It was a perfect day for a school field trip.
Sunny skies, a picnic and a fresh look at the new academic year made for an eager busload of history enthusiasts anxious for details about the Benson Grist Mill and Barrick Mercur Gold Mine.But it was 44 teachers, not students, asking questions and taking notes on a tour of historical sites that began in Salt Lake City and wound its way through Tooele, Stockton, Ophir and Mercur.
"Why'd somebody change the name of Buffalo Island to Antelope Island?" someone asks.
". . . and if Adobe Rock isn't made out of adobe, why is that what it's called?" queries another.
Armed with Polaroid cameras, literature and pamphlets that instructed, "It's TOO-WILL-AH, not Tool, Too-lee or Too-ill-ee," educators from along the Wasatch Front traveled to a series of sites in an effort to freshen their knowledge of local history and learn how to use newspapers in their classrooms.
Carlene Tuff listened carefully as a tour guide explained how millers turned wheat into flour at the renovated Benson Grist Mill, which pioneers built in 1854 and ran until 1938.
The fourth-grade teacher from Riverton's Southland Elementary School studied artifacts in a blacksmith's shop, pioneer cabin, outhouse and sheepherder's wagon, all moved from several Tooele County fields over the years and placed adjacent to the mill attraction located north of Stansbury Park on U-138.
"We're loving this," Tuff said of the tour. Many participating teachers knew little about the historical riches of Tooele County before a mini-presentation by Ed Dalton, president and chief officer of the National Energy Foundation, a tour sponsor.
He told how Lakepoint used to be called E.T. Town after the Ezra Taft Benson (grandfather of the late LDS Church president of the same name) who led 50 families to settle the area in the mid-1800s. He talked about how the owner of the old Clinton Beach Hotel first introduced buffalo to the area by shipping the huge animals from the East as a tourist attraction. He talked about how Adobe Rock gets its name from the small adobe house built in its shadow by a pioneer 100 years ago.
"Kids don't remember all the details," Dalton said. "They're going to respond more to the big picture stuff - reading about these things, writing about them and imagining how things were back then."
All details provide fodder for Tuff's Utah history classes. "I decided if I was going to teach it, I'd better know about it," said Tuff while climbing precarious steps to the third floor of the Benson Grist Mill.
Janet Parberry, a self-proclaimed history lover, read article after article about the 142-year life of the mill. "I just love this stuff," she said.
The Barrick Mercur Gold Mine Tour, sponsored by the National Energy Foundation, the Utah Mining Association, The Deseret News, the Oregon-Trails Association and the Utah Council for Social Studies, is one of six 10-hour tours in the Utah Centennial Series. The next will take place Oct. 14.