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A Memorial for Those That Mourn

130 years ago, a pioneer woman lost two of her children. Now, two BYU students are working to create a memorial park for women like her.

When it comes to topics people think about while washing their cars, local history likely hits right at the bottom of the list. But for those visiting the Quick Quack Car Wash off 1600 North in Orem, Becca Driggs’s (History ’24) senior project may soon change that. Two pioneer-era baby boys lie buried in the vacant lot behind the car wash—and thanks to Driggs’s efforts, their resting place will be preserved as a memorial park for women who have suffered the loss of a child.

Driggs came across the story of Eva Charlotta Andersson, mother of these two baby boys, while working on Professor Julie Allen’s (Scandinavian and Immigration History) Scandinavian LDS Women project, which aims to create a database of Scandinavian immigrant women who arrived in Utah between the years 1850 and 1920. Driggs found Andersson’s story compelling—in 1885, she married a man named Wilhelm Bjork as his second wife and became part of the Mormon Underground: a subsection of the Church community, largely consisting of women, who lived in hiding to avoid the US government’s anti-polygamy laws. She and Wilhelm had four children together but lost two not long after childbirth. Unable to bury their sons in a proper grave due to the illegal nature of their relationship, the Anderssons buried them by night near a barn on their property. The story persisted in family and local memory for the next 130 years, but nobody ever took steps to mark or preserve the graves.

A picture of (from the left) Dr. Sarah Reed, Dr. Julie Allen, Becca Driggs, and Jill Barrick standing at the empty lot.
Photo by Jill Barrick

In 2022, Driggs presented about the Scandinavian LDS Women project on a panel at the Kennedy Center and shared Andersson’s story among a few others. Her description of how to get to the graves’ reported location—drive down I-15, get off at 1600 North in Orem, and arrive at a vacant lot behind the Quick Quack Car Wash—captured the attention of another student in the audience, Jill Barrick (French ’25), who immediately realized she lived only a block away from the lot. Moved by the story, she approached Driggs afterward, and from there the two of them got in contact with LaNae Millet, a friend of Barrick’s on the Orem City Council, to discuss what they could do to memorialize the graves.

They decided pretty quickly to turn the empty lot into a park. “One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, so there’s a lot of women who lose children,” Barrick says. “We wanted to build a place for women to grieve—not just the loss of these two kids, but the loss of countless kids.”

The city council voted unanimously to approve their proposal. Why? Barrick explains: “Inevitably, one of their wives or one of their daughters or one of their sisters had gone through something similar. There was no place like that [for them].”

Working to uncover buried history like this has impacted how Driggs sees the world. “It’s forced me to look more critically at the land I’m occupying, at who used to be here. What is my place in all of it, and what am I doing to preserve it for the people who will live here next?” Her efforts have started a chain reaction, bringing the needs of women and families to the forefront of the city council’s attention. They’ve begun making plans to add a new exhibit for lost children in the Orem City Cemetery.

As for the project’s current state, the park has been approved, and Driggs and Barrick are working with an architect to put together a plan for the lot. They’ve garnered a lot of interest from local businesses willing to donate to the project, but their circle of support extends far beyond that, from the BYU professors who helped get the project approved to even Barrick’s neighbors, who started getting curious when they first saw her standing out on the lot with news crews. It’s a total reversal from the disinterest of the past 130 years. Driggs says, “Now everybody talks about them, all the time. They’re always like, ‘How are our babies?’”

If there’s anyone who feels the pull to get involved in a local cause but isn’t sure how to start, Barrick says the answer is simple: “If you feel something, decide to act on it. Ask somebody to help. The truth is, everyone always knows someone. You know somebody who can guide you to the right person or who has a direct connection to get you in.”

It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture or passion project either. Just pick a good cause and get going. “When I started this project, I didn’t know anything,” Driggs says. “I did not care. But through this work, I’ve learned to care. So just get involved in anything.”

Want a project to contribute to? Try checking out Dr. Allen’s Scandinavian LDS Women database.