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Author shares forgotten Utah history through book series

Jan 04, 2020 03:38PM ● By Arianne Brown

In the summer of 1847, thousands of men, women and children entered the Salt Lake Valley after traveling thousands of miles to escape religious persecution.

The accounts written by these Pioneers has given the state of Utah a rich history to be proud of. In fact, many settled in the south end of Utah County, building historical buildings that have lasted over a century, with stories to last the ages.

There is some history, however, that isn’t taught in a middle school Utah History class, that author and historian, Roger Blomquist wants to share through his book series, “South Pass.”

The series now has three books beginning with the first handcart company in Volume I, and going through the military saga of Johnston’s Army in Volume III.

And while Blomquist has created his own characters and storyline in the series, he did all he could to keep it as historically accurate to teach the readers some history of Utah that is often overlooked.

“The South Pass series begins with the first handcart company, which has all-too-often been passed over for the more famous and ill-fated Martin and Willis handcart companies,” he said. “One thing that most people don’t know is that Butch Cassidy’s father came across with the Daniel MacArthur company. Butch’s uncle, who was 6 years old at the time, became lost and his father (Butch’s grandfather) had to go look for him as the rest of the company continued on. Volume III, Johnston’s Army begins the military saga of the Utah Expedition, where 2,500 soldiers, one-third of the United States Army marched on Utah to put down the imagined and exaggerated uprising and goings-on in the Great Basin. This is a history that has been overlooked for many years and it is time the people of Utah reclaimed that history.

Blomquist, who has his PhD in American Frontier History, and taught at the university level for several years, says he wanted to find a way to share the history of Utah in a way that people could understand.

And while he is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he says there is so much more to the story that he hopes can enrich people’s lives.

“Utah history, while rich with history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also has a rich history that includes the Gentiles,” Blomquist said.

“As the series continues beyond these three books, it will look at Colonel Patrick Conner coming into occupy the Utah Territory during the Civil War, the mining operations that took place, the Native Americans who lived with and against the Saints, and of course the joining of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit in 1869.

“We have a great and diverse history in this state that we still have yet to claim and celebrate and I would love to see us do just that.”

As for the storyline, Blomquist said he set out to create the books for his granddaughter, Kalin, who he and his wife have adopted, and anyone who is searching for identity and purpose in life.

He hopes that those who read the books will come away not only learning history, but gaining understanding of some of life’s toughest challenges.

“Through the South Pass series, I want my granddaughter, and others to learn that even with great tragedy, there can still be great triumph, especially with the love of family,” Blomquist said.

“I hope that anyone who may be struggling with identity or Gospel questions, may be able to find some commonality with the characters and their actions in this book. While the end result is an engaging and entertaining story, the heart of the series is to help others find their way through life. I hope that readers find the epic journey enjoyable, and in doing so, are able to learn much of this forgotten history. I also hope that regardless of religious affiliation, that readers will find pearls of wisdom that will enrich their lives.”

The South Pass books can be found by going to Books can also be ordered on Amazon Prime and Kindle.  (Brown is a Serve Daily contributor.)