Truman O. Angell

Architect and Saint

Paul L. Anderson

Paul L. Anderson, “Truman O. Angell” Architect and Saint,” in Supporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1985), 133–73.

Paul L. Anderson was curator of historic sites and exhibitions with the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City when this was published. He received his BA from Stanford University and his Master of Architecture from Princeton University. He had published widely in Latter-day Saint periodicals and professional journals. His interest in Truman Angell relates to his training and interest in architectural history.

“I was called to be and act as Architect,” wrote Truman Osborne Angell in 1868, nearly twenty years after receiving that call from his brother-in-law Brigham Young. “In this,” he added, “I labored as hard as enny man could.” [1] The statement is an apt summary of his life. [2]

Like many others of his generation who embraced the Mormon faith, Truman Angell found that his religious commitment swept him along in a wave of history and carried him to places and tasks he would never have chosen for himself. A carpenter who preferred working with his hands to working with his head, he became, almost by default, the most important architect in pioneer Utah. His unwavering devotion to the Church and its leaders pushed him to accomplish things beyond his aspirations: his designs included some of early Utah’s major public buildings and the homes of many of its leading citizens, as well as Mormondom’s most important monument, the Salt Lake Temple. And like many of his contemporaries, Angell discovered that such achievements were purchased at an enormous physical and emotional price. In his fifty-five years as a Latter-day Saint, through persecution, sickness, poverty, disappointment, and frustration, he truly “labored as hard as enny man could.”

Truman was born on 5 June 1810 in North Providence, Rhode Island, the fifth child and third son of James W. and Phoebe Morton Angell, a working-class couple. [3] Both parents were descended from old New England families. The father’s ancestry included Thomas Angell, who came to America with Roger Williams and assisted in founding Rhode Island. His mother’s American genealogy went back further still to the Mayflower.

Truman’s life was hard almost from the start. His parents’ marriage was not a happy one. After prolonged “family difficulties,” James left the family when Truman was five or six years old. Phoebe struggled alone to support the seven children. Consequently, what schooling Truman got was in “winter schools,” which he apparently attended for only brief periods of time. James returned to the family when Truman was nine, but the boy was sent to live elsewhere shortly thereafter. Truman’s autobiography gives little detail about the next eight years, telling only that he continued to live in North Providence, visiting his parents’ home infrequently. Remembering his youth, he commented, “Having no father to restrain me, I pleased myself; and did many things I ought not.” [4]

At seventeen, Truman began to learn the trade of carpenter and joiner from a man in his family’s neighborhood. He continued working there until 1830 when he was twenty. The Providence area provided a stimulating environment for an ambitious young man in the building trade. Founded as a refuge for religious dissenters form the Puritan colonies, the city had grown to be New England’s second largest, an important center of international shipping and industry. Truman had ample opportunity to see fine examples of architecture and craftsmanship while learning his trade in this prosperous bustling city.

As Truman was completing his training as a carpenter, his thoughts turned to religion. This interest may have been encouraged by his older sister, Mary Ann, who was an enthusiastic Free-will Baptist. By his own account, his decision to become a Free-will Baptist was accompanied by a permanent change of heart. “From then on my mischievous life and shortcomings were laid aside; and I have ever since tried to do what was right; feeling that God required it.” [5]

His parents’ marital difficulties had persisted during the years Truman was growing up away from home. When Truman was twenty-one, he brought his mother to live with him “in consequence of the conduct of my father towards her.” [6] They lived together in North Providence until the next fall when they decided to move to China, Genessee County, New York, to be near her father and brothers and sisters. One factor in their decision to move may have been a visit from Truman’s cousin, Joseph Holbrook, whose family had moved to upstate New York a few years earlier. Joseph gave the Angells a glowing report of opportunities in that booming area along the Erie Canal. The Angell family’s move was completed in September 1832. Apparently, all the unmarried children and the father Joseph moved together. On 7 October of the same year Truman married Polly Johnson, a native of Genessee County.

Joseph Holbrook recorded that during the summer of 1832, before the Angells’ arrival in New York State, “many vague reports were circulated about a certain set of people who were called Mormonites.” [7] Not long after the Angells’ arrival, Mormon missionaries held a meeting in the China schoolhouse which Joseph Holbrook and Mary Ann Angell attended. Mary Ann had previously acquired a copy of the Book of Mormon and had circulated it among her family and friends. Another missionary visited the Angells a few weeks later. Both Phoebe’s father and her brother were alarmed at the family’s interest in this new religion and tried to discourage them from investigating further. However, Mary Ann joined the Mormons in December 1832. The next month Joseph and Phoebe accompanied her to a Mormon meeting in Warsaw, about twelve miles away, and both were baptized by the missionaries before returning home. Truman and Polly Angell met the same missionaries later that month and were also baptized. Five weeks later, Truman was ordained an elder.

In April 1833, Truman and Joseph Holbrook, still enthusiastic about their new faith, left on a mission of their own. Holbrook’s detailed account describes their travels in which they visited relatives and friends across New York and Massachusetts. [8] According to Holbrook’s account, he and Truman traveled twelve hundred miles in seven weeks, “held fourteen meetings, baptized three besides bearing testimony to hundreds in family.” [9]

In July, just a few weeks after Truman’s arrival home, he and Polly moved about forty-five miles east to Lima in Livingston County, New York. Truman’s mother remained behind in China with the rest of the family. That winter news of the expulsion of the Saints from Jackson County, Missouri, reached the Angells. In March 1834 Orson Pratt and others passed through recruiting volunteers to go to Missouri as part of Zion’s camp. Truman’s brother Solomon and cousin Joseph Holbrook volunteered. Truman considered going, but he was preparing for his first full season on his new farm and Polly was expecting their first child in May. Truman recalled,

My heart burned with anguish. I sent them a stand of arms, but my extremely low circumstances, and the council of Elder Orson Pratt and others, who were made acquainted with my situation prevented me from joining the “company” and going up myself to the rescue of the brethren. [10]

Truman remained on his farm where his daughter, Sara Jane, was born on 28 May 1834. He worked the farm two full seasons, and then, in the fall of 1835, took his family to gather with the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio.

As a carpenter, Truman Angell could hardly have come to Kirtland at a better time. He arrived on Saturday and attended a meeting in the unfinished temple the next morning. Most of the exterior masonry work was finished, but the inside carpentry was just beginning. The meeting was held “on a loose floor which had been arranged for carpenter benches, etc., the house was partly (perhaps two- thirds) filled, the people being seated on work benched and other things.” [11] He went to work with the team of carpenters and continued working through the temple dedication in 1836. Although Truman was a late arrival, his skills were recognized and he was placed in charge of finishing “the second, or middle wall of the Temple; including the strands.”[12] Since the middle wall of the building extended through the two major floors, this statement suggests that Angell had charge of building the elaborate pulpits and wood work on the east end of both major meeting rooms where the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood would sit. Like all the woodwork in the building, the east pulpits were crafted with great skill and precision, making use of a variety of Federal and Greek Revival style patterns. Interestingly, the carving on the window frame at the east end of the upper room is different from the other major windows, with graceful and delicate flowering vines weaving their way up both sides of the arch to a keystone carved with an urn holding another flower. It is possible that this window, sometimes called the Window Beautiful, represents an original contribution from Truman Angell’s imagination.

