Documenting the Design of Southern Utah

Mahala Ruddell Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board

Each spring, the Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board (USHRAB) seeks applications from Utah’s non-profit, local, and state government institutions for grant funds of up to $7,500 to support records preservation and access. The Board’s grant program is funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives, whose mission is to promote the preservation and use of America’s documentary heritage essential to understanding our democracy, history, and culture.

Dixie State University was awarded $1,777 in September 2019 to process and create a finding aid for the Leo Alva Snow Papers.

Leo Alva Snow attended the St. George Woodward School and was among its first graduating class in 1903. He left St. George for higher education before coming back as an engineer and surveyor. Snow was an influential man in St. George, Utah and the surrounding areas, serving at various times as the county attorney, civil engineer, a city council member, and a notary public. He was involved with surveys of Utah, Arizona and Nevada. Snow became the Washington County Surveyor from 1909–1917. He surveyed the area that later became Zion National Park and was a proponent of protecting the area. From that point he practiced general engineering for nearly 34 years. 

Interested in public land surveys and general engineering, Snow helped design irrigation systems, sewer construction, waterworks improvements, and highway projects. In 1934, he worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps as the engineer for the construction of the Winsor Dam.  In 1939, he worked for the Public Works Administration as resident Engineer Inspector.

Image of proposed railroad lines
In 1909, Snow drew plans for a proposed Southern Utah Railroad with connections in Northern Nevada that were never realized.

DSU’s collection contains over 950 oversized materials, mostly maps, blueprints, surveys, and more, plus several cubic feet of correspondence and business papers documenting Snow’s work in Southern Utah. The collection is of significant value in understanding the area’s geography and growth. 

Design plans for Dixie College campus, 1959
In 1959, Snow drew a map of the new Dixie State University campus (just prior to the move from the old campus on Main Street) when only the gymnasium had been completed. Similarities from his original drawing still exist on today’s campus with the placement of the art, science, and dormitory buildings.

The large quantity and sheer size of these maps proved to be a challenge.  Safely arranging the drawings according to their size required several extra large tables. After organizing the maps, the data was entered documenting the area, including the map description, date, size, digital file, etc. It was very time consuming, but made it more accessible to researchers.

The 2019–2020 cohort of USHRAB-funded projects encountered significant setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When most institutions closed in March 2020 in an effort to mitigate the spread of the disease, projects stalled as employees juggled shifting priorities in the transition to the new remote-work normal. Dixie State’s special collections staff and interns rose to the challenge, admirably so. They figured out how to proceed, utilizing spreadsheets and digital assets to keep their work flowing while working remotely, and generally adapting quickly to meet their goals. After employees came back to campus mid-summer, the last of the hands-on processing was completed just in time to meet the deadline. And despite the scramble, Dixie was successful. The collection has been processed, properly housed, and described so that researchers can better access the information they need without over-handling the physical materials and putting long-term preservation at risk.

Read more about the Leo Alva Snow Papers in the collection’s extensive online finding aid

To find out more about the USHRAB’s grant program and apply for funding, visit our website. Applications for 2021-2022 records preservation projects are accepted until May 10, 2021.

The USHRAB’s grant program is funded by a State Board Programming Grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives. The USHRAB assists public and private non-profits, as well as non-Federal government entities throughout the State of Utah in the preservation and use of historical records.

Credit: Text adapted from DSU’s 2019 application for grant funding from the USHRAB, the Leo Alva Snow Papers finding aid, and additional contributions by Kathleen Broeder and Tammy Gentry.