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
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 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.
Governor Rampton & Kate B.
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