When John D. Fitzgerald carved his seminal work, Papa Married a Mormon, out of the rock of western and family history he faced two challenges. Telling a believable tale and honoring the history that shaped the world he was born into.
As we have seen with the elopement of Papa and Mamma, John was skilled at weaving his divergent family history into a single plausible narrative. He applied that same skill to his family's settlement stories and regional history. The best model for his adroitness is Peter Bunderson and the water ways of Adenville.
On page 38 of Papa Married a Mormon, Peter is introduced by mention of his surname only. In this chapter, Grandpa Nielsen is reciting the family history and worrying over the romance of Tom Fitzgerald and Tena Nielsen. Midway through the chapter a single, nearly dismissible line emerges.
At sixteen, his daughter Sena had married a man named Bunderson, who did not believe in polygamy, and had moved to Emery, Utah Territory, soon after the marriage.
To the reader, this is merely a bridge to the marriage of Papa and Mamma. Easily forgotten in the context of the book. Yet, to John and his family it is the perfect nod to the history of their heritage.
Ten-year-old Sena Nielsen and eleven-year-old Peter Bunderson both traveled halfway around the world to join with the Mormon community in Utah. (Post on that later). It would be a few years before they would meet and marry, but they both lived near each other. Mayfield, Ephraim, and Emery Counties were largely populated with Danish immigrant Saints. They were driven colonizers. John imbues Adenville with their history when he writes his prologue.
The colonization of Adenville flourished. In the year 1877, as our story opens, the population was over one thousand. There were log cabins or adobe houses for every family. A grist mill, a woolen factory, a tannery, and a soap factory were all producing for export to Salt Lake City and other communities. Eighty acres of cotton, forty acres of corn, ten acres of vineyards and sixty acres of wheat were under cultivation. The dam which used to "go out like the wash," every Monday was rebuilt and was strong enough to resist any flash flood. The canal, which had given so much trouble owing to gopher holes, was now reinforced with willow growths along its banks, and permanent wooden flumes had been built over all sandstone formation.
Those dams which used to "go out like the wash" were the bane of every Utah community. It is nearly impossible to read the settlement of a town and not find paragraphs, or better yet pages, dedicated to the canals that were built to channel water to the upstart communities, no matter the population size.
The history of Price, Utah records the following.
Early pioneers of Price experienced much hardship. . .. Crops were difficult to grow because of a lack of irrigation water. Water had to be carried from the river in barrels and tanks. An irrigation ditch was of utmost importance. Construction on two ditches began February of 1879. . ..but it wasn't until the Price Water Company Canal was finished in 1888 that the irrigation problem was solved. The canal is still in use today.
Neither Adenville or Price were the homesteading centers for the Nielsen or Bunderson families. Their clans hailed from neighboring Emery and Ephraim. Both towns required deep canal work. Three pages are dedicated to those canals. In other books the descriptions take up even more space.
Between 1881 and 1885, various attempts at successful irrigation had occurred along what was called Muddy Creek. In 1885, "a cloudburst on the creek's headwaters sent a massive flood through the valley, destroying the diversion dams and canals". Enter Peter Bunderson. He and 58 other men created a company to build a highline canal covering four miles of shale rock along the base of the mountains. It was a herculean project.
After some discussion, the company decided to dig a tunnel through the hill. . ..The tunnel would be 1200 feet long and all of it through solid rock."
Due to the position of the hill, the content of the rock (shale), and no financial capital to purchase equipment, the sixty-man company pick axed, shoveled, and dug the tunnel for over two years. The project was not without failures and setbacks. Shale was not a friend to canal creation. Nor was rain, heat, or unexpected snow. However, in 1888, the tunnel was complete and water which was drawn up from beneath the earth, through the rock and dispersed through a flume, came to life. Though a few adjustments were required over time, the canal which brought Emery to life and Peter Bunderson into town leadership, is still used today.