Eugene E. Campbell
New Colonization—North and South
[p.253]The settlement of the Utah War made possible a new program of Mormon colonization. By 1869 approximately 150 new Utah communities existed, about one-third of which were established north of Salt Lake City, mainly in the Bear River and Bear Lake regions. In the southern area of the territory church leaders established a cotton mission along the Virgin and Muddy rivers and a trading outpost on the Colorado. In 1864, the peak year for colonization, thirty new communities were established. The coming of the transcontinental railroad made migration to Utah easier, but immigration was declining, and colonization almost ceased during the late 1860s and was not vigorously resumed until the 1870s.
Members of Parley P. Pratt’s southern exploring party had camped at the juncture of the Santa Clara and Virgin rivers on 1 January 1850, but not until the 1851 General Conference was a colony officially proposed for the region. John D. Lee was chosen to lead a settlement there to “raise grapes, cotton, figs, raisins, and other semi-tropical plants.” But his group stopped short of the Dixie region and established Harmony in the spring of 1852.
More than a year later, during the October 1853 General Conference, a group of twenty-three missionaries was called to the Indians in southern Utah. With Rufus C. Allen as leader, they arrived at Lee’s settlement in May 1854, where they remained until they built their own fort three miles to the north. Meanwhile, contact had been made with the Indians in the region, and in December, Allen instructed Jacob Hamblin, Thales Haskill, Ira Hatch, and others to [p.254] establish a permanent settlement near present-day Santa Clara and to bring their families with them. They were to learn the native language and to teach the Indians civilization and Christianity. A quart of cotton seed, the gift of Nancy Anderson, a convert from Tennessee, was planted and produced cotton plants and pods “beyond belief.” Samples were sent to Brigham Young, who began organizing a cotton mission to colonize the area in earnest. The missionaries at Santa Clara and their families continued to raise cotton successfully, and Zadoch K. Judd constructed the first crude cotton gin in the territory.
In April 1857, twenty-eight families and a number of young men under the direction of Robert T. Covington were called to settle on the Washington Flat east of present-day St. George to experiment further with cotton. Most of the settlers were from the southern states and had high hopes. Unfortunately, the nature of the land crushed their spirits. Barren flats stretched to black lava formations or red sandstone, and, on the lower levels, white alkaline ridges encrusted the surface. The salty residue killed most of the plants that came up. After an unsuccessful attempt, church leaders decided to call fifteen men to establish an experimental farm on the Tonnequint Flat at the confluence of the Virgin and Santa Clara rivers. Naming their settlement Heberville, in honor of Heber C. Kimball, they succeeded in building a dam and planting vegetables and fruit trees as well as cotton plants. They returned in the fall of 1858 with about 575 pounds of cotton lint with seed and 160 gallons of molasses.
By 1860, eight small communities in Washington County were producing a variety of crops. Brigham Young’s visit to the area in May 1861 further convinced him of the possibilities of the region. The church’s October conference was devoted to promoting immigration, but when Young called for volunteers, only one man raised his hand. Evidently the majority of Young’s listeners were satisfied with their situations in the Salt Lake Valley. Undaunted, Young directed Apostle George A. Smith to select a company of 200 people, whose names were read from the stand the following Sunday, 13 October. In addition, fifty families were recruited from Utah County by Apostle John Taylor, and another fifty were recruited from Sanpete County by Orson Hyde. Others were recruited from such areas as Davis, Weber, Tooele, Juab, Millard, and Beaver counties. In all, 309 families were called in 1861 to settle in what became known as Utah’s Dixie.1
[p.255] These volunteers were joined by approximately thirty families of Swiss converts, most of whom had been transported to Utah in 1861 in church-owned teams and wagons and fed and housed along the way in tithing houses.2 Upon arriving in Dixie, the Swiss were given the Big Bend land at what is now Santa Clara and were instructed to raise grapes and fruits to supply the cotton producers.
The majority of these Swiss immigrants had been farmers and were accustomed to hard work. Many, like the Hafen family, came from the canton of Thurgau and had raised grapes from which they made wine. In the old country women who were skilled in spinning and weaving had made their own clothing from homegrown flax, hemp, and cotton. These pioneers came to Utah, not to gain wealth, as they were comfortably established in their homeland, but with a desire to sacrifice all for the gospel. When Daniel Bonelli read their names at the October conference to settle in the southern part of the region, they responded willingly. Bonelli had been appointed their leader, and after the call they formed a company. Brigham Young advised those men and women who had not yet married to “yoke” themselves with companions before leaving Salt Lake City. Several were subsequently married in the Endowment House.
