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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Warm Springs Bath House

Four days after his arrival in the valley, Brigham Young designated the location for the temple and initiated a project to map the newly established “Great Salt Lake City”.  On August 3, 1847, Orson Pratt fixed the baseline (east-west) and principal meridian (north-south) coordinates at the temple site.  All of the streets were laid out in a grid pattern from that point.  In general, all neighborhoods in Salt Lake City are named and numbered by how far distant they are from Temple Square.

(Click on this link to see a short video about the Base Meridian Marker:,5143,620,00.html  )

The city was divided into nineteen sections or wards.  Each ward, originally made up of nine ten-acre blocks, was presided over by an ordained bishop.  In this early period, before the regular incorporation of the city, each bishop acted as a chief magistrate or mayor of his ward, as well as the ecclesiastical leader:

Under their temporal administration all over Utah, as well as in Salt Lake, cities were built, lands divided off to the people, roads and bridges made, water-ditches cut, the land irrigated, and society governed.  In fact, under them [the bishops] all the revenue was produced and the work done of founding Great Salt Lake City.(1)

Plat of Salt Lake City, Utah
photograph produced in the late 1860's by E. Martin, photographer
Courtesy of Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
in public domain
(The location of Temple Square is designated by No. 1.)

Bishop Newel K. Whitney was called as the Presiding Bishop over all the bishops, and at the same time he served as bishop of the Eighteenth Ward.  James Hendricks was ordained and set apart as bishop of the Nineteenth Ward, located in the northwest corner of the city. (See Plat.)   He served as bishop from 1849 to 1856. 

Located within the boundaries of Bishop Hendricks’ ward was the Warm Springs, one of several mineral water, thermal springs that flowed from the base of the nearby Wasatch Mountains.  The first company of Mormon pioneers discovered the springs within days of their arrival in July 1847.  It didn’t take long for the Warm Springs to become popular for bathing and for the healing qualities of the mineral water.  As a child, Margaret Judd Clawson made frequent visits to the springs:

In those days we could have two free baths a week by taking a walk out to the warm springs.  It was a large pool of warm sulphur water, flowing constantly out of the mountain.  President [Brigham] Young made the rule that Tuesdays and Fridays should be women’s days, and no peeping Toms allowed…. It was great fun for a lot of girls to go out there together to play and splash in the water for hours.(2)

Most early reports called the Warm Springs “very pleasant and refreshing,” but others were not so glowing. William Clayton wrote, “The smell arising from it [the water] is truly nauseating and sickly, though generally supposed to be in no way unhealthy.”  Thomas Bullock wrote just one comment, “It was very warm & smelt very bad.”  But later in 1847 he highly recommended the experience, “Every person who was sick that bathed in it recovered…those who once bathed there want to go again.”  Bullock made the first improvements to the springs by digging the natural basin deeper to accommodate more bathers at one time.(3)  The spot became increasingly popular, especially among visitors.  John Hudson, one of the “forty-niners” headed for the gold fields of California, wrote his impressions:

It is a very strong spring and forms a pool about 20 feet square and 15 inches deep.  The water is as clear as crystal.  The bottom is covered with pebble stones of a delightful greenish hue.  The water is strong of sulfur and is said to be healthful. We nearly all took a bath.  When you first get in the water it is uncomfortably warm, but after a minute or two it is delightful.(4)

Soon after James Hendricks was called as bishop of the Salt Lake Nineteenth Ward, he moved his family to the Warm Springs to help build a public bathhouse (a project initiated by the High Council of Salt Lake City.)  In as much as the proposed bathhouse was within his ward boundaries, Hendricks would act as its proprietor.(5)  The newly constructed Warm Springs bathhouse also served for a time as a meetinghouse for Sunday services of the Nineteenth Ward, and it was here that Bishop Hendricks’ daughter Elizabeth and James Gammell were married.

Warm Springs Bath House
built in 1850
Date of photograph is unknown
 in public domain

For copyrighted photos, see the following links from University of Utah Library:

This first link is another view of the photo above.  It is supposedly a later photo of the original bathhouse built in 1850.

The second link is a 1939 photograph of the modern replacement of the old bathhouses and was known as the Wasatch Warm Springs Plunge.  (The Mission style building, erected in 1921, served as a city swimming pool until 1976.  It has been abandoned, but still stands as of 2010.)

This original bathhouse was built a short distance south of the Warm Springs.  The water was diverted to the building by hollow pine logs.  First the Hendricks built a log house to live in while they built a larger adobe cottage and then the bath house, “which contained twelve rooms, six on each side and a large room in front…the warm water [100 degrees] was to be brought about l/3 of a mile in pipes, and they had to be made of logs bored through the center lengthwise (these were called pump logs) which required considerable labor.” (6)

When completed, this “commodious bathhouse” consisted of

…one inner pool for women, an outer one for men and boys, with several private rooms fitted with wooden bathtubs.  They also furnished a winter swimming pool with hot baths for all…In front of this bathhouse was an adobe cottage for the caretaker, and soon an immense dancing hall, also built of substantial adobe, was added, with a roomy dining room equipped with kitchens, all fitted with benches and tables.  Public parties and theatrical entertainments were given here, even after the completion of the Social Hall …this building was probably Salt Lake City's first hotel.(7)

The Warm Springs
photograph by Steve Hedquist
October 20, 2010

Too bad there isn't a way to digitally transmit smells.  Let me personally verify the truth of Thomas Bullock's 1847 assessment of the springs:  "It was very warm and smelt very bad!"   (Just think of rotten eggs.)  Notice the green color of the minerals in the water.  The warm water still flows continuously, but apparently not at the same rate that it did in the early days.

