Utah Stories

Fort Union: Lost in Utah’s Historical Archive

Fort Union has a long but forgotten history in Utah. One man hopes to change that.



history of fort union
Marion Cox with proposed design of his great-grandparents’ statue. Photo by Ali Anderson

Over the years, the history of Fort Union has been lost somewhere in Utah’s peripheral vision. It’s a safe bet to say that most Utah natives have no idea how the 10-acre area in Midvale got its name.

Marion Cox, a 93-year-old Utahn, hopes to change that. In 1948 Marion’s great-grandparents, Jehu and Sara Cox, moved to Utah from Missouri and set up their 40-acre farm in present-day Midvale. Due to a perceived threat from the native Ute tribe, the Cox family donated 10 acres of their land to construct a fort protecting 26 homes.

Legend has it that a local school teacher wanted to name the area “Union” due to its variety of ethnic backgrounds, and the fort was thereby dubbed “Fort Union.” Lack of historical preservation and the modern-day development of the Family Center have left no trace of the fort or its homes today. Though a replica of the original Cox cabin has been built and relocated behind the Family Center, Marion Cox has been on a mission to raise $80,000 to have the city build a monument to honor his great-grandparents. No stranger to the Fort Union area, Cox was named “Honorary Mayor” of the area from 1991 until 1993 by unanimous vote. “If this is possible, it might be the only time anything historic will be there,” he says.

After meeting with the Salt Lake County Council 14 times, the members finally granted Cox approval for the statue in September 2013. Over the last year, Cox has faced the daunting task of raising the $80,000 on his own by September, 2015. “The county has not given me any money, but representative Neiderhauser said he would look for $25,000 for me next year, if it’s available.”

A painting of the original Fort Union in 1849
A painting of the original Fort Union in 1849

Cox wonders why the county has been reluctant to help fund the project, when it recently paid almost $300,000 for a bridge monument that honors other pioneers. For all his efforts, Cox has managed to raise less than five thousand dollars so far, leaving him with just one more year to reach his goal. His family has set up a blog and Facebook page to raise awareness for his cause. They’ve also held more traditional fundraising by collecting donations outside local supermarkets. “Seeing this statue built would be really special,” he says with tears in his eyes. Donations to Marion’s Community Foundation of Utah can be made by visiting his blog at jehuandsarah.blogspot.com or any America First Credit Union branch. A Kickstarter campaign is also underway.

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