The name of the philanthropic family appears on the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts at Park City High School. It is also seen on the Eccles Community Art Center in Ogden and the Eccles Theatre in Salt Lake City.
Planned Parenthood, Utahns Against Hunger, the Hogle Zoo and the Literacy Action Center have all received money from the Eccles Foundation, said Park City resident Lee Benson.
“I asked my editors to turn me loose so I could write a story about the Eccles Foundation to see where all the money comes from,” Benson said.
The writer will talk about his findings and his column at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26, at the Park City Library’s Community Room, 1255 Park Ave. The event, which is sponsored by Rebecca Marriott Champion, a Park City resident who is interested in Utah history, is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It became a pretty fun dive into the Eccles’ history, and I quickly came to David Eccles and his story of becoming one of Utah’s first multimillionaires,” Benson said. “He’s the Andrew Carnegie of Utah, really.”
David Eccles was the second oldest son of William Eccles, a legally blind immigrant from Scotland in 1863.
“William came to the United States with nothing but the dust in his pockets,” Benson said. “He got a loan from the Mormon Church for 75 pounds, which was the equivalent of $375, to bring the whole family, including his seven kids, to Utah.”
David Eccles was 17 when he arrived in the Beehive State.
“He had an entrepreneurial nature, and immediately began cutting down trees and sold them to the railroad,” Benson said. “That was the start of the Eccles empire.”
The empire might have found a different way to grow if it hadn’t been for polygamy, according to Benson.
“David had a wife, Bertha, who lived in Ogden, and right before the fuss over plural marriage began, he married a second wife, Ellen, who lived in Logan,” he said.
Eccles was 63 when he died while running to catch a train to visit Bertha.
“Upon his death, people discovered he, this millionaire, hadn’t taken care of his affairs,” Benson said. “So fate jumped in and all of the Eccles in Ogden got most of his money.”
Benson was approached by the talk’s sponsor, Rebecca Marriott Champion, to give a presentation a few months ago after she read his column.
“You always say yes to something that’s nine months out, so that’s the story of why I’m speaking,” he said with a laugh. “I do I love history, but I’m not a historian. So we’ll see how it’s received.”
When: 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26
Cost: Free, but RSVP are required at email@example.com