hands. “Whichever manner you may direct” the school’s labors, Maeser wrote, was the course the school would follow.114 Academy trustees asked President Taylor to direct them before May 1, when they expected to either rehire teachers for the coming school year or release them to locate new work.115

Tithing Block Rent from President Taylor. All was not lost for the academy. Maeser’s letter was just one of a recent string of letters from academy officials to John Taylor describing the school’s financial condition and suggesting ways to improve it. President Taylor’s replies show he was eager for the school to survive and was willing to invest Church funds when necessary. His children Nephi and Maggie then attended the academy, and like any involved parent, he took special interest in the management of their school. Far from suddenly dumping the academy into John Taylor’s lap, Maeser’s letter functioned as an ultimatum for the President to decide on issues he had discussed with academy officials intensively for the last six months and occasionally over the past six years.

At issue in these discussions was the property Brigham Young had deeded to the trustees in the summer of 1877. This three-acre plot, called the “Tithing Block” because the Provo tithing office was located on the premises, was an untapped gold mine sitting in the middle of Provo City.116 The property sat dormant for years while the trustees haggled over ownership with Church leaders. Academy trustees had long claimed that Brigham Young made a verbal promise to Smoot that the school was free to collect $1,200 rent annually from the Provo tithing office so long as the office remained on the premises.117

President Taylor had never been comfortable with this agreement. Academy officials collected rent on the office between 1879 and 1881 before the President (not yet converted to the academy’s cause) demurred on the basis that the Church was never anyone’s tenant and that verbal rental agreements were “not in accordance with . . . the way such business should be transacted.”118 Academy trustees promptly stopped collection and left the issue unresolved. Rising attendance and the Church appropriation for academy normal students in the early 1880s made rent easy for the trustees to forget; plummeting attendance and mounting debt in the mid-1880s brought rent quickly to mind. Soon after ZCMI sent its bill to the academy in late 1885, the trustees sent President Taylor a bill of almost $7,000 in back rent on the Provo tithing office.119

In return, President Taylor sent a genial, levelheaded reply to Smoot in December 1885. Still in seclusion from federal marshals, he expressed a “delicacy in launching out” financially under present circumstances.120 “You and I have each our own responsibilities, and while you, Prest. Smoot,” represent an institution of learning, “I feel that, I, as Trustee in Trust, am using the General funds of the whole Church.” In other words, this $1,200 annual rent sum “outside of other considerations might be well enough,” but under the “present pressure of affairs” it was, quite simply, “exorbitant.” President Taylor offered instead what he believed was currently a just equivalent for annual rent: $400. “If this is not satisfactory we will refer the whole subject to arbitration,” he added, half seriously, referring to a common method for members of the Church to settle disputes.121 In the meantime, while the trustees considered the offer, President Taylor gave them a down payment of $2,000 to keep the school open another term.122

The trustees were serious about paying all their debts and quickly accepted the invitation to arbitrate without counteroffering. “The Board feels that the Trust committed to their charge in the B. Y. Academy is a sacred one,” explained Smoot, “and should they due [sic] anything to retard its progress they would be recreant to their trust.”123 Arbitration became a way for the trustees to protect that trust after they considered how “they would lay themselves open to just criticism” for taking President Taylor’s offer when lots across the street commanded much higher prices.124 Smoot aimed to convince when he included these prices in a letter to the President in which he concluded, “ever praying for your welfare,” and signed, “your brother in the Gospel of Christ.”125 Here were trustees who loved the school and the Church and had faith that God would rule equitably over both institutions through the judgment of a disinterested observer.

Discipleship, not disinterest, would eventually decide this case. Maeser’s ultimatum prompted each side to choose arbitrators, who together were to choose a third disinterested party. At this point President Taylor’s arbitrator, L. John Nuttall, refused to proceed further. Nuttall ignored letters from the academy’s arbitrator, John E. Booth, who wanted to decide on the third party; instead, Nuttall privately prodded academy officials to settle the matter without one.126 Nuttall was a longtime Provo resident who had worked closely with Smoot and Maeser in civic and Church affairs and was also President Taylor’s son-in-law and personal secretary. Nuttall knew John Taylor about as well as any man living.127 “Although the proposition to arbitrate was also proposed, I do not think that was expected,” Nuttall confided.128 Making clear he wrote on his own responsibility, Nuttall pled with academy officials to settle the issue “by way of compromise” and thereby arrest this “coercive” and “forced” measure.129

Smoot was persuaded gradually. “The more I reflect upon arbitration of such an important matter with the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he confessed to Nuttall, “the less I feel like having anything to do with it.”130 Smoot partially conceded when in mid-June 1886 he suggested that President Taylor choose all three arbitrators “and I will agree to abide the results of their decision.”131 Concessions were total after he and the trustees motioned on June 26 to “rescind our acceptance of Arbitration” and leave the question of rent “entirely to the judgement of President John Taylor.”132 Discipleship had triumphed.

For the famished school, something was better than nothing. President Taylor’s judgment was an improvement on his original offer: $450 per year in rent for the last nine years, or $4,050 total, equally divided between cash, merchandise, and produce.133 On the strength of this promise, Brigham Young Academy opened again in the fall.

Beneficiary Funds from Church Members. Tithing Block rent could not cover past debts or prevent future ones from accruing. Enrollment continued to plummet, reaching an eight-year low by the end of 1886. Poor tuition receipts prompted Maeser to make “one last desperate effort to save the Academy from breaking up next Christmas” 1886, just a few months away. I “cannot afford another sacrifice” like last year, he insisted, stung from losing more than half his salary from the previous year.134 Maeser, always party to his own advice, had long encouraged academy teachers to consider themselves missionaries who joyfully served without thought for food or raiment.135

Maeser was more concerned about how the academy would survive before Christmas than after. The Church had deferred half of the back rent on the Tithing Block until year-end local tithing returns were deposited at the general tithing office during the first few months of 1887.136 Academy officials responded to the need by initiating two subscription drives during the first half of the academic year. These drives generated enough revenue to satisfy teachers until the remainder of the back rent could subsidize their salaries at the beginning of the new year.

Maeser initiated the first drive in August 1886 when he asked John Q. Cannon, a recently appointed trustee, to raise money for the academy to pay its operating expenses through the end of the school year. Since teachers always seemed to get shortchanged, the trustees agreed to give them all the tuition revenue (still not enough for full salary) and find some other way to raise money for heating, lighting, and incidentals.137 Cannon gave $100 himself and managed to scrape up another $675 from concerned observers. Smoot, Elder Heber J. Grant, and three of Brigham Young’s heirs each gave $100. Trustee Harvey Cluff gave $75. Another Young heir gave $50, as did venerable General Relief Society President Eliza R. Snow, now over 80 years old.138

Smoot initiated the second subscription drive at a meeting of the Utah Stake high council in October 1886. He told the council that “soon, the school will have to close” unless the brethren present “use their means and influence to sustain” the academy teachers, still due about $2,500.139 Maeser detailed his own sacrifices before the council and described his “mission” to remain with the school “as long as it was possible for him to do so.”140 Smoot warned the high council that “if [the academy] goes down,” council members “may bear a part of the responsibility as General Officers of the Church.”141

Council members acted on the message. Three councilors were appointed to “devise a plan to carry on the school” with help from the academy trustees.142 This joint committee concluded that since Provo’s businessmen benefited most from the estimated $40,000 in annual student expenditures locally, they should give something back by “donating of their means to sustain” the school.143 On November 29, 1886, about one hundred locals met with the council and subscribed over $1,000 for students of their choice to attend the academy as beneficiaries.144 The trustees encouraged subscription by promising to reopen the primary department, where children as young as age six could attend. Although the Beneficiary Fund was not the academy’s panacea, it was successful enough for the trustees to later initiate it in all the wards of Utah Stake.145 Trustees and teachers alike were heartened by the collections. The reappearance of community support allowed the trustees to pay the teachers and thus keep the school open.

Back faculty salaries were eventually paid with help from the Church. President Wilford Woodruff, who led the Church after President John Taylor died in July 1887, gave the trustees $2,500 in tithing produce accompanied by a special request to settle with teachers before other creditors.146 This relief came during the 1887–88 school year, just as the academy and the territory was emerging from the fiscal strain of the antipolygamy raids. Although arrests continued through the Manifesto of 1890, economic fortunes were on the mend long before, at least as early as the spring of 1888, thanks in large measure to a land and credit boom that would later come back to haunt everyone, including the country at large.

Surviving Dispute with Brigham Young’s Heirs: 1888–1897

“Boom! Boom!! Boom!!!” The headline in Provo’s Utah Enquirer for March 20, 1888, marked a shift in the fortunes of an entire people and a school who drew its patronage. A growing perception that the Mormon kingdom was crumbling had enticed investors from the east to Utah. Some were mine speculators whose eastern capital now in circulation allowed local public confidence to soar. Credit stretched far, and investors began buying land at prices empty-pocketed pioneers had never dreamed of.147 Suddenly the academy’s Tithing Block, vacated by the Church in 1887, was appraised at six-figure prices. Academy trustees needed no convincing: sell now. These three acres could provide all the revenue the school would need to complete the new building and create an ample endowment fund.

Funding the Academy Building. Such an idyllic ending was not to be. Brigham Young had stipulated in his Tithing Block deed that his “heirs or assigns” be given final approval after his death of all decisions pertaining to the “management and control” of academy property.148 The deed did not say how long the heirs should have this control. Instead, to discover Brigham’s intentions the academy trustees read his final school deed, the deed to the Brigham Young College. Identical in other respects to the academy deed, the college deed stated that all the heirs’ power was to end at “the settlement of the estate.”149 Even though the estate had been settled years before, the academy deed as a legal document never ended the heirs’ power. The academy trustees, therefore, even at this late date, were forced to go through the heirs to sell.150 Believing that he was fulfilling Brigham’s wish, Smoot aimed to sever the heirs’ power by enlisting Susa Young Gates in 1889 for the grinding task of collecting the signatures of all the heirs—now over six dozen spread across the country—on a new deed of trust conveying all powers previously held by the heirs into the hands of the trustees.151

Three heirs who refused to sign created endless trouble for the academy. Two of these three daughters of Brigham Young and Emmeline Free had sued the Church in 1879 over the estate settlement and were later excommunicated for the act.152 At the time the Utah land market began declining precipitously in November 1890, only these three of all the heirs had refused to sign the new deed.153 Academy officials could then wait no longer to sell. On November 12, the day after they officially accepted the new deed without the last of the signatures, the trustees placed the Tithing Block up for sale, hoping investors would ignore a clouded title and agree to buy upon a promise that a perfected one would shortly be provided.154

For months the Tithing Block sat on a stagnant market until a large group of Provo businessman formed a joint-stock company for the purpose of buying portions of the land and building upon them.155 In April 1891, the company agreed to pay the academy $15,000 for 8,000 square feet on condition the school provided a “clear and unencumbered” title within thirty days.156 Academy trustees were optimistic they could provide such after they sent Ella Young Empey, the recalcitrant heirs’ older sister, to New York to persuade them in person.157 Presumably on the strength of this visit, the trustees promptly signed for $56,000 in building contracts before any word from the East had yet been received.158 Construction on the basement floor of the new academy building resumed on May 18, 1891, seven years after it began, with what one trustee frankly described was “not yet a dollar in the treasury.”159 Such a practice was not uncommon—in credit booms, school trustees both locally and nationally built first and acquired funds later.160

