When Brigham Young made the decision sometime before 1857 to use granite - rather than red sandstone - to build the great temple, the expense was severe.
The cost multiplied. Just for starters, the wooden railway that had been constructed to bring sandstone from Red Butte Canyon, less than four miles east, was of no use for the temple.
The best granite had been located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, some 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Transporting this heavier stone from the canyon to Temple Block proved to be a major challenge for the pioneers.
To meet the challenge, Brigham Young assessed each ward a certain number of wagons and teamsters, or a certain number of wagonloads of stone. Similar assessments were issued for quarry and temple site workers. Cash donations were also solicited.
All stones had to be hauled by wagon. First, the stones were rolled on log rollers to a loading trench. Then the stones were slid onto flat wagons waiting in the trench. An unloading trench was dug at the Temple Block.
The heaviest, three-ton stones were suspended beneath the wagons. This was accomplished by driving a wagon over a stone, straddling it. Workers dug holes beneath the wheels to lower the wagon until the stone touched timbers chained beneath the wagons. The stone was then chained to the timbers and hauled out. Pulling the stone, four yoke of oxen plodded over ravines, through sand pits and through stream beds. After two days, the load would arrive at the Temple Block.
Wagons frequently broke down under the tremendous strain. Freighters had one wagon doing nothing but handling breakdowns and road repairs. Later, heavy freight wagons, probably obtained from Johnston's army surplus, proved a blessing. Breakdowns dwindled sharply.
During this period from 1860-1872, a canal was dug for an estimated $169,000 from the mouth of the canyon across the east bench to City Creek with the idea of boating some stones to the Temple Block. Upon completion, the canal was found to have a porous bed. Lamented Brigham Young, "it would not hold water."
Other canals were started and some stones were boated to Temple Block. But before the canal system was completed, the railway was connected and a line extended to Little Cottonwood Canyon. With its cranes, the railroad regularly hauled 30 tons of granite a day, a reward to the pioneers' persistence. - John L. Hart
(Another in a series leading to the centennial of the Salt Lake Temple on April 6, 1993. Illustration by Deseret News artist Reed McGregor.)