New metalwork statues at Iron Springs Resort depict key figures in area’s history

Detail of "Spanish Explorer: 1776 Pathfinder Father Escalante," one of five iron sculptures by artist Jacob Dean, dedicated at Iron Springs Resort, Cedar City, Utah, March 16, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Approximately 250 people gathered at Iron Springs Resort west of Cedar City Saturday to celebrate the official dedication of a collection of five iron statues representing important people in the area’s history.

Attendees view “Spanish Explorer: 1776 Pathfinder Father Escalante,” one of five iron sculptures by artist Jacob Dean, dedicated at Iron Springs Resort, Cedar City, Utah, March 16, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Iron Springs Resort owner and developer Frank Nichols welcomed the audience and gave brief remarks before he introduced the speakers that had been selected to talk about the metalwork sculptures and what they represent. As the ceremony went on, the crowd moved up the road from statue to statue, following a chronological timeline.

The collection is titled “They Came This Way,” with each of the five life-size statues embodying a person from a different period in history. The statues, all welded and fabricated from iron, are the work of Cedar City artist and sculptor Jacob Dean.

“The first trails that were here were wildlife trails, and the people were smart enough follow the wildlife trails to find how to get wherever they went,” Nichols said, adding that the area has long been teeming with wildlife and lush vegetation. “It was virtually an oasis in this desert land that we have.”

The idea of following a path or trail was a common theme as each of the pieces was introduced and described. Whether they were merely travelers passing through or residents who lived and worked in the area, the people depicted in the sculptures all share a common legacy that spans many generations, Nichols said.

The first statue, titled “Protector and Provider,” depicts a Native American wearing a loincloth and carrying a bow and arrow.

Detail of “Native American: Protector and Provider,” one of five iron sculptures by artist Jacob Dean, dedicated at Iron Springs Resort, Cedar City, Utah, March 16, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Paiute Tribe Cultural Resources Director Dorena Martineau said the statue typifies the lifestyle of the early Native Americans who knew how to hunt and live using the natural resources in their environment. She also referred to the petroglyphs found in the area and said they are like a library of Native American history.

“We’ve lost the knowledge of how to read some of it, although there are still some things that we do understand,” she said.

“We’re so glad to see something like this out here representing the Native Americans here in this area,” Martineau added.

The second statue depicts the famed Franciscan priest Father Escalante holding a map. Escalante and others in his expedition passed through the area in 1776 while searching for an overland route from New Mexico to California.

During his remarks, Father Adrian Komar of the Christ the King Catholic Church in Cedar City said he was struck by the emotion the statue seems to convey.

Looking at the statue of Escalante, Komar said you can’t help but think of “the real man.”

“It was someone who was traveling, who didn’t have a car like we have today, who didn’t have much with him.”

“We appreciate that someone came here, that someone would prepare the space for us so we can live as we live now,” said Komar, who then offered a brief prayer blessing and dedicating the statue.

Detail of “Pioneer Woman: Ellen Johnson Nelson,” one of five iron sculptures by artist Jacob Dean, dedicated at Iron Springs Resort, Cedar City, Utah, March 16, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The third statue is of a pioneer woman wearing a bonnet and clutching a wrapped-up baby in her arms. It also represents an actual person, Ellen Johnson Nelson, who, along with her future husband Bengt Nelson, emigrated to America from Sweden in 1854, then crossed the plains from Kansas to Utah with one of the Mormon pioneer companies in 1856.

Darrell Kruger, president of the local Sons of Utah Pioneers chapter and a descendant of the Nelsons, read excerpts from Ellen Nelson’s life sketch and journal, including descriptions of the hardships endured during their travels and after they’d settled in Utah. “We are not very pleasantly surrounded,” he said, quoting from his great-great-great grandmother’s journal as she described how they first lived in a makeshift dugout surrounded by willows along the banks of a creek in the wintertime.

The fourth sculpture, titled “Iron Miner: 20th Century Mineral Warrior,” depicts an iron mine worker wearing a hard hat and clutching a lunchbox in his well-worn hands.

Roy Benson, a retired U.S. Steel miner, said the local iron mines employed approximately 200 people at their busiest time, which was around World War II. But even after the war, there continued to be a healthy market for iron and steel. Ken Humphreys, another longtime miner, said when his father first came to Cedar City to work in the mine, he was told the job would probably last six months to a year.

“Thirty-eight years after that, my dad retired, so it was good,” Humphreys said.

The fifth and final statue, titled “Sheep Rancher: Keeper of the Flock: Essential Servant,” depicts a sheep rancher wearing a cowboy hat and carrying a small lamb in each hand as his trusty canine companion follows at his side.

In his remarks about the statue, Craig Jones of the Cedar Livestock Association first shared some statistics about the numbers of sheep, hogs and cattle being raised in Iron County today, versus a century ago, and how farming and livestock ranching still plays a vital role in the area’s economy.

Jones said he hoped the statues will serve as symbolic reminders of that heritage.

“I have to take my hat off to (Frank and Celestia) Nichols for the investment they put in,” he said, “because these symbols, these statutes, will remind us far beyond our words and thoughts here today, the importance of our heritage.”

Cedar City sculptor Jacob Dean, Iron Springs Resort, Cedar City, Utah, March 16, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I dedicate this statute and this place as a memorial to our pioneer ancestors who settled this area,” Jones said, referring to their faith, hope and determination. “Secondly, I dedicate this statute to the families and generations that follow, who have dedicated their lives to preserving and improving the livestock business in our community and area and to the many friends and supporters who help us stay in our businesses and our quality of life.”

“Thirdly, I dedicate this statute that it will always represent the sacrifices, the dedication and love that the Nichols family have, for the rich heritage of this area and his people. May we all remember the price we owe to them and all those who have gone before us and look to them for a pattern to follow into the future. These statutes will symbolize their dedication far beyond our thoughts and words today.”

Brief remarks were also given by the sculptor Dean, who told the audience he spent hundreds of hours welding, shaping, grinding and smoothing each of the pieces. Dean said he deliberately used a Greek style known as Polykleitos, which he explained shifts one side of the body up and the other side down, so they make a sort of a triple-S curve. The result is a more naturally balanced and relaxed pose, he said.

“As you look at the posing, check out the deliberate nature of that attempt to imitate the greats in that Neoclassical Era,” Dean told the audience. “You may judge to what degree I succeeded or not, but that was my attempt.”

Following the hourlong dedication ceremonies, a public reception was held at the Iron Springs Resort building across the street. Guests enjoyed refreshments and music and had the opportunity to purchase historical books and tour the new resort, which has been built on the site of the former iron mine, repurposing several of its old buildings.

Pastor Robert Sharp of Trinity Lutheran Church gave a final dedicatory prayer and a blessing on the statues and those they are designed to inspire.

Iron Springs Resort is located at 3196 Iron Springs Road, Cedar City (click here for map). The statues themselves are a short distance from the main resort building, just to the south and on the other side of the road.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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