The three heirs did not sign, and the school was stuck with the building contracts. Academy trustees delivered over the land they had promised to the joint-stock company, though none of the $15,000 was ever paid because the trustees could not deliver clear title. Other potential buyers shied away from the land for the same reason.161 The trustees were left to somehow raise funds to pay for building contracts by the time the initial contracts fell due in the spring of 1892. There was no turning back because the work was “under contracts and expenses had to be met,” recalled trustee and superintendent of construction H. H. Cluff.162 Even worse, money had to be found on a dull market and without help from Church, for it too was in major debt and committed to allocating available resources elsewhere.163

After several months of miserable success locating funds, Smoot nonetheless felt hopeful. He publicly recounted in 1892 that Brigham Young

appeared to me and during a brief conversation said Brother Smoot you need not worry about the Academy or about how means can be obtained to build the structures which have been commenced, for the way will be opened that means will be furnished to finish the work.164

The trustees soon had the contracts covered. They secured a large mortgage with an eastern lender and wheedled loans from local banks amounting in aggregate to about $44,000 in cash.165 Subcontractors who were due payment in excess of this on-hand cash agreed to take promissory notes signed by the trustees for and in behalf of the school.166 These loans and promissory notes were to be paid with interest sometime after the academy won the suit it filed against the three heirs in October 1891.167 After victory, so the theory went, the Tithing Block could finally be sold and the creditors paid.

The academy won the suit, but still the land could not be sold for reasons never fully explained. Court transcripts of the decision, dated May 12, 1892, state the defendants were “forever barred” from “all right, interest, claim and demand of, in and to” academy lands on the basis of the 1890 deed, an absolute “relinquishment and release of all [the defendants’] rights” granted them in the original deeds.168 But the defendants obviously knew they once possessed the rights the academy trustees had never called upon them to exercise. Perhaps by claiming that the trustees violated their rights before the creation of the 1890 deed, the defendants immediately threatened further action.169 The trustees considered this threat legitimate and did not sell the land for fear more suits would result. The new building, meanwhile, erected almost entirely on credit, was completed, dedicated, and opened for classes in January 1892, despite the interest steadily compounding on a debt of $50,000.170

The academy trustees finally placated the three sisters by paying them each $250 in return for their signatures on quit-claim deeds.171 But by the time the school had freed itself for good from the heirs, the Tithing Block no longer commanded prices high enough to cover the building debt. Timing was everything. The last of the quit-claim deeds was signed on May 4, 1893, the very day a sharp fall in the New York Stock Exchange signaled the beginning of the deepest economic recession the United States had seen to date.172 Utah was hit particularly hard, cash dried up across the territory, and land prices were deflated for years. Once the academy’s pot of gold, the Tithing Block remained unsold until after the turn of the century.173

Brigham Young’s appearance had filled Smoot with gratitude that the construction contracts were covered and with hope that the loans to pay them off still would be. Yet even Smoot’s hope stretched thin as loan deadlines were not met and a creditor’s judgment could mean forced marshal sale and the end of the school. The trustees were out of solutions at the point when Smoot informed President Woodruff in March 1893 of the “seeming impossibility of continuing the school under existing conditions.”174 Interest payments alone devoured almost half the previous year’s tuition revenues, and expenses in the new building were expected to overshoot annual revenues at least $10,000 annually.175 Loans more than two years past due comprised a debt now $81,000 and rising.176

The academy’s rescue was not automatically assured. Before 1888 the Church had given funds for the school to escape its financial crises. In that year, however, President Wilford Woodruff directed the Church’s thirty-two stakes to open their own schools and promised to help subsidize them with annual appropriations from the newly created General Church Board of Education, a governing body of nine.177 These appropriations were strictly nominal and were never large enough for sizable building construction—understandably so considering the Church’s troubled financial condition. Stakes were expected to build within their means and not count on help from general Church funds. The existence of these other stake schools was by no means secure: twenty-five of the original forty schools shut down after the Church was unable to offer them financial assistance during the 1893–94 school year. Brigham Young Academy indebtedness was over twice the indebtedness of any other stake academy, pressing Church leaders to decide whether they would allow the school to be among those that closed.

The Church University. Resolution to this crisis took time. Church funds eventually paid the academy’s indebtedness, but only after the school had become so integral to the Church educational system that Church leaders would not allow the school to collapse. Although the Brigham Young Academy was the acknowledged leader of the few Church schools that existed before 1888, this status was threatened when the Church decided to found a university to head the new system of schools.178 The academy was suddenly one school among many. The task academy officials pursued was to work toward becoming a university before the Church university opened and therefore regain their place at the head of the Church school system. Academy officials retained current faculty, erected the new building, offered free tuition to normals, expanded curriculum, lured in transfer faculty, hired new faculty, increased faculty salaries and expenditures, initiated theological lectures, and issued their first college degrees. These measures meant increasing the debt before it could be removed.

Church leaders initially seemed more eager to establish a new university than to rescue the academy from debt. The leading educational institution in the territory, the University of Deseret (renamed the University of Utah in 1892), had remained outside of the Church’s influence since the days of Brigham Young, whose pleas to implement theological instruction at the school had fallen on deaf ears. The Church school system created in 1888 seemed to demand an organization crowned by an entirely new institution, a full-fledged university, located at Zion’s center, Salt Lake City. The First Presidency had planned on founding the new university there for at least a year before the Deseret News officially announced a formal organization on June 2, 1891, just weeks after the academy trustees had entered into their initial building contracts.179 At the head of the new institution was an intimidating twenty-six member board of trustees that included seven Apostles and the entire First Presidency, with President Wilford Woodruff as “chairman of the finance committee.”180 The following spring, April 1892, a resolution to found the “University of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” was read and accepted from the pulpit at general conference, and an initial endowment of $100,000 was penned into the deed of trust.181 About $60,000 of that sum was given for the construction of a temporary school building to be used until the Church could acquire funds to launch a $1,000,000 network of university buildings spread over an entire city block.182 By fall 1893, when the university opened classes in chemistry and natural theology in the temporary building, the academy had been in deep debt for two years.

Academy officials had rushed into construction, in part, as a means of consolidating their power against the encroaching university. A chagrinned Smoot had watched for several years as the General Board consistently plucked the academy’s most celebrated teachers for service in schools outside of Provo.183 The last straw for him came in March 1891, when the General Board unexpectedly released Maeser’s successor-in-waiting, Benjamin Cluff Jr., from his position at the academy, effective at the end of that school year. Cluff, the thirty-three-year-old assistant principal from Coalville, Utah, was the only teacher at the academy with a college degree.184 His expertise in teacher training was needed in Salt Lake City during the coming year “contemplating the establishment of the University of Zion,” wrote President Wilford Woodruff, president of the General Board.185 Smoot quickly led a delegation of academy trustees to the First Presidency’s office and there asked for a countermand. His charge that the General Board was “injuring” the academy by taking the school’s best teachers “in order to build up Salt Lake College” was denied by President Woodruff, Smoot’s former missionary companion.186 Nevertheless, the call was suspended after the Presidency unitedly agreed that moving Cluff from Provo “would be imprudent under the circumstances.”187 The circumstances were that a coalition of Provo businessmen had only days before agreed to purchase portions of the Tithing Block, and Smoot feared they would not follow through with their promises once this “new blow at the prosperity of the institution would become known.”188

Cluff Spurs Growth amidst Debt. Cluff’s return to the academy stirred Provo to reassert the academy as the finest institution in Zion. “The new building now seems assured of completion for the next year,” the Daily Enquirer concluded as it announced Cluff’s suspended call.189 The day after their meeting with the Presidency, the trustees viewed architect Joseph Don Carlos Young’s updated plans for the new building and then authorized Smoot and Harvey Cluff to negotiate for loans in advance of land sales to Provo businessmen.190 The trustees would not be stopped from erecting a structure to command the respect of all Israel. The new building was completed in six months and dedicated at a grand celebration held on January 4, 1892.191 President Woodruff acknowledged the trustees’ success when he called the finished product “the finest building in Utah Erected for the Education of the Children.”192 The sheer breadth and grandeur of this structure, which was built to accommodate 1,200 pupils, exceeded any school building then in the territory.193

Believing the finest building warranted the finest institution, academy officials began upgrading their curriculum to university standards even before the new building was complete—and before, of course, the Church university got off the ground. The main catalyst in this movement was Cluff, who had returned from the University of Michigan in 1890 with a degree in pedagogy and mathematics and a vision of what the academy might become. The most important of Cluff’s early changes came when he convinced the General Board in October 1891 to allow the academy to house the official “Church Normal Training School” until the Church university opened. This request aimed to reclaim the title of official Church normal school taken from the Brigham Young Academy in 1890 and given to the academy in Salt Lake Stake for no demonstrable reason other than location.194 The request was reasonable since Cluff had remained in Provo and since the University of Deseret had begun offering free tuition to normals in the spring of 1891. Cluff’s request reflected the concern that the Church would lose its supremacy over teacher training in Utah. He asked the General Board for a $5,000 appropriation so that the academy could keep pace and also make its tuition for normals free.195 The appropriation was granted two months before Cluff became principal of Brigham Young Academy. Maeser retired from the position at the dedication of the new building, and under Cluff’s leadership, the academy never relinquished its position as the premier teacher-training institution in Zion.