The Swiss had been assigned to raise cotton, make wine, and grow fruit. Dixie pioneers were also instructed to grow figs, grapes for raisins, olives for oil, indigo and madder for dyes, sugar cane for molasses, and tobacco. Ever attuned to the practical side of life, Brigham Young asked publicly on 7 April 1861, “How much do you [p.256] suppose goes annually from the territory and has been for ten or twelve years past in gold and silver to supply the people with tobacco? I will say $60,000.… Tobacco can be raised here as well as it can be raised in any other place.… I recommend for some man to go to and make a business out of raising tobacco and stop sending money out of the territory for that article.”
In promoting the cotton mission, Brigham Young instructed Apostle Orson Hyde to “send good and judicious men, having reference in your selection to the necessities of a new colony and including a sufficient number of mechanics, such as coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, plasterers, joiners, etc. if you have them and that you can spare without robbing your settlements.”3 Apostles Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow, the same two men who were the first to ride into the Great Salt Lake Valley some fifteen years earlier, were chosen as leaders of this company of three hundred families moving to the southern part of the region. Also called as leaders were Horace Eldridge, Jacob Gates, and Henry Harriman of the Council of the Seventy.
By 1 November, the company was ready to leave. A scouting party had gone earlier under the direction of George A. Smith and Erastus Snow to look for suitable places for settlement. The first colonists entered the Virgin River valley on 1 December 1861, with the rest of the company arriving two days later. Orson Pratt and others had dropped out of the larger group to settle in the upper parts of the valley. The Swiss company, under Daniel Bonelli, had already moved on to the Santa Clara region, stopping at the point where the Dixie College campus is now located. The rest of the colonists established a temporary camp while they surveyed what would become St. George. William Carter plowed a ditch using the same plow which had marked the first furrow in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. On either side of this ditch, the wagons were arranged facing each other, and toilet facilities were set up according to patterns the Saints had [p.257] adopted as they crossed the plains: “Gents to the right, ladies to the left.” A large tent owned by Asa Calkins was pitched as a central meeting place where community activities could be carried on until the people could move to a townsite.
While the surveyors, under the direction of Israel Ivins, laid out the valley in neat squares, other men scouted the mountains for timber, located deposits of lime, or laid out roads. By Christmas, the prospects seemed bright, but then the rain came, beginning on Christmas Day and continuing for almost three weeks straight. The rains raised the streams of the Virgin and Clara creeks beyond their bounds and carried away some of the best bottom land—the small Swiss settlement was completely under water and the people fled into the hills. The Virgin, usually a narrow stream, was in many places a quarter of a mile wide. The settlers spent most of their first winter trying to build a canal but finally had to abandon the project because the river washed it away as fast as they completed it.
The flood changed conditions for everyone. The cotton farm at Tonnequint with its small orchard of fruit trees, garden, and corn land was destroyed and replaced with miles of mud and debris. Harmony was similarly reduced to a pile of mud. Farms at Pocketville were carried away in great slices. The Swiss colony at Santa Clara clung to the barren hillside. Jacob Hamblin and others of the settlement lost everything—the fort, the orchards, the molasses mill, and a small burr flour mill. This experience would be repeated many times by settlers living along the Virgin and Santa Clara rivers.
The rains stopped in late February. The city survey had proceeded far enough to permit people to move to their lots and begin building their homes. These rains, though undoubtedly greatly depressing for the Saints, brought with them an advantage that the settlers recognized as soon as the brief winter gave way to spring. In Utah’s Dixie, the normal rainfall is between 6 to 8 inches annually, and in seasons when precipitation is below average, the country suffers from a dearth of vegetation. But when rain falls abundantly, the whole region blossoms.
Although heavy rains still plagued the campers, Erastus Snow suggested, on 9 January 1862, about six weeks before the people had even moved their wagons and tents onto their town lots, that they erect a stone building for educational and social purposes. He proposed that they complete the structure before any other building in the valley. The idea was at once approved by the enthusiastic citizens, and a subscription list was made with contributions pledged in various amounts ranging from $5 to $50 each and totalling $2,074 [p.258] from 120 people, not one of whom yet had a dwelling. Easton Kelsey, Joseph Birch, and Jacob Gates were named to the building committee. At another public meeting on 12 January the committee presented plans for a house measuring 40 by 21 feet to be built of rock at an estimated cost of between $3,000 and $5,000.
