The Men & Women Who Built Lehi: Business savvy couple creates one of Lehi’s most beloved enterprises
Lara M. Bangerter | Lehi Historical Society and Archives
In 1882, Sarah Ann Dixon Broadbent suggested to her husband, Joseph Lees Broadbent, that they build a small mercantile on theend of their adobe home. A watchmaker by trade, Joseph traveled the territory every summer to pick up broken watches and clocks needing repair and returned them in the spring. Meanwhile, Sarah sewed work clothes, and it provided a good income. With the mercantile, she could see a new and improved way forward.
With one of the first sewing machines in Lehi, Sarah made work overalls and jumpers out of blue denim fabric, while Joseph added copper rivets to reinforce the seams and make them durable. Their quality product was in demand.
With a store, they could carry a small line of merchandise and furniture, Sarah’s work clothes, and Joseph’s watch repair and jewelry work.
The result of the venture was a success.
Broadbent and Son was issued its first business license as a general store a few years later. Broadbent and Son became one of the leading mercantile institutions in the area.
Grocery items were added first to the store’s merchandise. The first sack of sugar from the Lehi Factory of the Utah & Idaho Sugar Company was sold at Broadbent’s. At the time, it was a brave move for Joseph. Local sugar was more expensive than what could be brought in, but Joseph was determined to support the local enterprise.
The couple’s daughter, Geneva, opened a millinery shop where women could buy fine, feathery hats, and a photography studio took up residence on the second floor. A music department soldeverything from pump organs to sheet music and offeredinstrument repairs. In no time, the store was selling everything needed to run a home, including coal, keys, china, fabric, toys, gasoline and more.
Ultimately, the store employed five generations of Broadbentsand served Lehi for 135 years, making it one of Lehi’s longest-running, family-owned businesses.
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In 1836, Joseph Lees was the firstborn of nine children to Joseph Broadbent and Betty Lees of Mill Bottom, Oldham, Lancashire, England. Born in 1833, Sarah Dixon was the oldest of five born to Samuel Dixon and Hannah Percival of Saddleworth, Yorkshire, England. Samuel and Hannah passed by the time Sarah was 15, leaving her the responsibility of the family. She kept the house, cared for the baby and worked part-time in a cotton mill.
Joseph and Sarah married on May 30, 1855, after becoming acquainted through a meeting for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On April 11, 1859, the couple traveled by ship to emigrate from England to America. They journeyed across the plains with the Rowley Company in June and finally entered the Salt Lake Valley in September after being rescued by a relief train.
The couple traveled to Lehi just days later and made the best of the situation by building a “dugout” home. Joseph worked as a farmer. After “a few months of drudgery in the dugout” and carefully saving, they purchased a lot with a small adobe house, according to their grandson, John Shaw Broadbent. The home’s location was at the northeast corner of 100 North and 100 East, where their store would be until it closed in 2017 and where the Lehi Police Dept. now resides.
All of the Broadbent children, five daughters and three sons, were born in the home. Three daughters between the ages of 10 and 12, one infant son, and Sarah, age 54, died in the home as well as Joseph’s second wife, Elizabeth Greenwood.
“Friends traveling north or south would often stay overnight in the home, often calling it the “halfway house” between Provo and Salt Lake City. Guests would comment how it was nearly impossible to sleep for the clocks ticking,” wrote John S.Broadbent.
Joseph was a charter member of the Old Folks Committee and served many years in the organization. He was also a charter member of, and longtime participant in, the LDS Missionary Committee, which helped raise funds to pay the way for scores of missionaries to their fields of labor.
If you know someone instrumental in the building of or success of Lehi, please submit your 1000-word or less write-up on the person along with photos to email@example.com for consideration in this series. For more information, call 801-768-1570.