Did you know that landlocked Spanish Fork has a lighthouse? Yes, it does.
It is a monument to the first Icelandic emigrants to the United States, who settled in Spanish Fork. Between 1855 and 1914, 410 Icelanders immigrated to Utah.
They were baptized into The Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints by early missionary work in Iceland and Denmark. The principle religion in Iceland is Lutheranism, a Christian denomination that was established by a German reformer Martin Luther in the 16th Century.
The journey from Iceland to Salt Lake took 10 months via the North Atlantic Ocean and across two-thirds of the continent of North America. Brigham Young directed them to settle in Spanish Fork because other Scandinavian people were living in the area. Future Icelandic immigrants moved to Spanish Fork to feel culturally comfortable and maintain their cultural traditions.
Being an island in the North Atlantic, Iceland is noted for its many lighthouses.
In fact, a current list of lighthouses in Iceland shows a total of 121. For that reason, a replica of an Icelandic lighthouse was chosen to commemorate the first permanent Icelandic settlement in the United States.
The Daughters of Utah Pioneers and the Icelandic Association of Utah dedicated the lighthouse monument on Aug. 1, 1938.
The original monument consisted of only the lighthouse, topped with a Viking ship, with a plaque listing the names of the first 16 Icelandic settlers. The dedication speech was given by Andrew Jensen, Assistant Church Historian for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On June 30, 2000, a sister monument to the Spanish Fork Icelandic Monument was dedicated in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. It sits at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean where many of the original church converts were baptized. That monument lists the names of the 410 people who emigrated from Iceland to Utah. The Icelandic monument was dedicated by Elder William Rolfe Kerr of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After 67 years the Icelandic Monument in Spanish Fork was renovated and received three additions.
A one-ton volcanic rock from Vestmannaeyjiar, Iceland was mounted next to the lighthouse, adding to the story of the early emigration. Several plaques tell the history of the Icelandic pioneers. A “Wall of Honor” lists the names of the 410 who immigrated to Spanish Fork between 1855 and 1914.
The names are in both English and Icelandic, and the wall is like the monument erected in Vestmannaeyjiar, Iceland.
The renovation was dedicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Gordon B. Hinckley. The President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimmsson, also attended the ceremony.
Amazing history and those early pioneers had a major influence on the development of Spanish Fork. Take a short drive and visit Icelandic Monument, it is a great history lesson for the kids. The monument is located at 800 East on Canyon Road. (Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)