The Bingham City (Utah) Cemetery
by Brad Jencks
What started out as a 100 hour Eagle Scout project evolved into a labor of love that currently has logged in over 6,000 hours with help from community volunteers. Brad Jenks is no ordinary teenager. He has helped to take a 'ghost town' cemetery, Bingham City Cemetery, and turn it into a cemetery that honors and respects those who are buried therein. He has not only documented the interments found there but has also replaced broken headstones and researched some of the inhabitants. His efforts can be found at the website, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~utsaltla/Cemeteries/Bingham/
Brad is a recent high school graduate who says that he loves to research his ancestors. "My second great-grandparents are buried at Bingham City Cemetery, where I did my service. I found them along with five previously unknown babies. Ever since I was six years old, I have longed to do something to help. When the opportunity came for me to perform my Eagle Scout project, I jumped right in without hesitation."**
My school district inherited a ghost town cemetery with burials from 38 states and 30 nations. I organized 2,000+ volunteers over five years who restored, replaced and preserved grave markers, proved 1,100 unknown burials, authored a 1,500 page historical cemetery book, a military war hero book, installed a wall of honor for 1,825 burials, an information center, new fence, road, and a granite military monument honoring veterans from six wars.
This began with a proposed 100 hour Eagle Scout service project. After 2,790 man hours, I obtained the rank of Eagle Scout. From there, the service has been ongoing for the past five years and has now surpassed 6,000 hours. I worked with and led teams of volunteers from Boy Scout troops, National Youth Leadership, Girl Scouts, 4-H, students from four schools, Jordan School District Auxiliary Staff, The American Legion, The United Veterans Council, The History Channel, Roots Television, RootsWeb, USGenWeb, The National Federation of Genealogical Societies Youth Committee, Daughters of The American Revolution, Civil War Grave Registry Officers, Bingham Canyon Lions Club, The Utah State Historical Society, private businesses, and hundreds of volunteers ages 7-94 years.
Four Boy Scout troops helped me take a GPS reading and photograph of every headstone and burial. We hand recorded all information that we could read. Next I obtained an aerial photograph of the cemetery and made a map. My team helped place 2,400 flyers on gravesites and we involved the news media, requesting more information about the many unknown burials.
I have spent the past five years at the cemetery each Memorial Day weekend interviewing all visitors for information. My team and I also conduct international interviews via email. I co-created a database that reconstructed records lost by fire, flood, deterioration and vandalism. Teams of students from four schools helped search old books, newspapers, 157 rolls/53,000 names on microfilm to find burial records. We repaired vandalism caused by devil worshippers. I made DVDs and amateur videos for The History Channel and Roots Television. This brought greater publicity to my project. Over the course of many years, scout troops, 4-H, Bingham High football team and others helped me install new headstones. Recently the Veterans Administration granted me the okay and all damaged or unreadable military headstones were replaced after years of extensive research. A formal military dedication took place, honoring those who risked their lives for us, our freedom and our nation. I also learned to decipher several new languages about the many immigrant graves. The challenges were many but each obstacle was met through the generosity of the community.
This project has taught me what it means to have complete respect for people of all nationalities. I have a greater appreciation toward people of all races, creeds and economic statuses. I esteem those who risked their lives for our country. This has brought my family and community together in a cause greater than self. A school service club was formed as result of this, plus I've spoken at a number of school assemblies motivating service. Now a school district can use tax payers' money on education instead of cemetery issues. I made a historical brochure and educational walking tour for this ghost town cemetery. I teach lessons from tragic deaths resulting from drugs, alcohol, violence, rape, lack of medical care, and problems associated with past prejudice. These lessons change lives. I created a job for myself as International Research Correspondent and lead a four member team responding to inquiries helping people from distant lands receive answers to what happened when letters to home stopped. "Connecting Families Across The Globe" remains my lifelong hobby and endeavor!
**A full list of what Brad and his volunteers have done for the Bingham City Cemetery can be found at the website for the cemetery at http://tinyurl.com/lqxd58
. Brad can also be contacted through email at firstname.lastname@example.org
What does the future hold for Brad and the Bingham City Cemetery? Brad is working on a new project he calls Connecting Families Across the Globe. This project is an effort to connect living relatives of those buried at the Bingham City Cemetery from places like Finland, Australia, and Italy. He says, "It has been very rewarding to see what kind of impact a project like this can accomplish. I am very grateful for the things it has taught me. There is something special about working for our ancestors that brings a whole new meaning to service."**