Cluff did not allow academy indebtedness to hamper his effort to enhance the academy’s prestige. After becoming principal, he immediately expanded course work from two years to four, enlarged elective curriculum, and fought for the academy’s right to begin conferring four-year degrees—and confer them independent of the General Board, which had proclaimed that the first and only institution to have the right to award degrees would be the Church university.196 Cluff lured one of the country’s top educators, Colonel Francis Parker from Cook County Normal School in Chicago, to the academy for two weeks of lectures in the summer of 1892, and in succeeding summers brought other nationally renowned educators to lecture at the school.197 Even when it became clear that the Tithing Block could not be sold anytime soon, Cluff enlarged the faculty from sixteen to twenty-one, hiring professors of physical sciences, classical languages, and history, all of whom had degrees from eastern universities and had to be paid handsomely because of it.198 Most faculty received substantial pay raises between Cluff’s first and second term as principal, when total faculty salaries increased almost 50 percent.199 The following year, in the middle of the financial panic, other faculty were given financial assistance while on furlough at eastern universities.200 “A narrow policy on the part of the Academy will kill the school,” Cluff summarized, while “a broad, liberal policy will build it up until it will be the peer of any school in the Territory.”201

Cluff’s endeavors were not without the trustees’ approval. He typically presented his requests in person to the trustees, who then jointly motioned to accept, reject, or ammend them. When Cluff insisted that students be furnished with their own apparatus, such as chemistry sets, during this time when a retrenchment mind-set might have called for reservation, they assented to the request.202 Maeser, who had retired as academy principal to devote himself full-time to his position as superintendent of Church schools, believed the academy’s financial condition called for Cluff to “curtail” some of his “farreaching schemes.”203 Yet with rare exceptions, those who controlled the purse—the trustees—were generally in accord with Cluff’s aims. The trustees, ultimately, were the ones who contracted with teachers and agreed to pay their salaries on borrowed money.204

Cluff wisely involved the First Presidency in his program. He read drafts of his academy circulars to President Woodruff and incorporated suggested changes and additions before printing them. Cluff petitioned the First Presidency for weekly theological lectures given by prominent Church authorities, and the granted request resulted in regular lectures given by George Reynolds, secretary to the First Presidency, and lectures as schedule permitted given by Presidents Joseph F. Smith and George Q. Cannon.205 Cluff opened a four-week normal course to Mutual Improvement Association officers during his first term as principal and followed that up the next school year with a course for Sunday School officers. These courses brought no tuition initially, but some of the hundred or more students who took the courses every year undoubtedly remained as full-time students. The semi-official prestige that came to the school through these programs was difficult for the Saints and their leaders to conflate with a simple stake academy.206 By the spring of 1893, Cluff was asking for and receiving from the First Presidency special appropriations for faculty salaries, teaching apparatus, and library volumes.207

As Cluff pushed the school into its future, Church leaders gradually recognized that Brigham Young Academy was becoming the kind of institution they wanted in a Church university. The General Board’s May 1893 consent to allow the academy to award the Bachelor of Didactics (B.D.) degree was an admission that the Church university had been effectively bested. The Church university opened three months later, but after financial panic clipped its operations down to a few classes, President Woodruff closed the school for good on August 18, 1894.208 Two months later, the General Board issued its only two appropriations for the calendar year. Sanpete Stake, struggling to pay off the debts on its new school house in Ephraim, was given $800; and Utah Stake, home of the Brigham Young Academy at Provo, was promised a staggering $26,000.209

This decision to embrace the academy was both novel and familiar. Academy trustees had long believed their school, as the oldest of the Church schools, warranted the highest status, especially when they considered how she had through the years “proved her integrity to the President of the Church and to all Israel.”210 Church leaders began viewing the academy with similar affection once the school expanded into space the nascent university had neither the money nor the urgency to fill. The academy’s rich tradition provided an unbroken link with a pioneer past Church leaders were eager to retain after the original rationale for the Church university collapsed before it even opened. The university’s aim to cease the annual exodus of young Latter-day Saints to eastern universities lost its power after the Manifesto of 1890 started the Church along a path of assimilation into the American mainstream. The goal of monopolizing degrees for all conceivable subjects of higher learning soon became an insular and obsolete end. Church leaders could secure the academy’s dominance in one realm—teacher training—while still encouraging the Saints to leave the territory for other studies. This conservative goal reflected the overall retreat of the temporal kingdom into the smaller spaces and simpler ends. Brigham Young Academy provided Church leaders everything they now needed in a school: leadership willing to move the school into the progressive future, a charter connecting the school to its pioneer past, and a history of commitment to Brigham Young’s ideals through times of crisis.

Removal of the Debt. Lawsuits finally prompted an end to the academy’s debt. The First Presidency promised the trustees forthcoming relief after four creditors were awarded civil-suit judgments against the school in January 1895. Smoot and seven other academy trustees who had signed notes were named as defendants.211 Smoot’s death in March 1895 hastened the promised funds. His estate could not be settled until the academy’s creditors were paid. They were due more than $66,000 in promissory notes and loans Smoot and other academy trustees had signed for and in behalf of the school.212 Brigham Young’s close friend and counselor George Q. Cannon, who had closely followed the school’s fortunes from the time he wrote the original academy deed, described after Smoot’s death how this indebtedness “appealed very strongly to my sympathies,” considering “Brother Smoot endorsed these notes in consequence of counsel he says he received from President Young to stand by that Academy and do all in his power to sustain it.”213 President Woodruff, who had promised to “provide for early payment” of these notes, soon covered the court judgments and other of the most pressing academy debts. The other creditors agreed to take interest payments upon the First Presidency’s promise of future payment.214 President Woodruff later estimated the Church paid about $75,000 in academy indebtedness—about the cost of the new academy building.215

The academy’s future was not secure until the Church absorbed the school. Smoot’s successor as president of the Board of Trustees, Apostle Brigham Young Jr., informed Cluff at the close of the 1895–96 school year that the Church could not appropriate funds to the school for the upcoming year. Realizing that receiving no assistance “meant the death of the Academy,” Cluff arrived at what seemed to him to be his only option:

One evening while returning from a walk down town and while studying deeply over the future of the Academy, the thought came to me like an inspiration. “Give the school to the Church.” Immediately my mind was at rest. I knew that was the right thing to do.

Church leaders had so greatly invested in the academy by the summer of 1896 that even the prospect of pushing the Church further into debt could not dissuade them from turning down Cluff’s unsolicited gift. They accepted the gift, prepared articles of incorporation dated July 18, 1896, and appropriated the needed funds. The following year, three new members of the board of trustees were sustained at the annual general conference of the Church, according to provision in the articles. The trustees had long hoped that the Church would take financial responsibility for the academy; now that the school had become an invaluable asset for building the kingdom, their wish was granted.216

Brigham Young Academy’s name was officially changed to Brigham Young University in 1903. The school had long been doing collegiate level work, training teachers for employment and for a decade awarding them with degrees. “The name Academy places the school in a bad light,” Cluff had concluded.217 Changing the school’s name was the last official move Cluff made. He retired from his position at Christmas break, 1903, never again to return to the field of education. His tenure culminated at the destination he envisioned from the start, and once the school had come of age, his mission was fulfilled.218


Benjamin Cluff Jr. followed the tradition of Brigham Young Academy officials before him whose sense of mission carried the school out of crises. Karl G. Maeser guided the school out of a student-poor pioneer Utah; A. O. Smoot extended his credit as far as was needed for the academy to stand at the head of the Church school system; and Cluff poised the school to become a metropolitan university. The commitment academy officials had for the academy stemmed from their loyalty to Brigham Young. “My whole soul is in accord with [Brigham Young’s] in this laudable and praiseworthy undertaking,” Smoot once said of the school.219 These were not empty words. They were written in the acts of academy officials who consistently manifested their love for Brigham Young and belief in his vision long after he was gone.

About the author(s)

Jed L. Woodworth is research editor at BYU Studies.


1. See Thomas G. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890–1930 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 3–15; James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2d ed., rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 409–34.

2. This figure is the first of many nineteenth-century dollar figures cited in this paper. For those who wish to think of these figures in present-day dollar figures, two conversion rates will be helpful. To convert the 1875 dollar into the 1990 dollar, multiply by ten; to convert the 1895 dollar into the 1990 dollar, multiply by fifteen. Larry Wimmer, economic historian in the Department of Economics, Brigham Young University, who supplied me with these figures, reminds readers that these numbers give only approximate conversions and do not represent literal values.

3. Ernest L. Wilkinson, ed., Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years, 4 vols. (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1975): 1:536–37. The first of these four volumes offers the most comprehensive history of the Brigham Young Academy currently available. All four volumes are condensed into one, with some new material, in Ernest L. Wilkinson and W. Cleon Skousen, Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1976). Photographic treatment may be found in Edwin Butterworth Jr., Brigham Young University: 1,000 Views of 100 Years (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975). Student life is reviewed in Keith Lowell Smith, “A History of the Brigham Young University—The Early Years, 1875–1921” (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1972). For contemporaneous history of the academy covering the period before 1882, see the three-part series written by James E. Talmage and published in the Contributor in March, May, and June 1881. For contemporaneous history after 1882, see Karl G. Maeser, School and Fireside (n.p.: Skelton, 1898), 159–92, and the brief historical summaries of the school found in yearly academy circulars beginning in 1884, located in Special Collections and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (hereafter cited as BYU Archives).

4. Nonpublic schools in the United States are treated in Otto F. Kraushaar, American Nonpublic Schools: Patterns of Diversity (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University, 1972). An interpretive discussion of nineteenth-century academies is found in Theodore R. Sizer, ed., The Age of the Academies (New York: Teacher’s College, 1964). A superb study of the interplay between nonpublic schools, academies, and public schools is William J. Reese, The Origins of the American High School (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995). Latter-day Saint academies are treated in John D. Monnett Jr., “The Mormon Church and Its Private School System in Utah: The Emergence of the Academies, 1880–1892,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Utah, 1984), 98–116.

5. The Young Academy of Salt Lake City, the second of three schools Brigham Young founded, never opened its doors; the last of the three, the Brigham Young College of Logan, battled the Brigham Young Academy through the 1880s for the same sparse student clientele. The college never had similar financial problems, however, because its original deed conveyed over 9,000 acres of land, some of which was either rented or sold to subsidize tuition revenues. On the Young Academy, see D. Michael Quinn, “The Brief Career of Young University at Salt Lake City,” Utah Historical Quarterly 41 (winter 1973): 69–89. On Brigham Young College, see Arnold K. Garr, “A History of Brigham Young College, Logan, Utah,” (master’s thesis, Utah State University, 1973). It is not clear why Brigham Young named two schools “academy” and the other “college.” Stipulations for curriculum read identically in all three deeds, and the ages of those who actually attended were practically identical. In any case, Brigham Young College operated for many years as a college in name only. George Thomas, who attended the school from 1889 to 1891 and later became President of the University of Utah, called the college “a poor high school.” [George Thomas], “School Days,” Ralph Vary Chamberlin Papers, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City.

6. The original deeds were copied into Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, October 16, 1875, and June 15, 1877, BYU Archives. They were reprinted in Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:523–28.

7. Brigham Young, quoted in [Susa Young Gates], “President A. O. Smoot,” Young Woman’s Journal 3 (July 1892): 436; Karl G. Maeser, “A Retrospect,” Normal 1 (January 4, 1892): 68.

8. Smoot functioned as president of the high council at Provo City until he was officially called as president of Utah Stake when the stake was formally organized in June 1877.

9. That is to say, the trustees were not paid as trustees. The academy treasurer received a small salary for bookkeeping.

10. These stipulations are found in the original deeds of trust, reprinted in Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:524, 527. The deed also called for teaching all branches of study “usually taught in an academy of learning.”

11. A. O. Smoot, quoted in Joseph E. Taylor, “Abraham O. Smoot: Life and Labors of the Late President of the Board of Trustees of the B. Y. A.,” [1895], 67, Abraham O. Smoot Collection, BYU Archives.

12. [Gates], “President A. O. Smoot,” 435–36. These quotations come from Brigham Young’s conversations with A. O. Smoot specifically. On another occasion Smoot said, “Brigham Young told Dr. Maeser and myself that the school had been given us as a charge to ourselves and the board of directors.” “Brigham Young Academy,” Deseret News Weekly, January 9, 1892, 84. Maeser took over principalship in April 1876, after he completed his teaching obligation to the University of Deseret and Twentieth Ward School. Interim principal Warren N. Dusenberry and John E. Booth taught the academy’s first term, which began in January 1876 and lasted until March. Dusenberry’s interim status is discussed in Susa Young Gates to George H. Brimhall, June 12, 1920, draft three, Susa Young Gates Collection, Utah State Historical Society (hereafter cited as Gates Collection).

