The Church History Catalog is full of interesting and unusual treasures. Sometimes these treasures can verify family lore and add interesting depth and perspective to an ancestor’s story. I had one such encounter with a record that I did not know existed before.
My great-great-grandfather Stephen Stanford was born in 1832 in Southwick, Sussex, England. The county of Sussex is known for its beautiful and verdant gardens. Stephen was a talented gardener who passed that love of growing things down to his descendants.
Stephen joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1850s and emigrated with his wife, Louisa, in 1856. They remained in Boston for a few years, where their first son, my great-grandfather Cyrus, was born. They joined the Joseph Horne wagon company and traveled to Utah in 1861.
According to family stories, Stephen was a gardener especially known for his work on the Devereaux Mansion in Salt Lake City, the residence of mayor William Jennings. Family lore states that Stephen was working as a wagon driver for Jennings, who was a prominent and wealthy resident of Salt Lake City and later served as mayor from 1882 to 1885. The story goes that Jennings learned of Stephen’s English gardening background and hired him as the gardener for Jennings’s residence, the Devereaux Mansion on South Temple Street.
I have heard this story from my father for many years. As an employee of the Family History Department for 25 years, I have had the opportunity to participate in many meetings at the Devereaux Mansion. I would often reflect upon my grandfather and his connection to that historic building.
When I came over to the Church History Library in 2018 as an ambassador from FamilySearch, one of the first things I did was search for many of my ancestors’ names in the Church History Catalog.
When I searched for Stephen Stanford, I was delighted to discover this “Diploma,” or certificate, for “Best Kitchen Garden.” The award was given to William Jennings in 1878, but my grandfather is named on the certificate as the gardener.
I searched through the catalog for other examples of this type of award. I found that there were about a dozen other similar items, including several awards given to Phoebe and Wilford Woodruff. These are included in the Wilford Woodruff collection. In 1856 Wilford Woodruff was awarded the diploma for “Best Wheat,” and in 1857 he was awarded for “best specimen of Black Jersey” and “4th best specimen of Chinese Sugar Cane.” Phoebe Woodruff won for “Third Best Lady’s Straw Hat” in 1856.
Brigham Young also won for second-best onions, carrots, and cabbage in 1859–60.
The Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society held the first state fair in 1856, called the “Deseret Fair.” Later, this became the Utah State Fair.
This delightful artifact has allowed me to corroborate the family story that Grandfather Stephen was an excellent and acknowledged gardener in the early days of Salt Lake City. I have shared this on FamilySearch Memories and have shown it to many family members. This hitherto-unknown document has enriched our understanding and appreciation of our ancestor.