For Angell, however, the Kirtland Temple was more than an architectural achievement. His autobiography records several spiritual events that made a deep impression on the young carpenter. One of his descriptions of the building mixes the architectural with the spiritual: “The roof was supported by four trusses, which left us five rooms [in the attic]. In these same rooms the power of God was manifest to encourage us wonderfully.” [13] Angell received his “first Endowments” in these attic rooms prior to the dedication of the rest of the structure. [14] He was also present when Joseph Smith entered the building to discuss the seating arrangement with the “leading mechanic” or foreman, John Carl, a carriage builder. He recorded that the mechanic suggested a different arrangement than that proposed by Joseph. The Prophet insisted that his own plans be carried out and added that “he had seen the inside of every building that had been built unto the Lord upon this earth and he hated to have to say so.” [15]

Angell also reported an interview that took place between a carpenter named Rolph and Frederick G. Williams, one of the counselors to President Smith. The carpenter asked President Williams what he thought of the building. Frederick G. Williams answered, “It looks to me like the pattern precisely” and then related a vision he had shared with the other members of the Presidency:

Joseph received word of the Lord for him to take his two counsellors Williams and Rigdon and come before the Lord, and He would show them the plan or model of the House to be built. We went upon our knees, called on the Lord, and the Building appeared within viewing distance: I being the first to discover it. Then all of us viewed it together. After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us, and the Makeup of this Hall seemed to coincide with what I there saw to a minutia. [16]

Truman Angell’s conviction of the sacredness of the place and the inspiration of its design was further confirmed by experiences during and following the dedication of the structure. During the prayer of dedication, he shared “a sensation very elevation to the soul” [17] with other members of the congregation. Fredrick G. Williams rose following the prayer to testify that an angel had seated himself on the stand during the prayer; later that day the Prophet Joseph identified the angel as Peter who had come to accept the dedication. Some time after this occurrence, Truman himself saw two personages marching back and forth in the air in front of two attic windows like guards on sentry duty. Angell’s memory of this vision was vivid late in his life when he recalled that one of the angels “turned his face to me for an instant; but while they walked too and fro, but a side view was visable.” [18] Truman was not a man much given to visions and dreams. He records no other comparable spiritual manifestations in his journals and reminiscences, but these experiences confirmed a commitment to the Church and its leaders that would last a lifetime. In 1884 he added these experiences to his autobiography, “thinking it may do someone good as it has me.” [19]

Working on this important construction project had given Angell the opportunity to become well acquainted with most of the leaders of the young Church, including Joseph and Hyrum Smith. When Truman’s own father, now a member of the Church, declined to give him a father’s blessing, the young man approached the Patriarch to the Church, Joseph Smith, Sr., instead. The patriarchal blessing warned Angell of coming trials, promised divine protection, revelations, visions, and missionary success. In light of his role in building Salt Lake City, one sentence in the blessing seems particularly appropriate: “Yea thou shalt be mighty as Enoch who built a city unto God.” [20]

Angell’s most important connection with the presiding quorums of the Church was through Brigham Young, the brother of one of the missionaries who had first brought the new religion to the Angell family. In February 1834, the Angells had moved to Ohio, the widowed Brigham Young married Truman’s older sister, Mary Ann, who reportedly had remained single until she was nearly thirty because she had resolved “never to marry until she should meet a ‘man of God.’” [21] The marriage was a long and happy one, and Truman came to regard Brigham more as a father than as a brother-in-law.

In the same year as the temple dedication, Truman was ordained a seventy and became a member of the Second Quorum of Seventy. Since this position involved special responsibility for missionary work, he began preparations for a mission while remaining busy with construction work. When the Prophet Joseph approached him about building a store, Truman replied that he “was about to go out into the vineyard to preach.” The Prophet told him to go ahead but apparently reconsidered his need for the skilled carpenter and returned with his counselors the next day to renew the request. Truman records the conversation in his autobiography:

The next day I looked up and saw the Presidency of the church together. I dropped my head and continued to work , at this time a voice seemed to whisper to me, “It is your duty to build that house for President Smith,” and while I was meditating upon it I looked up and Brother Joseph Smith was close to me, he said “It is your duty to build that house.” I answered, I know it. Accordingly, I changed my determination and yielded obedience. [22]

This encounter pointed the direction for most of the rest of Truman’s life: he “yielded obedience” and went to work.

The year of the temple dedication had been a marvelous one for Truman and the Church—a year of spiritual ecstasy and material success. But the next two years were disastrous. The national financial panic of 1837 swept the Kirtland Bank away, and many of the disappointed investors blamed the leaders of the Church. Characteristically, Angell remained loyal to the leaders, blaming the crisis on a dishonest clerk, defaulting Gentiles, and “false brethren.”

Despite personal financial ruin, Truman, as did other faithful Saints, made preparations to follow the Church leaders to Missouri. In the spring of 1838 he loaded his family into a one-horse wagon and started on the thousand-mile journey. In addition to horse and wagon, his assets were the family’s clothing and a fifty-cent piece with which he paid for repairs on the wagon the first day out. It was a discouraging moment: “A rickety wagon, a balky horse, not a penny in my pocket, a family to feed and a thousand miles to go.” [23] Providentially, a Brother James Hallman lent the Angells five dollars, which they used to exchange their horse for a better one. By selling some clothing, including the children’s Sunday suits, the family raised enough money to go two hundred miles farther. They stopped while Angell worked for three weeks and then proceeded by stops and starts until they reached Missouri, trading their horse for land in an outlying area.

If Truman Angell had come to Kirtland at the best possible time, he arrived in Missouri at the worst. Just three days after his arrival he was driven from his land. “I was forced on the march and remained so until the exterminating proclamation . . . [when I was] forced to fly for my life; and no means of doing so, my land not being available.” [24] Like many other Latter-day Saint men whose lives were threatened, Angell fled to Illinois during the winter of 1838–39, leaving his family, who were in less immediate danger, to make the trip as best they could. About five miles west of Quincy, Angell found work framing a barn for a Mormon farmer named Hail Travis. He agreed to receive his pay in provisions so that he would have food for his family when they arrived.

After seven anxious weeks without a word, a late-night visit form Joseph Holbrook reassured him that both of their families had arrived on the other side of the river but that Polly, who was pregnant, was seriously ill. The two men set off early the next morning to find their families. They walked to Quincy and crossed the river without a boat, wading “about half-knee deep in mud, about five miles.” Altogether they traveled eleven miles over difficult terrain before finding the camp where a hundred Latter-day Saints were waiting for the completion of a new ferry to replace the old one that had been washed away. Truman found his wife and two children under a makeshift tent composed of several blankets. The pitiful scene was one he remembered vividly the rest of his life:

There lay my poor sick wife; her bed upon the melting snow, very ill; my two little ones—the last was born in Ohio, were by her side, their clothes almost burned off, from standing by log camp-fires; no one to care for them; all the Brethren and sisters having cares enough for their own; though they were kind beyond what could be expected. [25]

The next day the ferry was completed, and the family crossed to Illinois. Truman took his wife and children to the farm, where the owner treated them kindly. Even with good care, Polly Angell’s recovery was slow. Six years later Truman writes that her health was not fully restored and that “she has never been able to work much since.” [26] The Angells remained on the Travis farm for two years before gathering with the Saints in Nauvoo in 1841.

Truman and his family arrived in Nauvoo not long after Joseph Smith had announced a revelation commanding the Saints to begin work once again on a temple. Angell writes in his biography, “I was chosen the first foreman on the Temple (Nauvoo) and gave general satisfaction to all.” [27] Although he records no further details of his life during this period, contemporary records show that he was a member of the Nauvoo Legion and was a partner in the construction business in late 1843 and early 1844 with Joseph Coolidge, the builder of Joseph Smith’s Mansion House. They had offices on the same block as Jonathan Browning’s home and gun shop. [28]

However, most of Truman’s time and energy must have been devoted to building the temple. In this work, he labored under the direction of Prophet Joseph Smith and architect William Weeks. [29] Truman’s other associates on the project included many craftsman who would be his lifelong professional associates in Utah, including Miles Romney, William Folsom, and Elijah Fordham. Truman and Polly Angell added to their family shortly after arriving in Nauvoo—a daughter, Mariah, born 23 March 1841.

As envisioned by the Prophet and drawn by the architect, the temple was to be a magnificent structure many times larger than the Kirtland Temple and more monumental in its form and details. Constructed of limestone quarried nearby, the temple walls were ornamented with pilasters all around in a variation of the Greek Revival style, popular for churches, public buildings, and houses since the late 1820s. The Prophet apparently had considerable influence on the design despite the fact that his architect seems to have been well trained and skillful in his trade. Joseph’s history records an 1844 disagreement with his architect where the Prophet clearly prevailed:

In the afternoon, Elder William Weeks (whom I had employed as architect of the Temple), came in for instruction. I instructed him in relation to the circular windows designed to light the offices in the dead work of the arch between stories. He said that round windows in the broad side of a building were a violation of all the known rules of architecture, and contended that they would be semi-circular—that the building was too low for round windows. I told him I would have the circles, if he had to make the Temple ten feet higher than it was originally calculated; that one light at the center of each circular window would be sufficient to light the whole room; that when the whole building was thus illuminated, the effect would be remarkably grand. “I wish you to carry out my designs. I have seen in a vision the splendid appearance of that building illuminated, and will have it built according to the pattern shown me.” [30]

Joseph’s direction over the design of the structure probably set the pattern for Truman’s later relationship to Brigham Young, when he planned other structures for the Church. Truman sought Brigham’s counsel often and usually deferred to him in cases of disagreement.