13. “Brigham Young Academy,” Utah County Enquirer, August 29, 1877.

14. Brigham Young Academy Faculty, Minutes, October 5, 1877, BYU Archives; Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, July 6, 1878; “James E. Daniels,” Deseret Evening News, July 24, 1897, 22.

15. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, July 6, 1878. This percentage derives from total outstanding liabilities against faculty. Some of these liabilities may have been outstanding from past years.

16. “Report of the Territorial Superintendent of District Schools [1876–1877],” in J. C. Moffitt, comp., “Reports of the Superintendents of Schools of Utah, from 1861 to 1896,” typescript, 122, BYU Archives.

17. Colin B. Burke, “The Expansion of American Higher Education,” in The Transformation of Higher Learning, 1860–1930, ed. Konrad H. Jarausch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 111.

18. Brigham Young Academy, Circular, 1878–79, BYU Archives.

19. Brigham Young Academy Faculty, Minutes, June 14, 1878; Wilkinson and Skousen, School of Destiny, 99.

20. This is not to say that Smoot was not wealthier than most. See J. R. Kearl, Clayne L. Pope, and Larry T. Wimmer, comps., Index to the 1850, 1860 & 1870 Censuses of Utah: Heads of Households (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1981), 333. The point about Brigham Young’s wealth was made in David James Croft, “The Private Business Activities of Brigham Young, 1847–1877,” Journal of the West 16 (October 1977): 49. Smoot’s multitudinous business activities are treated in C. Elliott Berlin, Abraham Owen Smoot: Pioneer Mormon Leader (master’s thesis: Brigham Young University, 1955). Smoot’s early life and family history may be found in Loretta D. Nixon and L. Douglas Smoot, Abraham Owen Smoot: A Testament of His Life (Provo, Utah: A. O. Smoot Family Organization, 1994).

21. “Statistical Report of the Utah Stake of Zion, Utah Territory, for the Month Ending October 1877,” in Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1888, January [13], 1878, microfilm of holograph, Archives Division, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City (hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives); Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, July 6, 1878.

22. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, July 6, 1878. This figure does not include $570 given by the Utah County Court (predecessor to the Utah County Commission) for the tuition of student beneficiaries. In 1876, the court agreed to allocate funds for the yearly tuition of twenty-six students from each of the principal settlements of Utah County. The complete appropriation was never made, beneficiaries were cut to ten in 1882, and appropriations had ceased altogether by 1885. For the initial appropriation, see Utah County Court, Minutes, September 5, November 10, 1876, microfilm of holograph, microfilms office, Utah County Court, Provo, Utah.

23. Brigham Young, quoted in [Gates], “President A. O. Smoot,” 435. The bishops were: William Bringhurst, Springville; Leonard Harrington, American Fork; Myron Tanner, Provo 3rd Ward; Harvey Cluff, Provo 4th Ward. Cluff was called as Smoot’s second counselor in the Utah Stake presidency after the stake was officially organized in June 1877. See Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1888, June 3, 1877. For the involvement of nineteenth-century LDS bishops in local schools, see Donald Gene Pace, “Community Leadership on the Mormon Frontier: Mormon Bishops and the Political, Economic, and Social Development of Utah before Statehood” (Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1983).

24. Springville Ward, Utah Stake Historical Record, 1875–1879, July 30, 1876, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives. Bringhurst asked his congregation to show their willingness to sustain the school by calling for a raise of the right hand.

25. Payson Ward, Utah Stake Historical Record, 1875–1879, August 27, 1876, July 15, 1877, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives. Bible-reading in public schools was still acceptable in Utah and in most schools across the nation, although the practice was coming under increasing attack as several major U.S. cities had recently banned the practice and the Supreme Court of Ohio sustained a lower court ruling in Ohio in 1873. See Lloyd P. Jorgenson, The State and the Non-Public School, 1825–1925 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), 132–33. Picking up on Smoot’s theme, other local bishops asked their congregations to sustain the academy. See, for example, Spanish Fork Ward, Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1882, August 4, 1878, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives. Academy students were also sent to wards to speak about the school’s merits. See, for example, Utah Stake Historical Record, 1874–1884, November 10, 1878, July 27, 1879.

26. Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1888, July 6, 1878, August 3, 1878.

27. Utah Stake Historical Record, 1874–1884, March 7, 1880.

28. Margery W. Ward, A Life Divided: The Biography of Joseph Marion Tanner, 1859–1927 (Salt Lake City: Publishers, 1980), 9; Payson Ward, Utah Stake Historical Record, 1875–1879, July 15, 1877. Latin and Greek were taught at the academy, but unlike many antebellum academies these studies were never considered a vital part of the curriculum.

29. “The Brigham Young Academy,” Deseret Evening News, July 29, 1879.

30. “The Brigham Young Academy,” Deseret Evening News, July 29, 1879.

31. The draft version is found in A. O. Smoot, Myron Tanner, and Wilson H. Dusenberry to the Saints in Zion, June 20, 1879, photocopy of holograph, Centennial History Project Papers, BYU Archives. The Centennial History Project Papers contains primary and secondary source documents used in writing the four-volume history The First One Hundred Years. All documents cited from this collection are typescripts unless otherwise noted. The draft circular was presented to the priesthood in Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1888, July 5, 1879. The week before the priesthood meeting, Maeser sent the draft to President Taylor, who after the meeting returned it with changes suggested for publication. Among the deletions in the published version were the phrases calling the academy’s “natural patron” the “People of The Latter-day Saints” and a reference to President Taylor consenting to subscription committees “for every Stake of Zion.” Karl G. Maeser to John Taylor, June 25, 1879, photocopy of holograph, Centennial History Project Papers; Smoot, Tanner, and Dusenberry to the Saints in Zion, June 20, 1879. See Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:117, for a large excerpt from this draft mistaken to be a published circular.

32. “The Brigham Young Academy,” Deseret Evening News, July 29, 1879.

33. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, November 27, 1880.

34. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, July 17, 1876; Springville Ward, Utah Stake Historical Record, 1875–1879, July 30, 1876; Milton H. Hardy, Diary, July 2, 1877, BYU Archives; “Routes and Appointments for Elders Karl G. Maeser and John Taylor Jun[ior],” photocopy of 1878 holograph, Karl G. Maeser Papers, BYU Archives (hereafter cited as Maeser Papers); “Educational Tour,” Deseret News Weekly, September 4, 1878, 494–95; Leonard E. Harrington, Journal, July 27, 1879, quoted in “Journal of Leonard E. Harrington,” Utah Historical Quarterly 8 (January 1940): 56.

35. Karl G. Maeser to John Taylor, June 23, 1880, photocopy of holograph, Maeser Papers. For a detailed account of this journey, see James E. Talmage, Journal, June 29–August 10, 1880, microfilm of holograph, James Edward Talmage Papers, BYU Archives.

36. James E. Talmage, Journal, July 4, August 9, 1880.

37. Brigham Young Academy Domestic Department, Minutes, January 15, 1880, BYU Archives; Utah Stake Bishop’s Meetings, Minutes, August 24, 1880, Centennial History Project Papers.

38. “Brigham Young Academy Examination,” Territorial Enquirer, June 21, 1882, Journal History of the Church, June 21, 1882, 5, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives. Few issues of Provo’s Territorial Enquirer are extant. Unless otherwise noted, all subsequent citations of Journal History refer to excerpts of the Territorial Enquirer found therein.

39. See Monnett, “Emergence of the Academies,” 98–116. For a recent interpretive essay on the origins of the Church school system, see Frederick S. Buchanan, “Mormon Response to Secular Education,” Religious Education 81 (fall 1986): 643–54.

40. The problem of overpopulation during this time is discussed in Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1958), 354–56. Realization of the limits of the land did not eliminate Utah’s pro-agricultural bias, however. See Davis Bitton and Linda Wilcox, “The Transformation of Utah’s Agriculture, 1847–1900,” in The Twentieth Century American West: Contributions to an Understanding, eds. Thomas G. Alexander and John F. Bluth (Provo, Utah: Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, 1983), 57–83.

41. See Douglas F. Tobler, “Lecture on Karl G. Maeser,” September 18, 1980, typescript, BYU Archives. Maeser biography may be found in Reinhard Maeser, Karl G. Maeser: A Biography (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1928), and Alma P. Burton, Karl G. Maeser: Mormon Educator (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1953). Helpful insights into Maeser’s German upbringing and educational training are located in Douglas F. Tobler, “Karl G. Maeser’s German Background, 1828–1856: The Making of Zion’s Teacher,” BYU Studies 17, no. 2 (1977): 155–75, and Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:77–87. For contemporary biography, see “Dedicatory,” Daily Enquirer, January 4, 1892. The best source for understanding Maeser’s thought remains his own School and Fireside.

42. Wilkinson and Skousen, School of Destiny, 99; compare Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, December 23, 1879, November 27, 1880.

43. Karl G. Maeser to John Taylor, October 8, 1878, John Taylor Presidential Papers, LDS Church Archives (hereafter cited as Taylor Papers).

44. Maeser to Taylor, October 8, 1878. Maeser thought $2,000 per year was sufficient to “lift the institution out of its present dilemma.” Karl G. Maeser to John Taylor, October 4, 1878, Taylor Papers.

45. The St. George Temple was dedicated in 1877. Temples were under construction in Salt Lake, Manti, and Logan. Temple costs and contributions are listed in Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 339–41. The Church’s struggle with the federal government during this time is chronicled in Edwin Brown Firmage and Richard Collin Mangrum, Zion in the Courts: A Legal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988). Church leaders asked local leaders to collect donations for a “Defense Fund” assisting to pay litigation expenses. See, for example, Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1888, November 1, 1879, November 5, 1886.

46. “Biennial Report of the Territorial Superintendent of District Schools [1878–1879],” in Moffitt, “Reports of the Superintendents,” 137–39; John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1855–86), 20:47–48, August 4, 1878; John Taylor to A. O. Smoot and Karl G. Maeser, July 15, 1879, Centennial History Project Papers.

47. Taylor to Smoot and Maeser, July 15, 1879.

48. For a recent assessment of John Taylor’s involvement with schools in Utah, see Newell G. Bringhurst and Frederick S. Buchanan, “The Forgotten Odyssey of Obadiah H. Riggs: Early Pioneer for Education Reform,” Utah Historical Quarterly 66 (winter 1998): 55–57. Early attempts at statehood are reviewed in Edward Leo Lyman, Political Deliverance: The Mormon Quest for Utah Statehood (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 7–40.

49. [Zina Young Williams Card], “Short Reminiscent Sketches of Karl G. Maeser,” typescript, 3, Zina Young Williams Card Papers, BYU Archives.

50. [Card], “Short Reminscent Sketches of Karl G. Maeser,” 3. President Taylor “told her he had been visited by her father who had asked that the school be fostered and cared for.” J. Marinus Jensen and others, “History of the Brigham Young University,” 1942 draft, 31, BYU Archives.