A conference was held the following 22 March, at which time the community was divided into four wards with a bishop over each. After the meeting they adjourned from the bowery, a temporary meeting place, to the site which had been selected for the St. George Hall and laid the cornerstones. The St. George Hall was in use as early as 1865, unplastered and without a ceiling. It could seat only a hundred people, so the usual meetings and conferences were still held in the bowery until a tabernacle was completed. Ultimately, the St. George Hall was acquired by Edwin Woolley, Jr., Robert Lund, and Thomas Judd for business offices.
The mission had been established to raise cotton, and settlers finally planted their crop beginning on 1 June 1862. The first year’s yield was 100,000 pounds of seed cotton. Some of this was made into clothing, some sold in Salt Lake City for grain and other supplies, and some was sent to the Missouri River. The bulk could not be disposed of because they lacked a factory. Some of the cotton was spun in Parowan by a small mill set up by Ebenezer Hanks at Brigham Young’s request. Powered by water, the carding and drawing frames were attended by one man, the roving and throstle frames by three girls and an Indian boy. Other settlements made arrangements for machinery to process the cotton on a local basis. John R. Young, who had been appointed to settle at Santa Clara, was called by the Santa Clara bishop in the spring of 1862 to drive an ox team to Omaha to get cotton gins and spinning jennies. Leaving his family in a tent, he drove his team to Omaha and returned with the machinery late in the fall of 1862.
Cotton, which was freighted east by Salt Lake jobbers and the growers themselves, was made into clothing on shares. Brigham Young encouraged this arrangement. By exporting one load of cotton to the East, he said, a man can make cloth enough to clothe his family for many years. Within eighteen months after the cotton missionaries had settled Washington County, about 74,000 pounds of cotton were being freighted east by independent haulers and church teams. The cotton was sold for approximately one dollar a pound. Some was traded for machinery needed to manufacture the cotton. Several dozen bales were also sold in California.
[p.259] After 1862, the number of acres devoted to cotton began to decline. Acute shortages of food and feed as well as sickness and backbreaking labor affected all of the settlers. Poor soil, unruly rivers, distance from the source of supply and market, and the dreary landscape were enough to try the faith of the staunchest. Church leaders understood these difficulties and responded by remitting tithing, by granting credits at church institutions, by calling additional missionaries to strengthen the settlements, and by arranging for expanded facilities for manufacture. An added encouragement was the increase in the price of cotton in the east and therefore in Utah. Production in 1863 consisted of 56,094 pounds of ginned cotton, priced at approximately 50 cents a pound. Production for 1864 was reportedly larger and valued at up to $1.25 per pound in Utah. The rising price led to a larger planting in 1864 and the introduction of several small carding and spinning machines.
Despite the fact that cotton and other desirables were produced, the colony was not on a sure economic footing. The mission would not succeed until a major factory for producing quality cotton goods was constructed. Clearly the missionaries themselves would never be able to erect such a factory and purchase the necessary machinery with their own savings. Life was too precarious to venture such a large investment without outside assistance.
The disadvantages of specialization in cotton production became evident as early as 1864. That year in General Conference, Erastus Snow asserted that half of the thousand residents of St. George would have to leave unless something was done to relieve the mission. Conference attendees unanimously passed a resolution to assist the cotton mission, and more than one hundred of the wealthier church members in northern Utah were designated “to furnish the needful and substantial requisites to enable the laboring and willing poor” of the cotton mission “to accomplish the work designed by the priesthood and inspiration that sent them there.” As a result, many thousands of dollars in cash, merchandise, implements, and equipment were furnished to the southern settlers. However, grasshoppers and worms destroyed most of the crops in Dixie in 1865, and additional assistance was soon needed.
The cotton missionaries had been encouraged to put all of their energy into cotton production, but they had no real way to dispose of their product. Gradually they began to raise less cotton and more grain so that they would have enough to eat. William S. Godbe offered to buy the cotton and take it back east to exchange for goods. At [p.260] this time, cotton was bringing about a dollar a pound, but Brigham Young encouraged the Saints to hold on to their cotton. He believed it would become more valuable. By 1864 Young had acquired machinery for a factory. A cotton factory was established in Washington, but by this time the Saints were discouraged and had planted only 300 acres of cotton. Explaining this, one local correspondent wrote, “It just doesn’t bring any price to justify the raising. The people are poor and some are quite discouraged.” However, Young was still determined. He had set out on what he thought was a realistic goal of complete self-sufficiency with respect to cotton, and he regarded the difficulties as obstacles that could be overcome with faith, energy, and persistence. Far from being deterred, he called an additional group of 163 men from northern Utah in 1867 and instructed them to marry and take wives with them. Additional cotton missionaries were called in 1868.
