Saturday, October 31, 2009

Once Upon A Time

It is hard to imagine the beautiful City of Price as a tough western community. Nothing in the present city gives you the image of gunslingers, outlaws, saloons or roughian. The town is quiet and quaint. I can easily see why visitors and historians disregard the town as John Fitzgerald's inspiration. On a cursory look it is impossible to see. But historic photographs and a bit of driving show the truth. The above photo hangs in the Western Mining and Railroad Museum in Helper Utah. The marquee dates the image. Putting it closer to the era when J.D. was alive. His sister Isabelle wrote that at that time Papa owned
"3 buildings known as The Fitzgerald Block. He rented one for Meat Market and Grocery Store, one for a Cafe and had his Saloon and Pool Hall in one."

From 1896 to 1904 Thomas Fitzgerald, Sr. or Fitz, as his friends called him, ran the Fitzgerald & Co. Saloon and billiard hall. In 1904 the Eastern Utah Advocate, the local paper records:
"Thomas Fitzgerald has dedicated his saloon the White House since giving the building a fresh coat of paint."
J.D. clearly knew the life on the other side of the tracks. The stories his dad brought home as well as other reknown events easily shape themselves into his work.

That hard side of life remained with Price for many years. Butch Cassidy and his gang hung out there. Other less infamous to us outlaws rode through town. It would be the story of death of well known western outlaw, C.L. "Gunplay" Maxwell, that became the basis for the Laredo Kid in "Papa Married a Mormon."

Two events ended Fitzgerald's connection with the lawless west. The first was a fire that burned his saloon, the second was his election to the city council. Price however, retained it's wet image. One of Butch Cassidy's gang, Matt Warner, a Price resident purchased a saloon long after the hey-dey was done. History books and newspapers record western town life existing in certain forms up until WWI.

If you ever visit Price, you can drive over the railroad tracks, heading south, turn right and drive till you run out of road.
Still painted on the sides of a few standing buildings are the remnants of days gone by. One building still retains the facade front made famous by old western towns.

Monday, October 26, 2009

John Dennis Fitzgerald's children

In an interview Fitzgerald gave toward the end of his life he stated that every child who read his books was his child.

John married a wonderful woman name Joanne. They had a long and happy life together, but no children. John and Joanne were a fantastic uncle and aunt to John's nieces and nephews. Nearly every Great Brain book is dedicated to one or more of his nieces and nephews.

I was only able to locate one nephew during my research. We wrote a couple of times. As the years went by the family lost touch with other, even today I cannot locate the other cousins who might fill in more of the later story.

One of my readers asked if he could write a note of gratitude to any remaining children, since your children are his children, wrap them in a bug hug and give them a kiss for reading the stories he left as his legacy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I've tried to decide what direction to run the blog from. Do I do it from chronological order as I experienced it, break it down according to Fitzgerald's books, or post from reader input.

So tonight I'm going to answer reader questions. I was asked why Adenville was not on the map.

Adenville is found only in the map of John Dennis Fitzgerald's mind. The reason it feels so real to us is because of his skill in creating it based on the towns up and down Utah. The state is covered in 'villes'. Adamsville, Taylorsville, Snowville. Beyond name uniqueness alone, Fitzgerald also created for his readers a history for the naming of Adenville. This history of naming is mirrored in his own hometowns name of Price. Price was named after a Bishop William Price, an early discoverer of the area. Other Utah towns carry similar histories.

When I began researching the history of Fitzgeralds work I ran into multiple historians who said that Adenville and it's literary neighbor were based on the mining town of SilverReef and Leeds.
Even some relatives gave that credit. After visiting Price I disagree. Price in it's early days was easily Adenville and Silverlode in one. The dividing line was the train tracks. The photographs posted on my website of the saloons is taken in 1900 in Price, Utah. Though I briefly describe it, Price had a deeply lawless side living side by side with saints from multiple denominations.

So if you want to visit Adenville, head to Price. The Advenville side of life still resides there in full measure. The deep gulley's that were dug by the pioneers still exist. Many of the original homes are happily occupied, but you can almost feel time roll back as you walk on the sidewalks under the shade of the trees. And the ditch, it's there, too.

The remnants of Silverlode are fewer. Mostly found in archival pictures. You can see some great ones at the Western Mining Museum in the next door town of Helper. One small piece of the oldest days exist in a small, forlorn cemetery in the southwest corner of the town. If you drive south over the railroad tracks, turn right and drive till you run out of road you will find a dingy, dirt laden cemetery from a time long ago.

If you get a chance take a visit to Price. You won't be disappointed. Stop by the city cemetery and leave a thought with Papa and Mamma. We have these stories because of them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Start of the Journey

My mom read me the first Great Brain book. We had a tradition of family reading. During the summer of my sixth grade year we went on a camping trip. While dad set up the tent or cooked, Mom read to us from a book she was given at a book fair. My brother and I loved it. That night my brother and I went to play by a drying creek bed. I couldn't get the story out of my mind.

As I stood staring into the receding water I kept thinking of my dad's childhood. He had grown up in Dixie Utah. The third boy in his family. As a family they lived on a farm, bailed hay, delivered milk, and ate delicious homemade bread. From a sixth graders point of view the stories were very similar.

Over the years my brother and I would re-read the Great Brain Series. One afternoon I read the back of one of the books it mentioned that John Dennis Fitzgerald had written a story about his parents, Papa Married a Mormon. I wanted to read more about this delightful family. Eager to find it Mom and I went searching. In the 1970's there were no Barnes and Noble, no Amazon, or internet. No bookshop had never heard of it. The two local libraries were the same. I assumed it would be the story I would never get to read. Thirty years later my luck changed. When my husband found it on a ebay auction.

I had hoped for a good story. I was not disappointed. What I hadn't expected was a fantastic research experience. So many discoveries, but one of the best was finding an unexpected link to my dad's hometown life.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


HI! Thanks for dropping by. I never imagined I would have blog site. I've loved reading friends and families sites, but couldn't find a reason to write one of my own then I read an article about writers who create websites or blogs about their work i.e. Julie/Julia. Then I realized what I could do with my favorite project - John Dennis Fitzgerald research - I could blog about it. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it. Stop by often. Comment, too. And visit my website, Have fun.