Icelandic Monument, Spanish Fork, Utah, USA

The original Icelandic monument. The 'Wall of Honor' listing the original 410 Icelandic Saints can be seen behind it. Photo courtesy Derek J. Tangren
The original Icelandic monument. The ‘Wall of Honor’ listing the original 410 Icelandic Saints can be seen behind it.
Photo courtesy Derek J. Tangren

The first Icelandic emigrants to come to the United States were converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and arrived in Salt Lake City on September 7, 1855.1 Between 1855 and 1914, 410 Icelanders immigrated to Utah, the majority of whom settled in Spanish Fork, Utah, approximately 50 miles south of Salt Lake City. Several emigrants returned to Iceland as missionaries until 1914 when the Iceland mission was closed due to the outbreak of World War I.

On August 1, 1938, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and the Icelandic Association of Utah dedicated a lighthouse monument commemorating the first permanent Icelandic settlement in the United States. The lighthouse is a replica of an Icelandic lighthouse and contains a viking ship on top with the 16 original Icelandic immigrants’ names etched into the monument.

In June 2005, additions were made to the small park where the lighthouse had resided for more than 65 years. An additional monument, listing the names of the 410 Icelandic emigrants who came to Utah was erected, a one-ton rock from the Westmann Islands in Iceland was brought and mounted, and several plaques telling the history of Icelandic pioneers coming to Utah were added. The “Wall of Honor” lists the names in both English and Icelandic and is similar to a monument erected in Iceland in 2000 where the first baptisms took place. President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, traveled to Spanish Fork for the commemoration and the monument was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Additionally, each year members of the Icelandic Association of Utah sponsor Iceland Days in Spanish Fork. For a time, it included a parade with floats designed by descendants of early Icelanders. The influence of those early pioneers continues to be felt in the community still today.


SOURCES

 

1 Fred E. Woods, Fire on Ice: The Story of Icelandic Latter-day Saints at Home and Abroad, (Religious Studies Center: Brigham Young University, 2005), 31.

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Articles & Resources

Guðmundur Guðmundsson's Account of accepting and preaching the gospel

Author(s): Guðmundur Guðmundsson
Type: First-person account
Source(s): Fred E. Woods, Fire on Ice: The Story of Icelandic Latter-day Saints at Home and Abroad, (Religious Studies Center: Brigham Young University, 2005), 14-15.

Having found the fruits of the gospel more sweet and desirable than any other fruit, I expected that every person would believe my testimony, especially my own relatives, but alas, when I arrived in Iceland I preached to…

Þorsteinn Jónsson's Account of Early Spanish Fork

Author(s): Þorsteinn Jónsson
Type: First-person account
Source(s): Fred E. Woods, Fire on Ice: The Story of Icelandic Latter-day Saints at Home and Abroad, (Religious Studies Center: Brigham Young University, 2005), 61-62.

There are close to four thousand inhabitants in this little town. I don’t know what it was when I arrived, but there were not a hundred Icelanders, but now there are 150 Icelandic persons and a few…

Icelandic Association of Utah Website

Kate B. Carter, comp., “The First Icelandic Settlement in America,” Our Pioneer Heritage, 1964, Vol. 7, 477-556.

Kate B. Carter, “The Gospel in Iceland,” Improvement Era, February 1951, Vol. 54, 88-90.

Janet Thomas, “Land of Fire and Ice,” Liahona, December 1996, 43.

John Thurgeirson, “History of the Nations: Iceland,” Juvenile Instructor, January 1, 1900, January 15, 1900, Vol. 35, 44-45

Fred E. Woods, “Fire on Ice: The Conversion and Life of Gumundar Gumundsson,” BYU Studies, 2000, Vol. 39, No. 22, 56-72.

Fred E. Woods, Fire on Ice: The Story of Icelandic Latter-day Saints at Home and Abroad, (Religious Studies Center: Brigham Young University, 2005).

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