51. “Brigham Young Academy,” Deseret Evening News, June 20, 1881; Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, November 4, 1881. A later history mistakenly places the donation at $500. Jensen and others, “History of the Brigham Young University,” 31.

52. Karl G. Maeser to L. John Nuttall, August 18, 1882, Centennial History Project Papers; L. John Nuttall to Karl G. Maeser, August 28, 1882, L. John Nuttall Letterpress Copybooks, L. John Nuttall Papers, BYU Archives (hereafter cited as Nuttall Papers).

53. John Clifton Moffitt, “A History of Provo, Utah,” bound 1970 typescript, 136, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; Provo City Council, Minutes, January 28, 1884, Provo City Recorder’s Office, Provo, Utah.

54. Lars E. Eggertson to Simon P. Eggertson Jr., February 10, 1884, photocopy of holograph, BYU Archives. For a description of the Lewis Building, see Jensen and others, “The History of the Brigham Young University [1875–1942],” 89.

55. Eggertson to Eggertson Jr., February 10, 1884; Arretta Young to Evadna Young, January 28, 1884, typescript, BYU Archives.

56. “A Mormon Academy Burned,” New York Times, January 29, 1884, 4; “The Fire at Provo,” Deseret Evening News, January 29, 1884; “Fire at Provo,” Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 29, 1884; “B. Y. Academy Gone,” Salt Lake Daily Herald, January 29, 1884.

57. “A Great Loss,” Journal History, January 29, 1884, 7.

58. Eggertson to Eggertson Jr., February 10, 1884.

59. Nels L. Nelson, “Homes of the School,” White and Blue 11 (October 16, 1907): 5.

60. Circular to the Heirs of the Late President Brigham Young [1884]; American Fork Ward, Utah Stake Historical Record, 1883–1894, October 21, 1883, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives.

61. Karl G. Maeser, quoted in Milton H. Hardy, “The Faculty Performs a Pleasant Duty,” Normal 1 (March 18, 1892): 118.

62. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, January 28, 1884.

63. Nelson, “Homes of the School,” 5; “The Fire at Provo,” Deseret Evening News, January 29, 1884.

64. Ferdinand Ericksen to Zina Young Williams, February 2, 1884, photocopy of holograph, Centennial History Project Papers.

65. “The Fire at Provo,” Deseret Evening News, January 29, 1884.

66. “The Fire at Provo,” Deseret Evening News, January 29, 1884. Maeser later said the school fulfilled this prediction: “And like a Phoenix the B. Y. Academy emerged out of the flame with renewed vigor.” [Karl G. Maeser], “The Brigham Young Academy,” Normal 1 (November 13, 1891): 43.

67. Eggertson to Eggertson Jr., February 10, 1884.

68. “The Fire at Provo,” Deseret Evening News, January 29, 1884.

69. Brigham Young Academy Faculty, Minutes, January 29, 1884; First National Bank of Provo, Utah, Minutes, January 28, 1882, microfilm of holograph, Family History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

70. Nelson, “Homes of the School,” 5; “The Academy Fire,” Deseret Evening News, January 31, 1884. Nelson said rent for the bank rooms was free, but the fee was in fact $100 through the end of the school year in June. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, July 28, 1884; Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1880–1888, 59, BYU Archives. This price covered rooms upstairs and a room downstairs rented to the school beginning in mid-February. Brigham Young Academy Faculty, Minutes, February 15, 1884. The academy also rented Smoot’s storeroom and a room from local resident G. W. Smith. Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1880–1888, 57, 59; Brigham Young Academy, Accounts, 1880–1888, 79, BYU Archives; “A Great Loss,” Journal History, January 29, 1884, 7. For other locales where classes may have been held, see Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:133. A mid-February 1884 summary of the academy’s accommodations noted a dozen rooms but did not give their locations. “B. Y. Academy!” Journal History, February 22, 1884, 7.

71. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, February 9, 1884.

72. Brigham Young Academy Faculty, Minutes, February 15, 1884. The academy paid Jones $50.00 plus free tuition for his children for the use of his store through the end of the school year in June. Brigham Young Academy Disbursements, 1880–1889, 117, BYU Archives; Brigham Young Academy Accounts, 1880–1888, 67; For examples of Smoot’s friendship with Jones, see S. S. Jones, Diary, August 25, 1875; January 1, 1876; December 25, 1881, Samuel Stephens Jones Papers, BYU Archives. Maeser later thanked the bank directors and Jones for “placing their premises almost free of charge.” “The B. Y. Academy Examination,” Journal History, April 4, 1884, 9.

73. “Brigham Young Academy Burned,” Deseret Evening News, January 28, 1884.

74. Eggertson to Eggertson Jr., February 10, 1884.

75. “A Great Loss,” Journal History, January 29, 1884, 7.

76. Maeser, “The Brigham Young Academy,” 43.

77. “The Provo Fire,” Ogden Daily Herald, January 28, 1884.

78. “The Fire at Provo,” Deseret Evening News, January 29, 1884.

79. “Priesthood Meeting,” Journal History, February 8, 1884, 7.

80. “A Good Prospect,” Deseret Evening News, January 30, 1884; [no title] Journal History, February 1, 1884, 6.

81. [no title], Journal History, February 1, 1884, 6; “The B. Y. Academy Fund,” Journal History, February 5, 1884, 6.

82. “A Good Prospect,” Deseret Evening News, January 30, 1884.

83. “The B. Y. Academy,” Deseret Evening News, February 6, 1884.

84. “The B. Y. Academy,” Deseret Evening News, February 6, 1884.

85. Brigham Young Academy Faculty, Minutes, February 22, March 14, 1884; “Our Salt Lake Letter,” Utah Journal, February 9, 1884.

86. “Choir Concert and Ball,” Deseret Evening News, February 6, 1884; “Concert and Ball,” Deseret Evening News, February 27, 1884; “The B. Y. Academy Benefit,” Deseret Evening News, March 14, 1884.

87. “B. Y. Academy,” Salt Lake Daily Herald, March 14, 1884.

88. L. John Nuttall, Diary, March 2, 1884, typescript, BYU Archives; “Fragments,” Deseret Evening News, March 11, 1884.

89. L. John Nuttall, Diary, March 2, 1884; A. O. Smoot and H. H. Cluff to William B. Preston, April 18, 1887, in Harvey Harris Cluff, Autobiography, microfilm of holograph, 1:272 [April 18, 1887], Family History Library; Utah County Deeds Record, Book P, 483, Utah County Recorder’s Office, Provo; Brigham Young Academy Building Fund Day Book, March 24, 1884, 1, BYU Archives. See also “The Land Secured,” Journal History, March 25, 1884, 7. A recent history erroneously arrived at a purchase price of $4,800 by mistaking a discussion of another piece of property for the Lewis property. Compare Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:131, with John Taylor to A. O. Smoot and others, December 14, 1885, Centennial History Project Papers.

90. “Provo Points,” Salt Lake Daily Herald, March 9, 1884; Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–88, May 31, 1884; Benjamin Cluff Jr., Diary, May 25, 1884, BYU Archives. The entire dedicatory prayer was printed in “Ground Broke,” Journal History, May 21, 1884, 11.

91. “Fragments,” Deseret Evening News, June 17, 1884.

92. Academy trustees countered the claim that the rooms were not cramped in “B. Y. Academy!” Journal History, February 22, 1884, 7–9.

93. Third term enrollment was down 18 percent from the year before. Compare “B. Y. Academy Examination,” Journal History, March 30, 1883, 5, and “The B. Y. Academy Examination,” Journal History, April 4, 1884, 9.

94. W. H. Dusenberry to the President and Directors of Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution, March 21, 1884, in Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, March 17, 1884.

95. Dusenberry to the President and Directors, March 21, 1884.

96. Taylor to Smoot and others, December 14, 1885; Maeser, School and Fireside, 169. For a physical description of the ZCMI warehouse and rooms occupied by the academy there, see “The Academy,” Academic Review 1 (October 1884): 3.

97. Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution Board of Directors, Minutes, April 10, 1884, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives, courtesy of the President of ZCMI, currently Richard Madsen (hereafter cited as ZCMI Directors).

98. “The B. Y. Academy,” Journal History, August 12, 1884, 7; Samuel Liddiard, Autobiography, 34, Utah State Historical Society.

99. “Ground Broke,” Journal History, May 21, 1884, 11.

100. Quoted in Eggertson to Eggertson Jr., February 10, 1884. See also 1 Peter 4:12.

101. For examples of this problem, see “Sevier,” Salt Lake Daily Herald, August 1, 1884, “Condition of Crops,” Ogden Daily Herald, August 11, 1884; “The Grain Prospect,” Deseret Evening News, August 20, 1884.

102. See Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 353–79.

103. See Stan Larson, ed., Prisioner for Polygamy: The Memoirs and Letters of Rudger Clawson at the Utah Territorial Penitentiary, 1884–87 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 2–6.

104. For a history of antipolygamy legislation during this time, see Firmage and Mangrum, Zion in the Courts, 160–209.

105. See Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 360. For antipolygamy raids in general, see Tracey E. Panek, “Search and Seizures in Utah: Recounting the Anti-Polygamy Raids,” Utah Historical Quarterly 62 (fall 1994): 316–34. For women on the underground, see Kimberly J. James, “‘Between Two Fires’: Women on the ‘Underground’ of Mormon Polygamy,” Journal of Mormon History 8 (1981): 49–61. For children on the underground, see Martha Sonntag Bradley, “‘Hide and Seek’: Children on the Underground,” Utah Historical Quarterly 51 (spring 1983): 133–53.

106. These statistics derive from the principal’s reports for the first three terms of the 1883–84 and 1884–85 academic years, located in BYU Archives, and from Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1880–1888, 42–74.

107. “Brigham Young Academy,” Territorial Enquirer, April 7, 1885, in Brigham Young Academy Faculty Minutes, April 7, 1885.

108. In December 1884, after the trustees reported how they found it “very difficult to collect means, under the present circumstances,” President Taylor sent the last installment on the $5,000 donation from the Church. A. O. Smoot, H. H. Cluff, and W. H. Dusenberry to John Taylor, December 27, 1884, Centennial History Project Papers; George Reynolds to A. O. Smoot, December 29, 1884, photocopy of holograph, BYU Archives. For evidence that most other subscriptions were never paid, see Brigham Young Academy Building Fund Day Book, 1–9; A. O. Smoot, David John, and H. H. Cluff to John Taylor, December 1, 1886, in Cluff, Autobiography, 1:245 [December 1886]; Liddiard, Autobiography, 44; Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1880–1888, 93.

109. A. O. Smoot and others to John Taylor, November 19, 1885, Centennial History Project Papers. The trustees later affirmed they expended $11,000 in round numbers on the 1884 construction. This figure probably included the price of land. A. O. Smoot and others v. O. W. Andelin and others, 1703 First District Court, Utah (March 27, 1891), Fourth Judiciary District Court, Provo, Utah.

