Marion Cox would like nothing more than to honor his great-grandparents with a statue near the site of their ancestral home.
The 92-year-old retired carpenter is a direct descendant of Jehu and Sarah Cox, early Mormon pioneers who immigrated to Utah in 1848 and eventually settled in the area now occupied by the Family Center at Fort Union in Midvale.
In 1849, Brigham Young ordered a fort to be built in the area to protect farmers from what was then perceived to be a threat from the American Indians nearby. Jehu Cox and his wife donated 10 acres of their 40-acre farm for what would become Union Fort. The threat never materialized and the Union Fort was never completed, although three of the four walls that were erected were 12 feet high and 6 feet wide at the bottom.
"They agreed to donate the land provided their home was inside the fort," said Cox, who is known fondly in the community as the honorary mayor of Fort Union."They deserve to be recognized for their generosity and the role they played in settling this area."
Cox said he would like a life-size bronze statue of his great-grandparents seated together on a bench. And he believes the perfect place for the memorial is on a small plot of land owned by Salt Lake County, adjacent to a replica of Jehu and Sarah's adobe home, that now sits within the boundaries of the Family Center shopping complex.
"I would like to have a statue there surrounded by flowers," Cox said. "It would be someplace where people could come and sit and enjoy the outdoors."
Midvale and Salt Lake County officials said they are sympathetic to Cox and applaud his effort to honor his ancestors, but they question whether the parcel of property where he wants to place the statue would be suitable for a small park given the traffic generated by the Family Center.
"It is a wonderful ambition," said Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini. "We've suggested some other options for him perhaps placing a three-dimensional molding of his grandparents' faces on a wall erected on the nearby corner where Rocky Mountain Power has some property. We talked to the company and they were supportive of the idea."
But Cox is insistent that a statue placed near the replica of Jehu and Sarah's home would be a more appropriate way to honor his predecessors. "There could be flowers everywhere," he said.
David Wilde, chairman of the Salt Lake County Council, said one of the big problems that Cox faces is that he does not yet have to money to cover the cost of any size memorial statue. The full-size bronze he envisions could cost upward of $50,000. And without Cox having that kind of money in hand, the county doesn't feel it needs to move forward and deal with the disposition of that property.
"We're rooting for him, but as far as the county coming up with a sizable amount of money for him, we're just not going to be able to do it," he said.
"We all need to remember and honor our pioneer heritage," he said. "I'm going to keep fighting for this."
Fundraiser for memorial