December 7, 2021

tacere

Beauty Made Perfect

What is ‘Mormon Row’ in Grand Teton National Park?

This article was first published as the ChurchBeat newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox weekly.

Sometimes, the term “Mormon” is still the correct one.

Three years ago, President Russell M. Nelson asked that the term be retired in most cases in favor of the proper name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since then, the church has renamed the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

A new church logo featuring the Christus statue emphasizes the centrality of Jesus Christ in the church’s name and mission.

However, there are exceptions to the rule on the church’s name, according to Newsroom.ChurchofJesusChrist.org:

“Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon or when used as an adjective in such historical expressions as “Mormon Trail.”

That would include Mormon Row, a long-abandoned string of former Latter-day Saint homesteads in the valley known as Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Mormon Row and its six remaining homesteads were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Those homesteads are now in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation project.

Right now, the Pink House, a historic homestead in the Mormon Row Historic District with a charming backstory, has been lifted off the ground so preservation work can be done on its foundation.

The Pink House’s backstory is about John and Bartha Moulton.

Gray swatches show where cracked pink walls were removed from the Pink House in the Mormon Row Historic District in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The home has been moved off its foundation so a new concrete one can be poured as part of a major effort to preserve the remaining six homesteads on Mormon Row.
Grand Teton National Park Foundation

“While John’s wife, Bartha, was in the hospital, John wanted to do something special to commemorate her homecoming,” according to the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum. “He knew that she had wanted to repaint the house, and due to a small mix-up, chose the salmon pink color. When Bartha came home, she despised the color but so loved the sentiment behind it that it was never changed.”

Those striking salmon pink walls have been cracking. Two of the photos with this story show the missing slabs. Preservationists found that the walls were cracking because the foundation was cracking, putting the homestead at risk of failure. Workers are pouring a new concrete foundation.

The history of Mormon Row is more compelling than one pink homestead.

James and Ann May migrated from Idaho over Teton Pass into Jackson Hole 125 years ago, in July 1896, and claimed 160 acres under the Homestead Act of 1862, which promised that much land to any person willing to cultivate it for five years and build a house.

More Latter-day Saints followed as 30 families established homesteads on the rich soil along the Jackson-Moran Road, with agricultural fields and stretching out away from the road behind each of the homesteads.

They built ranches, a church and a school and called their community Gros Ventre or Grovont, but those names gave way to Mormon Row, a term that initially was derogatory, the Deseret News reported in 1996.

Mormon Row was relatively short-lived. The Mays arrived in 1896. Moulton built the Pink House in the 1930s. In the 1950s, the families left, though Moulton remained till his death in 1990. John D. Rockefeller bought out all but one acre of Mormon Row and donated it to the U.S. park system.

Today, groups are banding together to renew and preserve the remaining structures on Mormon Row, like the Pink House and the Chambers Barn. New educational components will help visitors better understand the context of the historic barns and the beautiful views that include the majestic mountain peaks of the Teton Range and roaming buffalo herds.

The Grand Teton National Park Foundation is raising $3 million and a local Zions Bank branch recently donated $25,000. When that money is collected, the National Park Service will add $1.7 million.

“The buildings on the Chambers place are of tremendous interest historically,” Teton Historical Society historian Jo Ann Byrd is quoted as saying in a letter to the editor of the Deseret News in 1999. “In spite of their fragile and deteriorating condition, a walk among the buildings and outlying fields gives an almost tangible feel for how life must have been for the homesteaders. The buildings are a time capsule capturing the essence of the work and care that went into ranching in the early days — a rare opportunity to walk back in time.”

You can read more about the Pink House preservation in the Jackson Hole News & Guide. To donate, visit gtnpf.org or call 307-732-0629.

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Behind the scenes

The Pink House cracking walls led to preservation work to lift it off the ground so a new foundation could be poured.

A closer look at the Pink House’s cracking walls before a construction crew lifted it off its foundation so a new concrete one could be poured during preservation work on the historic Mormon Row homestead.
Grand Teton National Park Foundation