110. Smoot and others to Taylor, November 19, 1885; Smoot, John, and Cluff to Taylor, December 1, 1886, in Cluff, Autobiography, 1:245 [December 1886]; A. O. Smoot and H. H. Cluff to John Taylor, May 2, 1887, in Cluff, Autobiography, 1:278 [May 2, 1887].

111. James E. Talmage, Journal, August 14, 1886.

112. Karl G. Maeser to John Taylor, April 14, 1886, Centennial History Project Papers; Brigham Young Academy Accounts, 1880–1888, 39, 47, 56, 61, 74, 76, 88, 94.

113. Maeser to Taylor, April 14, 1886.

114. Maeser to Taylor, April 14, 1886.

115. Maeser to Taylor, April 14, 1886.

116. The property was located on the block immediately north and east of the intersection of Center Street and J Street (later University Avenue). For a description of the Tithing Block, see Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:111–12.

117. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, December 23, 1879; Taylor to Smoot and others, December 14, 1885.

118. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, December 23, 1879, November 27, 1880, November 4, 1881, August 22, 1882; John Taylor, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith to A. O. Smoot, May 10, 1881, Centennial History Project Papers; Taylor to Smoot and others, December 14, 1885.

119. Smoot and others to Taylor, November 19, 1885.

120. Taylor to Smoot and others, December 14, 1885. All quotations in this paragraph are from this source.

121. For more on arbitration in nineteenth-century Utah, see Firmage and Mangrum, Zion in the Courts, 281–83, 328, 350–53.

122. A. O. Smoot to John Taylor, May 3, 1886, Taylor Papers.

123. A. O. Smoot to L. John Nuttall, June 19, 1886, Nuttall Papers.

124. Smoot to Nuttall, June 19, 1886.

125. A. O. Smoot to John Taylor, January 5, 1886, Taylor Papers.

126. L. John Nuttall to A. O. Smoot, June 7, 1886, L. John Nuttall Letterpress Copybooks, Nuttall Papers; L. John Nuttall to Karl G. Maeser, May 21, 1886, L. John Nuttall Letterpress Copybooks, Nuttall Papers.

127. For Nuttall biography, see Clarence G. Jensen, “A Biographical Study of Leonard John Nuttall, Private Secretary to Presidents John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff” (master’s thesis: Brigham Young University, 1962).

128. Nuttall to Smoot, June 7, 1886.

129. L. John Nuttall to Karl G. Maeser, June 8, 1886, L. John Nuttall Letterpress Copybooks, Nuttall Papers; Nuttall to Smoot, June 7, 1886.

130. Smoot to Nuttall, June 19, 1886.

131. Smoot to Nuttall, June 19, 1886.

132. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, June 26, 1886; A. O. Smoot to John Taylor, June 30, 1886, Taylor Papers.

133. John Taylor to A. O. Smoot, July 5, 1886, Centennial History Project Papers.

134. Karl G. Maeser to L. John Nuttall, August 21, 1886, Nuttall Papers.

135. For an example of Maeser’s line of reasoning, see James E. Talmage, Journal, August 30, 1880. See also Luke 10:4 and Matthew 6:31.

136. H. H. Cluff to John Taylor, January 17, 1887, Centennial History Project Papers; John Taylor to James Jack, January 25, 1887, typescript, Samuel W. Taylor Collection, Utah State Historical Society.

137. Maeser to Nuttall, August 21, 1886; Cluff, Autobiography, 1:235 [October 16, 1886].

138. Karl G. Maeser to L. John Nuttall, November 20, 1886, Nuttall Papers; Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1880–1888, 94, 96.

139. Utah Stake High Council, Minutes, 1865–1889, October 25, 1886, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives.

140. Utah Stake High Council, Minutes, 1865–1889, November 2, 1886.

141. Utah Stake High Council, Minutes, 1865–1889, November 2, 1886.

142. Utah Stake High Council, Minutes, 1865–1889, October 25, 1886.

143. Utah Stake High Council, Minutes, 1865–1889, October 25, November 20, 1886.

144. Utah Stake High Council, Minutes, 1865–1889, November 29, 1886. See also Smoot, John, and Cluff to Taylor, December 1, 1886, in Cluff, Autobiography, 1:245 [December 1886], and James Talmage, Journal, November 29, 1886.

145. Utah Stake High Council, Minutes, 1865–1889, January 31, 1888.

146. The figures are found in Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1880–1888, 104; Karl G. Maeser to Wilford Woodruff, October 25, 1887, photocopy of holograph, Maeser Papers. See also L. John Nuttall to Karl G. Maeser, August 17, 1887, L. John Nuttall Letterpress Copybooks, Nuttall Papers; Karl G. Maeser to Wilford Woodruff, February 29, 1888, photocopy of holograph, Maeser Papers. ZCMI directors also helped the academy by cutting the rent due in half. ZCMI Directors, Minutes, March 12, 1888.

147. Ron Walker, “Crisis in Zion: Heber J. Grant and the Panic of 1893,” Arizona and the West 21 (autumn 1979): 258; Odell E. Scott, “Economic History of Provo, Utah, 1849–1900,” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1951), 181–86.

148. Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:527. The heirs also had power to fill vacancies on the board of trustees. The same powers were granted the heirs in the 1875 deed.

149. Cache County, Deeds Record, Book D, 592–602, Cache County Recorder’s Office, Logan, Utah. A typescript of this deed is located in Special Collections and Manuscripts, Merrill Library, Utah State University, Logan, Utah.

150. The trustees had attempted to rewrite their deed to include the same clause in the Brigham Young College deed, but several heirs rejected the move. See Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, December 2, 1882, June 25, 1883.

151. [Susa Young Gates], “Items of Susa Young Gates,” draft 9, Autobiographical Notes, Gates Collection; [Susa Young Gates], “My Appeal to the Young Family to deed over the B. Y. A. Property to the Church after B. Y. Tried 1889,” Emma Lucy Gates Bowen Collection, BYU Archives. Gates counted eighty-three heirs. [Gates], “President A. O. Smoot,” 437. Seventy-nine names were listed on the 1890 deed. Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:529–30. The names and birth dates of first-generation heirs are listed in Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), 420.

152. The heirs were Emmeline Young Crosbie, Louise Young Ferguson, and Ruth Young Healy. Crosbie and Ferguson sued and were excommunicated. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, 429; Leonard J. Arrington, “The Settlement of the Brigham Young Estate, 1877–1879,” Pacific Historical Review 21 (February 1952): 1–20.

153. Hyrum Young to A. O. Smoot, April 30, 1890, Abraham O. Smoot Collection, BYU Archives; LeGrand Young to W. H. King, December 4, 1890, Abraham O. Smoot Collection; LeGrand Young to A. O. Smoot, September 30, 1891, Abraham O. Smoot Collection. For the declining market, see “The Scarcity of Money,” Daily Enquirer, December 4, 1890.

154. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, November 11, 1890; “Placed on Market,” Daily Enquirer, November 12, 1890. Potential buyers were aware of the problem with title; this newspaper article pointed out that not all the heirs had signed the deed. See also the discussion of the heirs in Utah Stake High Council, Minutes, 1865–1889, November 2, 1886.

155. “Brigham Young Academy,” Daily Enquirer, February 25, 1891; “B. Y. Academy Building,” Daily Enquirer, March 17, 1891; “A New Building for Provo,” Daily Enquirer, April 10, 1891.

156. Utah County Deeds Record, Book 11, 331–32, 490.

157. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, August 29, 1891. Smoot later said the trustees “immediately proceeded in good faith”—and at “great expense and inconvenience”—to “procure the abstract of title” after the final agreement with the joint-stock company was arranged on April 8, 1891. Central Building Company v. A. O. Smoot and others, 2802 First District Court, Utah (August 9, 1893), Fourth Judicial District Court, Provo, Utah. Two days after the final agreement, trustee Myron Tanner departed from Provo for a six-week trip through seventeen eastern states, including New York. Tanner’s purpose for making this trip, according to the Daily Enquirer, was to visit relatives and “various other points of interest.” Tanner may have visited the heirs in New York. “City and County Jottings,” Daily Enquirer, April 10, 1891; “Jottings,” Daily Enquirer, May 25, 1891. Smoot had contemplated making the trip to New York himself before local business concerns held him back. Reed Smoot to Annie Smoot, January 11, 1891, photocopy of holograph, Reed Smoot Papers, BYU Archives; First District Court, Utah, Minutes, 1890–1892, 64, 81, 147, 153–54.

158. Cluff, Autobiography, 2:62 [April 24, 25, 1891]; Brigham Young Academy Executive Committee, Minutes, January 12, 1893, BYU Archives; Brigham Young Academy Accounts, 1889–1904, 41, 82, BYU Archives.

159. Cluff, Autobiography, 2:70 [January 4, 1892]. See also Karl G. Maeser, “Church School Papers—no. 13,” Juvenile Instructor 27 (February 1, 1892), 97.

160. Two instances of overbuilding in Utah will illustrate the point. In the fall of 1891, trustees of the Latter-day Saints’ College (formerly Salt Lake Stake Academy) signed their names for a mortgage and loans totaling $30,000 to pay for land and remodeling on their new school building. They were unable to raise the money and petitioned the Church for help. Salt Lake County Mortgage Record, 3–E, 9–10; 3–H, 140, Salt Lake County Record’s Office, Salt Lake City, Utah; Angus M. Cannon and others to Wilford Woodruff and others, March 14, 1892, Centennial History Project Papers. In the winter of 1890, trustees of the Ogden Stake Academy “obligated themselves by signing notes as individuals in several sums aggregating $11,500.” This money went toward a $22,000 school building whose construction was suspended throughout 1891 for want of funds. Weber Stake Board of Education, Minutes, September 5, 1891, June 15, 1892, microfilm of typescript, LDS Church Archives.

For instances of overbuilding during the late 1880s, see John Rydjord, A History of Fairmount College (Lawrence, Kans.: Regents Press, 1977), 13–16; Michael E. Arrington, Ouachita Baptist University: The First 100 Years (Little Rock, Ark.: August House, 1985), 39–41.

161. A. O. Smoot and W. H. Dusenberry to Wilford Woodruff, March 25, 1893, Centennial History Project Papers. The joint-stock company began construction on the Tithing Block before the thirty-day period expired. The trustees’ failure to provide clear title and the growing scarcity of money dissuaded shareholders from paying the majority of their capital stock. Unable to bond for want of title, the company went bankrupt, lost the property to marshal’s sale, and later sued the academy for breach of contract. The school was acquitted. Liddiard, Autobiography, 43; “Central Building,” Evening Dispatch, April 29, 1891; Central Building Company v. A. O. Smoot and others, 2802 First District Court, Utah (August 9, 1893). For a summary of Smoot’s defense, see “The $20,000 Damage Suit,” Deseret Evening News, November 27, 1894, 6. The suit came after academy officials outbid prospective buyers at the marshal’s sale and reobtained the property in December 1892 for $8,000. This purchase was probably motivated by concern for a new owner suing the school for its inability to provide clear title. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, December 15, 19, 1892; Brigham Young Academy Executive Committee, Minutes, December 15, 1892.

