Bernice Gibbs Anderson, Mother of the Golden Spike

Bernice Gibbs Anderson campaigning for Golden Spike National Monument

Bernice Anderson was instrumental in the establishment of Golden Spike National Historic Site. She gave birth to the idea that this isolated and unpopulated area known as Promontory Summit should be set aside and preserved to commemorate the completion of the nation's first transcontinental railroad. This site would be the perfect place to memorialize those who built the railroad, and its importance it made to the history of the Western United States.

She was born August 5, 1900, living the majority of her life in nearby Corinne, Utah. In 1918, she married Laron G. Anderson. Along with raising six children, she worked as a correspondent and Staff Writer for the Salt Lake Tribune. Her historic articles and poetry were published in local and national papers and anthologies.

Bernice used her literary skills to accomplish her goal of making Promontory a National Historic Monument. Letters and invitations were sent U.S. Congressmen, U.S. Presidents and Park Service Officials in hopes that they would come to recognize the importance of the site.

On May 10th, 1952, the Golden Spike Association began holding annual reenactment ceremonies at the site. As president, Mrs. Anderson played a major role in the organization and presentation of the reenactments.

Bernice Gibbs Anderson stated, "It is the most neglected historical spot in our land. Some of the visitors I have directed to Promontory Summit to see the site have been greatly disappointed that the spot is not taken care of. In Northern Utah, a little valley sleeps quietly in the sun on top of a low mountain range. In its center, a lonely cement pyramid marks one of the most famous spots in America, the site of the Driving of the Golden Spike signifying the completion of the first transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869."

Bernice Gibbs Anderson, while speaking at the last spike site, in February 1954 said, "As to why the Government, which owes so much to this spot and the National Park Service, are not interested in doing more to preserve it and promote it, there seems to be no answer, at least not acceptable to me.... or to the tourist. At least half of the thousands who went there in one year asked 'Why hasn't this spot been made a National Monument?' And others asked 'What! No beer?' Others complained about the lack of directional signs in the area, and one man commented that he could build a monument in his back yard that was better than the one on the site. Grant him that!"

At the 1957 anniversary celebration, Bernice declared "This is sacred soil, dedicated to the sacrifices of the thousands who labored in the great race to build the first transcontinental railway in the shortest possible time. It is because of their struggle that this flag of freedom flies over this spot today. The destiny of this nation rode triumphant upon the rails that met at Promontory Station! The future of this site depends upon you, my friends. Will it take its rightful place in the heritage and traditions of America, preserved and protected by a grateful Government, or will it remain desolate and forgotten to sink into oblivion."

Finally on July 30, 1965, Promontory Summit was declared a National Historic Site. The site has been redesignated a National Historical Park as of 2019.
The end of the trail,
Its mystery gone,
Is featured so often
In story and song;
But as long as the lure
Of the unknown will be,
Its beginnings of trails
That appeal to me!
B.G. Anderson

Last updated: August 13, 2023

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