Not only did Truman Angell neglect to record much about his personal and professional life during this period, but he also wrote little of the larger historical events occurring around him. He mentions only that he “suffered much—in common with the rest of my Brethren—during the persecutions in which the Prophet and Patriarch lost their lives.” [31] Angell’s loyalty lay with the Apostles in the aftermath of the tragedy. “Although the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum Smith had lost their lives by mob violence,” he writes, “the Twelve Apostles came forward, with Brigham Young at their head, and the mantle of Joseph was upon them in all that was done.” [32]

The year after Joseph’s marytrdom, 1845, was an eventful one for the Angell family. A son, Truman Carlos, was born in January. Work on the temple was pushed ahead very rapidly. “We are here [at the temple] all of our time and make but few acquaintances elsewhere,” Truman writes. [33] In May, Angell and the other temple laborers were invited to receive a patriarchal blessing from John Smith, the Prophet’s uncle. Truman’s blessing includes the statement “You are more called to assist the Saints to build cities and temples, and teach the principles of architecture as they have been in the church from the beginning, and then to preach the gospel.” [34]

By the end of the summer, the building was enclosed. In the completed attic, Truman and Polly, among others, “received our Endowments and afterward our Sealing and second annointings, which far excelled any previous enjoyments of my life up to that time.” [35] While the attic was in use throughout the fall and winter, construction continued on the lower rooms and basement. Two days after Christmas, Angell wrote to President Brigham Young on behalf of the workers on the temple, requesting the President’s assistance in getting firewood for them. “There is a great deal of suffering among us at this time for the want of fuel.” Angell suggested a general “Church Bee” to haul wood to the temple. [36]

During the winter, Truman’s family ties to the new leader of the Church increased. In January, Truman’s mother and his sister Jemima were sealed to Brigham Young as plural wives, joining sister Mary Ann.

When Brigham Young and other Church leaders crossed the Mississippi to begin the westward trek in February 1846, temple architect William Weeks went with them, leaving Angell in charge of completing the design and finishing the first floor assembly room. In a few months, Orson Hyde returned from the encampment of the Twelve to dedicate that portion of the building. With his work completed, Angell left the finishing of the remainder of the building to others while he began his preparations for going West with his family. A Church committee was instructed to help him get an outfit but was unable to do so until well into the summer. Angell eventually got two wagons which were in bad condition. After repairing them, he loaded his family and possessions and crossed the river where he was supplied with “young and unbroke” oxen and money to buy provisions. With the summer nearly gone and his wife expecting another child shortly, Truman and his family set off for Winter Quarters. Partway across Iowa, Truman’s health failed and he had to hire two black teamsters to drive his wagons to Winter Quarters.

The Angell family already had shared much of the persecution and suffering of the Saints, and their experience in Winter Quarters was no different. Truman remained sick with fever and chills all winter. In late October Polly gave birth to a daughter, Almirah, who died soon after. On 2 December Martha Ann, their ten-year-old daughter, also died.

By spring, Truman’s health had improved and he was called to join the first company of pioneers. Besides his brother-in-law Brigham Young, other family members on the trek included his brother Solomon and cousin Joseph Holbrook. Like many others of the company, Angell stayed in the Great Salt Lake Valley only long enough to get the settlement organized and then made the return trip to Winter Quarters, arriving in the fall after a seven months’ absence. On 29 October 1847, probably a few weeks before Truman’s arrival in Winter Quarters, his only son, Truman Carlos, died at the age of two.

During the second winter, Angell made preparations to move his family to the West. They left early the next year with Brigham Young’s company of about one hundred and fifty families. Truman’s description of his third crossing of the plains is brief and poignant: “I made a fitout, and took my family in the Spring and started for our new home; arriving in Utah in the Fall with an Ox team, a distance of over 1,000 miles; moving my sick wife on her back every rod of the way; having two children with us; having buried three in Winter Quarters.” [37]

Shortly after his arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, Truman sought President Young’s counsel about the work he should undertake. Brigham put him to work enclosing and finishing a house purchased for the President’s own family, including Truman’s sister Mary Ann. In the months that followed, Angell placed himself completely at the service of President Young. “I paid strict attention to all his calls, went and came at his bidding—for this I rejoice.” [38]

William Weeks, the architect of the Nauvoo Temple, had come West with the first company in 1847, but the personal tragedy of losing two children in Winter Quarters and his distaste for the discipline of pioneer life soured his feelings toward the Church. After spending a winter in Utah, he left the Saints and returned to the East. President Young, who had planned for Weeks to continue as Church Architect, was left with the problem of finding someone to take his place. For the first public building to be planned, the Council House, a Brother Major (probably William Major, an artist from England) prepared and presented a design. President Young consulted his brother-in-law about the plan. “Being asked how I like it,” Angell later wrote, “I said that it did not please me, considering the newness of the country and our material.” [39] President Young apparently concurred and asked Angell to prepare an alternate design. With the acceptance of the scheme, Truman Angell found himself the Architect of Public Works for the new city. At President Young’s request, he devoted all of his energies to making designs and plans and supervising construction rather than trying to become established on his own farm.

Truman Angell had always before earned his living by working with his hands. He found that the transition to his new duties was not easy. “It is a trifle to labour with one’s own hands [compared] to the labour of the mind,” he writes, “While one tires the extremities, the other wearies the man in his whole system.” [40] Despite his personal difficulties and inexperience, the first six or seven years of his career as architect were probably his most successful and productive. As the most prominent architect in the Valley, he designed many of the best homes and nearly all of the important public buildings. Drawings and photographs of his buildings that remain form this period illustrate Angell’s progress, both in his increasing skill as a draftsman and his growing sophistication as a designer.

The Council House, Angell’s first design, was a simple square building with walls made of stone on the first story and adobe on the second. The building’s overall form was a severely simplified version of the common Midwestern courthouse topped with a cupola. In projects that followed, Angell apparently tried to improve his designs by studying the building pattern books that were available in the Valley. An 1852 inventory of the Territorial Library listed ten such volumes, including older books featuring Federal and Greek Revival style details and several recently published works advocating picturesque designs using Romanesque and Gothic elements. [41] Angell made specific reference to only one of those books, but his drawings contain many details that appear to be taken from others as well. [42]

Many of the houses Angell designed in his first years as architect were plain rectangular structures similar to those built in Nauvoo with decorations that hinted vaguely of Federal or Greek Revival styles, but they were constructed of adobe instead of brick. Some of the houses, like Brigham Young’s White House of 1849, had simple but graceful cornices and arched ceilings inside. Most included porches, an element that was popular in warmer parts of the country but had not been common in Nauvoo. Many of these early Utah homes, such as those for E. T. Benson, Horace Eldridge, Edwin D. Woolley, and Willard Richards, looked remarkably substantial and handsome for a struggling pioneer community.

In his design for Seventies Hall prepared in 1851 and 1852, Angell tried his hand at more pretentious and fashionable architecture. His drawings envisioned a building with a dome-shaped roof over a large meeting room and octagonal turrets on the corners. Borrowing details from Greek pediments on the walls, and Gothic details on the windows. The scheme was quite ambitious, and Angell was proud enough of it to make a perspective drawing. Its extravagance may have been the reason it was never built.

Another important public building he planned in 1851 and 1852 was the city’s first large assembly structure, the Old Tabernacle, located on the southwest corner of Temple Square. Like many of the roughest pioneer shelters, it was a dugout with a floor below ground level, adobe walls, and a simple gabled roof. It was surprisingly large, however, seating twenty-five hundred people. Angell designed the unconventional sixty-foot ceiling trusses with the aid of a model which he tested for strength. Both gable ends of the building were ornamented with triangular panels containing carved rising suns reminiscent of the sunstones on the Nauvoo Temple, and the ends of the roof were decorated with large barge boards cut out in a Gothic trefoil pattern apparently copied directly from a builders’ book. [43]

By the end of 1851, Angell was growing accustomed to his new life. He had become a prominent man in the community, planning and directing many projects, and enjoying his success and prestige. His family life had also changed with the addition of a plural wife, Susan Eliza Savage, who would ultimately bear six children. Perhaps sensing the importance of his position in the Church, Truman started keeping a journal of his work that December. In the first few pages he lists with evident satisfaction the many buildings “progressing smartly” under his direction, describing his style of supervision as “the care of a kind father over his household” and referring to himself as “an architect and a master.” [44] He also acknowledges the constant pressure of his job, which causes him “to dog around more than many might think,” and records the first of many complaints about the nervous strain he feels working at his drawing board. “I find my spirit more willing,” he writes, “than my body strong.” [45]

As 1852 began, Angell had twenty-two projects under way or about to be started, the most elaborate being the state house or capitol to be constructed at Fillmore in central Utah. Because this structure was to be built without Angell’s constant supervision, the architect prepared more detailed drawings and specifications than on previous projects. His design for the large stone building included four two-story wings projecting from a central domed rotunda. The dome towered above the wings and terminated with a statue of an eagle standing on a beehive. The entire building was surrounded by a two-story porch decorated with lattice panels and Gothic pinnacles. The strange proportions and mixture of styles made the design somewhat ungainly. Only the south wing was constructed, however, and standing alone without the elaborate porch, its sandstone walls, arched windows, and pilasters have a dignity reminiscent of the Nauvoo Temple.

