How it All Began
This article originally appeared in the May-June 1972 issue of Pioneer Magazine
By Emily W. Brewer
One can look at a little acorn and marvel that it can grow into a mighty oak tree. If however, one could go hack in years and see the little acorn’ from which the university of utah has grown one would marvel even more.
The pioneers did not wait until they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley to start thinking of education in the west. While still in Illinois members were assigned to collect books, maps, charts and educational weeklies, and bring them west with their already cumbersome cargo. Later while at Winter Quarters Brigham Young sent as epistle to the Saints throughout the world asking them to use every opportunity to obtain copies of any valuable material that would be a teaching aid when they arrived at their destination.
School In A Tent
It is not surprising then that, on a crisp October morning, less than three months after their arrival the first school in the valley opened with Mary Jane Dilworth as teacher. For a short time it was necessary for Miss Dilworth to hold school in a small military tent set up in the Old Fort on the present site of Pioneer Park, using logs for seats for the children and a campstool for the teacher.
Soon however a 30 x 50 ft. log cabin was provided to be Utah’s first school house. A few doors east Julian Moses taught the adult school in Utah. He offered six courses, reading, writing, arithmetic, history, latin and the scriptures.
By 1854 there were in the Rocky Mountain area 226 schools, 300 teachers and 13,000 pupils. (according to H. H. Bancroft)
Among those early settlers there were men with college degrees, such as Orson Spencer, Orson Pratt, John M. Bernhisel, Albert Carrington, Daniel H. Wells, Hosea Stout, Wm. W. Phelps, Elias Smith and Zerubabbel Snow. On the other hand there were others who, while desirous of education, had never had the advantage. “A Parent School,” Utah’s first institution of higher learning was opened and because building materials were very scarce a student could pay his tuition with building stone. The original enrollment was 40 students. From this embryo grew the now noted University of Utah.