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West Valley City Journal

Fourth-graders at Neil Armstrong Academy campaign to bring Golden Spike back to Utah

May 08, 2023 03:40PM ● By Peri Kinder

Jersey Hermansen, a fourth-grade student at Neil Armstrong Academy, takes part in the official launch of Spikes2Utah, a letter-writing campaign intended to convince the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University to loan the Golden Spike to a museum in Utah. (City Journals)

When David Pendleton visited the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University last summer, he was excited to see the Golden Spike. The spike is 17.6-karat gold and was the ceremonial final spike used to join the first transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 at Promontory Point in Utah. 

Pendleton was shocked to find there was no special display for the Golden Spike, not even a label explaining its historical significance. As a fourth-grade teacher at Neil Armstrong Academy (5194 Highbury Pkwy.), he created an assignment for his students to write letters to the museum in the hopes of bringing the spike home to Utah. 

“We’re not trying to disparage or criticize Stanford University in any way, but we do believe that part of history belongs here in Utah,” Pendleton said. “When I told [students] about the experience I had, right away they understood.”

The assignment turned into the student-led Spikes2Utah media campaign that was officially launched on April 7 at Armstrong Academy. Students are requesting that the Cantor Arts Center loan the Golden Spike, Silver Spike and Silver Maul to Utah, recognizing the state’s place in history. 

“Starting to think about Utah’s history is just getting me really excited about it,” said fourth-grader Katie Foster. “I want to be a part of something big.”

Working with media partners, Pendleton’s students are promoting a letter-writing campaign and inviting Utah residents to submit their own letters to Neil Armstrong Academy, Attn: Spikes2Utah, 5194 Highbury Parkway, West Valley City, Utah, 84120 or on the website. All submissions are due by May 26.

Students also created a YouTube video and social media pages to spread the word. Broadway Media Group and Compass Billboards donated ad space for the campaign and all Utah schools are invited to participate. 

“I am so proud of these kids. They have been working so hard over the last several weeks on this campaign,” Pendleton said. “We have received tremendous help from the community.”

There were actually four spikes used in the celebration ceremony at Promontory Point in 1869: The Golden Spike (or Last Spike); the Nevada Silver Spike; and the Arizona Spike, which was a blend of iron, silver and gold. The fourth spike has been lost to history. In January, the historic Silver Spike was sold for $2.22 million at a Christie’s auction to an anonymous bidder. 

“We believe the Golden Spike, the Silver Spike and the hammer that was used at the ceremony at Promontory Point in 1869 belongs in Utah,” said fourth-grade student Jaden Chadwick.

Pendleton said he’d like Stanford to offer the display as a permanent loan so the spikes and hammer can be on display at the new Museum of Utah being constructed near the Utah State Capitol. The museum is expected to open in 2026. 

“Regardless of the outcome, this is something that the kids will remember,” Pendleton said. “Engaging in civic discourse and learning how to be an activist for things that you care about is important. Hopefully, that’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.” λ