Other important projects begun in 1852 included the Social Hall (a simple two-story adobe and stone building), a new residence for the governor, and a meetinghouse for Provo. For Brigham Young’s impressive three-story official residence, Angell experimented with a grand symmetrical plan including a semicircular staircase. The details for his house, developed over the next two years, including carved mantlepieces and a handsome observatory topped with a beehive. The Provo meetinghouse gave Angell the opportunity to design a rather large church. Although local tradition has ascribed its design to “English Presbyterian” influence, the building was actually a fine example of the American meetinghouse tradition executed in adobe. The exterior was simple and well proportioned with a substantial domed tower. The interior included a large meeting room with a gallery on three sides. Angell also designed an outdoor baptismal font, walls, and elaborate gates for Temple Square, and worked on some scenery for the Social Hall.

Angell continued to enjoy his job through most of the year: “My heart is glad to see the order as I now have it.” [46] After feeling a bit discouraged because he was not properly recognized, he was very pleased to be sustained in his position along with other Church leaders by vote at April conference. Increasingly secure in his abilities, Angell writes of the committee’s purchasing building materials, “how perplexing it is to be ruled by inexperienced men.” [47] Angell’s prestige was further enhanced by his position as an officer in the militia.

Early in 1853 Angell began work on the most important project of his career, the Salt Lake Temple. Brigham Young had selected the temple site within days of the arrival of the first pioneers, but construction of the building had been deferred while the community overcame the basic problems of survival. But with a large number of faithful Saints gathered in numerous settlements, with many homes and a few public buildings completed, and with an architect who had demonstrated some talent and ability, Brigham was ready to begin.

Angell helped the First Presidency lay the southwest cornerstone on 6 April 1853. [48] According to a statement by William Ward, a talented young stonecutter who worked as Angell’s draftsman in 1855 and 1856, the basic elements of the temple design were dictated to Angell by the President:

Brigham Young drew upon a slate in the architect’s office a sketch, and said to Truman O. Angell: “There will be three towers on the east, representing the President and his two counselors; also three similar towers on the west representing the Presiding Bishop and his two Counselors; the towers on east the Melchisedek priesthood, those on the west the Aaronic priesthood. The center towers will be higher than those on the sides, and the west towers a little lower than those on the east end. The body of the building will be between these and pillars will be necessary to support the floors.” Angell then asked about the height, and drew the following vertical section according to Brigham’s instructions. . . . [49]

The plan of the building was familiar to Angell since it followed the pattern of the Nauvoo Temple with large meeting rooms on the two main floors, rows of offices on mezzanines above the sides of the large rooms, and a baptismal font surrounded by smaller rooms in the basement. The most distinctive new elements were the six towers on the ends of the building. These towers externalized the priesthood symbols of the triple pulpits that had been the main features inside the meeting rooms of the earlier temples. It seems likely that the multiple spires were intended to give the building a dramatic silhouette reminiscent of the Gothic cathedrals Brigham had so admired in England, although their number and placement on the temple followed no European precedent.

Although the President had dictated the main elements of the building and followed its progress closely, the design details and styles of the structure appear to have been left to the architect. William Ward recalls,

On several occasions the foundation and thickness of the walls was the subject of conversations. But I do not recollect any talk between Brigham and Angell in regard to the style of the building. Angell’s idea and aim was to make it different to any other known building, and I think he succeeded as to the general combination. [50]

As he had done before in the Old Tabernacle, the Seventies Hall, and the state house designs, Angell experimented with medieval details from his most up-to-date pattern books. One of his early drawings shows a window with a pointed arch, giving evidence that Angell considered using correct Gothic details on the building. However, he discarded this idea in favor of round-arched windows which more closely resembled those on the Nauvoo Temple. The decision to use round arches in combination with medieval details like parapets, pinnacles, and buttresses may have reflected Angell’s familiarity with the Norman or English Romanesque style which enjoyed a brief vogue in the 1840s and 1850s in America. Some of the pattern books available to Angell discuss the style and show examples of picturesque villas combining these very elements. Angell’s design for the temple towers is particularly interesting in comparison with illustrations from two contemporary pattern books available in the Territorial Library. The New Practical Builder, by Nicholson, whose writings are mentioned elsewhere in Angell’s journal, includes a castellated Gothic mansion with a tower combining corner pinnacles, battlements, and other ornaments strikingly similar to the upper portion of the temple towers. [51] A façade of a church in Shaw’s Rural Architecture, available in the Territorial Library, also resembles the temple in its general proportions, window details, and the unusual double buttresses and pinnacles at each side of its tower. [52]

In assembling the details gleaned and adapted from various sources, however, Angell showed a degree of originality and a grasp of architectural principles. He took particular pride in the triple-tiered spires. “The finishing touches are quite original,” he writes, adding with obvious enthusiasm, “I have a large field to launch forth into.” [53]

While working on the preliminary temple plans, Angell also labored on an equally challenging but ultimately less successful project. The machinery for a sugar factory had been brought to Utah the previous year from England. In the spring of 1853 Angell was assigned to build a factory on the Church farm four miles south of the city in the area now called Sugar House. Unfortunately, the plans delivered with the machinery did not give sufficient detail about how the parts should be fitted together. In addition to planning the building to house the equipment, Angell spent much time over the next two years trying to put the machinery into working order. His drawings for the factory are among the most complicated and careful he ever made. However, when the factory was completed in 1855, it succeeded in producing only dark molasses. After two seasons of operation, the enterprise was abandoned as a failure and the building and equipment put to other uses. [54]

During these same busy years, Angell also designed an arsenal, a number of new homes, a schoolhouse for the Twelfth Ward, a store for merchants Livingston and Kincade, several forts for new settlements, a penitentiary, and many minor projects. To serve the needs of the Church during the construction of the temple, the Presidency had Angell supervise the erection of a simple adobe Endowment House in the northwest corner of Temple Square. William Ward assisted Angell in making the drawings for a “Big House” for President Young’s family, later known as the Lion House. The castellated stone entrance vestibule drawn by William Ward illustrates the young man’s ability to design in a more proper Gothic Revival style than his supervisor. The Salt Lake County Courthouse built during 1855 gives particularly clear evidence of Angell’s progress as an architect. Similar to the Council House in its general form, it exhibits much greater refinement in the arrangement of doors and windows and the details of its decoration.

