Elm Tree House Turned Museum

Today, the Victorian ginberbread house designed by Archibald McFarlen stands as a lovely museum located on the original property at 4100 W. 400 S., where it was built.


Around 1850, this whole valley was filled with Native Americans, mainly from three different tribes. Every time Ogden expanded east or west or south, early settlers built forts. At one point, there were upwards of 20 forts.

There were still a few native stragglers where the house is, west of Ogden. At some point, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young, felt they were docile and indeed not hostile, so he chose 11 families to move west of Ogden, to what was called west of the Weber River.

Archibald McFarlen was one of those families. He had previously been living further south with his wife Isabella and their two kids. For several years, they lived in covered wagons and dugouts in the ground just south of the house that he would eventually build.

In 1867, they started building the house, but before they were done, President Young called Archibald to a mission in England. Somehow, the two kids and wife took care of the 15 acres. In the meantime, they moved back into the dugout.

When Archibald came back, there were two miracles. First, he fell in love with England’s Victorian architecture and designed his home into a Victorian gingerbread house. It made the home out of place, but it was a reminder of Archibald’s success in converting people to the church while in England. He was so influential that three families followed him back to West Weber. They even still have descendants here in West Weber. The next miracle was the little six-inch sapling he brought back on the boat. Archibald planted it here next to the house, and it’s still alive and beautiful over 160 years later.

Boyd Hancock stands in front of the house with his parents and siblings.

After that first house was finished, Archibald took on two more wives and built them their own separate houses, per Isabella’s request. As a result of the three marriages, he had 20 children. As Jerry, the current homeowner, sifted through Archibald’s diaries, it seemed that Archibald spent most of his time in the first house. The home’s interior has been remodeled and updated: the original design, porch, gingerbread remains, untouched and unrestored, have been repainted.

The house stayed in the McFarlen family. His married children stayed here after he died. Jerry’s grandpa and grandma, David Wheatley Hancock and Amanda Melvina Bitton, bought the home in 1913, where Jerry’s father, Boyd Hancock, was born. The house passed through Boyd’s hands before Jerry purchased it in 1972.

Today, it’s a live-in museum. Four and a half years ago, Jerry got into a serious car accident. He knew the rich history of the home, and, while recovering from his injuries, worried about how its legacy would go on. He committed to return home and label all the artifacts he’d hung onto over the years. Today, it fills 10 rooms and is open to the public for tours. There’s a functioning outhouse from the 1930s, the original Sacrament utensils from the first West Weber Ward, a 100-year-old doctor’s buggy, and so much more. He even preserved his grandparent’s 100-year-old chicken coop, using it as storage for more artifacts. As historic buildings were demolished in the area, Jerry would run in and save historic items from inside. Now, they’re all preserved in his home.

Currently, Jerry has the home-turned-museum in a trust to protect it for at least 200 years. In the meantime, he hopes to see many more visitors at 4100 West and 400 South.

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