SALT LAKE CITY — Railroad workers, business leaders, politicians and journalists were among those present at the golden spike ceremony on May 10, 1869.
Apostle Franklin D. Richards was there, along with other Latter-day Saint delegates from Ogden and Salt Lake City.
John Sharp, a bishop in the Salt Lake Valley, was an invited guest and attended on behalf of Brigham Young. He also represented the church in dealings with the Union Pacific Railroad.
At least three church members — Abraham Hunsaker, his son Israel, and William Neeley — are identified in Andrew J. Russell's iconic black-and-white photo with Jupiter and the No. 119 engines.
Elder Richards served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1849 until his death in 1899. According to his personal journal in the Church History Archives, Elder Richards was one of four official delegates from Ogden assigned to attend the golden spike ceremony. A Salt Lake delegation joined them for the trip to Promontory Summit.
Elder Richards recorded the following entries in his journal:
"Saturday May 8, 1869: Evening met with City Council and was elected one of 4 Committee to go to the Promontory on Monday next at connecting the rails and driving the last spike.
"Sunday May 9, 1869: The Delegation from Ogden went to the Rail Road & retired for the night. The Salt Lake City Delegation staid and went up with us.
"Monday May 10, 1869: Went as delegate with L. Farr (Lorin Farr), C.W. and J.B.H. Stenhouse to Promontory, Summit Co. to attend the ceremony of laying the last tie and rails connecting the U.P. (Union Pacific) and C.P. (Central Pacific) Rail Roads into one. Appointed and authorized by the City Council of Ogden. I was and we were cordially entertained by Gov. Stanford and his friends of the C.P. R. but the men of the U.P.R. scarcely noticed us. Returned at night being 5:20 p.m. and arrived home about 10 p.m. I handled the Golden Spike that was struck twice with the silver hammer by Gov. Leland Stanford, and which two blows discharged the guns in San Francisco and Chicago.”
Farr joined the church with his family in 1832 and later became a close friend of Joseph and the Smith family in Missouri. Farr came to Utah with the pioneers and settled in Ogden, where he served as the city's first mayor and the first president of the Weber Stake, according to "Lorin Farr, Friend of the Prophet" by David J. Farr at rsc.byu.edu.
Sharp, a convert from Scotland, supervised the work of several hundred men as they cut tunnels for the Union Pacific railway in Weber Canyon. Sharp was also one of the builders of the Utah Central railway from Ogden to Salt Lake and southern Utah. He later served as superintendent of Utah Central and director of the Union Pacific before his death in 1891, according to a newspaper article on his FamilySearch.org profile.
The Hunsakers and Neeley are identified by family members as standing in the lower right-hand corner of the famous golden spike photograph.
Neeley joined the church in 1844, lived in Nauvoo and crossed the plains to Utah. He thrice served as a bishop, according to his life history on FamilySearch.org.
According to his life history and newspaper articles, Abraham Hunsaker and his wife Eliza joined the church in 1840. He marched with the Mormon Battalion and later settled in Brigham City. He served a mission and was the first bishop of the the Honeyville Ward.
With some of his older sons, Abraham contracted with the Central Pacific Company to build a mile of road grade near Corinne and harvest timber at his sawmill for a bridge over the Bear River, according to a family history.
The Hunsakers were among many Box Elder County settlers who turned out to witness the historic event, according to family records. Israel Hunsaker was about 16 years old at the time.
When the United States needed rails during the World War II defense effort during 1942, then 90-year-old Israel Hunsaker attended the "unspiking" ceremony. He was said to be the oldest living man to have worked on the railroad 73 years earlier.
For northern Utah native John Jensen, there was something magical about discovering his ancestors, the Hunsakers, in the famed photograph. It was his "Back to the Future moment," reminiscent of the scene in "Back to the Future 3" in which time travelers "Doc" Brown and Marty McFly end up in a black-and-white photograph with the Hill Valley clock, Jensen said.Comment on this story
"I had seen the famous photograph of the driving of the golden spike multiple times in school, but when I found out later, as a young adult, that my ancestor was involved in the railroad and was clearly visible in the photograph, history came off the page," Jensen said. "History wasn't just something I read about anymore, it was something that happened to my family."
Jared Allen grew up in Box Elder County and has ancestral ties to both Hunsaker and Neeley. He's grateful for their contributions to the railroad.
"I came to a realization that we stand on the shoulders of giants," Allen said.