Discovering Great Mormon Buildings

Washakie Ward Exterior

Repeated conflicts between the Native Shoshoni Indians settled near the Bear River and the local militia led to a treaty in 1863 that forever changed the lifestyle of the Shoshoni. As a result, the LDS Church decided to set up a community named Washakie near the Utah/Idaho border in 1880 in order to teach “white” farming techniques and to help integrate the Shoshoni into both American and Mormon society. Using missionaries to direct this effort, by 1886, 250 inhabitants lived here year-round, owning their property in common and maintaining their farms and homesteads.

Construction on the small Washakie Ward Chapel began in 1937 and sits in the middle of a large fenced lot. Dedicated on January 22, 1939, the building served this local Shoshoni farming settlement that consisted of about 125 LDS members by this time. Upon completion of the building, the first all-Native American Indian bishopric in the Church was installed to lead the ward with Moroni Timbimboo as Bishop. Out-migration from the community began with WWII and continued until 1960 when the Ward was downgraded to a Branch. In 1966 the congregation was completely discontinued and the building and property were sold. Not just the LDS chapel, but the entire community project was abandoned at this time, with all the remaining families evicted and all 184 acres of property either returned to the tribe or sold. The small brick chapel is the most significant of only a few remaining structures from this community that remains. In 1998 the building, still vacant and in disrepair, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

*Source of information obtained from National Register Nomination Form

Box Elder County
Washakie, UT
Architect: Edward O Anderson (probable)
Built 1937-39; Sold 1966; Currently vacant
National Register of Historic Places
Map Location of Building

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4 responses

  1. Sarah

    Wow, that’s quite interesting. My husband, brother, and I love exploring abandoned places, I’m adding this to the list for sure! Can you get close enough to look inside?

    December 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    • It’s a great little building. The gate was open so I was able to walk around the entire building to get pictures. While the door was locked, a window was broken which allowed me to at least look into what used to be the Chapel. Surprisingly, the pews were still in there!

      December 29, 2011 at 9:30 pm

  2. Davis Didjeridu

    There’s another side to the end of the Washakie story, told through KUED’s We Shall Remain documentary on the Northwest Shoshone. “THE
    CHURCH DECIDED TO SELL THE LAND AND ORDERED THE BUILDINGS TORCHED. SOME OF THE HOMES WERE EMPTY, BUT OTHERS WERE FILLED WITH PERSONAL BELONGINGS, SCRAPBOOKS, AND PHOTOGRAPHS. WHEN PEOPLE RETURNED TO WASHAKIE THEY FOUND THEIR BELONGINGS TURNED TO ASHES.” Here’s the transcript: http://www.kued.org/productions/weshallremain/nwShoshone/transcripts
    It’s a sad chapter in Utah, Native American, and LDS history.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    • Thank you for sharing this, Davis. That is very sad, indeed.

      January 7, 2012 at 11:29 am

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