History of Mt. Carmel Jct.
Fern Morrison - Fern Hanson was born in Bear River City on November 18, 1907 at her parent's home, a two room log cabin heated with a small wood stove. Fern's grandfather was born in Denmark and married his wife when she was only fifteen years old. The couple worked as custodians for a school, farmed, raised cattle and thirteen children! As immigrants from Denmark, they were not treated well, and they were poor which did not add to the situation. Fern went to school in Bear River City until the 8th grade. She remembers helping raise her brothers and sisters since her father often had to work away from home and her mother was pregnant and sick for years, with her 8 younger siblings. Among other chores, Fern remembers milking the cow, building a fire and getting the other kids up every morning. The Hanson's moved to Soldier Summit when Fern was a teen, where her father began to work for the railroad. The family enjoyed the extra income, but they were still considered a poor family. Before long, they found themselves moving to Springdale, where Fern was delighted to attend high school and model for the JC Penny stores. Fern had often dreamed of being a model and having her own dress shop.
One day, Fern was coerced into accepting a blind date. After that first date she was asked what she thought of the man. She smiled and then let out a mighty laugh as she now tells the story. "I was plumb disgusted with him," she said. Yet, it seemed everywhere she went after that date, the man was there. Despite her initial reaction, Fern, however, quickly grew to love him and, after a short three month courtship, Jack and Fern were married on October 22, 1926. Their idea of a fun date was to drive to the lake where the bootleggers were and make the bootleggers think they were the "feds."
Jack Morrison - Jack Morrison was born near St. Louis. His mother died when he was 8 years old and he too grew up poor, working in the coal mines in Billings, Wyoming. Like most young men, Jack was drafted into the service during World War I. After they married, Jack worked as an engineer and moving often was part of his job. Soon they became a family of four and moving about became more difficult. It was time to try and settle down. In 1930, the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel was completed. The land on the east side of the tunnel was added to Zion National Park in 1931 making the park the size it is today. Jack went to see the land on the east side of Zion, but the path was not an easy one. Jack had to tie a Cedar tree to the back of his Model-T-Ford to safely come down off the hill. After a short visit, Jack came home to Fern and said: "I think I know where the road from Zion is going to come down. I'd like to use my homestead rights and file on that land.
The Homestead - Although they were blocked from using the property for five years, due to someone who filed grazing rights on it, things eventually worked out. In 1931, one year after the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel was complete; the couple homesteaded the area now known as Mount Carmel Junction. The land was harsh and riddled with gullies, quicksand, layers of sand and was prone to violent flash floods. Jack set to work damming strategic locations so that when the washes flooded, the water would pour down from the mountains carrying vast amounts of silt to aid in filling the holes, gullies and washes and help to build the land. To make ends meet, Jack had to work on the railroad, leaving his wife and children for long periods of time. Fern, who was known for her baking skills, built a lean-to and sold pies to the truck drivers. In 1940, Jack and Fern built the Thunderbird Restaurant.
Great Losses and Determination - Jack and Fern's two oldest children, Jackie and Joyce, drowned on July 27th, 1942 in the Virgin River behind the present day East Zion Riverside RV Park. The couple did have two more children, Marie, age two and Betty age 5.
Fern Goes it Alone - The land was still dangerous and there was much work to do. With the loss of her husband, Fern could have easily given up. But she did not. Fern was strong willed and a hard working woman with a keen business sense. And though Fern still had a long way to go she was up to the task. She built the first hotel rooms in 1969. These are the single story units farthest from the restaurant. Fern still continued to build her little southern Utah "empire," doing what few women of her time would have dared to do. She was a dreamer, a builder, an employer and a success.
East Zion Thunderbird Lodge - Before Fern died she built more BEST WESTERN units, remodeled her gas station, restaurant and gift shop and updated her golf course. The lodge seen today is what she built in her life time. The land today is beautiful and manicured with hardly a trace of the days of the past. Fern was determined to keep memories of Jack intact. She kept the original buildings and built around them. Part of the rock walled hardware store (which burned down in the winter of 2005) at the north end of town was the original gas station. The beautiful East Zion Riverside Lodge (vacation home) was built not only around the original cabin where Fern gave birth to her children but also two Zion Canyon cabins. Parts of the original restaurant also still exist in the big beautiful new southwestern style building.
Mt. Carmel and Orderville Area - Mt. Carmel Jct. stands alone, not really a town but more of a resort area. Only Ed's family and the Ramsay's who owns the Shell Station live there. It's a gorgeous place with only Fern's Golf Course and BEST WESTERN Hotel, Restaurant and RV Park, then across the highway is the Golden hand motel and a Shell Station. Another town Mt. Carmel is north one mile and Orderville is 5 miles from Mt. Carmel Jct.
Daughters of the Utah Pioneers - This charming old brick building is located on the Heritage Highway (Highway 89) in the center of the small town of Orderville. The little museum has artifacts, photos and books about the history of Long Valley (Mount Carmel Junction, Mount Carmel, Orderville, Glendale, and Alton). Information: 644-5726. The building is open Mon-Fri 10:00-5:00 in the summer and by appointment.
Mount Carmel and Orderville History - Mount Carmel and Orderville History Historic Rock Church:
The Settlement - Mormon Pioneers settled in the area in an attempt by Brigham Young to settle all of Utah Territory, but Indians forced them to abandon the area. It was not until 7 years later in 1871 that people returned and this time settled down permanently. A charming log building located in the small town of Mount Carmel was built in 1890 and used as a church and a school house. Sadly, it burned down in 1919, and years later, in 1923, it was rebuilt, this time with rock. After the small building was rebuilt the rock structure was used almost entirely as a church. The kids that once attended school in the log building were hauled to nearby Orderville in a covered wagon each day to attend school.
Zion National Park, Utah
History of the Thunderbird
This is my new favorite quote:
"I don't know who Tanya Milligan is, but I mean www.zionnational-park.com
It's a better site than the NPS's anyway."
Written by the authors of the book: Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park