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Discovery of the Lost Manuscript
From a Lost Boulder to a Lost Manuscript

After discovery of the Wandering Boulder of Capitol in May of 2010, historian Ronald Bodtcher began a mission to decode the initials on the boulder that would become an odyssey leading to discovery of a previously-unpublished manuscript autobiography of a unknown pioneer.


The story of how I found the manuscript autobiography is interesting and unlikely. It begins in 1885, when Franklin Wheeler Young, his son Le Roy Wheeler Young and daughter Elizabeth Aretta Young pecked and scratched their initials into a 15-ton boulder located near their home at the Junction (now Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park). The initials on the boulder were therefore FUUY, LHY and EAY.

The initials EAY are faint and scratched, rather than pecked like the other two sets. That's because they were made by a girl, Aretta Young. The FUUY was a mystery until I said to myself, "U, U, double U, W." So it was FWY.

In 1885, Y stood for Young, as in Brigham Young, the Mormon Prophet. So it was a matter of time and a little genealogy research to identify the three sets of initials.

The Manuscript

In researching the owner of the initials FWY, Franklin Wheeler Young, I came across an abbreviated biography and a journal in the LDS Church History archives. I later identified another manuscript that had never been published and was not available online. I requested that the Church digitize the document, and I paid for theses services, making the manuscript available to the public.

Matching the Boulder with the Manuscript

I read through the manuscript, which was quite interesting and easy to read because of the excellent penmanship. Of course, I skipped forward, searching for the year 1885, which was pecked into the Wandering Boulder next to the initials FWY.

Imagine my excitement when I read, in Young's own hand, what he was doing and where he was in 1885. Better yet, read it for yourself in the book I have published. Of course, Young calls the place "the Junction," and that was its name until 1901, when it was changed to Fruita. And naturally, Fruita is the place where the Wandering Boulder was originally found and documented by archaeologist Noel Morss in 1928.

Why the National Park Service and professional researchers failed to uncover this information is a mystery to me. Anyone with solid research skills and a background in LDS History could have done the same.

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