Story of Wheeler Historic Farm
Joseph Hammond came to Utah in 1848 and by November 1853 had purchased a nineteen acre farm in South Cottonwood. He also bought a second farm of which he kept 70 acres. This combined acreage composed the property of what we know today as Wheeler Historic Farm. In 1864 he sold his farm to Ole Hansen. In 1869 Ole Hansen agreed to exchange this South Cottonwood farm for one near Bear Lake owned by William Goodall Young. William Young and Martha Grainger Young took up residence on their new farm around 1870.
William, a nephew of Brigham Young, helped organize an association of local farmers, gardeners and fruit growers. He was busy in civic and religious affairs. In 1884 the Young’s sold the farm to Elizabeth Cooper Pixton. Three years later Elizabeth sold the property to her daughter Sariah and her new son-in-law Henry Joseph Wheeler.
The Wheelers then owned and occupied the site for the next fifty-six years until Henry Wheeler Sr. died in 1943. During the Wheeler’s tenure the Farm was home to the Rose Bud Dairy, a commercial ice business, seven children and in the later years two grandchildren.
The Wheelers moved in to the adobe home built by Ole Hanson. Sariah did not picture herself remaining in the adobe house but pictured herself living as a genteel country lady in a spacious, nicely appointed Victorian farm house. The home was built in 1898. The interior walls were built of adobe bricks from the old house, which added great insulation to the home. Around the home were built many out buildings, some of which exist today. One such building, constructed 1904, is the family garage, which is believed to have housed the great car, Henry’s Pierce- Arrow.
After Sariah’s death in 1928, Henry Jr. and his family moved back onto the farm and took care of Henry Sr. for 15 years. (Two of Henry Jr’s daughters are actively involved with the Farm today- Beverly and her sister Jean). The Wheeler’s, much like their neighbors, survived hard times by growing their own food and having their own milk cows and meat on a flourishing farm of 75 acres. Henry also started The Rosebud Dairy (circa 1912-1933), which produced enough milk to supply many neighbors and others. This was supplemented by selling ice blocks harvested during the winter and sold through the spring and early summer to provide refrigeration for many local residents.
Following the death of Henry Sr., the farm was sold to Sterling Furniture Co. and its president Richard Madsen. The Madsen’s operated the Golden Guernsey Cattle Ranch breeding fine dairy cows and making their own improvements to the farm.
In 1969 Salt Lake County purchased the Farm with preliminary plans to remove the historic structures in order to develop the land as a regular regional park with ball fields, tennis courts and other recreational facilities. The buildings had been boarded up and were in need of extensive care, the milk barn was burned by arson in 1973, and the farmyard was filled with debris from years of neglect.
In 1974, after extensive research, the Junior League of Salt Lake approached the County with the concept of preserving the farm structures and creating a living historical farm. The County endorsed the plan. With much enthusiasm and significant seed money the League adopted this as their Bicentennial project for the community. This was no small undertaking as the League developed a plan, raised funds from other entities such as the Bicentennial Commission, Community Development Funds, and the National Historic Preservation Foundation. A curator was hired and the volunteers began the massive yard clean up and began the long process of restoring the farmhouse and acquiring artifacts for its decor.
Beverly Wheeler Mastrim assisted with research and preparation of the National Register nominations in 1974- 1976. In May of 1976 Wheeler Historic Farm formally opened to the public. Dr. A. Glen Humphreys, curator, farmer and director, moved on to Wheeler Farm and lived in a trailer with his family. Dr. Humphrey’s contributions as Director and Curator for over 25 years are still a part of what you find at the farm today. Wheeler Farm Friends a 501(c)3 nonprofit was created to assist Wheeler Historic Farm with fundraising and other auxiliary services.
Today, Wheeler Historic Farm is operated by Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation as an agricultural museum and outdoor recreation site.
Throughout the 75-acre site, additional buildings can be viewed including a milking parlor, historic garage with displays and a turn-of-the-century root cellar. Nine of the structures original to the farm are listed on the state and local register of historic places.
Artifacts, Exhibits & Displays
Wheeler Farm is the home to nearly 6,000 artifacts and educational pieces associated with Utah’s agricultural history and early farm life (1887-1940). The majority of these artifacts are on display on the grounds or in one of the many buildings found at the farm.
If you would like Wheeler Historic Farm to consider a historic artifact donation, please contact Sara Roach, Heritage Preservation Manager. We specifically look for items related to Victorian Farming from the late 1800 to early 1900s.
Exhibits & Displays
The original Victorian style Wheeler farmhouse and its many items showcase the domestic side of farm life 1890-1940. The Machinery Barn displays highlights equipment supporting the operation of a turn of the century working farm.
The Activity Barn’s second floor provides changing exhibits related to early farming. Original research information about the Wheelers, the surrounding area and the progressive farm period are also available among the library resources found in the Activity Barn.
Please visit our photo exhibit. Photos have been provided in cooperation with the Utah State History Advisory Board.