With all the love in the air this past week, I thought it was appropriate that I bring you one of Utah’s oldest legends and love stories. It all centers around a tree, a purple dress, and a shrine to a meeting place of long ago.
The Cedar Tree Shrine
When the pioneers arrived in the valley in 1847, their main road to and from the valley was known as Emigration Road, what is now known to us as 300 South. At 600 East, a large Cedar tree stood, and was a welcome site that they had arrived in the valley.
Beneath the Cedar, travelers would rest in the shade, sing songs and offers prayers of gratitude for an end to their long journey. It also became a meeting place for people to gather before they traveled out of the valley. Loggers would gather here each day before their journey up the canyon to complete their day’s work. Children would play beneath its branches, and lovers found it a happy meeting place to sit in its shade and enjoy the company of each other. I can imagine that hearts were probably carved in this tree as a symbol of never-ending love between two hearts. This is where the Cedar got is nickname “The Kissing Tree”.
Lavender, The Ghost of The Kissing Tree
The Kissing Tree is also the site of one of Utah’s first urban legend love stories. The legend tells of a young woman named Marilyn Watson who came immigrated to Salt Lake from Scotland with her family in 1847. She was 19 years old, and loved dancing, flirting with boys, and wearing purple dresses. This fascination with purple dresses named her the nickname “Lavender”. Tragedy struck just under two years after reaching the valley, when she caught pneumonia and died. (They say that she is buried at the Salt Lake City Cemetery, and that her headstone has the name “Lavender” written on it, but with all my research at the cemetery I have yet to come across such a grave.)
Fast forward 10 years when 20-year old Henry Tanner arrives in the valley with his family. Henry also loved to dance, and would invite girls he met at dances to meet him at The Kissing Tree. One night he spotted a young girl in a lavender colored dress, and was immediately drawn to her. He invited her to meet him at The Kissing Tree, where they would embrace and kiss under its branches. He accompanied her home, and offered her his jacket to keep her warm. Upon arriving home, Henry noticed that the girl still had his jacket, and returned to her house the next day to retrieve it. Nobody was home, so he asked a neighbor where he could find her. The neighbor said that the girl in the lavender dress could be found on the East side of the cemetery, and when Henry arrived there, instead he found her headstone with his jacket draped across it.
Some say that you can still spot a girl in a lavender dress waiting by The Kissing Tree.
Story source: Salt Lake Magazine
The Cedar Tree (Kissing Tree) Today
For unknown reasons, this tree was carelessly chopped down, leaving only the stump. On July 24, 1933, the Daughters of Salt Lake County erected a monument and plaque around the stump as a tribute to the many years of friendly influence the tree had on the lives of the weary travelers, loggers, men, women, children and lovers in the early Salt Lake valley.
You can find The Kissing Tree, also known as the Cedar Tree Shrine, at 316 South 600 East in Salt Lake City. Maybe tonight between your dinner plans and other various Valentines Day activities, you can find a moment to stop by the monument and reflect on the place where many other lovers have sat there before.
Read more about Utah’s Mysteries and Urban Legends.
More Love Stories:
Tags: cedar tree shrine, lavender, love stories, pioneer stories, salt lake history, the kissing tree salt lake, the kissing tree utah, urban legends, utah history, utah love stories, utah mysteries, utah urban legends