A piece of Gibbs Smith history

Below is an article from The Standard-Examiner chronicling a piece of trivia from the Gibbs Smith history files. Catherine Smith, wife of Gibbs and co-founder of the 40-year-old independent publisher, grew up in the Peacefield house.

Preserving history / Home filled with family memories
By Wendy Green (Standard-Examiner correspondent)


LAYTON -- When Mary Morgan-Burnett's cousin asked if she'd like to move into the home off East Gentile Street where her recently-deceased, beloved Aunt Oma lived for 50 years, Morgan-Burnett eagerly accepted.

Her husband, Steve Burnett, had just finished officer training in South Carolina when the newlywed couple moved into the historic Layton home in 2004. They've since added three children to their family: Molly, 4, Maggie, 2, and Jack, 8 months.

Maggie was born in the home in July 2007, when Morgan-Burnett delivered so quickly, there wasn't time to get to the hospital. Maggie became the 21st person born in the home; the 20th was born in 1924. A story detailing the events of her birth ran in the Standard-Examiner Nov. 29, 2007. In that story, Morgan-Burnett said the home's history was a blessing to her on the day of Maggie's birth.

"For everything to go so smoothly, we know we had help. There were definitely angels attending that day," she was quoted as saying.

Morgan-Burnett, the youngest of eight children, remembers visiting the home owned by her Uncle George and Aunt Oma Wilcox, every Christmas Eve throughout her childhood. The Wilcoxes bought the home in 1955 and worked hard to preserve the original feel while adding new plumbing, wiring, floors and cupboards. Oma searched antique stores and thrift shops for features she could add to her much-loved house: from furniture and lighting, chosen for their appearance and history, to the marble fireplace she bought for $60 as a broken heap of marble removed from the First Security Bank board room in Salt Lake City when the building was remodeled.

It's truly a home filled with memories and family treasures.

Morgan-Burnett has kept many items exactly where her Aunt Oma left them. The large picture of boys playing with a dog still hangs where Oma placed it, the decorative chandelier acquired from an old hotel hangs over her antique grand piano, photos of ancestors lovingly arranged in various beautiful frames cover the wall leading up the stairs to the room the Burnetts' two oldest daughters, Molly, 4, and Maggie, 2, share. The girls' room has a custom door cut to fit the deeply-angled roof line.

The house was built in 1877 by Oma's great-uncle Hyrum Adams, son of Elias Adams, the founder of Layton. Hyrum was the first white boy born in Layton because Native Americans were the only inhabitants in the area prior to the Adams' arrival.

The house began as two small rooms built of adobe. The property was called Peacefield after the Massachusetts farm of John and Abigail Adams. Additional rooms, a granary, barn, buggy sheds, a garage and a carport were added by various occupants over the next 100 years. The barn on the property is now the home office of Gibbs-Smith Publishing. The large Symphony Homes development behind the house shares the Peacefield name.

The home has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room, office, dining room, kitchen and large utility room. The wallpaper in various rooms is just as her Aunt Oma left it. Several solid bronze doorknobs, acquired from the old Walker Bank building in Salt Lake City, were chosen by Oma for their shared monogram of a W on each knob.

Another special treasure in the home is a door hung on an interior closet. The glass on the door features a large, detailed etching of the Salt Lake City Temple and Brigham Young monument. From one end of the home to the other, the care and attention shown by each resident is evident.

When Morgan-Burnett first moved in, she was often asked by local youngsters what it was like to live in a "haunted house." The Burnetts haven't experienced any ghosts or other negative experiences in the house. They work hard to care for the home, maintaining the original features while adjusting where necessary to make it a more suitable home for a modern family with small children.

Owning an historic home can be challenging. A water leak in one room forced the girls to relocate to a room upstairs until the leak is resolved and the resulting damage corrected. Steve Burnett said it really needs a full-time carpenter to keep up with the repairs and necessary modifications.

Despite its challenges, Morgan-Burnett said her family is perfectly comfortable in the home her sweet aunt so lovingly assembled.

"You can't purchase a home with this much personal history. We love the memories we have here. We love the history here; we thrive on it."

Cabin restored to reflect the 1800s
LAYTON -- An old-fashioned skeleton key opens the door to the tiny cabin.

Inside, a fireplace on the right serves as the focal point of the room. Two antique rocking chairs, one that converts to a recliner, face the hearth. Various items sit on a tiny desk off to one side including a tiny box containing glasses that fold into a square. Photos of the cabin's past residents sit atop the fireplace as if looking over the room where they shared their lives.

The little log cabin sits undisturbed on property that features a large historic home housing Steve and Mary Morgan-Burnett's family of five, the home office of Gibbs-Smith Publishing, and a working farm.

It's hard to believe the one-room cabin, measuring only about 12x12 feet, was once the home of two young married couples.

The cabin was built in 1856 by newlyweds Richard Pilling and Catherine Adams along with Catherine's older brother, George Washington Adams, who married Richard Pilling's sister Mary Ann.

According to descendant Harris Adams, these two brother/sister couples built the single-room log cabin a mile north in Snow Creek hollow and moved into the cabin together, hanging a blanket down the middle at night for privacy.

Harris Adams, a Layton resident, researched ancestor Elias Adams for over 35 years for his book, "Elias Adams-A Pioneer Profile," published in 2007.

Harris Adams said the couples lived in the home together until they had small children.

A narrative provided by Mary Morgan-Burnett, who resides in the large historic home with her family, states, "After (the two couples) left, Elias Adams, Jr. (a younger brother of George and Catherine) and his bride, Elizabeth Rose Harris, moved into the cabin. Originally located about a half mile east near the Valley View Golf Course, the cabin was moved up the hill and built into Elias Adams, Jr.'s house."

Harris Adams said Elias Adams, Jr. had several teams of oxen drag the cabin up the hill onto a bluff so he could see the sunset. He moved it onto his own land off Oak Ridge Drive and as his family grew, he added more rooms. Elias and his wife Elizabeth had seven children. Elizabeth died soon after and Elias raised the children alone for 14 years. He was considered to be one of Layton's finest men.

Harris related the story of Elias's second marriage to Harris's grandmother, Lettie May Bennett.
"They met at a town dance when Elias asked Lettie to dance and later asked to escort her home. Lettie agreed if her friend Nellie could accompany them. That was Lettie's first date with Elias Adams."

He was considered a fine gentleman and Lettie adored him. The two were married when Elias was 60 and Lettie, who had just turned 27, could no longer be teased as an "old maid" by her friends.

The couple had several children together but had been married only nine years when Elias was severely injured in an accident with a runaway colt. He died in 1912. Harris said Lettie remained a widow for 45 years, "always expressing her deep respect and affection for her husband."

When Elias Adams Jr.'s home was demolished in the 1980s, Oma Wilcox had the cabin moved to her property off East Gentile Street, originally built by Hyrum Adams. It was placed on a stone foundation in 1986 and the interior was restored to reflect the 1800s era. From floor to ceiling, Oma's efforts remain a tribute to the little cabin's occupants of the past.

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