‘Temple Light and Train Tracks’
is coming to local book outlets
By Robert Stevens
Nov. 23, 2017
Author David Mackey has released his second volume of Sanpete history, Temple Light and Train Tracks.
In his first volume, Rattlesnakes and Axe-heads, Mackey uncovered the county’s beginnings to about 1879.
In this second volume, Mackey zooms in on details and historical nuggets usually overlooked in broad-brush community histories dealing with the five decades from the building of the Manti Temple to 1929.
The book, he says, will help people come to understand the contributions and sacrifices made during these significant years.
What these people labored and sacrificed for sometimes is no longer visible and can only be seen when placed in the spotlight, such as Sanpete’s ghost towns and abandoned farming communities.
Mackey said, “These are incredibly significant decades in this area—as they were for much of the country, but the contributions and personal sacrifices people made for this place at that time, not only for their own families but their towns and the county at large, warrants study by people living here today.”
According to Mackey, Sanpete was a booming place from the mid-1890s well into the 1920s. Railroad trains ran not only to and from Nephi and Thistle but connected with Salina, Richfield and Marysvale.
He said, “By the early 1900s, five trains arrived at Manti on a daily basis, as it was the main hub along the line for both the San Pete Valley and the D&RG railroads.”
Mackey said he initially believed it would only take him two or three years to adequately deal with these fifty years of Sanpete’s history. Yet he came to realize he would either have to end with the year 1900 or be willing to give more time to adequately cover topics involving the later decades.
He admits, “The work has taken me a lot longer than I had expected. This book is basically two volumes in one, but it is full of stuff that I not only found fascinating but I feel and genuinely believe is extremely relevant for our time.”
He said a primary focus of Temple Light and Train Tracks has always been centered on the construction and early years of the Manti Temple.
Yet the book also provides an overview of Sanpete’s political and railroad history for these fifty years and deals with a wide range of topics, such as the area’s connection to bandits and the Outlaw Trail, ranching, farming, mining, inventions, industry, area education and schools.
Mackey says he was surprised by how intrigued he became with material for other chapters, including those dealing with Sanpete’s military history, athletics, drama, and the county’s changing natural environment.
“The chapter I least wanted to tackle ended up being one of the most interesting to me personally, and that was the one dealing with plural marriage,” he said.
In his view, “the pot simmered and boiled over” with so many “strong-willed and determined” individuals involved in plural marriage in the county and beyond.
Mackey says he also enjoyed discovering accounts about early residents and their interactions with wildlife, including remarkable tales involving everything from grizzly bear to magpies.
He adds, “Between 1885 and 1910, a considerable number of newspapers surfaced in Sanpete’s towns that dramatically increased the amount of written information that has been preserved about the area.”
In addition to ransacking newspapers for nuggets and detailing the political persuasions and editorial predilections of each county newspaper, Mackey also conducted oral interviews and pored over primary records, books and photos.
Copies of Temple Light and Train Tracks will soon be available at Anderson Drug and the Co-op in Ephraim, Skyline Pharmacy in Mt. Pleasant, the Corner Station in Fairview, the Conoco in Moroni, General Store in Fountain Green, Gunnison Family Pharmacy in Gunnison and at Harmon’s and Lindel Book & Gift in Manti.