162. Cluff, Autobiography, 2:70 [January 4, 1892].

163. “Provo Finances,” Daily Enquirer, April 18, 1891; “Don’t Go in Debt,” Daily Enquirer, April 27, 1891; Walker, “Crisis in Zion,” 258–61. For a summary of Church finances during this time, see Thomas G. Alexander, Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1991), 283–87.

164. A. O. Smoot, quoted in Cluff, Autobiography, 2:70 [January 4, 1892]. Susa Young Gates published a contemporaneous biographical sketch of Smoot written from “personal conversations” with her subject. She called the communication between Smoot and Brigham Young a “dream or vision.” As she retold the story she heard Smoot tell at the academy’s 1892 commencement exercises, he “met and joyfully greeted, in his vision, with President Young, who commended him for his labor in this Academy. [Brigham Young] bade him [to] rise above his mental concern as to the completion of the Academy, assuring him that the money would be forthcoming when it was needed.” [Gates], “President A. O. Smoot,” 437. The context of the Cluff account seems to date the Brigham Young communication to early July 1891, when the school had located just $1,000 to pay off its building contracts. Compare Cluff, Autobiography, 2:63 [July 1, 2, 3, 1891] and 2:70 [January 4, 1892].

165. The mortgage brought $25,000. Cluff and his wife Emily initially inked the deal before he and the other nine trustees signed in behalf of the school. For terms, see Utah County Mortgage Record, Book 8, 397, and Utah County Deeds Record, Book 16, 53. Smoot and Cluff, acting as the academy’s executive committee, signed for a $15,000 loan with Zion’s Savings Bank in early October 1891, due three months from that date. Utah County Deeds Record, Book 29, 85; Zion’s Savings Bank and Trust to A. O. Smoot, December 18, 1891, Abraham O. Smoot Collection. Smoot and Cluff signed for two other loans, totaling $4,000, earlier in summer. The only other cash used to erect the new building came from land sales with two creditors who did not demand clear title: Provo Cooperative Institute, over which Smoot presided, paid $3,000 for a portion of the Tithing Block; and a local furniture store paid just over $700 for a portion of the old Lewis Building property. All of these receipts are recorded in Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1889–1902, 21–33, BYU Archives. See also Brigham Young Academy Accounts, 1889–1904, 4. For another instance of trustees and their wives signing as security for loans, see Weber Stake Board of Education, Minutes, February 27, 1891.

166. After cash ran out, Smoot, Cluff, W. H. Dusenberry, and David John, acting as an executive committee, signed ten promissory notes, totaling about $9,500, before the new building was dedicated in January 1892. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, July 11, 1891; Brigham Young Academy Executive Committee, Minutes, July 11, November 14, 23, December 11, 18, 22, 26, 1891. During the first three months of 1892, the committee signed another six notes for almost $19,000. Brigham Young Academy Executive Committee, Minutes, January 8, 20, 30, February 24, 1892. All of these promissory notes are recorded in Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1889–1902, 30–37, and Brigham Young Academy Accounts, 1889–1904, 4. For the sentiment of two committee members on signing notes, see Nixon and Smoot, Abraham Owen Smoot, 247; David John, Journal, December 28, 1891, January 9, 1892, microfilm of holograph, BYU Archives.

167. A. O. Smoot and others v. Bryant Young and others, 1901 First District Court, Utah (October 5, 1891), Fourth Judicial District Court. Winning suit was only one funding possibility. Academy trustees attempted a long-shot measure in December 1891 when they submitted a petition to federal attorney Charles C. Varian for $65,000 (the debt on the new building) of the funds taken from the Church in consequence of the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887. This claim was rejected by the fall of 1892. See “Brief of J. W. Judd, for the Petitioners, the Trustees of Brigham Young Academy, at Provo, Utah County,” in United States v. The Late Corporation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Others, Utah State Historical Society; “The Church Case,” Daily Enquirer, September 3, 1891.

168. A. O. Smoot and others v. Bryant Young and others, 1901 First District Court, Utah (October 5, 1891).

169. Action is threatened in Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, March 4, 1893, and dated to the time of the decision based upon circumstantial evidence found in Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898, typescript, ed. Scott G. Kenney, 9 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983–84) 9:200 [May 13, 1892] (hereafter cited as Wilford Woodruff, Journal); George Q. Cannon, Journal, May 13, June 24, 1892, typescript, courtesy of Cannon family; and Brigham Young Academy Executive Committee, Minutes, July 30, 1892.

170. “Memorandum of Liabilities: Brigham Young Academy [June 23, 1892],” photocopy of holograph, Centennial History Project Papers.

171. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, March 4, 1893; Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1889–1902, 56, 60; Utah County Deeds Record, Book 26, 149–52.

172. Ronald W. Walker, “The Panic of 1893,” in Utah History Encyclopedia, ed. Allan Kent Powell (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994), 413. For a study of the effects of this depression in Utah, see Leonard J. Arrington, “Utah and the Depression of the 1890’s,” Utah Historical Quarterly 29 (1961): 2–18. For effects across the nation, see Nell Irvin Painter, Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877–1919 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), 110–40.

173. The only purchase before the turn of the century was made before the settlement with the heirs. Academy trustee Reed Smoot, A. O. Smoot’s son, bought 5,000 square feet of the Tithing Block for $5,000 in August 1892. He took the land without a deed. The agreement was later changed to $4,000. Brigham Young Academy Executive Committee, Minutes, August 29, 1892; Utah County Deeds Record, Book 22, 360; Book 25, 424. See also “The Smoot Block,” Daily Enquirer, September 1, 1892.

174. Smoot and Dusenberry to Woodruff, March 25, 1893.

175. Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1889–1902, 34–50; Brigham Young Academy Record of Tuition Receipts, 1889–1895, 63, 85, BYU Archives; Utah Stake High Council, Minutes, 1889–1910, September 2, 1892.

176. Anthon Lund, Journal, March 28, 1893, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives.

177. The original members of the General Church Board of Education were Wilford Woodruff, president; Karl G. Maeser, general superintendent; George Q. Cannon, Anthon H. Lund, Lorenzo Snow, Amos Howe, George W. Thatcher, Willard Young, Horace S. Eldredge. An initial organization is found in “Fourth Day,” Deseret News Weekly, April 11, 1888, 205. George Reynolds, secretary for the board, also functioned as a member. Karl G. Maeser split time as academy principal and superintendent of the General Board of Education until he retired as principal in 1892. For more on this board, see Monnett, “Emergence of the Academies,” 114–15, 222–23.

178. These early schools included Brigham Young College in Logan and stake academies organized with Maeser’s assistance in the mid-1880s in Salt Lake, Sanpete, and Millard Stakes.

179. Quinn, “The Brief Career,” 76–78; “Young University,” Deseret Evening News, June 2, 1891.

180. “Young University,” Deseret Evening News, June 2, 1891.

181. Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:229–30; George Q. Cannon, Journal, April 12, 1892.

182. The temporary building is discussed in Abraham H. Cannon, Journal, October 9, 1893, BYU Archives, and George Q. Cannon, Journal, August 9, 1893. The cost of the entire complex is found in John A. Widtsoe to Annie Widtsoe, February 7, 1892, trans. Amy Tolk, microfilm of holograph, Widtsoe Family Papers, LDS Church Archives.

183. James E. Talmage, Journal, June 25, July 1, 1888. Smoot specifically objected to the removal of James Talmage and Joseph Marion Tanner from the academy and to the partial removal of Karl G. Maeser, who doubled as BYA principal and superintendent of the General Church Board of Education. David John to Benjamin Cluff Jr., April 9, 1890, in Benjamin Cluff Jr., Diary, April 20, 1890. Willard Done and Joseph Nelson also taught at Brigham Young Academy in the mid-1880s but by the end of the decade were teaching at the academy in Salt Lake Stake. For instances of the General Board privileging Salt Lake Stake, see James E. Talmage, Journal, July 16, 1888, May 15, 1889; Angus M. Cannon, Diary, April 28, 1890, May 11, 1891, microfilm of holograph, Angus Munn Cannon Collection, LDS Church Archives.

184. For Cluff biography, see Eugene L. Roberts and Eldon Reed Cluff, “Benjamin Cluff Jr.: Scholar, Educational Administrator, and Explorer,” typescript, BYU Archives. For contemporary biography, see Walter Wolfe, “Benjamin Cluff, B. S., B. M. D.,” Young Woman’s Journal 3 (September 1892), 528–31.

185. Wilford Woodruff to A. O. Smoot, and to the Board of Trustees, Brigham Young Academy, [March 18, 1891], in Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, March 25, 1891.

186. George Q. Cannon, Journal, March 24, 1891.

187. George Q. Cannon, Journal, March 24, 1891. See also Wilford Woodruff, Journal, March 24, 1891; L. John Nuttall, Diary, March 24, 1891; Cluff, Autobiography, 2:61 [March 24, 1891]. Benjamin Cluff Jr., Diary, Christmas 1894, confirms that the call was suspended, not revoked.

188. “B. Y. Academy Building,” Daily Enquirer, March 17, 1891; Karl G. Maeser to Wilford Woodruff, March 21, 1891, photocopy of holograph, Maeser Papers.

189. “Church Education,” Daily Enquirer, March 25, 1891.

190. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, March 25, 1891.

191. See “Dedicatory,” Daily Enquirer, January 4, 1892; “Brigham Young Academy,” Deseret News Weekly, January 9, 1892, 83–84.

192. Wilford Woodruff, Journal, January 4, 1892.

193. See P. Bradford Westwood, “The Early Life and Career of Joseph Don Carlos Young (1855–1938): A Study of Utah’s First Institutionally Trained Architect to 1884” (master’s thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1994), 131–37; and C. Mark Hamilton, Nineteenth-Century Mormon Architecture and City Planning (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 125–27.

194. The transfer in title is recorded in Angus M. Cannon, Diary, April 28, 1890. The original name of this academy, Salt Lake Stake Academy, was changed to Latter-day Saints’ College in 1889 to avoid confusion with the Congregationalist school called Salt Lake Academy and to advance the “intention of the general authorities to make the institution in this stake a leading one for Zion.” James E. Talmage, Journal, May 15, 1889. Church leaders originally intended to make the Latter-day Saints’ College the Church university. By late 1890, however, they had decided to found a university independent of the college. The college retained its name but functioned essentially as an academy. See Quinn, “The Brief Career,” 76.

195. Benjamin Cluff Jr. to Karl G. Maeser, June 4, 1891, photocopy of holograph, Centennial History Project Papers; A. O. Smoot and W. H. Dusenberry to the General Board of Education, October 29, 1891, photocopy of holograph, Centennial History Project Papers; George Reynolds to A. O. Smoot and W. H. Dusenberry, November 11, 1891, General Church Board of Education, Letterpress Copybooks, LDS Church Archives.

196. Karl G. Maeser to George Reynolds, November 12, 1891, photocopy of holograph, Maeser Papers; “Course in Pedagogy,” Normal 1 (December 7, 1891), 49; Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:225–29; Benjamin Cluff Jr., Diary, Christmas 1894. The hierarchy of schools is most clearly laid out in Circular no. 8 of the General Board of Education of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Cannon, 1892). See both versions of the circular, including the one printed after Cluff and others raised objections.

