The legends here are older than the catalpa trees that shade 130-year-old homes with their heart-shaped leaves. They're older than the irrigation stream that waters the meadows.
The tales go as far back as the 1700s, the century assigned to the burned remains of a Jesuit priest that were found by a neighbor digging in her yard in 1936. People who lived nearby thought the priest might have been burned at the stake.The written stories start with the arrival of Latter-day Saint settlers to the northern Utah wilderness in the 1850s. Pioneer leader Brigham Young told settlers moving north to what became Weber County to "fort up" for protection against the Indians.
In those years, 9-year-old Mary Hutchens would watch wide-eyed as the Indians held ceremonial dances across the meadow from the fort.
"Some (dances were) so fierce it made shiver," Hutchens recorded in her life history. "And others (were) so majestic and solemn that it made one want to weep," she said.
While the fort walls no longer stand, some vestiges of Ogden's humble beginnings still remain. A handful of descendants of the original settlers have joined together in an effort to preserve these landmarks, as well as the tales that live with them.
After forming the Bingham Fort History Project, the group recently got a boost when the Ogden Landmarks Commission donated a $500 grant to help them create a walking-tour brochure.
But they're not stopping there. The group is planning to restore some of the adobe brick homes and granaries, as well as an old barn built by the settlers, said Jackie Westergard, a historian with the Marriott Heritage Foundation.
The only problem is that $500 is not nearly enough.
"If all of the people who are descendants of people who lived in the fort contributed $10 . . . it would make the place blossom," said Gordon Jones, an area historian and member of the Ogden Pioneer Chapter, Sons of Utah Pioneers.
The group has even looked into buying some of the homes that are on the market or being rented out, hoping to develop a museum.
Anna Stone Keogh, who spent summers in the neighborhood on west Second Street, where most of the original homes stand, is gathering pictures and stories of each family that built a home in the fort.
Her children help by wading in the irrigation ditch, picking up pieces of broken china dishware that housewives would toss in the stream to keep the sediment down. Some of the pieces, Keogh estimates, are more than 100 years old.
Keogh's grandfather, Chauncy Stone, found countless arrowheads left by Ute and Paiute Indians in the fields as he plowed. All of these artifacts and more would be housed in a museum, if it materializes, said Keogh.
The group is also looking at eventually buying part of a field on the north side of Second Street. Used for gravel extraction during World War II, the tree-filled wetland looks as it might have 150 years ago.
Although the group has no funds for any of their restoration projects, that has not stopped members from planning. Until their park, museum and renovations become as real as the bustling city that has grown up around their historic neighborhood, the group plans to keep researching the lives of the pioneers that came before them.
Tax-deductible donations for the Bingham Fort History Project are being taken by the Marriott Heritage Foundation, 2249 W. 700 South, Ogden, UT 84404.