The Harding Memorial Rail

On September 12, 1923, a momentous celebration took place in Cedar City. The following article in the U.P.R.R. Magazine detailed the event. Enjoy this look behind one of our artifacts.

Golden Rail Laying, Cedar City, Utah


The celebration at Cedar City, Utah, on September 12, was noteworthy for several reasons. It signalized the completion of the 33-mile extension of the Union Pacific System from Lund to Cedar City. It commemorated the visit of the late President and Mrs. Harding on June 27; the President's train having been the first regular passenger train to use the line. It brought together a notable company of distinguished men, many of whom made addresses.

The event could not be called a "gala day", for while there was no lack of enthusiasm and merry-making, a note of intense seriousness pervaded the speeches and other features of the day, which culminated in the laying of the golden rail. Gratitude that Cedar City and Southern Utah had been permitted to entertain the Nation's Chief Executive, sorrow over his untimely death, a quiet determination to keep his memory green, and to preserve unsullied the spirit and traditions of the pioneers to whom President Harding had paid such a highly deserved tribute, were emphasized quite as much as the joy and gratification which the people felt over the coming of the railroad. The railroad will bring material blessings, it was said; tourists by the thousands; it will stimulate the development of Southern Utah's resources of soil, minerals and scenery; it will make business for the merchant, banker, lawyer, doctor, and tradesman; but it must not be at the expense of the spiritual life and wholesome hospitality of the people.

It is those two things, the speakers pointed, out, which will make Southern Utah, with its Zion National Park, Bryce's Canyon, Cedar Breaks, and North Rim of the Grand Canyon, a different recreational area from any of the other national parks. The others are resorts where the care of the parks and the tourists is the chief concern, while here the development of the people and the building of a stalwart citizenry will be the binding force around which the industrial enterprises and recreational activities will revolve. "Prove all things but hold fast to that which is good" was quoted by Congressman Don B. Colton, as a text for his message, and it might be called the keynote of the morning addresses.

In the afternoon came the principal address of the day by United States Senator Reed Smoot, a memorial address in memory of President Harding. Senator Smoot was a close friend of the late President and was primarily responsible for his visit to Southern Utah in June. He told of the great joy which the visit brought to President and Mrs. Harding, and of their expressed wish to return again. "Harding was human through and through", said the Senator, "and his heart was always attuned to the heart of the American people. He lived for America, he died for America, and so long as time shall last, he will be loved by America."

Vice-President Harry M. Adams of the Union Pacific System followed Senator Smoot. He brought the regrets of President C. R. Gray at his inability to attend the celebration. He spoke of the gratification which the officers of the Union Pacific felt over the successful completion of the project. He paid a tribute to the loyalty of the people of Cedar City and Southern Utah, and of their feeling of neighborliness toward the railroad which, he said, would do its utmost to prove itself a good neighbor in return. Southern Utah, Mr. Adams declared, was on the threshold of a marvelous development, being rich in those things which make for greatness, such as its iron and other minerals, fertile soil, vast ranges for cattle and sheep, unparalleled scenic beauties, but above all, the high quality of its citizens who had inherited from the pioneers a precious legacy of virtue, industry, and integrity. He reminded the people that scenery was unlike anything else, in that it could be sold and resold without diminishing in value or needing to be replaced. "It enriches all," he said, "and impoverishes none." He pledged the aid of the railroad in meeting, in every practicable way, the wishes of the good people of Cedar City and the country tributary to it.

All of the speeches were informative, instructive, and inspiring. Space will permit of only a brief mention of the others.

Stephen Mather, U.S. Director of National Parks: "The attractions of Southern Utah are becoming more widely known all the time. I join with you in thanking the Union Pacific for what it is doing in this vicinity. There was a fifty percent increase in travel to Zion Park this year over last. We shall try to popularize a route via the Santa Fe from Los Angeles, to Grand Canyon, thence across to the North Rim, then taking in Zion, Bryce and Cedar Breaks, connecting at Cedar City with the Union Pacific."

Harry Chandler, proprietor of the Los Angeles Times: "If Cedar City obtains the same results from the building of the Union Pacific that Los Angeles secured, they will be great indeed. The population of Los Angeles has increased 800 percent since the advent of the Union Pacific. Los Angeles has a large leisure class, and the attractions of Southern Utah will make it a Mecca for thousands of that class."

M. de Brabant, Assistant Traffic Manager, Union Pacific System: "We are here, not merely as railroad men, but as citizens of this great western country. Transportation is yours for the asking. It is up to you to develop your natural resources so that markets which are available will be reached with your commodities. The population of Southern California will have to be fed. If the power of the Colorado River can be carried 350 miles to supply the industries of Los Angeles, the same power can be brought to Cedar City, provided you have the vision of the commerce and overseas trade which, through the great harbor of Los Angeles, is right at your very door. The Union Pacific has agricultural and research departments at your disposal. I suggest you appoint a traffic committee to work with our traffic department to study your traffic needs."

President Heber J. Grant of the Mormon Church recalled feelingly the visit of President and Mrs. Harding. He read an article by Lafayette Hanchett of Salt Lake City, describing the departure of the Presidential party from Cedar City, when the multitude spontaneously broke out with "God be with you till we meet again". Mr. Hanchett's article was telegraphed by President Grant to President Harding, on the high seas. The article appears elsewhere in this issue.

Other speakers were Senators Hirschi and Seegmiller, Matthew Hale of Washington, Mayor C. C. Neslen of Salt Lake City, Charles P. Bayer, of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Parley Dalley, of Cedar City, W. H. Comstock, General Manager of the Los Angeles and Salt Lake unit of the Union Pacific System, Hon. James W. Good of Chicago, Randall L. Jones who acted as chairman at the morning meeting, and H. W. Lunt, who presided at the afternoon session.

Owing to a heavy shower during Vice-President Adams' address, the crowd was forced to disperse, and on that account, the address of Governor Charles R. Mabey could not be given.



The golden rail was fastened in place with four iron spikes made at Old Iron Town in Iron County about sixty years ago. The spikes were driven by Governor Charles R. Mabey, D. S. Spencer, R. H. Rutledge and David Bulloch, representing, respectively, the State of Utah, the Union Pacific System, the Forest Service, and Iron County. The rail was conveyed to the point of insertion by a fairy queen, drawn in a chariot.

The “fairy queen” was “little Miss Mary Farnsworth,” who presented the memorial rail, carried on a miniature float drawn by four small boys dressed in white.