Charley Jenkins

Sincerity. Authenticity. Creating a moment.

These are the things that country musician and Heber Valley resident Charley Jenkins wants his music to convey. For Jenkins, creating this type of music had to come from a real place. Home.

Jenkins grew up not too far from the Heber Valley in the small rural town of Roosevelt, Utah. Like most folks in his town, country living was just part of everyday life. His family ran a small cattle ranch. He wrestled and rodeoed in high school and just enjoyed the charm of living in a small town.

When it comes to writing songs about Western living, it doesn’t get much more authentic than living it. “Country is who and what I am,” says Jenkins. “It is only natural for me to sing the songs that I love to relate to.”

As most people in the music industry can attest, staying put doesn’t always come with the territory. As his passion and talent for music grew, Jenkins found himself leaving the quiet life of Roosevelt to get an education, both formally and through the school of experience.

During his time in college, he found that he really enjoyed singing and making people happy through song. Taking what he learned from his college courses in business, Jenkins took a leap and headed to the nation’s county music capital, Nashville, Tennessee, hoping to make music his career. There he soon realized that his education in music was just beginning.

“My advice for anyone heading out to Nashville is to look at it as an education and not a competition,” Jenkins says. “If you go out there comparing yourself to others, you’re going to have your heart broken. There is so much talent out there.”

He admits that he was a bit naïve heading out east, but the things he learned there helped him polish his craft and find his spot in country music. Watching and listening to the other artists taught Jenkins where he wanted his music to come from and the type of performer he wanted to be.

Country Boy Comes Home

After three years in Nashville, family called him back home. While he was gone, Jenkins’ dad started a battle with cancer that would eventually take his life. Jenkins left Tennessee without hesitation to come home and be with his dad and family before he passed — something he’d never regret.

Shortly after this experience, Jenkins released an album with a song titled “Hero at Home” as a tribute to his father. The song came from a very personal place within his heart.

“Country music is still about the lyric and the story and the reason behind it,” explains Jenkins. For him, songs like “Hero at Home” or “That Mountain,” about the people we love or the tough spots we go through, had to come from a place of experience in his life. Even songs about rodeo and country living find their inspiration from his past.

Telling a story through music is what country is all about. “I tell my band all the time that our job is to create moments for other people,” says Jenkins. “Music, of course, is our way of doing that.”

Life on the Road

Music has been a vehicle for Jenkins to meet many people, build long-lasting friendships and even create memories with his kids. Over the years, he has opened for many of the biggest names in country music — names like Reba McEntire, Allan Jackson, Neal McCoy and many others.

Jenkins and his Utah-based band travel around preforming between 50 and 60 shows every year. They mostly perform in the summer months and around Christmas time, which means Jenkins can be home with his kids — 13-year-old Preslee and six-year-old Kash — while they’re in school and take them on the road with him when he’s performing.

No matter where he’s performing or size of the audience, Jenkins always wants to convey his love for the music and hopes the message he shares touches someone to create those moments that last.

“I just want our songs to be effective, meaning that someone relates to it, that it adds value to other people,” he explains.

After all the performing, traveling and even his time back east in Tennessee, Jenkins still has country and small town living in his heart. Landing here in the Heber Valley has helped him create a balance of being on the road, spending quality time with his family and living in a rural setting close to his hometown — all while creating moments that last through song.

Jenkins has become a fan favorite at the Buckaroo Ball during the Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He and his band will be back this year during the Gathering’s 25th Anniversary. Don’t miss this great opportunity to see him perform locally, Friday October 25.

By Noni Henderson

Driving along Casperville Road, you may notice the eye-catching memorabilia on display and wonder what exactly you are seeing. On this back road is a unique treasure trove of antiques, each with a story full of memories, history, and knowledge of our incredible valley, you likely won’t find anywhere else.

It was a gusty, freezing spring morning when I stopped at John Besendorfer’s Casperville Road Museum, as he calls it. I had dressed warmly, knowing that once we started the tour, there would be so much to see and talk about that I wouldn’t want to be distracted by the chill. In the few hours I was there, I heard a lot of fascinating details; I would have needed days to hear all the stories and history John is so generous to share.

John was born and raised on this family farm established in 1889 by his pioneer grandparents, who built the barn when the area was nothing but sagebrush. The farm was one of the many dairies located within Wasatch County, until 2018 when, after 130 plus years, they closed the doors. Now there are only two active dairies left in the valley. John remembers no running water, no inside bathroom, or electricity growing up as a young boy, but there was plenty of hard work to keep everyone busy. John and his wife Jane raised seven children on the farm and had been harmoniously married for 52 years until Jane’s passing two years ago.

John and Jane ran the farm together with Jane taking over while he taught school during the day. Over his 30-year teaching career in Midway and Heber, John taught 1,000 students and knew every person in the valley, which would have been 3,000 people at the time. With John’s knowledge of the valley’s residents and the couple’s love of history, it was only natural that their farm soon filled with antique artifacts. It was inevitable that John and Jane would heed the call to preserve history, and that is precisely what they have done. Although Jane no longer accompanies John while he leads the tour, one can’t help but feel her presence, as if she might suddenly appear to tell you the stories that only she knew of certain items.

The museum’s collection began with wooden wagon wheels from a family inheritance. Fifty years later, there are enough artifacts to fill eight to ten buildings. One of their more significant projects was a pioneer home that was carefully transported from Charleston using railroad jacks and a semi-trailer. Their collections are impressive and have been added to by way of yard sales, estate sales, and anything for sale that caught their attention, along with various generous donations.

As we walked and talked, John happily told the stories behind each item. There were stories of guns and swords found locally, swans, sleds and bottles, and a replica of a fire engine that he helped build. Stories about a “hair loomed” heirloom made from real hair, horse bones, and a collection of over 100 wrenches. If only the stamp collection and compilation of Heber high school graduating class pictures (probably the only one in the valley) could talk — what stories would they tell? You’ll find both in the “School House” building.

The list of artifacts goes on and on, with many holding special meaning. John’s favorite is his great grandfather’s Mormon Battalion uniform, sword, and cane that he inherited. Having come through both the Mexican War and the Black Hawk war, the artifacts are close to John’s heart and too valuable to be displayed publicly, but he still loves talking about their stories.

John’s family lives close by; his son lives next to him, and two other children live in the valley. His older brother lives on the other side of him with his own smaller collection of buildings and memorabilia.

Since the dairy is no longer there to draw in weekly visitors, John keeps busy every day and has had time to expand the museum by adding a few more themed rooms. Though they are a constant work in progress, he hopes to have the rooms ready for visitors this summer.

One of the most incredible things about John, besides his amazing memory, is his peaceful and sharing spirit. The museum came to be because he and Jane “felt the spirit of preservation, felt a spiritual prompting and power of guidance to do so.”

If you are fortunate to know someone from John’s generation, you know it’s always so interesting to talk about the experiences of their lifetime. John says it’s a privilege for him to have all this history for others to enjoy. To have them look at something and remember simpler times of their childhood and the sheer happiness it brings them. “This museum is to share, and if it can be an education, answer a question, enlighten about the past, then it has served its purpose — it’s multi-purpose.”

People like John and his family are our connections to the past. Their wealth of information keeps our community’s stories alive in our hearts. We need these connections, especially as the world changes with each passing day, and new residents move in and wonder about our rich history. Wasatch County is lucky to have the Casperville museum — go for a drive and take a tour. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone as passionate or as knowledgeable about our entire valley’s history, families, and roots as John Besendorfer on Casperville Road.

Local’s Tip: Please call ahead for reservations 435-654-1459. Although not asked for, the museum would not decline donations.