Kate B. Carter

1892 – 1976

Humanitarian/ Historian                                                                      Spanish Fork, Utah

If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…

nothing shall be impossible unto you

                                  undefinedMatt. 17:20

Catherine Vigdus Bearnson was born July 30, 1892 in Spanish Fork, Utah. She is the daughter of Josephine Marie Christine Jensen (Mary Bearnson) a Danish emigrant and Finnbogi Björnsson (Tim Bearnson) an Icelandic emigrant.

Catherine was known as Kate or Kate B. She began her education in Scofield, Utah and later in Rush Valley, Utah. Kate’s mother felt the children would receive better training in a larger school so the family moved home or Spanish Fork as it was always considered to be home.  Kate graduated from Spanish Fork High School. Next she graduated from Henager’s Business College, and at different periods in her life she took courses from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. Education was an important part of her family’s home life the children were provided with as many books as it was possible for them to obtain.

When Kate was only twelve years of age an elderly neighbor asked her to write letters for him, as he could not write the English language, this led her to write his life story as he dictated it, thus began her interest in the Utah pioneers and their history.

On 14 June 1914, Kate married Austin Carter in the Salt Lake Temple. Austin was a fine man, patient, kind, and affectionate. They made their home in Spanish Fork, Utah until 1926, when they moved to Salt Lake City. Their children were born to them: Boyer, Paul, and Kathryn.

Austin and Kate Carter

Kate B. was a charter member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP) in Spanish Fork and joined camp #2 when she went to Salt Lake City to reside. Realizing that people cannot be fully informed unless they have a thorough knowledge of their forebears, she began researching into the records of the pioneers. In 1930, Kate was asked to prepare the first outline of the lessons for the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. At this time the organization could not afford to have them typed, so she, her friends, and children typed them. Later they were mimeographed and sold to various D.U.P. Groups. Thus began the great publish career of Kate B. Carter. She was elected president of the Daughters of Utah pioneers in 1941; she served until her death in 1976. During her time as president she compiled, edited, and did much of the writing for twelve volumes of Heart Throbs of the West, six volumes of Treasures of Pioneer History, and nineteen volumes of Our Pioneer Heritage, as well as numerous pamphlets.

Kate was especially interested in the everyday pioneer life, how the ordinary emigrant lived. This was often overlooked by many historians. The common everyday life of these Utah pioneers are preserved forever in the many volumes of history she compiled.

The sale of these books and pamphlets provided funds for the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Organization to erect a Pioneer Memorial Museum completed in 1950 and the Carriage House added in 1973.

Two important educational projects are notable in her achievements: the placing of 396 historical markers throughout the United States and Europe. One of the historical markers is the Icelandic Monument in Spanish Fork, Utah. In 1938 Kate was vice president of the National Association of Daughters of Utah Pioneers and was a part of the planning committee to erect this monument. At that time Kate B. Carter said, “The Icelanders in Utah are said to have preserved the folklore and customs of their mother country more than any other nationality that pioneered in Utah.” As part of the Utah Iceland Days on 2 August 1938 this monument was dedicated. It remains a reminder to all of Icelandic descent of our Icelandic heritage. Every visiting Icelander to Spanish Fork, Utah goes to that monument and has their picture taken with the monument in the background.

Kate B. Carter was a student of the scriptures. Starting in the home of her parents and continuing throughout her life daily scripture study was a priority. She started every article and lesson she wrote with a scripture from the Bible or The Book of Mormon. That is why this article starts with a scripture.

Kate B. Carter is to be considered one to of the truly great women of our time. Her attributes were many. She was a born leader and doer. She was a humanitarian, historian, student, researcher, genealogist, church worker, executive, and a friend. Through her leadership and love of history, Kate B. Carter brought the Daughters of Utah Pioneers from a largely social organization to one of great renown in gathering and preserving the history of the pioneers of Utah. Spoken words soon pass on, written words, like the books by Kate B. Carter, well preserved, will forever be a monument to her and a gift to future generations.

Andrew Jensen, Assistant Historian, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave Kate B. a new title, “The greatest woman historian the West and the L.D.S. Church has ever known.”  Those who worked closest with her in this life’s work called it “Icelandic determination”.

Kate B. carter passed away 8 September 1976, she is buried in the Spanish Fork City Cemetery.

Kate was recognized for her work with a number of awards.

  • ·   1945: Kate B. received an award of merit for work as a Minute Woman and also an award as a member of the Bushnell Recreational Fund Committee and a special citation and medal from the National War Salvage Board. 
  • ·   1953: The Soroptomists Club presented Kate B.’s name for the Mary Margret McBride Award, sponsored by the National Broadcasting Association.
  • ·   1953, Kate along with six other women were named to the Salt lake Council of Women’s Hall of Fame for their outstanding service over a number of years.
  • ·   1955: Kate B. Carter and her brother John Y. Bearnson each received the Order of the Falcon Award from Peter Eggerz, Minister of Legation of Iceland at Washington D.C.
  • ·  

Governor Rampton & Kate B.

1960: Kate B. was awarded an honorary life membership in the Utah Historical Society for distinguished service to Utah.
  • ·   1967: Kate B. was appointed a member of the Golden Spike Centennial Commission by Utah Governor, Calvin L. Rampton.
  • ·   1969: The Salt lake City, Lions Club gave Kate B. a certificate of appreciation and in 1973 they again honored her for thirty five of years of community service as co-chairman of ’47 Committee’.
  • ·   1971: The Utah Woman’s Review honored Kate B. as a true woman of the week who had dedicated her life to compiling the history of the Mormon Pioneers. Responding, she said: “I had no real history training. My desire and love of history came from my father, an Icelandic pioneer who settled in Spanish Fork.  
  • ·   1971 Utah Governor, Calvin L. Rampton presented Kate B. with a plague of the Great Seal of the State of Utah for her outstanding contribution to the state as president of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
  • ·   1972: The Salt lake Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers honored her for her outstanding service as co-chairman of the Days of 47.
  • ·   1973: The Mormon Battalion gave Kate B. their Distinguished Service Award.
  • ·   1974: In her eighty-second year, she received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Southern Utah State College.
  • ·   1975: The National Association of Secretaries of State honored Kate. B. with a medallion for “meritorious public service”.

Visiting in Sacramento, California for the Daughters of Utah Pioneers county convention, Kate B. told of various awards and prizes her history volumes have brought her, she said; “But the one that mean the most to me is the Order of the Falcon from Iceland. It means the most to me because it’s from the land of my father”

Biographical information taken from Our Pioneer Heritage Volume 20, Daughters of Utah Pioneers and An Icelandic Saga, The Utah Story Volume 1, Icelandic Association of Utah

David A. Ashby

10 April, 2014


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