Wright-Tree Stadium

Named After Two Of Wasatch’s Best

Wasatch High School’s football stadium, with its black and gold seats, elevated press boxes and entrance tunnel, is impressive — but not as impressive as the two men it is named for. Dan Wright and Ron Tree were two of the greatest teachers and coaches who have ever served and mentored the students and athletes of Wasatch County.

A building usually showcases peoples’ names either because they’ve accomplished something memorable or they’ve contributed substantial amounts of money to its creation or renovation. In this case, the dark-gray capital letters that spell out the Wasps’ stadium name aren’t over-bearing or attention-drawing, symbolic of the kind of people these men were. Wright and Tree were two modest men who enjoyed doing what they did best — love and encourage students.

Dan Wright graduated from Wasatch High School in 1949. He returned to WHS as a teacher and coach and was influential in the lives of his students for 22 years. Throughout those years, he coached football, track, basketball, wrestling and baseball. He taught physical education and math and was also a counselor.

Over the years, Wright inspired many young athletes to became teachers or coaches. One such athlete was Ron Tree. Tree graduated from WHS in 1969 as the student-body president. He played football at Brigham Young University for four years, including in 1972 — LaVell Edwards’ first season as head coach.

LaVell Edwards was one of the most successful college football coaches of all time. He guided BYU to a national championship in 1984 and in 2000, the year he retired, BYU’s stadium was renamed in his honor. Edwards commented on one occasion that the hardest working player he had coached was Ron Tree. After graduation, he spent two different stints at WHS in which he either coached or assisted with wrestling, football and track. He also taught physical education, health, career education and driver’s education.

Notably, years ago, Tree tried to get the stadium named after Coach Wright. The community was understandably heartbroken when Tree unexpectedly passed away in May 2005. Wright had the honor of attending the stadium’s renaming ceremony, formerly known as Booster Stadium, in the fall of the same year.

The bleachers and field were rebuilt in 2012, (one year after the current high school opened) and Wright passed away in 2014, leaving behind many admirers in the community.

Neil Carlile, WHS class of ’71, played football, basketball and ran track for Coach Wright. He wrote this condolence after Wright’s passing: “A person serves in many capacities and roles in one’s life, but the roles of ‘Teacher’ and ‘Coach’ are among the most profound titles one could have. Coach Wright exemplified both of these titles and so many more. He leaves a service and mentor legacy in the Heber Valley community and at Wasatch High School that cannot be measured.”

“He was always positive, a builder of people, a man of strong and consistent standards, and among the finest of examples. His words often come back to me: ‘do your best,’ the classic ‘don’t get your [daubers] down boys,’ and so many other words of encouragement in the wins and losses on the sports field and in life.”

Likewise, there were two mottos that Tree lived by and tried to instill in his students: “Stand up for what’s right, even if you’re standing alone,” and, “There are things in life I can’t control, but my attitude and actions are two that I can.”

These two men were known for their kindness and keeping things in perspective. They both knew people were more important than wins and losses, and that the game of life is won by how we treat others. In that way and so many others, these men were champions.

As the Heber Valley continues to grow and memories fade away, fewer and fewer people will know how Dan Wright and Ron Tree influenced life in the Heber Valley. They epitomized why people love to live here. Hopefully their names proudly displayed on the front of our football stadium will help us remember what’s most important in both life and in our community.

If you’ve ever driven around the northwestern end of Heber, you may have noticed several sandstone markers displayed at the corners of 100 West 500 North, 100 West 100 North, 300 West 500 North, and 300 West 100 North, that mark the location of Fort Heber. Perhaps in your hustle to Smith’s Marketplace, you’ve wondered at the monument in front of the store. Whether you’re a long time resident or a newcomer, you’ve probably read the brief summaries of Heber’s history. As usual, there is always more to the story once you look deeper.

In 1858 a group of men came from Provo, surveyed the land in twenty-acre plots, and selected the townsite of Heber. The following winter, twenty families stayed there. As protection from the Northern Ute Indian tribe, they built a fort one block south and one block west from the site. The family homes were constructed using cottonwood logs and were joined together to form the outside wall of the fort. Inside the protective fort, a 20’ X 40’ building was erected; it had two fireplaces
and a stage and served as a schoolhouse, a church, and a gathering place for social events. In 1860 the fort was enlarged to house 44 families.

The Black Hawk War

In 1865, though there was no single act that started the war, a sub-chief named Antonga Black Hawk lead an uprising against the congressional act that forced the Ute tribes of Sanpete and Sevier Counties to reservations. Black Hawk retaliated against the settlers for broken promises, mistreatment, personal humiliation, and other acts that injured or killed Utes in the constant interactions between early settlers and natives since 1849. The Black Hawk War or Black Hawk’s War was a three-part war involving members of 16 Timpanogos Ute, Southern Paiute, Apache, and Navajo tribes, which lasted from 1865 to 1872.

The Friendship

Brigham Young ordered families throughout the valley to “fort up” in the central settlements of Heber, Midway, and Wallsburg. Like Brigham Young, Joseph Stacy Murdock, the presiding Bishop in Heber, believed it was better to feed the natives than to fight them. On August 20, 1867, Murdock invited Ute chief Tabby-To-Kwanah, a well educated, wise leader that served the interest of his people, to talk peace at his home. Chief Tabby, only wanting to speak with ‘Old Murdock’, rode down to Heber, taking with him all the sub-chiefs under his control, several hundred braves, women, and children, and camped out in Murdock’s yard and pasture. A feast was held the next day with enough meat, baked bread, corn, and whatever else the townsfolk had to offer to feed everyone. The two spoke all day. Later, Murdock and Chief Tabby exchanged simple gifts. A peace pipe was smoked, and a treaty of friendship was signed, ending the war between the settlers at Heber Valley and the Utes. With their signatures, the war was over, but only in Heber Valley and the surrounding towns and settlements. Chief Tabby acknowledged that he could not control Black Hawk’s actions across the rest of the territory. Even so, the meeting between Chief Tabby and Joseph Stacy Murdock lead the way for other treaties. Within a year, most of the fighting throughout the territory came to an end.

Peace In Heber Valley

Joseph and Tabby served their people well. They honored their vows to maintain peace and remained friends for life, leaders demonstrating their commitment to seeking and understanding the best of both worlds rather than fight.

Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine the wars and countless sacrifices that took place in our quiet valley not too long ago. Wars were fought, allies were made, and dynasties were altered, forging our valley into what it is today. Our valley still draws people in for the same reasons it was fought over — a beautiful, peaceful stretch of land worth fighting to keep.

The Burial Of Tom Tabby

One day in 1867, just two years after the signing of the Indian Peace Treaty, Chief Tabby rode into the valley. Astride his horse he carried the body of his son who had been killed in a hunting accident. Joseph Stacey Murdock recognized his friend and went to greet him. Knowing Murdock to be a religious leader among his people, Chief Tabby asked Joseph if he would bury his son in the custom of the ‘Mormons’. Feelings of great sorrow surged within Murdock as he conducted a Christian funeral service for his friend’s son. Tom Tabby was buried under a beautiful pine tree that had been planted several years before in the Heber cemetery by John H. Murdock.

After the final prayer Chief Tabby said, “My son has been buried in the white man’s custom, now he will be honored in the Indian fashion.” A rick of cedar logs was then laid upon the new grave and Tom Tabby’s favorite pony was led to it. The pony’s throat was cut and the animal was laid upon the pyre where the logs were set afire. Chief Tabby watched the fire until the embers slowly died, then mounting his horse, he rode off into the mountains east of Heber with his braves.