View of the Wasatch Springs Plunge building from Victory Road.
( Site of the original Warm Springs Bath House)
800 North 300 West, Salt Lake City
photograph by Steve Hedquist
October 20, 2010

A plaque commemorating the original Warm Springs Bath House

James Gammell and Elizabeth Hendricks were married in the Bath House on the day of its dedication.

Here is an advertisement printed in the Deseret News in March 1851:


The Inhabitants of Deseret are hereby respectfully informed, that the Baths are now open, and printed tickets ready for issue to accommodate families by the quarter, half year, or year. The following are the terms for privilege of the Baths, viz:

For single person per quarter,               $0,50
Families of from 2 to 4 persons per qr. $1,00
       “           “    5 to 8       “                    $2,00
       “           “    8 to 16     “                     $3,00
       “           "    16 to 24   "                    $3,50
Families to furnish their own towels.
Tickets for sale at the Tithing Office, and also at the Bath House.

March 24, 1851(8)

At 2:00 pm on Wednesday, November 27, 1850, about one hundred townsfolk, including the First Presidency of the Church and several of the apostles, gathered at the newly built Bath House(9) to celebrate the “Festival” of consecrating it.  Brigham Young called the meeting to order.  He announced, “we intend to solemnize a marriage, and then a dedication prayer by Heber C. Kimball, as we intend to dedicate this room and ourselves unto the Lord – as this is the first meeting in this room.”  Next Brigham Young performed the marriage of James Gemmell and Elizabeth Hendricks.(10)  In his dedicatory prayer Heber C. Kimball mentioned James and Elizabeth: “Bless this couple now married that they may be a comfort to this family [Hendricks family].”  The service was followed by “an afternoon and evening celebration of feasting and dancing, interspersed by songs, fancy dancing and addresses by President Young and his associate brethren.”(11)

For James Gammell his marriage to Elizabeth marked the beginning of a new phase of his life as a member of the Hendricks family, as a husband and father for the second time, and as a newly baptized member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Hendricks family moved from the Warm Springs in 1852.  Drusilla recalled that during those three years they had “six marriages, one death and four births and I could not tell the hardships we passed through while we were there.”(12)
  1. Tullidge, Edward W., History of Salt Lake City, p. 58.
  2. Quoted on a plaque in Warm Springs Park, Salt Lake City, Utah. See “Rambling Reminiscences of Margaret Gay Judd Clawson Talking of ‘Those Days’,” microfilm 40, LDS Church History Library.
  3. Darrell E. Jones and W. Randall Dixon, “Warm Springs and the First Bath House in Salt Lake City”, Utah Historical Quarterly, Summer 2008, Vol. 76, No. 3., p. 215.
  4. Quoted on a plaque in Warm Springs Park, Salt Lake City, Utah. See Jones and Dixon, p. 217.
  5. Jones and Dixon, pp. 218-219.
  6. Raymond, chapter 9.
  7. Raymond, chapter 11. (Suza Gates Young, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 20, pp.270-272.)
  8. Jones and Dixon, p. 220.
  9. The street now known as Reed Avenue (abt. 750 North 300 West) was laid out where the original Hendricks Bath House stood. (Jones and Dixon, pp.219, 225.)
  10. Church History Library document: Pre-Endowment House, CR 334/13, folio 2. Thos. Bullock, clerk, recorded that James Gemmell and Elizabeth Hendricks were married by Brigham Young at Hendricks’ Bath House on November 27, 1850 at 4 pm, “one hundred witnesses.” Other marriages listed in this same record mention “sealing by B. Young, time and eternity.” James and Elizabeth’s marriage record does not. They were sealed one year later on August 11, 1851, in Brigham Young’s office. At this same time James was also sealed to Susan Maria Brown, as a plural wife, and to his deceased wife, Harriet Fitzgerald. (End. House #126, Book A1, page 10.) Previous to the completion of the Endowment House (1855), ordinances were performed in other dedicated places. The Salt Lake Temple was not completed until 1889.
  11. Thomas Bullock minutes, MS 4357, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  12. Raymond, chapter 9.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Note from a Gemmell/Garrity Cousin

September 25, 2010

Hello Liz,
My name is Catherine Hutchens Hall.  James Gemmell is my great great grandfather.  My grandmother is Lucille Garrity, the daughter of Virginia Gemmell and William Garrity.  Virginia is the daughter of James Gemmell and Susan Mariah Brown.

I found your blog, and I actually started to cry.  I've been wanting to do research on the Gemmells for a long time.  My father was an only child, so we never got to know anyone on this side of the family.  All these years I thought my father came from a small family.  Boy was I wrong!

Love the site and I've sent it on to my father, George Hutchens.  I know he will appreciate it very much.

Looking forward to hearing more about the family.  If there is any information that you would like me to send, let me know.

Thanks for all your hard work.

Cathy Hall
Cranbrook, BC, Canada

P.S.  I find it interesting that James lived in Canada for a time.  Of course, now my husband's family says I was meant to be Canadian :)

Note by Liz:
Cathy will send some photos.  I'll post them soon.  I was happy to send Cathy a copy of a letter dated February 1955 that was sent to my dad, Raymond W. Gammell, by Cathy's grandmother Lucille Garrity Hutchens of Anaconda, Montana.  Cathy provided a list of Virginia Gemmell's descendants.  (See February 2010 post "The Descendants of James Gammell or Gemmell.)