The year after the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, President Brigham Young asked stalwart Latter-day Saint John Pack to build a home large enough to be used for social functions. Eventually, that 30-foot-by-60-foot structure would accommodate the first classes of the University of Deseret, forerunner to the University of Utah. Now the home has been replicated at This Is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated the new structure Nov. 10, the most recent addition to Old Deseret Village, the living-history attraction inside the park.
"I'm sure John Pack is looking in on this occasion," Elder Ballard said to the spectators, who filled every available space inside the new building because morning showers precluded the event from being held outside. Most of them were John Pack descendants and members of the family organization that raised the funds for the structure to be built and then turned over to This Is The Place Foundation.
"You know, as you come here and as you think about the things that occurred in [the Pack home] back in the days of your forefather," he said, "you contemplate who would have been in this home, who would have danced here, who would have sung here, who would have been taught here, you start thinking about Brigham Young and the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve of those days. And you think about other leaders, remarkable leaders of the community here that would have come to participate. This is a tremendous addition to the park."
To Jim Macfarlane, chairman of the University of Utah Board of Trustees, he publicly suggested that the trustees have a meeting in the new building and that the university use it from time to time "that this park becomes their heritage, the heritage of the University of Utah and all the people of the state of Utah."
JoAnn Merrill, a member of the family organization, gave a history of the Pack home, noting that it was built in 1848 with a good floor with plain rafters and side walls of brown mortar. It was to be used for dancing and other amusements and had the distinction of being the first dance hall in Salt Lake City.
In 1849, she said, Livingston and Kincaid opened the first mercantile store in the Salt Lake Valley in the Pack home, it being the largest and most convenient building for store purposes and it being located on the southwest corner of West Temple and First North streets, just a block from Union Square, where most of the immigrants temporarily stopped when they entered the valley. Boots, shoes, grain, bacon, molasses, shirts, hats, caps, calico, pencils, ink and writing materials were among items sold in the store.
In February 1850, the first plans to develop a university were made, but it was delayed pending the erection of a large enough structure for classes. The Board of Regents decided to rent the parlor and adjacent room of the Pack home for holding the classes. Thus, on Nov. 11, 1850, the first classes of what would be the first university west of the Missouri River began.
Outlining the history of John Pack, Clyde Pack said he was baptized with his wife, Julia Ives Pack, in 1836 in Watertown, N.Y. With the Latter-day Saints, he endured the persecutions in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. He was a major in the Nauvoo Legion and became president of the Eighth Quorum of Seventy. During the 1847 trek to the Salt Lake Valley he was a major in one of the pioneer companies leaving from Winter Quarters, Neb.
During his remarks, Elder Ballard mentioned that his own great-great-grandfather Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, had performed the sealing ordinance for John and Julia Pack in the Nauvoo Temple.