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Midvale Journal

More information about Midvale’s history now online

Oct 14, 2019 10:49AM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

The most comprehensive book about Midvale history is now accessible online. (Image courtesy of the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

Farmland is being turned into housing developments. The roads need to be widened to improve bumper-to-bumper traffic. These issues affect Midvale today, but they were also making headlines back in the 1950s.

Since August, anyone can access the definitive text on Midvale history: “Midvale Utah History 1851-1979” by Maurine C. Jensen. Full issues of the Midvale Journal Sentinel from 1925 through 1988 are also now accessible online. The issues have gradually been made available online over the past few years. 

“For me, the history is really about the people,” said Andy Pazell, a Midvale native and volunteer at the Midvale History Museum. A person from Midvale’s history that stands out to Pazell is Howard E. Phelps. “He was one of the first leaders in the community and instrumental in the naming of Midvale,” Pazell said. “He was a local businessman and a big backer of baseball. The Phelps family had a business license on Main Street for well over 100 years.”

Paper copies of the history book are available for $10 at the Midvale History Museum. “I found two copies last week at a yard sale last week and bought them for the museum,” Pazell said. If you can’t get to the museum, used editions of the hardcover history book can cost as much as $75.

Now anyone with a computer and internet connection can access information about Midvale’s history for free.

And the information is easy to search, thanks to the scanning technology at the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library, which hosts the online collections. For example, finding a birth, marriage or death announcement in the Midvale newspaper simply requires typing a name in a box. 

“I found some information on my wife’s family friend,” said Bill Miller, director of the Midvale History Museum. The friend had lost his thumb at some point, but the family didn’t like to talk about it. “I actually found out what happened by reading the newspaper.”

The digitized history book is also searchable, but someone looking for information on a specific individual or family will find the new index particularly helpful.

“Two years ago I was asked to give remarks on a former mayor and police chief,” said Robert Hale, the current mayor of Midvale. “I was told he was probably mentioned in the Midvale history book, but no one knew where in the (more than) 300-page book. I had to muscle through the whole book. I vowed that would not happen again. I started immediately to create the index.”

The index includes every individual mentioned in the book and which page or pages they appear on. The individuals are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

It took Hale about a year to complete the index. “I am now halfway through the 400-page ‘A Union, Utah History’ book doing the same project,” Hale said.

The Midvale history book and its index can be found on the Marriott Library website here. The Midvale Journal Sentinel can be found here.

And the history museum hopes to make even more of its collection available online. “I can see some great changes coming,” Miller said. “We have some new board members, young ones. We’re going to see a big push as far as our digitization goes. And we could use the community’s help.”

The museum is always looking for donations of items related to Midvale. “If your family has any photos or documents or histories, we’d love to have you share them with us,” Pazell said. 

“Doesn’t matter what kind,” added Miller. “Videos, films, slides, negatives, even audio cassette. We have the capability of saving anything anyone can give us.”