In a further attempt to buttress the cotton mission, church leaders tried three other programs to make it more successful. According to one scheme, St. George was to be the center of a trading area. A port or warehouse would be established on the Colorado River. Goods and immigrants would be brought up the Colorado, then freighted through the Muddy River and Virgin River areas to St. George and on to various colonies in Utah. Additional missionaries would be called to settle the Muddy River area, raise cotton, and support and encourage the cotton missionaries in the Virgin River area. The third plan was a make-work project of sorts. A tabernacle would be built in St. George with funds from other areas of the church and would provide employment to the missionaries who had become discouraged with cotton.
The first of these projects was assigned to Anson Call. Leaving Salt Lake City on 15 November 1864 to explore the area, he enlisted the aid of Jacob Hamblin and others. In mid-November, they went by way of Santa Clara across the Beaver Dam Mountains and along the Virgin River to the Muddy, where they found a site that might support 200 to 300 families. Then they went south to the Virgin River again. On 2 December, Call selected a site for a warehouse some fifteen miles upriver from present-day Boulder Dam. In the meantime, the Deseret Mercantile Association had been formed to raise funds for the project. Call reported that they could establish a warehouse for $20,000 to $30,000. The leaders of the association sent men and supplies and began constructing the warehouse on 13 January 1865. Barges made their way up the Colorado River to Call’s Landing, but the steamers failed.
[p.261] Shortly after the beginning of the project, three non-Mormons arrived and claimed possession of Call’s Landing, saying they had an earlier claim to the area. It was decided to abandon the project. Work had stopped by July 1865, although the promotion of river traffic continued, mostly for the non-Mormon merchants in Salt Lake City, mining interests, and California merchants. Not until 8 October 1866 did a steamer finally arrive at Call’s Landing, this one carrying over a hundred tons of goods. Brigham Young had known that the Pacific Railroad was under construction and that the Colorado River would not be profitable as a highway for goods after completion of the railroad. Thus he chose a difficult assignment for Call and his fellow workers to establish temporary work and to encourage the settlers.
The Muddy River settlements, which were originally part of Call’s Landing, became projects in and of themselves. Young had called Thomas S. Smith of Farmington, Utah, to lead these colonies. Smith arrived at his destination on 8 January 1864, about the same time that Call was beginning work on his warehouse. Smith’s group began clearing the land and laying out a town site. Within a short time, others joined Smith and soon the company numbered forty-five families. They named their new town St. Thomas in honor of Smith. The new town had 85 one-acre lots. The same number of 2.5-acre lots were surveyed for vineyards. Farm lots contained 5 acres each.
The Muddy River Valley had some advantages. The soil, when free from mineral, was good. The winters were seldom cold, and settlers could work outdoors without discomfort. Meadow land existed for harvesting grass hay. The river was easily controlled, thus eliminating the danger of floods. But there were disadvantages. Rainfall was almost negligible. Communication with communities on the upper Virgin and the northern parts of Utah territory and with California was difficult. Between the Muddy and California lay the hot, treacherous Mohave Desert. The road to St. George was a nightmare. To follow the Virgin with its numerous crossings and its shifting quicksand beds, especially in seasons of high water and flood, was dangerous. The road from the Mormon Well on Beaver Dam Wash to the Muddy was a long stretch of sandy waste with no water. Timber was scarce, and all the lumber used on the Muddy had to be hauled 130 miles over almost impossible roads. The Muddy also had extensive tule swamps and mosquitoes. But despite these handicaps, the Muddy pioneers were determined, not only founding St. Thomas but looking for a site for another town. By this time, 900 acres of good [p.262] farming land had been surveyed and 600 acres given out to the settlers.4
In spite of its name, the Muddy was clear and posed no silt problems, unlike the Virgin. There was little trouble in getting the water on the land. In West Point no ditchwater at first seemed necessary. Simply by cutting through the heavy sod of the river banks settlers were able to let the waters flood out to the land. The Muddy pioneers profited by the experience of the Virgin settlers because they planted three-fourths of their crops in wheat and corn with only 50 acres out of 400 in cotton. Sensing that their survival depended upon their own efforts, they took no chance on trading cotton for grain. They learned too that for wheat to do well it must be planted in the fall so that it would reach maturity before the dry hot weather. By planting at the right time and using what irrigation they could, they were able to get wheat crops ranging from 20 to 75 bushels an acre. Such yields were surpassed nowhere else in the south.
