They found this ancient Fremont village long after I left Salt Lake, but it’s not too far from one of the places I lived. The Fremont people were related to the Cliff Dwellers (Anasazi, Ancestral Pueblo, whatever we’re calling them now), further south. And like the Cliff Dwellers, the Fremont culture seems to have collapsed about 1300 C.E.
I’ve been fascinated since I was a kid. I’ve known about the Cliff Dwellers as long as I can remember. Probably because I started grade school in Brigham City, Utah and had friends whose families were at the Intermountain Indian School there. Very sad now, but back then we kids loved the mix of Anglo and Indian cultures.
I think the first I heard about the Fremont culture was my 8th grade Colorado history teacher, Mr. Meador. I think anyone who ever had him as a teacher probably ranks him among the best and most memorable. When I had him he was a student teacher for Mr. Legrani.
I wanted to do my “term paper” on the Fremont. If I remember correctly it had to be 3 pages, or maybe it was 5 pages. Handwritten, on notebook paper. This was 8th grade, remember. Anyway, there wasn’t enough source material. I don’t think anyone knew as much about the Fremont people as we do now, and besides, it seems like there has always been much more interest in the Utes, who were there when the Anglos arrived. I settled for doing my paper on the Meeker Massacre. This was 1969. Like every other boy in my class I was drawn to Nathan Meeker because the Utes drove a metal stake through his mouth. He was a preacher. They thought he talked too much. Best story ever.
There is a Fremont site at Glade Park, but I didn’t figure out where it is until many years later. Glade Park is a little community at the Colorado National Monument behind the Redlands, where we lived. And it was only recently that I discovered from Navajo historian Wally Brown that the ancestors of the Navajo lived as far north as the Book Cliffs, an area that would include what is now Glade Park. It seems likely to me there wasn’t as much difference between the Fremont and Ancestral Pueblo cultures, as it seems when looking just at their material culture.
Many years later, when I lived in Salt Lake City, I looked some more for information on the Fremont culture, and also came up empty. Same problems. Not much is known and what little there is gets lost among the volumes of stuff written about the Utes.
Then in 1999 they discovered a Fremont burial in Salt Lake City, at South Temple and 300 West:
“Archaeological sites are not uncommon in Utah, but unearthing this human burial in downtown Salt Lake was a significant discovery. Further excavation by a research team from Brigham Young University uncovered several ancient pit houses, storage pits, fire hearths, and thousands of artifacts dating to 1000 years ago. Pottery, bone needles, arrow points and corn grinding tools provide clues about the Fremont people who lived at this spot. Animal bones found at the site, such as deer, rabbit, bison, and fish, provide information about the foods they ate and the surrounding environment. For example, the fish bones belonged to a minnow that probably came from what is now called City Creek, which flowed adjacent to this prehistoric village.” Archaeology Underfoot (2012).
I lived at 214 West North Temple until about March or April 1978. So close. I wish I had still been there in 1999, or at least still in Salt Lake. I would have enjoyed the feeling of connecting with history by living so close to a known site. (All of us live close to some historic site or another, whether we know it or not.)
Edited Sept. 23, 2019 to clarify the information from Wally Brown.
- Archaeology Underfoot: Salt Lake’s Downtown Fremont Village (Aug. 24, 2012) at Utah Humanities, visited Sept. 5, 2019.
- Fremont Culture, at Colorado Encyclopedia, visited Sept. 21, 2019.
- Fremont Indians, at Legends of America, visited Sept. 21, 2019.