There were also developments in Angell’s personal life. His heavy responsibilities had begun to affect his health. In 1854 he wrote that he felt somewhat fatigued from drawing “as I ever did a hewing timber or mowing grass, the two kinds of business that used to weary me the most in my early life.” [55]

Throughout that year and the next, his bad health became an increasingly frequent subject of journal entries. Another change in his life began during a trip to some of the southern settlements with Brigham Young in the spring of 1855, when the President advised him to take a second plural wife. In June he dutifully married Mary Ann Johnson, a young woman who bore him eight children over the next thirty years. This additional wife and the probability of more children may have been a factor in a letter he wrote that fall to Brigham Young asking permission to supplement his income by taking jobs on the side. [56]

Angell continued to work on the temple plans through January 1856, but the long hours of concentration finally proved too much for him. He stayed away from the office part of February and most of March to rest. Apparently President Young became concerned. While Angell was dining with him and his family around the first of April, the President suggested a working vacation—a mission to Europe. Angell’s reply, recorded on the first page of his missionary journal, implies that he was more interested in a change than excited about Europe: “I told him that the labors of my office were very fatiguing and crowded upon me farther than I could attend to them, and that I did desire temporary relief.” [57]

Brother Brigham may have had a motive beyond concern for Truman’s health for sending Truman on a mission. In the eight years since William Weeks had left the Church, no trained architects had appeared in Utah, and President Young may have decided to train one. Setting Angell apart as a missionary, President Young promised him money and an opportunity to “view the various specimens of architecture that you may desire to see.” Perhaps reflecting his own enthusiasm for England’s cathedrals and other buildings, he added, “You will wonder at the works of the ancients and marvel to see what they have done; and you will be quick to comprehend the architectural designs of men in various ages . . . and you will rejoice all the time.” The President also reminded Angell to “take drafts of valuable works of architecture and be better qualified to continue . . . work . . . upon the temple and other buildings.” [58]

Truman Angell spent the next three weeks in preparation and departed on 22 April with and eastbound wagon company of forty-five people that included such notables as A. O. Smoot, E. T. Benson, Orrin Porter Rockwell, and the non-Mormon judge John F. Kinney. The journey was hardly relaxing . Because of limited wagon space, Angell had to walk most of the way. By the second day, he was exhausted. Less than two weeks out, the group ran into a late blizzard that trapped them in several feet of snow for six days. Angell records: “I have been robbed of a home. I have been afflicted in body; but never did I feel in a tighter place than this journey has placed me in.” [59] The remainder of the trip, however, was relatively uneventful, and Truman arrived in Liverpool on 13 July after nearly three months of travel.

From the time of his arrival in England, Angell received special treatment. Franklin D. Richards, the retiring president of the European Mission, had received word from Brigham Young that Angell was to visit many countries and places, that the mission should furnish the means of his travel, and that a companion should be chosen to accompany him. [60] The companion was James Kay, presiding elder in the Liverpool Conference. [61] Local branches provided traveling funds. Angell set his own schedule and was accorded minor celebrity status in many of the branches he visited, preaching at length in most places.

Truman’s missionary journal contains many evidences of his deep feelings of devotion to the Church. He preached the “necessity of living their religion” and records with much satisfaction after a particularly strong sermon that he had “let them have the heaviest licks that I could streak.” [62] When news of the Reformation of 1857 reached Britain, Angell fasted and prayed with the other missionaries before rebaptism and reconfirmation. On his return home, he wrote, “I am endeavoring to reform Truman before the Lord of Hosts.” [63]

Liverpool, the European Mission headquarters, became Angell’s base. He spent fifteen out of his thirty weeks in Europe in and around the city, much of the time resting, writing letters and his journal, and making preparations for travel elsewhere. He visited London three times; made a two-week trip to France and the Channel Islands, and a three-week visit to Ireland; spent nine days in Wales, two weeks in and around Manchester, and one week around Birmingham and on the Isle of Man.

A careful reading of Angell’s detailed journal yields some unexpected observations of both mission and missionary. In spite of his special calling to study architecture, Angell spent considerably more time doing traditional missionary work—visiting branches and members, attending conferences, and speaking in church meetings—than looking at architecture. And he spent nearly as much time resting and nursing his health as he did in Church work. His journal records visits to buildings or other sightseeing on only about forty days, roughly one day in five of his mission.

A second unexpected observation is that Angell was generally neither very impressed by nor very interested in the great buildings of Britain and France. He described in detail and took notes on only one structure—a theater that he thought might serve as a model for one back home. Of the new Houses of Parliament, he writes, “It was burdened with ornaments till it became sickening. I had to think the object of decorating so much was to excell rather than to display anything like a reasonable taste.” [64] Westminster Abbey, he thought, “exhibited the genius of men but there was something about it very inanimate.” [65] He saw the neoclassical National Gallery of Art “with which I was not impressed” and the Tower of London of which he records, “I shall not mention more of than to say that I bought a pamphlet that gives a full description of it.” [66] Angell was already tired of sightseeing when he visited Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral. “The most that I could say of it was that it was a National Show, and when the people want to make a show with their money, such buildings may be built, that can be easily matched.” [67] Later in his journal, after listing a few of the buildings he saw in Paris, Angell writes, “We visited several other buildings of principle note. To mention them here would use up my patience.” [68] Wren’s chapel at Greenwich college, he says, “was burdened and in fact this is one of the faults of the English Architecture.” [69]

Clearly, Angell’s taste in architecture seems to have been firmly set in favor of American simplicity. One of the few English buildings he praised was Hereford Cathedral, which he described as “built in masterly style of architecture.” [70] It may be significant in light of the style of the Salt Lake Temple that parts of this cathedral are outstanding examples of the Norman style, with round arches and massive, relatively simple stonework. Angell also had a few good words for a free library in Manchester, praising it for its orderly arrangement and similarity to his own design for “one of our chambers in the Plan of the State House, Utah Territory.” [71]

Although neither interested nor impressed by most of the architecture he saw in Britain and France, Angell was fascinated by technological and scientific achievements. He was much taken with the Great Iron Ship under construction near London and marveled at a machine that could punch holes in a sheet of iron one inch thick as easily as a person could “put a needle through a sheet of thin strained paper.” [72] He spend most of two days at the exhibit of manufactured goods at the Crystal Palace and wished he could have spent another two weeks. Museums in Dublin, Paris, and Manchester drew his special attention to their industrial displays. He also recorded details about a stone quarry, an iron works, a hat factory, a sewing shop, and a copper and lead factory. Though Greenwich’s Chapel left him unimpressed, he was fascinated by the observatory and described its moveable dome and some of the scientific equipment in some detail. Because of his own frustrating experiences in trying to build the sugar factory in Utah, he spent nearly two weeks arranging to visit a sugar refinery near Liverpool and wrote an extensive and technical description of it afterwards. The prospect of seeing another refinery was his main reason for going to Ireland. He spent a whole week writing his report on the two factories in a detailed letter to Brigham Young [73] and had it copied by a Church member “expert with his pen” before sending if off.

He spent a good deal of time having an engraving made of his design of the Salt Lake Temple based on a daguerreotype of the rendering made by William Ward. The work was done by Frederick Piercy, a Mormon convert in London who later became known for his illustrated guidebook to the Mormon Trail. [74] Piercy also made an engraving of Brigham Young’s house from Angell’s drawings.

Angell received instructions to return home in late January 1857. [75] Tired and sick from his travels, he had already spent most of January resting and rewriting his journal. His exhaustion was accompanied by sleeplessness, head and chest aches, loss of memory, and depression. “I feel as though I had not a friend on the earth, “ he writes, and dispiritedly records a few days before boarding the ship being as much “out of health” as “before I left the Valley.” [76] On an uncomfortable night in France he had summarized his negative view of Europe: “The Saints in Zion should be thankful to the Lord, for the poor in Salt Lake are a thousand times more comfortable than they are in this town. My heart sickens at the horrors seen in this hemisphere.” [77]

Arriving in Boston on 2 March after a stormy winter crossing, Angell visited his old home in upstate New York before proceeding to St. Louis. Among the Saints there he found William Ward, his former assistant in the architect’s office, still relatively friendly despite his having left the Church and Utah during Angell’s mission.

Angell traveled from Independence, Missouri, to the Salt Lake Valley in a wagon train which included only six teamsters and six passengers, one of them the Apostle George A. Smith; and Angell found there was room for him to ride. They passed the first train of handcart pioneers en route, and Angell left his rifle with them when he saw that they had only one gun in the camp. They wagon train traveled from dawn to midnight covering fifty miles a day. The continued rapid pace exhausted Angell. By the last day of the journey he could not eat and had wild dreams when he tried to rest. He arrived in Salt Lake City on 29 May to find his family happy and well, including a six-month-old son born in his absence.

Truman Angell’s mission had taken him 16,569½ miles, by his own reckoning, and had lasted a little more than thirteen months. [78] It had been intended to enlarge his view of architecture, expand his imagination, and increase his ability to design buildings for the Mormon Kingdom. It was ironic, therefore, that compared with the productive years before his mission, Angell would have few opportunities in the years that followed to use his new knowledge. Other architects would design most of Salt Lake City’s new public buildings and homes. Angell’s exterior designs for the temple, completed before his mission, would remain substantially unchanged, and most of the interior details he would develop for the building would ultimately be set aside. Excepting his design for the St. George Temple, most of his contributions would be made as a construction supervisor.