However, success in agriculture did not make up for the hot summers, the malaria and flux, and the flies. By 1867, many colonists had abandoned the mission. When church leaders from St. George came down into the area, they found a discouraged group. They decided to hold a meeting, but as James Bleak recorded, “It seemed rather hard to get enough spirit in the people to have a meeting at all. Officers and people were apathetic.” In order to strengthen the southern settlements, particularly the Muddy Mission, church authorities called 158 more men to go south. Most were expected to settle on the Muddy. But at the May 1868 conference in St. George, Bishop Alma H. Bennett reported that of those called only twenty-five or thirty could be found on the Muddy River. Some had not come, and few of those who came remained. Those who had left had not even experienced the rigors of the Muddy summer. What they saw was evidently frightening enough to send them away.5
[p.263] But these and other obstacles might have been surmounted if another difficulty had not developed. In 1870, colonists learned that they were not in Utah but in Nevada. In 1866, the U.S. Congress took one full degree of territorial boundary from western Utah and Arizona and added it to Nevada. Thus the towns on the Muddy and those west and northwest of St. George were placed in Nevada. This in itself was not serious, except that the Nevada tax was about five times as high as the amount charged in Utah and had to be paid in gold. The people on the Muddy confronted three alternatives: convince Congress to restore the old boundaries, get a new county created which did not require payment in gold, or leave. In December, Brigham Young, George A. Smith, and Erastus Snow wrote to the leader of the Muddy colonies that they had fulfilled their duty and should now feel at liberty to leave. The colonists voted 123 to 5 to leave. Some settlers made their way back to the north, but most took the advice on Erastus Snow and resettled in the south. About 200 eventually made their way to Long Valley and became the founders of the Orderville and Mt. Carmel communities.
The third project, the building of a tabernacle in St. George, was an encouragement to the cotton missionaries. Year after year all church tithing south of Cedar City was appropriated to build this edifice. Construction commenced in 1867 and was completed eight years later at the cost of apporximately $110,000 in labor, materials, and supplies. It was a public works project and as such supported or assisted many missionaries. This was followed by another public works project, the St. George Temple, which was completed in 1877.
Although called a cotton mission, the actual instructions to the missionaries were to raise a variety of semi-tropical crops, including fruit, tobacco, and grapes. The growing of grapes and the wine industry became an important aspect of these colonies. Grapes thrived in most areas on the Virgin River basin. The Swiss settlers in Santa Clara had raised grapes in Switzerland. Dixie could produce more grapes than the people could consume or barter up north. The natural response was to make the surplus into wine, which the settlers began to do with Brigham Young’s approval. Young did not object to its moderate use, for wine was served at many social functions [p.264] with local church officials attending. Young encouraged the use of Dixie wine for the sacrament and recommended that surplus wine be sold to non-Mormons. He condemned drunkenness with characteristic vigor at a conference held in St. George in May 1869, saying that the drunkard and the man who sold him the wine should both be excommunicated. Nevertheless, wine became an important product in St. George in the latter part of the 1860s.
John C. Naegle, an immigrant from southern Germany skilled at winemaking, was called to go to Toquerville to teach the people the correct method of making wine. He and Ulrich Breiner (Bryner) were granted a license by the county in 1867 to operate a distillery. Naegle established a huge wine cellar beneath his rock house in Toquerville. Many of towns of the cotton mission produced wine, the soil between Virgin City and Santa Clara being particularly well adapted for viticulture, and wine became one of the most common articles of trade. It was paid in large quantities as tithing, and not a few gallons went to the irrigation companies in payment of water assessments. Large amounts went to the northern settlements and to the mines in Pioche, Panaca, and Silver Reef.
One man who had high hopes for Dixie’s wine industry was Joseph E. Johnson, who editorialized his support in the pages of the Utah Pomologist, a newspaper devoted to horticulture and gardening. But Johnson laid his finger squarely on the principal drawback of the local wine industry when he warned, “If we are judged by the quality of wines we have heretofore sent to market, our climate and capacity for producing the choicest fruit will be harshly dealt with, for with our total ignorance in manufacturing wine the most delicious fruit may have been changed into an unsavory beverage.” The tithing office at St. George eventually quit taking wine as tithing and abandoned its own wine presses in an effort to discourage its manufacture. Winemaking, as it was carried out, was not lucrative, and this, coupled with moral pressures, ended the industry in Dixie.
