Nonprofit organization’s mission is to preserve the history of Echo
Historic church opens for visitors Memorial Day weekend
The Echo Community and Historical Organization got a COVID-19 shot in the arm last year when it opened the Echo Church for summer tourists last Memorial Day weekend.
“Usually in an ordinary summer we’d get about 400 to 500, but last year we got 1,500,” said Sandra Morrison, who has volunteered for the organization for more than 20 years. “We very carefully opened up the Echo Church with social distancing, and people were able to get out of the house and take a beautiful, scenic drive to Echo and visit the church.”
Even on the days the church was supposed to be closed, Kim Bloss, one of the organization’s longtime docents, would unlock the doors for those who stopped by, Morrison said.
“Opening the church and letting people explore some Summit County history really proved to be popular,” she said.
The church will open for the season again this Memorial Day weekend from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, May 29-31. Then the church will open every Saturday until Labor Day weekend, when it will resume the Saturday to Sunday schedule, according to Morrison.
The church was built in 1876, and is the second oldest building in Summit County, after the Kimball Stage Coach station, which was built by William H. Kimball in 1862, by Overland Trail, Morrison said.
“It was built with handmade bricks that were crafted out of clay from the Weber River and baked on site,” she said.
The Echo church, which measures only 25 feet wide by 50 feet long, had different owners, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, throughout its history, Morrison said.
“When the Mormons decided they didn’t have a use for it, the townspeople of Echo got together and raised enough money to purchase it and the adjoining cemetery,” she said. “The cemetery is home to many people who have lived in Echo, including Thomas Stagg, the first Summit County sheriff killed in the line of duty while chasing two Park City boys who stole some strawberries.”
The Echo Community Historical Organization, which was formed in 1982 as a nonprofit to preserve and protect the historic Echo Church, has expanded its mission over the years, and raised the money to purchase the town’s only fully operating post office, Morrison said.
“The post office was built in the 1910s, and after the woman who was running it passed away, the surviving family didn’t want it on their property anymore,” she said. “At that time, the U.S. Postal Service also talked about canceling service to Echo, so everyone would have to drive seven or more miles to Coalville or Henefer for any services.”
To keep the post office up and running, the nonprofit purchased the building and moved it off the family’s property, and in the early 2000s, the organization contracted with the Postal Service to keep the office running, Morrison said.
“It’s not a very big building, but it has its own zip code, and all the letters that pass through there get stamped with an Echo, Utah, stamp from the 1880s,” she said. “We hire people who are trained by the U.S. Postal Service to operate it. It’s open a couple of hours every day. Everyone has an antique post office box where they can get their mail.”
The post office turned into more of a community center due to the coronavirus pandemic last year, Morrison said.
“Because it’s a small building and everyone in the town goes there to get mail, they were able to keep their eyes on each other to make sure everyone had masks and sanitizer,” she said. “We also made sure our employees were safe, and we were socially distanced.”
Last year, Echo Community and Historical Organization used money received through the Summit County RAP tax for maintenance on the cemetery’s headstones, according to Morrison.
“We brought in a headstone conservation crew from Texas,” she said. “They laid down a stable base and used preservation techniques to replace the headstones without damaging anything,” she said. “They also cleaned off the lichen and moss that can dissolve the stones.”
A portion of the money went to fix the church’s plumbing and do some electrical updates at the post office.
“We did the electrical work in the post office because, of course, we don’t want things burning down,” Morrison said with a laugh. “We also repaired the flooring, and other interior maintenance.”
These updates were also important to preserve the historical significance of the town for future generations, according to Morrison.
“Echo Canyon is basically the gateway to Utah, and it was where many fur trappers and traders came through,” she said. “There are also some petroglyphs that were made by the Native Americans up in the rocks in the canyon.”
The canyon was a popular thoroughfare for the Westward Trek, and was used by the Donner Party, as well as Mormon pioneers, Morrison said.
“The Pony Express came through in 1860-1891, and when the Union Pacific stopped in Echo in 1869, the town became a booming station with a big hotel, a roundhouse and coal and water stations,” she said. “The steam engines would burn an entire load of coal coming up from Ogden, so they refueled in Echo.”
The town started losing residents in the 1940s when the Union Pacific began switching out steam engines for diesel-fueled engines, she said.
“It has remained a small town that houses quite a few retired people,” she said.
For information, visit facebook.com/Echo-Church-309436816276750.
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