197. The academy paid the wages of these instructors through receipts from the county teacher associations in attendance.

198. The professors with degrees from the east were: Walter Wolfe, Williams College; George Phillips, Glasgow University; and Joseph Whitley, Queens College. Each started at the academy at $1,200 per year. This was the same salary as N. L. Nelson, who had been teaching literature full-time at the school since the late 1880s.

199. Figures include paid faculty who taught between the second term of 1891–92 and the first term 1892–93. Cluff also hired perhaps the first non-LDS teacher in the Church educational system, Anna K. Craig. See “Ex-President Benj. Cluff Jr.,” White and Blue 7 (January 22, 1904): 1.

200. These teachers included at least Cluff and Alice Louise Reynolds, students at the University of Michigan. Cluff took temporary leave from the academy during the 1893–94 school year, when he returned to Michigan and completed his master’s degree. See Benjamin Cluff Jr. to George H. Brimhall and Joseph B. Keeler, November 25 and 29, 1893, Benjamin Cluff Jr. Papers, BYU Archives (hereafter cited as Cluff Papers).

201. Benjamin Cluff Jr. to George H. Brimhall, December 3, 1893, Cluff Papers.

202. “Provo Letter,” Deseret Evening News, December 16, 1892, 5.

203. Karl G. Maeser to Wilford Woodruff, May 27, 1892, photocopy of holograph, Maeser Papers. Cluff was aware of such accusations. “We are already accused of ‘spreading out too much,’” he explained to a fellow faculty member. Benjamin Cluff Jr. to George H. Brimhall, October 22, 1893, Cluff Papers.

204. This is not to say that teachers did not ever receive less than full salary. Promises were big but not always kept. During the 1892–93 year, for example, faculty were disbursed about $1,300 less than the total faculty payroll of $16,500. Some faculty were also asked to take pay cuts. See Brigham Young Academy Executive Committee, Minutes, September 12, 13, 1892. Nearly every faculty member took a substantial pay cut at the beginning of the 1894–95 school year.

205. George Q. Cannon, Journal, July 21, 1892.

206. See Brigham Young Academy Circulars for 1891–92, 1892–93, and 1893–94 for descriptions of these courses.

207. George Q. Cannon, Journal, May 2, 1893; Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, August 29, 1893. See also General Church Board of Education, Minutes, August 11, 1893, photocopy of holograph, BYU Archives.

208. “Official Announcement,” Deseret Evening News, August 18, 1894, 4. When financial stringency decimated their student enrollment, University of Utah officials asked the Church to close the Church university and in return offered to install James E. Talmage as president of the University of Utah. The First Presidency agreed to the deal. See Ralph V. Chamberlin, The University of Utah: A History of Its First Hundred Years, 1850 to 1950 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1960), 197–207; Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:230–32. Michael Quinn asserts the Church leaders made this move because they “clung to the hope of having the Church University in Salt Lake City,” while leaving the “salvation” of Brigham Young Academy, including the payment of its debt, “primarily to residents of Utah Valley.” Quinn, “The Brief Career,” 88. My argument here is the opposite. Church leaders had abandoned the idea of a Church university in Salt Lake City and were now content to throw their weight behind the academy because it was well along the way to becoming the university they then envisioned. In my view, the academy’s prominence, and not the University of Utah’s location in Salt Lake City, was a greater motivator in the decision to close the Church university.

209. General Church Board of Education, Minutes, October 23, 1894. At least twice the First Presidency had attempted to help the academy pay off its building debt using local funds. The first attempt came in July 1892, when the Presidency held a special meeting with the priesthood holders of Utah Stake and asked them to shoulder the trustees’ burden. The plan was for between fifty and one hundred men to jointly pay $35,000 in academy promissory notes. The priesthood did not follow through, and Smoot sadly concluded, “The people of this Stake will not support the academy. They are not worthy of it.” George Q. Cannon, Journal, June 24, July 17, 1892; Wilford Woodruff, Journal, July 17, 1892; “Priesthood Meeting,” Daily Enquirer, July 18, 1892; “The Conference,” Daily Enquirer, January 16, 1893; Utah Stake High Priests Quorum, Minutes, 1874–1913, October 15, 1892, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives. The First Presidency’s second attempt came in March 1893 after the academy trustees threatened suspension unless the Church gave immediate assistance. The Presidency allowed the academy $30,000—covering the school’s mortgage—from Utah Stake tithing returns beginning April 1, 1893. Returns came slowly in the wake of financial panic, and by the spring of 1895 the figure was still not entirely collected. Substantial aid from general Church funds was in order after the academy’s mortgage agent was “notified to foreclose the Academy Loan unless paid at once.” Anthon Lund, Journal, March 28, 1893; William B. Preston to A. O. Smoot, March 30, 1893, and William B. Preston to James W. Bean, April 5, 1893, Presiding Bishopric Letterbooks, LDS Church Archives; James R. Bacon, quoted in Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, September 7, 1894. See also Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, August 29, 1893.

210. Maeser to Woodruff, March 21, 1891.

211. George Q. Cannon, Journal, December 21, 1894, February 19, 1895; Deseret National Bank v. Brigham Young Academy and others, 3397 First District Court, Utah (November 14, 1894); George C. Whitmore v. Brigham Young Academy and others, 3410 First District Court, Utah (November 26, 1894); Joseph D. Jones v. Brigham Young Academy and others, 3412 First District Court, Utah (November 28, 1894); Belmont & Kinney v. Brigham Young Academy and others, 3416 First District Court, Utah (December 1, 1894). All of these court records are located in the Fourth Judicial District Court, Provo. Smoot, Wilson Dusenberry, and S. S. Jones endorsed promissory notes in these suits; Smoot, Dusenberry, Jones, David John, Myron Tanner, George Snell, Thomas Cutler, and H. H. Cluff signed notes as security.

212. A list of these notes was printed in Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:603–4.

213. George Q. Cannon, Journal, August 14, 1895. After searching civil court records from 1891 to 1895, I can find no evidence to support the claim that Smoot, in order to protect his bank, “institute[d] suits against individuals who had borrowed funds to assist the Brigham Young Academy.” Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 238. This source uses two examples to support the claim, and both examples misread documents. First, the conclusion that Smoot sued S. S. Jones is based on a document in which Jones complains to the First Presidency of a suit that “has been brought against me, in connexion with Prsdt A. O. Smoot and W. H. Dusenberry.” S. S. Jones to the First Presidency, November 30, 1894, Centennial History Project Papers. This document does not say Smoot and Dusenberry sued Jones; it says suit was brought against Jones, Smoot, and Dusenberry, who jointly signed for a loan in the academy’s behalf. The suit is found in George C. Whitmore v. Brigham Young Academy and others, 3410 First District Court (November 26, 1894). Second, the conclusion that Smoot’s bank sued Harvey H. Cluff is based on a document in which Cluff pleads for Smoot to “drop the matter and let us not impair the fellowship between us.” H. H. Cluff to A. O. Smoot, November 20, 1893, Abraham O. Smoot Collection. This “matter” refers not to the academy, but to a joint business venture going back to 1887. Smoot invested $3,000 in the Provo Foundry and Machine Company, of which Cluff was President, and when the business failed Smoot demanded compensation for his losses. Smoot rejected Cluff’s offer of land in lieu of cash and threatened to have the Utah Stake High Council decide the case. Two Apostles eventually settled the dispute. See A. O. Smoot to H. H. Cluff, January 21, 1893, Abraham O. Smoot Collection; Abraham H. Cannon, Journal, March 16, 25, 1894.

I have also found no support for the claim that A. O. Smoot mortgaged personal assets, including his own home, to raise money for the academy. Evidence for this claim rests primarily on a statement Smoot purportedly made to his wife Annie, handed down in Smoot family lore: “I haven’t a piece of property that is not mortgaged. I have had to do it to raise money to keep the Brigham Young Academy going.” Berlin, “Abraham Owen Smoot,” 161; Smoot Family Scrapbook, Reed Smoot Papers. Public land records do not list any contemporaneous mortgages on the property where Smoot’s Provo homes were located. Loans from local banks appear on the academy financial record books, but the books do not indicate whether this money came from mortgages of private property. Smoot may have offered personal property as security when signing promissory notes for the academy, though without the actual promissory notes, which are no longer extant, this claim is difficult to substantiate. Several extant promissory notes he signed in private business dealings list his own property as security; he may have done the same with notes in the academy’s behalf. This seems to be what Benjamin Cluff Jr. had in mind when he included Smoot among academy trustees who “pledged their private property that the institution might have quarters adequate for its needs.” Brigham Young Academy, Catalogue, 1901–2, BYU Archives, 4; Nixon and Smoot, Abraham Owen Smoot, 247. Smoot’s own assessment in 1894 was that he was “security” for $60,000 to $70,000 dollars in academy indebtedness. Springville 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Wards, Utah Stake Historical Record, July 1, 1894, LDS Church Archives.

Academy financial records show that Smoot was reimbursed for the interest he paid on the school’s loans and promissory notes. This is not to say, however, that Smoot could not have used his own money to make interest payments for which he was never reimbursed. If Smoot contributed his own money to the school, these contributions are not recorded on the academy receipt books, which record his last contribution during the 1886–87 school year of $100. Contribution does not include the tuition fees Smoot paid for his own children and several indigent children to attend the academy.

214. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, June 3, 1895; John Henry Smith, Journal, August 16, 1895, photocopy of holograph, Special Collections, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Wilford Woodruff, Journal, August 16, September 6, 1895; George Q. Cannon, Journal, August 21, 1895. Some of the First Presidency’s payments are found in Brigham Young Academy Receipts and Disbursements, 1889–1902, 105, 108, 111. Regular interest payments on the Presidency’s long-term promissory notes are found in Benjamin Cluff Jr.’s papers located in the BYU Archives. Church promises and payments do not support the recent assertion that Smoot’s estate “was divided and sold to meet the Academy obligations” totaling $66,000. Nixon and Smoot, Abraham Owen Smoot, 217, 250. Smoot’s assets were in fact divided and sold to meet $33,000 in claims against his estate, but there is no reason to assume these claims were academy obligations. Smoot’s businesses suffered greatly as result of the panic of 1893. Most of his personal assets were tied up in irredeemable stock or land, leaving him with almost no disposable income. The best reason to question this recent assertion is simple: claims made against the Smoot estate do not match the claims made against the academy. Compare Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 603–4; Nixon and Smoot, Abraham Owen Smoot, 236–37; Brigham Young Academy, Accounts, 1889–1904, 4.

215. George Q. Cannon, Journal, January 6, 1898. This was the cost after construction resumed in 1891. The academy invested an additional $11,000 in 1884.

216. This desire is most clearly expressed in George Q. Cannon, Journal, June 24, 1892.

217. Brigham Young Academy Trustees, Minutes, September 22, 1903.

218. Cluff took a management position with the Utah-Mexican Rubber Company, of which the Church was a major investor.

219. Smoot, quoted in Taylor, “Abraham O. Smoot,” 67.

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