By the end of the 1860s, the cotton mission was in serious difficulty, the Muddy missionaries were ready to leave, the Colorado River program had been abandoned, and the people of St. George were struggling to exist on the basis of building projects and make-work projects. Alkali soil, alternating flood and drought, grasshopper and cricket infestation, Indian troubles, backbreaking toil under a broiling sun—these and other calamities caused the less hardy to pull up stakes and try their luck elsewhere. Those who remained frequently had cause to doubt the wisdom of their call. The one specialty that was a continuing success in southern Utah was the production of the [p.265] grain sorghum molasses. Dixie molasses was a staple export with a ready market in Utah, Nevada, and even in Idaho and Montana. Through the years molasses was the chief means by which the farmers of southern Utah acquired breadstuffs and paid their tithing and taxes. A gallon of molasses for a bushel of wheat was the basis on which cotton missionaries eventually attained equality with their more fortunate brethren to the north. Towards the end of the 1860s, alfalfa (or lucerne) was introduced and proved to be another crop which helped the St. George settlers to succeed where the Muddy River colonists had failed. By 1870, the Dixie settlers had determined what their land would produce—grains, sorghum cane, alfalfa, vegetables, and fruits, including grapes, figs, and pomegranates. Such products helped to balance the pioneer diet as well as supply items for trade. Cotton would mature reasonably well and the cotton factory was established. Gradually, a feeling of permanence spread through the cotton mission in the Virgin River area.
While the church was trying to establish colonies in the Virgin, Muddy, and Colorado River areas, a major effort was also being made to establish colonies in the northern part of the region. Brigham Young had directed most colonization toward the south and southwest because of the severe northern winters. But he remembered that the mountain men had recommended Cache Valley. The 1847 exploring party spoke glowingly of the possibilities there. Within an area of twenty miles, they had found twelve streams. Captain Howard Stansbury had also given a favorable report of the region. In 1855, Young, on behalf of the church, received a grant from the territorial legislature to control the Cache Valley as herd ground. But those caring for the 3,000 head of cattle and horses in the valley in 1855-56 experienced one of the severest winters on record. Of the 2,000 head of church cattle, only 420 survived. So questions remained about the feasibility of settling there.
A colony had been established in 1856 at present-day Wellsville. With the approach of the federal army, the colonists left, storing 1,500 bushels of wheat. This grain had disappeared by the time they returned. After the Utah War, migration into the Great Basin increased and Brigham Young turned his attention again to Cache Valley, especially since Peter Maughan had proved grain could be grown there. Maughan, who had made a temporary home near Willard, returned with his family to Cache Valley in 1859. Soon there were thirty families there, and Maughan’s Fort, now Wellsville, became a rendezvous for the settlers who began to move into the valley. In addition to Maughan’s Fort, Providence, Mendon, and Logan [p.266] were settled in the spring of 1859, Richmond in the summer, and Smithfield that fall.
In June 1859 several companies converged on a site on the Logan River to found the city of Logan. They were joined by a smaller group that found a satisfactory field, plowed the land, and planted three acres of wheat on 10 June. Other settlers soon joined them. They obtained logs from Green Canyon and constructed cabins in two rows facing each other along present-day Center Street. By the close of 1859, Logan had assumed the most important position in Cache Valley.
By the end of 1859, Cache Valley contained six small settlements, totalling about 150 families. Peter Maughan wrote to the Deseret News extolling the beauty of the valley, and Brigham Young added that no other valley in the territory was equal to this. To those in the drier and more crowded towns around Salt Lake and to immigrants from populous Europe, these descriptions must have evoked a land of promise. Mormon converts from Switzerland who came to Cache Valley in 1859 were attracted by the area’s resemblance to their native country and wrote home urging their countrymen to come.
The rush to Cache Valley followed in miniature the pattern set on other American frontiers. The influx of new settlers strengthened the towns already founded and led to the establishment of Hyrum, Millville, and Paradise in the south and Hyde Park and Franklin in the north. In early 1860 almost one hundred new pioneers came to join the small group huddled near Brower’s Spring, which came to be known as Richmond. The 1860 census found 2,605 persons living in the valley, including 1,600 native-born Americans, about half of whom had been born in the Utah territory. Residents had come from a number of states and foreign countries, including 450 from England, 149 from Scotland, 100 from Denmark, 97 from Wales, 29 from Ireland, 22 from the Isle of Man, 19 from Switzerland, and smaller numbers from other European countries. Of those who identified their occupations, 328 were farmers, 144 laborers, 28 servants, 11 farm laborers, 5 shoemakers, 3 tanners, 3 carpenters, 2 blacksmiths, 2 millers, 2 millwrights, a machinist, a butcher, a plasterer, a chairmaker, a distiller, a herder, a cooper, and a cabinet maker. The men outnumbered the women 1,312 to 1,293.
