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The lost boulder and manuscript prove who built the first house, dug the first irrigation ditch and planted the first fruit trees in Fruita, Utah. This changes everything about Capitol Reef history.
LOS ANGELES, CA, March 03, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The Wandering Boulder of Capitol Reef, a 30,000 pound rock the size of a Smart car, was lost from Capitol Reef National Monument in Utah more than 50 years ago. In 2010, it was rediscovered in California by amateur archaeologist and historian Ronald Bodtcher. A new website at WanderingBoulder.com was launched March 3, 2014 to allow public access to the latest photos, analysis and news about the boulder, including its odyssey through Utah and California, and its anticipated return to Capitol Reef.
According to Bodtcher, 129 years ago on March 3, 1885, Mormon Pioneers founded the tiny settlement they called "the Junction," where Sand Creek (now Sulphur Creek) joins the Fremont River in Wayne County, Utah. They pecked their initials and the year into the back side of a nearby boulder, carefully avoiding any damage to ancient Indian writings already present on the front side of the boulder.
In 1928, this same boulder was documented by amateur archaeologist Noel Morss, and he used the Indian writings on the front side in defining the Fremont Culture, an ancient people living in Utah more than 1,000 years ago. The Mormon Pioneer graffiti on the back side were not documented by Morss or anyone else until 2010, when Ronald Bodtcher rediscovered the boulder in California.
Bodtcher also located a previously unpublished manuscript in the LDS Church History Library archives in Salt Lake City. Through careful research of the manuscript, the boulder and other documentation, he determined that the initials FWY and year 1885 chipped into the boulder are those of Franklin Wheeler Young, a nephew of the Mormon Prophet Brigham Young and the first pioneer settler of the Junction (now Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park). Young built the first house, dug the first irrigation ditch and planted the first grape vines and fruit trees that are still bearing apples and peaches in the Park orchards.
"National Park Service reports and other publications call Franklin Young a squatter. Nothing could be further from the truth," says Bodtcher. "At age 8, he walked to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 with one of the first groups of early pioneers. He is the youngest Bishop in the history of the LDS Church and a settler of several villages from Idaho to St. George, Utah," adds Bodtcher. Six of those settlements were located in the Fremont River Valley of Wayne County, including the Junction (now Fruita).
Young's homestead changed ownership many times until part of it passed to Max and Elizabeth Lewis, who moved to Fruita in 1956. After her husband's death, Elizabeth met and married Dick Sprang, the principal artist of "Batman" during the Golden Age of Comics. Before the Federal Government evicted Fruita residents from 1961 through 1963, the Sprangs took the Wandering Boulder to their Fish Creek Ranch near Teasdale, Utah. After the eviction, Dick Sprang became depressed and stopped his work on Batman. The Sprangs separated and later divorced, selling the ranch and the boulder.
In 1978, a new owner gave the boulder to a friend and professor of anthropology at a college in Southern California. Officials moved the boulder to the college, where it sat in obscurity for more than 30 years until it was rediscovered by Mr. Bodtcher, who completed a detailed survey and report from July through October, 2010. A year after first locating the Wandering Boulder, Bodtcher explained its origin and significance to college personnel and provided a photo and location to officials at Capitol Reef National Park.
The college and the National Park Service agreed to return the Wandering Boulder to Capitol Reef. However, budget cuts have delayed the process for more than a year. For now, Ronald Bodtcher is producing the WanderingBoulder.com website to provide amateur archaeologists, historians and the public with original source material documenting the boulder and its wanderings.
About Ronald Bodtcher
Ronald Bodtcher is an amateur archaeologist/CPA who began visiting and photographing Capitol Reef before it became a National Park in 1971. He was introduced to the area by his father, who began exploring Wayne Wonderland before it was proclaimed Capitol Reef National Monument in 1937.
WanderingBoulder.com is a website created by amateur archaeologist and historian Ronald Bodtcher. It documents the odyssey of the Wandering Boulder of Capitol Reef and its contact with the Fremont Indians, Mormon Pioneer Franklin Wheeler Young, amateur archaeologist/attorney Noel Morss, amateur archaeologist/artist Dick Sprang and Ronald Bodtcher.
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