Living history: The past comes to life at Antelope Island's Fielding Garr Ranch

By Ray Boren

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 26 2011 5:00 p.m. MDT

The original adobe bricks, circa 1848, are rougher. The "newer" bricks, from the 1870s, are smoother, perhaps fired, and maybe they were made elsewhere, possibly in Salt Lake City, he says. Even farther along to the north side is an addition made of cinder block in the 20th century.

Can you find any silver that seems out of place in the house?

Inside the residence — the foreman's house — is a kitchen and a back room with old washing machines, for washing done by hand and in "modern" machines with motors powered by either gasoline or electricity.

The kitchen has the look of the 1950s, with countertops and linoleum from that time. Electricity eventually came to the ranch. Conduits for the wiring are in thin pipes, not in the walls, for the bricks were made of adobe long before.

To the south are a dining room and a living room/master bedroom, also featuring decor of another time, including a replicated "Mormon couch" — an early pullout bed.

Volunteer guides often throw out a question for young and old: Find silver that seems out of place, somewhere in the house.

Here's the spoiler: (If you don't want to know the answer right now, skip this paragraph.) Look closely at the brackets holding up curtain rods in the ranch house. Some are made out of silverware — bent forks and spoons.

Which bed would you choose?

The ranch house was occupied by the ranch foreman's family, including the Garrs, the Stringhams, the Walkers and, from 1938-1950, the Harwards..

J.B. Harward's son Max, who lived the rural life part of the year on the island beginning at age 12, wrote about his boyhood experiences in a delightful little book, "Where the Buffalo Roam."

One of the small bedrooms that occupy a rear, lean-to addition to the house is now called "Max's Room," according to the ranch brochure. Each has decor, furniture and beds representing different ranching eras.

In a room with blue curtains is a brass bed covered by a colorful quilt. Shelley notes that the bed's brass ends are heavy and likely would not have been brought to pioneer Utah in a covered wagon, during pioneer times. That era, between 1847 and 1869, concluded when the transcontinental railroad was completed north of the Great Salt Lake, making transport of both people and goods much easier and quicker.

A pioneer bed, made with straw ticking and a rope support, is in the corner bedroom. The blankets and quilt are often pulled back so visitors can get a good look at the layers and ropes.

Pretend you are Max. Which bed would you prefer? (Go ahead, sit or stretch out on them, Shelley says.)

Now, that is a question Goldilocks might like to answer.

Where's the fridge?

The ranch proper includes a great number of out-buildings and structures: a blacksmith shop just as you enter the main compound; the barn; the long stable and corrals to the north, including a farrow for pigs; a "sheep dip"; a bunkhouse; and a spring house.

Just outside the barn is an old "sheep camp" trailer, "the first mobile home," Shelley wryly notes. It has a bed, shelves, even a stove. Visitors can step inside. "If it's all messed up, I say to myself, 'Oh, the kids have been playing in here again,' " Shelley says.

The rural way of life on the island — which is only a few dozen miles from downtown Salt Lake City, its skyscrapers visible beneath the towering Wasatch Mountains to the southeast — are what help make a visit to the Fielding Garr Ranch so intriguing, and a trip through time.

Shelley says he and others like to ask kids visiting the ranch house to find the refrigerator.

"It's bigger than the one at your house," guides and rangers say – eliciting "No way!" exclamations from the young visitors, who hunt away.

They usually can't find it.

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