His new role began immediately. He had been called back to make detailed drawing so that stone could be quarried for the temple walls. He prepared master drawings and then began making full-size quarrying patterns using the spacious second floor of the Church store. He had completed part of this work by 24 July 1857, two months after his return, when word of Johnston’s Army reached the Valley. Angell helped pack up the temple drawings, some to be moved south and others to be cached locally while the temple foundations were buried. Angell used the winter respite to continue planning the temple stonework and, in a letter dated 22 March 1858, assured Brigham Young that the drawings were clear enough to be understood after the passage of time “if there was a prospect of the building yet being erected.” [79] Angell and his three families joined in the exodus southward, returning after the peaceful settlement of the difficulties that summer. The temple foundations remained buried, however, and other projects took priority in the ensuing months. Through the fall and winter Angell supervised the remodeling of the Old Tabernacle, moving the organ and choir seats from the north end to center of the east side opposite the pulpit. A new “fence” between the stand and organ divided the room in half with women on the north and men on the south. [80]

Angell continued his architectural work with reluctance. In September 1858, just a few months after returning from the move south, he wrote to President Young alluding to his own poor health and expressing the hope that a change of work to farming would revive him. [81] He did change occupations for 1859, but he worked at his old trade, carpentry, rather than at farming, and he complained, “There was too much hard labour in getting wood that seemed to use me up, and all this winter I have felt a set back.” [82]

In January 1860 he asked President Young in a letter if there were more projects to plan for the new year, for “if not, I want to make such other arrangements for spring as may open for me.” [83] However, new projects developed. He worked on plans for a new home for John M. Bernhisel and for a handsome Gothic Revival bay window to be added to Hyrum B. Clawson’s house. Probably his biggest project was developing plans for the New Social Hall, a large building for drama and dance. Although Angell prepared fairly detailed drawings, Church leaders decided to build the Salt Lake Theater instead. That same year, at the request of Brigham Young, Angell also made a study of the newly popularized system of balloon-frame construction, which used many relatively small pieces of milled lumber rather than the heavy timbers of older wood buildings. Angell’s assurance that the new system was cheaper and that its thinner walls wasted less space than adobe may have influenced the President to use it for his new house at Forest Farm southeast of the city. [84]

In late 1860 William H. Folsom arrived in Salt Lake City. This old acquaintance and colleague was, like Truman Angell, a New England–born carpenter who had grown up along the Erie Canal. The two men had worked together on the Nauvoo Temple. After the exodus, however, William Folsom had remained in the Midwest, eventually becoming a successful building contractor in Omaha. With his experience and abilities, Folsom may have been the only other man in the territory qualified for Angell’s job. While Angell retained the title of Church Architect through the summer of 1861, Folsom made drawings for a new Seventies Hall and also began work on the Salt Lake Theater. Angell spent the year planning additions to the rear of Brigham Young’s office between the Beehive and Lion House and supervising more changes to the Old Tabernacle. Angell harvested a crop of sugarcane form his farm late that season and resigned as Church Architect to devote his full energies to farming. William Folsom was sustained as his successor in October conference of 1861.

Not much information remains about Angell’s years as a sugarcane farmer and sugar mill operator in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House area. He summarizes the experience in a sentence: “I resigned . . . and went out on my farm and here the parts of my boddy that was not called into uce in the designing room was put into uce on the farm and for one or 2 years it seamed to do me good but alas I found I must stop.” [85] In 1865 Angell took up carpentry again and worked part of the following year on the new Tabernacle under the direction of William Folsom and Henry Grow. But his old trade was hard on him, and he returned to his farm for the winter so weak that he could not do a day’s work for five months.

Meanwhile, William Folsom, encountering some of the difficulties and frustrations that Angell had experienced before him, asked to be released as Church Architect. Brigham Young asked Truman Angell if he would be willing to take up the burden again. After reflecting, Angell answered on 31 March 1867: “If you do wish me to apply miself again to the Architects calling, I will do so with all my mite.” [86] On 8 April he attended general conference where he was sustained once more as Church Architect. His son, Truman Angell, Jr., and William Folsom were sustained as Assistant Church Architects.

Truman lost little time getting back to work. Two days later, he moved at least part of his family back into the city and prepared a small office between two of the unfinished tabernacle’s piers. Within a week he was working on drawings of the tabernacle cornice he had helped build the previous year. Angell also began keeping an office journal. Again, characteristically, at the end of his first week back on the job, he wrote that he frequently had to get out of the office for fresh air and a change of scene to avoid dizziness. Also characteristically, the second week he committed to paper an expression of his genuine humility and determination:

I must say I feel a good deal worn out but if the Preserdent and my brethering feal to sustain a poor worm of the dust like me to be Architect of the Church let me strive to serve them and not disgrace my self. . . . May the Lord help me so to do.” [87]

Angell found both the temple and the tabernacle projects in partial disarray. The construction of the Tabernacle had advanced beyond the detailed drawings, and the temple drawings were confused. The frustration of bringing order to the two projects was increased by Angell’s realization that his work would probably not be appreciated: “All this labour of the mind and hence is a labour that no one perhaps will see.” [88]

Both Angell and Folsom had examined the temple foundations when they were uncovered in 1862 following the departure of Johnston’s army. Both had agreed that much of the masonry work was badly done and needed to be replaced. In the succeeding five years, the foundations had been rebuilt and work had begun on the walls without detailed plans. During the spring of 1867, Angell refined the system that he had devised ten years earlier. He prepared a master drawing of the temple, showing every stone with a number. He then made a detailed pattern of every stone so that each one could be cut to size at the quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon, numbered, and shipped to the temple block. In this way, no waste stone would be shipped, and the number on each stone would tell the masons exactly where it should go. Angell believed that his system would be so simple that it would eliminate most of the need for trained supervision. He took great pride in the originality and beauty of his system, but had no illusions: “I beleave when this house is up my labers will then be appreciated and not before.” [89]

For much of the summer, however, the Tabernacle was his first priority. Its west end, including its half-dome roof, had been constructed the previous year. The huge arched trusses that spanned the central section of the building like a row of bridges had presented fewer problems than the half arches at the ends which came together at one point in the center of the roof. This complicated connection was evidently not planned in detail before the pieces were put into place, and the result was a rather inelegant, although sturdy, patchwork. Perhaps referring to this situation as well as the interior finish work, Angell writes, “If I had charge of this building from the start it would bin my way to of found all the main troubles in a plan a head of the work but now it is otherways and I will do the best I can.” [90] The east end, erected in the summer of 1867, was much neater and more workmanlike perhaps due to Angell’s supervision as well as the experience gained by the workmen the previous year.

Most of Angell’s work on the Tabernacle focused on interior carpentry. He acted as foreman, summarizing his role succinctly: “I do the thinking and they have nought but to push the work.” [91] The stand, based on instructions from Brigham Young, had pulpits on three levels, reminiscent of the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. Angell also made careful arrangements for the organ and chorister. He described the stand as “quite different from the stiles of the day,” resembling a “masked batterry” fortification with the guns concealed behind protective walls. “You see not a gun,” he notes, with a flash of wit, “but the heavest [heaviest] shots known on this earth will be there.” [92] Brigham Young followed the Tabernacle’s progress closely, personally revising the seating arrangement, deciding the locations for the stairs to the future galleries, and even selecting the grade of iron to be used for attaching the seats to the floor.

Although Angell made steady progress on the temple and completed the Tabernacle in time for October conference, the summer was frustrating. He had clashes with William Folsom and was understandably annoyed that Folsom’s successful private business was drawing some of the best workmen away from Church jobs. Truman also felt that Henry Grow, the Tabernacle general foreman, did not supervise the work carefully enough. When Grow was given credit in an October 1867 newspaper article for most of the work on the building, Angell was so angry that he demanded and got a printed correction. [93]

Personal frustrations and sorrow added to his professional problems. Despite his years of hard work trying to support three families, he was still poor. On 4 July 1867 he records deciding not to use a five-dollar ticket to a ball at the theater because “the planness of my rig will be so much behind the company that will be there I think it best for me to stay away.” [94] He worked long hours and often spent the night in town rather than walk the three miles to his house. On a weekend home he wrote that some of his younger children were afraid of him because they had seen him so seldom. In August and September, grasshoppers ravished his farm, eating even the leaves from the trees; and his two-year-old son became seriously ill and died before the end of September. In September and again in October, he was so discouraged that he asked to be released, but President Young persuaded him to stay on. By the end of the winter he was reconciled.

