The Spike at 150: Myths and Legends

In the one hundred and fifty years since the first Transcontinental Railroad was completed at Promontory Summit, 30 or so miles west of Brigham City, many stories about its creation have circulated around the area. Some of them are true, and some of them . . . are not completely true.

How did these stories get started? How, centuries later, do historians sort fact from fiction, and figure out what actually happened? What portion of the rumors are true, and what portion are embellishments of time?

Over the years, Museum staff have collected these rumors. In preparation for this exhibition, Kaia Michaelis, Landon Wilkey, and Christian Knudson researched selected stories to see if the truth could be found. In many cases, available historical resources were sparse. In some cases, the legend at issue doesn't appear in the historical resources, so researchers investigated what was known - for instance, after failing to find cholera outbreaks, researchers examined the smallpox outbreaks that are recorded, to see if they might shed any light on the subject.

Research for this exhibition did not uncover an infallible truth for several of the more complex stories that were probed. In some cases, we may never know the absolute truth. It also remains a mystery how some of these myths came to be.

Jennifer Hill also assisted with the exhibition.