The census of Cache Valley settlers did not count the Indians, who were numerous and became a serious problem to the early colonists. Cache Valley had been the home of a sizable band of Northwestern Shoshone, and they came to resent the invasion of their area [p.267] by the whites. The basic reason for the natives’ dissatisfaction, as one Indian agent expressed it, was the Indians’ naked and starving condition. As the valleys filled up with the aggressive and hardworking Mormon families and as the game in the mountains disappeared, the Shoshone had no place to turn. The superintendent of Indian Affairs insisted that 1,500 Northwestern Shoshone must either starve or steal and recommended a reservation in Cache Valley as the only location remaining where they could raise grain without resorting to artesian wells for irrigation. The Office of Indian Affairs failed to respond, and soon the suggestion became academic as other Mormon families poured into the valley. By late 1860 Mormons had appropriated nearly all the arable land.
In May 1860 it was reported to Brigham Young that the Indians were hostile, having stolen $1,500 worth of horses over the past several months. To counter the Indian raids, the inhabitants established a military company, which expanded to become a valley-wide military attachment of armed minutemen. That July an Indian was captured for stealing horses and was shot while trying to escape. In the conflict that followed two other Indians and two whites lost their lives. A few days later 1,500 Indians appeared at the end of the valley and demanded food. Their request brought 1,300 pounds of flour from the Saints in Logan. Indian superintendent James Doty reported in 1862 that “the Indians in great numbers are starving and are in a destitute condition. If they are placed where they can have stock and give attention to raising them, I am confident they will cease to be beggars and deprivators. At present they are not satisfied with what I have done for them.”
The stage was set for confrontation between the whites and the Indians as miners and immigrants tended to attack the Indians without provocation. Most Utah residents were convinced that the Indians along Bear River in Cache Valley were eager for a fight—an attitude that was strengthened when federal troops killed four Indian hostages because stolen horses had not been delivered to their white owners. A legal motive for a military expedition against the Cache Valley Indian bands came when a group of miners from Grasshopper Diggings in Montana was attacked and some of them killed. The chief justice of Utah territory issued a warrant for the arrests of chiefs Bearhunter, Sandpitch, and Sagwich. Colonel Patrick E. Connor, an Indian- hater, was more than ready to respond and marched his troops by night from Camp Douglas in Salt Lake City. He wanted to insure that news of the army movement would not frighten the Indians into [p.268] departing and deprive his soldiers of the opportunity for action. But the Shoshone did not intend to leave; they prepared firing positions along Battle Creek, near its confluence with the Bear River in the northern part of Cache Valley. In the early morning of 29 January 1863, they waited as the troops crossed the ice-choked river.
Almost all of the Indians were killed—as many as 300, including almost 90 women and children. In addition, the troops destroyed 70 teepees, captured 175 horses, and gathered over 1,000 bushels of grain. More troubles followed, but on 30 July 1863, some six months later, nine chiefs affixed their mark to a document which dictated that $2,000 worth of goods be distributed among the Indians in exchange for telegraph lines, overland stage routes, stage stations, and railroads through Indian territory.6
Settlers from the older Cache Valley communities continued to found new ones on the west side of the valley. Apostle Ezra T. Benson called Israel J. Clark to lead a small band of people, mostly from Logan, to found Clarkston; twelve of these families spent the winter of 1864-65 in the area. That spring, more people came from Mendon and other nearby towns, as well as from Salt Lake City, to strengthen the region. Marriner W. Merrill led a company to explore Oxford, and a small group located there in the fall of 1864, but not until 1867 did the settlers feel safe to move into their city lots. Clifton, Weston, and Dayton were all established by 1867, and soon other towns such as Newton, Trenton, and Amalga were established.7 The larger Cache Valley settlements, especially Logan, became the base from which the Bear Lake colonies were settled.