Angell’s journal ends in the spring of 1868 with an entry stating that for the previous six months he had supervised the stonework on the temple, making diagrams of every course and every stone. In his first explanation of his system to President Young ten years earlier, he had predicted that this part of the work would require “scores of times” more labor than it took to design the building—and his predictions came true. Sheaves of drawings were preserved in the LDS Church Archives and much of Angell’s correspondence attest to his perseverance in this tedious task.

Another aspect of the work on the temple allowed more room for creativity—designing the interior details of the building. In the summer after his mission, Truman had made drawings of window details, columns, and cornices ornamented with carved faces. He continued this work in November and December in 1869, after a lapse of twelve years. The keystones of the arches included carved portraits of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. In a similar undated drawing of a column capital, Angell indulged himself in the manner of some ancient cathedral architects by including a carved likeness of himself as an assurance that his contribution would not be forgotten.

President Young’s announcement in 1871 that another temple would be built in St. George, Utah, presented Truman Angell with his last opportunity to design a major building. Although busy with other projects, he worked on the plans in bits of spare time. Since much of his work was done while the President and other leaders were in St. George, Angell was unsure if his design would be accepted and therefore put off completing details and specifications. His plans were accepted, however, and the building was started before he could finish his work. Because of the confusion caused by the inadequate plans, Angell found it necessary to go to the site personally several times over the next few years. These arduous journeys some of them in bad weather, wore on his health and energy.

Angell was apparently instructed to follow the pattern of the Nauvoo Temple rather closely in his design for the St. George building. The two buildings were roughly the same size, and his drawings show that the room arrangements were also similar. The exterior style, however, followed the Salt Lake Temple in its castellated details. The walls had crenellations at the top and buttresses between the windows that were even more medieval and functional-looking than those in Salt Lake. One description classified the new temple’s architecture as “English Norman.” [95] In an original touch to the plans, Angell allowed the stairs on both sides of the main façade to project beyond the sides of the building in a way that recalls the fortified towers of romantic villas in contemporary pattern books. A drawing of the interior structure shows the floors supported by lattice trusses much like those used in the roof of the New Tabernacle. Angell seems to have had difficulty with the wooden tower. An early drawing shows a rather awkward octagonal spire, but the completed building had a squat-domed cupola. Brigham Young thought the tower too low and demanded a change but died before anything was done. The following year, the unchanged tower was split in half by lightening and was replaced with a higher domed structure designed by William Folsom under Angell’s direction. The completed stone building was plastered and painted gleaming white, simultaneously giving it the appearance of castle and church. While evoking memories of the Nauvoo Temple, the interior at St. George also displayed many of Angell’s ideas for the Salt Lake Temple that would never be realized. The meeting rooms included arched plaster ceilings, clustered Gothic Revival columns, and cornices decorated with stars and quatrafoils.

In July 1876 Angell was completely worn out once again. “Not one hour of the day am I clear of important duties and I have now allowed the work to go neglected, this had been the pride of my hart but age creeps on my and I see I fail,” he writes in a letter of resignation to Brigham Young. [96] Angell proposed to homestead some public land to leave an inheritance for his family. The President accepted Angell’s resignation in the hope “that the desired quiet” of a farmer’s life “may restore you to your wonted health.” [97] The resignation, however, produced anything but quiet. On 4 August Brigham appointed T. O. Angell, Jr., to serve in his father’s place. A month later, after receiving a letter demanding a salary increase, Brigham released him with the statement: “Men that dictate the affairs of this great work in which we are engaged do not place price upon their labor.” [98] William Folsom was asked to serve instead, but by the first of the year Truman, Sr., was back in his old job, reconciled to seeing it through to the end. “My health is not first rate and I do not know as it ever will be but I had rather ware out in my duty then rust out.” [99]

Brigham Young’s death late in August of 1877 must have been a particularly heavy blow to Angell, who had regarded him with the affection of a son and the admiration of a disciple. “The Lord . . . seames to dictate all he does,” Angell had written earlier in his journal. “All I ask is to know the mind of President Young to me and my way is clear.” [100] Three weeks after the funeral, Angell wrote to President John Taylor and the other Apostles, “Brethren, you can continue me in the architect’s office or not as you see fit, I am at your service.” [101] They asked him to stay.

Angell’s orderly system continued to guide the slow, steady process of construction of the Salt Lake Temple. In 1880, Angell reported that in ten years the walls had risen nearly seventy feet. He claimed to have saved the Church over twenty thousand dollars through his careful planning of the stonework, his personal hiring and management of the masons, his system of producing excellent mortar in a mill on Temple Square, and his use of improved boom cranes which were partly his own design. He also reported that in spite of years of faithful service, he remained desperately poor. In answer to his appeal for financial assistance, the Church granted him one thousand dollars to repair his home.

In his later years, Angell came to rely increasingly on the help of several of his sons. Truman O. Angell, Jr., made most of the later masonry drawings and diagrams for the temple and also served as scribe for much of his father’s correspondence. Theodore began working as a stonemason in the late 1870s and became his father’s clerk while his older brother was supervising the temple in Logan. When the foreman of stonecutters on the Salt Lake Temple was sent to prison for polygamy in 1886, Angell tried unsuccessfully to have Theodore appointed foreman and proposed another son, Leonard, to serve as clerk.

Following President Young’s death, Angell was involved in several significant changes to the temple plans. A steam-heating system with boilers located outside the building replaced the less efficient and more dangerous original system of fireplaces in the stone walls. In 1885 and 1886, the interior layout of the building was changed to provide larger rooms for temple ordinances, a floor of offices, and one large meeting room with a gallery. This new plan was based on a scheme developed by Truman, Jr., for the Logan Temple. Angell, Sr., seems to have conceded these changes reluctantly.

President Taylor noted with concern in 1886 that Angell’s signature did not appear on the revised interior plans and assured him, “We look upon you and sustain you as the architect of the temple . . . and wish whatever plans are submitted to be drawn out under your supervision and with your approval.” [102] Church records are unclear about how Angell really felt in this case, but another incident suggests that his feelings may have been negative. Shortly after President Taylor’s death in 1887, Truman, Jr., suggested to President Woodruff that the temple spires be finished in stone rather than wood covered with tin as planned. Although President Taylor rejected the same suggestion a few years before, President Woodruff favored the idea and asked Truman, Sr., for his view. On 11 October the sickly architect asked his son to record his opposition to the change: it would alter Brigham’s design, add a year to the construction time, and triple the cost. The son, however, added to the same letter his own views, disagreeing with his father and undercutting his arguments. [103] Five days later, before a decision was made on the matter, Truman O. Angell, Sr., passed away quietly.

On 17 October 1887 the Deseret Evening News announced his death and eulogized him as “a modest, unassuming man, of genial disposition, and a staunch and true Latter-day Saint.” [104] His funeral was restrained, in keeping with his wishes. Speaking to the Third Ward Chapel, President Daniel H. Wells, for many years Angell’s supervisor on the public works and a former member of the First Presidency, paid tribute to him in a paraphrase of Sir Christopher Wren’s epitaph in St. Paul’s Cathedral—”As long as the Salt Lake Temple stands, that is monument enough for him.” [105] Truman Angell was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery next to his beloved Polly, who had passed away ten years before. He left behind two wives, thirteen children, and fifty-five grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Joseph Don Carlos Young, a son of Brigham Young trained in the East as an engineer, succeeded Truman Angell as Church Architect and supervised the last six years of the temple’s construction, including stone spires and redesigned interiors.

Perhaps the most fitting characterization of Angell’s place in Mormon history was one made by himself in a letter to President Taylor. After reviewing many events in his life, Angell modestly wrote that he had been called an architect “perhaps for want of a better man.” [106] He knew that there had been stronger, healthier, better-trained, and more talented men than himself in the Church from time to time. But William Weeks and William Ward left the Saints to go elsewhere, William Folsom arrived in the Valley late and found the job too frustrating and limiting, and Truman, Jr., had neither the requisite humility nor devotion to the Church to replace his father. Only Truman O. Angell, Sr., had been willing to endure years of frustration and friction with his associates, striving to “suit the authorities of the Church” while receiving little recognition and inadequate compensation, and persisting for decades in supervising even the smallest construction details of a single building. His contribution in providing order and continuity to this important project was not the work of an architectural genius but rather the humble offering of an uncommonly loyal and devoted servant of the Church. As an architect he had achieved more than he aspired to do simply by doing what he regarded as his duty. For this monumental job, the Church had never found a “better man.” In many ways, Truman O. Angell’s life had been a testimony to the sincerity of his exclamation in another letter to President Taylor, “Oh that I could go to my Father in Heaven and have Him say, ‘Well and faithful have you been over a few things. Enter my rest.’” [107]


[1] Truman O. Angell, Journal 1857, 8 April 1867–1868, MSS, Library Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City; hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives, 24 September 1867.

