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Utah Centennial Studies

 


Philanthropists: Servants Of The Community Packet A

 

Thomas Duncombe Dee

Native of England
Thomas Duncombe Dee was born in Llanelly, Carmarthenshire, South Wales, on November 10, 1844. His father, who was a potter, and his mother became converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and emigrated to the United States in 1850. They sailed across the Atlantic, landed in New York City, and then made their way by railroad and ox-drawn wagons to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, a staging point for Mormon pioneers bound for Utah.

In 1860, they made the long trip, with the John Ross Company, from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City, with 16-year-old Thomas driving an ox cart.

Another caravan crossed the plains that same year. Among its members was the family of John Taylor, including his eight-year-old daughter, Annie. She was born November 4, 1852 in Lostock Graylam, Chestershire, England.

Crossing the Plains
In her later years, Annie was to write, in a slim little leather-bound volume, about that trip.

"Our family left Iowa before Lincoln was elected President of the United States. "On the 24th of May, 1860, we started for the West with an ox team. Our wagon was built with side boards to make it as roomy as possible. There were thirteen in the family. My father and mother loaded the wagon with clothing, bedding and all the food supplies possible for the journey.

"We traveled along, walking most of the way. If any member of the family did not feel well or was too tired, that person rode a while; but otherwise all walked most of the way to Utah. We were glad at night when it was time to camp, but were always eager to start again in the morning. At noon, stopped a while for lunch. For the noon meal we did not make fires or unpack more than was necessary. We always tried to stop near water. Our family had two cows, and our lunch generally consisted of bread and milk or something easily served. I have never cared for bread and milk since that time."

Annie's father was a tailor and set up his Salt Lake City shop on Main Street, just a few doors from South Temple. Here he made clothing, mostly for officers at Fort Douglas, who furnished their own materials. As she grew older, Annie helped in the shop with the sewing.

A beautiful and talented girl, Annie sang in the Tabernacle Choir and played some small roles in the Salt Lake Theater. She recalled that the theater had a dirt floor and the audience sat on benches. The house was lit with tallow candles with tin reflectors, hung against the wall.

On April 10,1871, Annie Taylor and Thomas Dee were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, and came to Ogden to live. Their first home in Ogden was a two-room adobe house on 22nd Street near Wall Avenue. After the birth of a son, Thomas Reese, and three daughters - Maude, Elizabeth, and Margaret -they found the house too small and moved "out into the country" on Washington Boulevard at 8th Street. This became the family home and three more girls - Edith, Florence and Rosabelle - and a boy, Lawrence, were born there.

Carpenter by Trade
Thomas was energetic, industrious, sound of judgment and had a great desire to succeed in whatever he was doing. He followed the carpenter's trade, which he had learned as a youth in Wales, and became interested in many business activities and civic enterprises.

The happy family was struck by tragedy in 1894, when the oldest son, Thomas Reese, then 21, became ill. His illness was diagnosed as "inflammation of the bowel," and the first appendectomy was performed in Ogden on the family s dining room table in an effort to save his life. However, the appendix had ruptured, and he died shortly after.

This tragedy left a lasting impression on his mother and she determined to do something, if possible, to help the sick.

Self-Educated
Thomas Dee was a self-educated man, with less than two years of formal schooling. Hungry for knowledge, he assembled a large library and taught himself through reading.

At various times, he served as president of Ogden's first library, as assessor and tax collector, city councilman and police court judge. He was associated with the Ogden School Board for 35 years, serving as president for eight years. He was appointed to the State Board of Equalization and was a member of the State Tax Commission for a number of years.

With a friend, David Eccles, he became interested in the lumber business at Baker, Oregon.

This profitable business still survives as Anderson Lumber Company. He and Mr. Eccles originated the Ogden Sugar Company, and later, the Logan Sugar Company. These two businesses became the nucleus of the Amalgamated Sugar Company. He was active in the First National Bank and the Ogden Savings Bank, now First Security Corporation.

In 1900, he organized and became the first president of Utah Construction Company, predecessor of Utah Construction and Mining Company, later Utah International, an organization with world-wide activities. He continued as president of the company until his death.

Church Man
He did not neglect his LDS Church duties, serving as Counselor in the Mound Fort Bishopric and Superintendent of the Sunday School.

In the early 1900's, Thomas Dee became interested in the Ogden City Water Works. It was owned by "Eastern capitalists," as they were called, who gave little local service, and it had fallen into a state of disrepair. When it went into receivership, Mr. Dee, Mr. Eccles and some other associates purchased the entire system for $1 at the bankruptcy sale. They planned to restore the system and turn it over to the city. This plan was carried out and, eventually, Ogden City purchased the water system, paying only the amount invested in the restoration.

In July, 1905, Mr. Dee and some of his associates in the water company went to South Fork Canyon to survey the possibilities of an additional water supply. Mr. Dee fell into the river and became chilled. By the time the party returned home he had pneumonia. Once again, Annie Dee watched one of her loved ones suffer. He died July 9,1905, at the age of 61.

Funeral In Tabernacle
Mr. Dee's funeral, held in the Ogden Tabernacle, was attended by a capacity crowd. Schools were dismissed for the day because of his interest in education, and children lined the streets leading to the Tabernacle.

Mrs. Dee, mourning the death of her husband and remembering her eldest son's death following the surgery performed on her dining room table, enlisted the help of her children and announced her intention to build a hospital as a memorial to her late husband.

In the words of her eldest daughter, Maude Dee Porter, "This was a field entirely outside our knowledge or experience, but we made up for that in our sincerity of purpose."

Advisor to the family on the undertaking was Dr. Robert S. Joyce, the 6-foot, 4-inch railroad physician who was like a son to Thomas and Annie Dee.

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