In 1923, the Montpelier High School student body painted the renowned “M” on the prominent hill just east of Montpelier. It was outlined by whitewashed rock and was 158 feet high and 108 feet across, covering 17,064 square feet. Little did they know what that day and that emblem would come to mean to the people, not only of Montpelier, but of all of Bear Lake County. “M” Hill came to be that day.
There were times, such as April 4, 1940, when the students of the high school repainted the letter on “M” Hill. On June 5, 1969, the Boy Scouts repaired and whitewashed the “M” just after the City of Montpelier took over responsibility for “maintaining and perpetuating the ‘M’ as a symbol designating the City of Montpelier.” There were many other times the “M” was cleaned and maintained by individuals and groups for things such as Eagle Scout Projects and family projects. Just last year, high school students went up and cleaned the M as a service project.
However, nothing was as noteworthy as May 24, 1972, when the “M” was lit up with light bulbs for the first time. On that momentous day, a group of high school students, city officials, committee members, and other interested spectators were there to watch as the “M” was dedicated and christened. It had been reconstructed that year with concrete and steel, replacing the original rock, and placing large light bulbs all along the outline lighting up the “M” for people to see for miles around.
Also at that time, a conduit had been run under and through the cement to hook up the lights. Over a period of time that conduit was destroyed. After that, a two-strand wire was run around it with bulb connections to hook it up. That lasted for quite a few years, then hooking up strands of LED lights was attempted, but they deteriorated too fast. This past year, there were issues where the wires with the two strands had rotted enough that they melted together and wouldn’t work at all, and the whole system shut down completely.
So, at Mayor Sharp’s request, and in connection with Montpelier’s effort to improve and update its aesthetics, Rick Roberts and the city crew pulled all the wire out and replaced it with new wire. In areas where the wire couldn’t be replaced, a conduit was placed and wire was run through it. The existing boxes were replaced with new boxes, and new LED bulbs were put in. The new bulbs are 1500 lumen. The old bulbs were 25 watts, whereas the new bulbs are only 15 watts but are much brighter and can be seen from farther away.
All of the materials were obtained from Gundersen Ace Hardware. Gundersen gave the city a great discount on many of the materials and donated many more. Montpelier City wants to recognize just how much Gundersen helped on the project.
It is to be emphasized that this was a huge undertaking and it was very expensive. People need to have respect for this legendary landmark of our area by not vandalizing or marring it in any way. Please keep off the “M” and do not in any way damage it by breaking the light bulbs or “tagging” the cement. We need to preserve this symbol of our heritage and past.
People who live here and have lived here will always have a deep connection to “M” Hill. Even when we leave and come back, it is a beacon we follow into the City of Montpelier, welcoming us “home” again. As one former citizen of the valley, Dean B. Farnsworth, said in a letter to the editor of the News Examiner on September 5, 1968, “One of my earliest recollections is watching for the “M” on M Hill as soon as we could see it [when] coming from Logan. For me, it did not mean Montpelier High School but Montpelier. It seems to me that many communities are so eager to be modern that they sacrifice their identity with the past. Often after they have succeeded in destroying all evidence of their heritage, or it has been destroyed for them by time and the depredations of people for whom it means nothing, they spend tremendous amounts to rediscover the past. While the past and present are so close in each landmark as the “M” on M Hill, it is appropriate, in my opinion, to preserve the monogram of Montpelier.”
Mr. Farnsworth said it all. “M” Hill is our connection to both the past and the present. It is important to “preserve the monogram of Montpelier,” and that’s just what we are doing. We thank those who have so graciously and painstakingly kept this landmark beautiful and up to date for the beautification of the valley and the benefit of its people.