Dr. Charles S. Peterson will talk about the life of Nels Anderson, one of the most important but least-known citizens of Utah’s Dixie. As a boy, Anderson wandered into Terry’s ranch as a hobo. He was kicked off a freight train in Nevada and roamed to the ranch near Enterprise, where the Terrys’ accepted him, employed him and linked him into their family. They, along with the Wood and the Hafen families, befriended him, helped him join the LDS Church, graduate from high school, and encouraged him to attend Dixie College. While there he became associated with Juanita Brooks, a teacher at Dixie. He went on to BYU and then into World War I. He returned to BYU and became the Senior Class President in 1921.
After his years in southern Utah, Anderson went to the University of Chicago, where he earned a Masters Degree in Sociology. He then went to New York University where he completed a Ph.D. in Sociology. By that time the Great Depression was under way. He took a position in the Roosevelt administration and became a key assistant to Harry Hopkins. As part of that, he administered the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). During the Depression he contacted Juanita Brooks and helped her obtain a grant from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) that supported her important program to employ women in Utah’s Dixie to type the journals of Dixie pioneers. In 1942, he published his famous book Desert Saints, which is a significant sociological study of Mormon culture. In some ways it was an expression of his fondness for southern Utah.
Juanita Brooks Lectures
The Annual Juanita Brooks lecture is a continuation of a series endowed by Obert C. Tanner, a friend of Juanita Brooks. Tanner wanted her work as a researcher and author about southern Utah to continue after her death and so he funded this annual lecture series in her honor. The first one Juanita Brooks Lecture was given by Dr. Peterson in 1984. Now, nearly three decades later, Dr. Peterson will give the 29th lecture in the series. Dr. Peterson was raised in Snowflake, Ariz., and graduated from Brigham Young University with a Masters degree in 1958. He taught history, political science and economics at College of Eastern Utah for ten years. He then went to the University of Utah for doctoral studies and was employed there as secretary of the Organization of American History. After completing his PhD., he became the director of the Utah Historical Society from 1969 to 1971. He was appointed to teach history at Utah State University, where he worked until 1989 when he retired. He moved to St. George and taught part-time at Southern Utah University until 1997. During his career he wrote several important works, including Utah, A History, part of the Bicentennial Series of States in the United States, Look to the Mountains, a history of the La Sal National Forest, and Take Up Your Mission, a history of Mormon colonization along the Little Colorado River.
Dr. Peterson’s return to the Tabernacle as part of the History and Music series on Wednesday evenings will feature one of the most interesting tales in Dixie History, one that few Dixieites know. It is quite a story—from hobo to scholar. There will be a reception following where people can meet Dr. Peterson and ask questions.