[2] Much of the preliminary research for this chapter was made possible by a 1973 Summer Research Fellowship from the History Division of the Church Historical Department. The help and encouragement of Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington is gratefully acknowledged.

[3] Most of what is known of the first half of Truman Angell’s life, the thirty-seven years from his birth to his arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, is contained in a short autobiographical sketch prepared in 1845 and revised and expanded in 1875 and 1884. The longest version fills only eleven pages of typescript, telling a story with many elements common to the faithful rank-and-file who participated in the early scenes of the Mormon saga. The longest version is titled “Journal of Truman O. Angell”; hereafter cited as Angell, Journal. A shorter version is “Biography of Truman O. Angell, Sr.”; hereafter cited as Angell, Biography. Typescripts are preserved in the LDS Church Archives.

[4] Angell, Journal, 1.

[5] Angell, Journal, 2.

[6] Angell, Journal, 2.

[7] Joseph Holbrook, “The Life of Joseph Holbrook Written by His Own Hand,” typescript, LDS Church Archives, 8.

[8] Holbrook, “The Life of Joseph Holbrook,” 13–14.

[9] Holbrook, “The Life of Joseph Holbrook,” 13.

[10] Angell, Biography, 2.

[11] Angell, Journal, 2.

[12] Angell, Journal, 4.

[13] Angell, Journal, 3.

[14] Angell, Journal, 3.

[15] Angell, Journal, 5.

[16] Angell, Journal, 4.

[17] Angell, Journal, 5.

[18] Angell, Journal, 11.

[19] Angell, Journal, 11.

[20] Angell, Journal, 3.

[21] Susa Young Gates, in collaboration in Leah D. Widtsoe, The Life Story of Brigham Young (New York: Macmillan Company, 1930), 24.

[22] Angell, Biography, 3.

[23] Angell, Journal, 5.

[24] Angell, Journal, 5.

[25] Angell, Biography, 5.

[26] Angell, Journal, 6.

[27] Angell, Biography, 5.

[28] Card Index, Nauvoo Restoration; Nauvoo Neighbor, 23 April 1844.

[29] For information on William Weeks, see J. Earl Arrington, “William Weeks, Architect of the Nauvoo Temple,” Brigham Young University Studies 19 (Spring 1979): 337–59.

[30] Joseph Smith Jr., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2d rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1932–51), 6:196–97.

[31] Angell, Journal, 7.

[32] Angell, Biography, 6.

[33] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 27 December 1845, LDS Church Archives.

[34] Angell, Journal, 6.

[35] Angell, Journal, 7.

[36] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 27 December 1845.

[37] Angell, Journal, 8.

[38] Truman O. Angell, “A Journal of my Time kept by my own hand,” commencing 15 December 1851, typescript LDS Church Archives, 1 (hereafter cited as Angell, Journal, 1851–56).

[39] Angell, “A Journal of my Time,” 1.

[40] Angell, “A Journal of my Time,” 1.

[41] Catalogue of the Utah Territorial Library (Great Salt Lake City: Brigham H. Young, Printer, 1852), typescript, LDS Church Archives, 27.

[42] Angell, Journal 1854–56, 24, refers to a work by Peter Nicholson, probably Principles of Architecture (London, 1848). Other influences seem to come from books by A. J. Downing, William H. Ranlett, and Edward Shaw.

[43] Compare Angell’s design with William H. Ranlett, The Architect (New York: William H. Graham, 1846), plate 6.

[44] Angell, Journal, 1851–56, 2–3.

[45] Angell, Journal, 1851–56, 2.

[46] Angell, Journal, 1851–56, 7.

[47] Angell, Journal, 1851–56, 10.

[48] Angell, Journal, 1851–56, 13.

[49] William Ward, “Who Designed the Temple?” Deseret Evening News, 16 April 1892, 4.

[50] Ward, “Who Designed the Temple?” 4.

[51] Peter Nicholson, The New Practical Builder and Workman’s Companion (London: Thos. Kelly, 1822). Charles Mark Hamilton has also mentioned this similarity in his dissertation, “The Salt Lake Temple: An Architectural Monograph” (Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1978), 56.

[52] Edward Shaw, Rural Architecture (Boston: James B. Dow, 1843), 51.

[53] Angell, Journal 1851–56, 18.

[54] See Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1958) for details about the early attempts at building a sugar industry.

[55] Angell, Journal 1851–56, 20.

[56] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 2 October 1855, LDS Church Archives.

[57] Truman O Angell, “Journal by Truman Osborn Angell 1856,” typescript, LDS Church Archives (original in Daughter of Utah Pioneers Archives), 1; hereafter cited as Angell, Missionary Journal.

[58] Angell, Missionary Journal.

[59] Angell, Missionary Journal, 7.

[60] Angell, Missionary Journal, 20.

[61] Angell, Missionary Journal, 20.

[62] Angell, Missionary Journal.

[63] Angell, Missionary Journal, 76.

[64] Angell, Missionary Journal, 28.

[65] Angell, Missionary Journal, 29.

[66] Angell, Missionary Journal, 30–31.

[67] Angell, Missionary Journal, 32.

[68] Angell, Missionary Journal, 57.

[69] Angell, Missionary Journal, 62.

[70] Angell, Missionary Journal, 69.

[71] Angell, Missionary Journal, 50–51.

[72] Angell, Missionary Journal, 24.

[73] Angell, Missionary Journal, 44–48.

[74] Fredrick Piercy, Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley (Liverpool: Franklin D. Richards, 1855).

[75] Angell, Missionary Journal, 68.

[76] Angell, Missionary Journal, 65–70.

[77] Angell, Missionary Journal, 68.

[78] Angell, Missionary Journal, 68.

[79] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 22 March 1858, LDS Church Archives.

[80] Journal History, 2 January 1859, 1. LDS Church Archives.

[81] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 20 September 1858, LDS Church Archives.

[82] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 2 January 1860, LDS Church Archives.

[83] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 2 January 1860.

[84] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 18 July 1860, LDS Church Archives. Although there has been some speculation that Angell designed the Forest Farm house, I have been unable to find any evidence for his participation in that project.

[85] Truman O. Angell, Journal 1857 to 8 April 1868, MSS, LDS Church Archives, 18 April 1867; hereafter cited as Angell Journal 1857–68. In the absence of page numbers, citations are made by date of entry.

[86] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 31 March 1867, LDS Church Archives.

[87] Angell, Journal 1857–68, 21 April 1867.

[88] Angell, Journal 1857–68, 28 April 1867.

[89] Angell, Journal 1857–68, 28 May 1867.

[90] Angell, Journal 1857–68, 19 June 1867.

[91] Angell, Journal 1857–68, 26 September 1867.

[92] Angell, Journal 1857–68, 30 August 1867.

[93] Angell, Journal 1857–68, 6, 12, and 18 October 1867.

[94] Angell, Journal 1857–68, 4 July 1867.

[95] Hazel Bradshaw, ed. Under Dixie Sun (St. George, Utah: Washington County Chapter Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1950), 340.

[96] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 29 July 1876, LDS Church Archives.

[97] Brigham Young to Truman O. Angell, 4 August 1876, LDS Church Archives.

[98] Brigham Young to Truman O. Angell, Jr., 4 September 1876, LDS Church Archives.

[99] Truman O. Angell to Brigham Young, 23 February 1877, LDS Church Archives.

[100] Angell, Journal 1857–68, 16 March 1868.

[101] Truman O. Angell to John Taylor, 25 September 1877, LDS Church Archives.

[102] John Taylor to Truman O. Angell, 13 May 1886, LDS Church Archives.

[103] Truman O. Angell and Truman O. Angell, Jr., to Wilford Woodruff, 11 October 1887, LDS Church Archives.

[104] “Death of Truman O. Angell, Sr.,” Deseret Evening News, 17 October 1887, 3.

[105] Laura Angell King, “Truman O. Angell, Sr.,” in Kate B. Carter, Heart Throbs of the West, 12 vols. (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1941), 3:71.

[106] Truman O. Angell to John Taylor, December 1881, LDS Church Archives.

[107] Truman O. Angell to John Taylor, 18 October 1881, LDS Church Archives.