Monday, June 3, 2013

Marie Ogden and her Home of Truth.

Gates to Marie's Place; the Inner Portal
After moving to Monticello in 2009, Roy and I took many a ride around the area we were now calling home.   Going along Route 211, three miles from the junction of Route 191, we came across, what we thought to be, an old western homestead. 
There are several wood frame buildings and a tall set of wooden pillars with a sign indicating that this was "Marie's Place".   Before you reach this part, on the opposite side of the road, are buildings on the range, obviously old and abandoned; also a rock foundation of what, at first, looks like Indian ruins.  Going back into town, we began asking around for information on this location.  Basically, anyone under the age of 50 had no idea of what we were referring to or where.  Residents over 50 were a different story altogether; the consensus was that this was a "cowboy town" complete with saloon and brothel that was abandoned once the Mormon population began to increase in number.  Not condoning alcohol and prostitution, the residents of this "town" were eventually driven out.

I went to the local library to see if there was any history of that "town" in writings or photos, but was told there were none.  Getting busy with settling in the home, going to work and taking care of our little family of four legged children; I forgot about "Marie's Place".  Now this is a whole new year of new adventures, this travel blog for one, and my quest for information on "Marie's Place" has resumed.  To the Internet I went and oh what a story I found; not too many sources of information, but pretty consistent in content.  This was no "cowboy town", but a "spiritual community", also known as a "cult"; The Home of Truth.

Born May 31, 1883, originally from Newark, New Jersey, Marie Ogden became highly interested in spiritualism and the metaphysical after the death of her husband in 1929.  Personally, I wonder how much of this was influenced by Houdini's (death 1926) history, since he spent so much of his life attempting to prove there was an afterlife, and contacting his deceased mother.  Marie formed the "School of Truth" in Idaho, but had a falling out with her mentor over differing political views; giving credence to the ideal that church and state should stay separated.  Learning that there was cheap land for sale in San Juan County, Utah; she and many of her followers snapped up parcels of land in Dry Valley (15 miles north of Monticello) in 1933.  Dirt cheap was no joke, since the land was so dry and infertile; no crops could be cultivated there and it is still the same way to this day.  Cattle roam this range land, lazing on the hard ground, or nibbling away at any weed brave enough to try and grow.

The group's membership reached about 100 people, believing that Marie's ears heard God's words, or more exactly, that he wrote his instructions and doctrines to her via her typewriter.  Made perfect sense since she was the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, or so she claimed.  She also claimed that the second coming of Christ would occur at Church Rock, and that the location of Home of Truth was to be God's Kingdom on Earth.  Marie was a shrewd woman as well; she handled all the community's financial business, purchased the San Juan Record, became its editor and wrote about her metaphysical ideals for all the county to read.  However, around 1937, her own members began to wonder about all the strange goings on, and probably Marie's sanity.  She kept a female member's dead body claiming that the woman would come to life again; she was arrested for not having a death certificate, but later released due to the body "disappearing".  Two stories on that, one is that the body was cremated after the local sheriff started to investigate; the other is that the mummified body is still buried on the property somewhere.  The members eventually left, Marie supported herself by teaching piano lessons and finally passed away in 1975 at the San Juan Nursing Home in Blanding, Utah.  Her personal items were sold at auction; many ended up being donated to the Frontier Museum which is located at the Monticello Welcome Center.

Enough about Marie Ogden and more about the makeup of all the buildings still standing on the property. By the way, the property is now privately owned and maintained; but no word if it will ever be opened up to the public as an attraction. Seems a waste to let this little piece of history of the Southwest, and San Juan County, just break up into dust and blow away.

Home of Truth was made up of three sections;  Outer Portal, Middle Portal and the Inner Portal.

The Outer Portal was made up of a dormitory for visitors and non-members of the group; also utility and storage buildings.

That rock foundation I thought were Indian ruins; that is actually the unfinished temple located in the Middle Portal.

Unfinished Temple; the Middle Portal

The Inner Portal inside the gated and fenced area was the location of member dormitories, root cellar, meeting place, outhouses and Marie's home.  During the 1970s, while Marie was in the nursing home, the property was left abandoned and used as shelter by anyone passing through.  It was burnt to the ground by some of these trespassers, but it was said that her home was more lavish with a porch, several bedrooms and an underground two car garage.

 Well there you have it, the little that is known about Marie Ogden and her "Home of Truth".  In San Juan County, there is such a huge effort made to preserve, conserve and draw attention to Native American cultures and the Mormon pioneers.  The "Home of Truth" community is also a piece of the County's history, of the settling of this area of the Southwest, and should receive just as much effort.

Mary Cokenour

Update:  July 2015

The 16' x 24' cave that can be seen inside Church Rock was contracted out by landowner, Claud Young.  It was dynamited out in the 1940s, so the rancher could store feed and salt licks for his cattle.  Claud Young was owner of this property during the time that Marie Ogden and her group resided in Dry Valley.  While some like to believe in the theory that Home of Truth members chiseled out the cave by hand to begin creating a church inside; this believe is based on hearsay, not facts.

There is another story about the Mormon pioneers creating the cave, but this happens to be another legend, and that is all; no truth to it.

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