The man chosen to colonize the Bear Lake region was Apostle Charles C. Rich. Having returned from San Bernardino and a mission to Europe, Rich was invited to Salt Lake City from his home in Centerville in the late summer of 1863. He and Brigham Young travelled to Cache Valley for church meetings and while there discussed the need to explore Bear Lake as a potential site for settlements. A year earlier, Congress had passed the Homestead Act which offered 160 acres for a small filing fee and evidence of improvements over a five-year period. Young’s plan was to settle as many new areas for [p.269] the increasing number of colonists could be arranged while at the same time keeping non-Mormons at a distance. Patrick Connor, whose defeat of the Indians in the Cache Valley area in January 1863 made possible the expansion of colonization, represented a threat to such planning. He had decided to invite a large Gentile population into the region, primarily through mining opportunities, to dilute the Mormon influence. Knowing of this unoccupied valley northeast of Cache Valley, Young and Rich thought it was time for the Mormons to possess it.
On 23 August 1863, the First Presidency met with members of the Twelve and other church authorities at the home of Ezra T. Benson in Logan. Their purpose was to consider sending a company of men to the Bear Lake Valley that fall. When Young asked Rich’s feelings, Rich said he did not feel much like volunteering but was willing to do whatever his president said. After announcing that the Twelve could now do more good at home than abroad and that they should sustain themselves as much as possible without the help of tithing funds, Young said,
Now what I am about to say to you, will do well to keep to ourselves. We have it in our minds to settle Bear River Lake Valley. I, for one, would like to have a settlement there. As yet I have said nothing to anyone except to Brother Benson. Now if you will keep this matter to yourselves nobody will know anything about it, but otherwise it will be telegraphed to old Abe Lincoln by some of these Army officers and then it will be made a reservation immediately to prevent us from getting it.8
By 15 September 1863, Rich had organized a small company of thirty-two men and had left Franklin. Several days later they traversed a beautiful valley of rich, black soil and camped by a trout-rich stream. The company prepared to explore the valley for the families coming to spend the winter.9
Within a few days, Rich sent a detailed geographic report to Young. He had decided to move the main camp south to the present [p.270] site of Paris (originally Perris), Idaho. He described the valley as 60 to 70 miles in length and 10 to 15 miles wide and estimated the large lake to be 30 miles long and 8 miles wide. He noted that the water was clear, tasted sweet, and was said to abound with fish of the finest quality. Because of the abundance of water and timber on the west side, Rich believed the settlement should center there. This site had plenty of good land, a large stream, and seemed to be devoid of close stands of timber. In all, Rich’s report was optimistic and encouraging.
Throughout the remainder of September, the families moved into the valley along Rich’s original route, now called Immigration Canyon. By 6 October, Rich was back in Salt Lake City to report on the Bear Lake venture in General Conference. Shortly after the conference concluded, Rich persuaded two of his San Bernardino missionaries, Richard Hopkins, who had been stake clerk, and Jefferson Hunt, to go to Bear Lake with him. Thomas Miller, Lorin Farr, Joseph Rich, and George Hill, an interpreter of Indian languages, also made the trip.
The weather was good, and the thirty families who had remained in the valley were in good spirits. In fact, two children were born while Rich was on his second visit to the valley. Rich had contacted Washakie of the Northern Shoshone and Tighe, a Bannock chief, telling them of the plan to colonize the valley and requesting their cooperation. The Indians responded favorably on the condition that the Mormons leave the southern end of the valley open as a camping ground for the Indians. They also expected that the Indians would receive food when they visited the area. Rich left the valley in December and spent the remainder of the winter with his families in Davis County but made preparations for a mammoth migration to the Bear Lake region in the spring.
In March, Rich’s family began moving to Bear Lake, but the journey was difficult. That May, Brigham Young and a company of 112 others visited the new settlements; they too had difficulty getting through Immigration Canyon. Wilford Woodruff recorded that after they had reached the summit they entered a mudhole six miles long. They reached Paris completely exhausted from the ordeal. Young named Montpelier, Bennington, and Ovid after towns in his native state Vermont. Rich was honored by the naming of Richland County, later shortened to Rich, and the town of St. Charles. The settlers originally thought the valley was in Utah. They later discovered that the southern part was in Utah, but the part they had settled was in Idaho. [p.271] Nevertheless, by the end of 1864 nearly 700 settlers had joined the colony.10
The winter of 1864-65 was unusually severe. In January, Rich found that the 1,100 inhabitants suffered shortages of wheat, flour, potatoes, and other grains. Some members of the community finally decided to discuss their future with Rich. They arranged for the meeting without announcing what they wanted, but Rich guessed: They had decided to leave the valley. One of their greatest complaints was isolation. They also questioned whether the place was economically viable. Although he later admitted that the region had ten months of winter and two of summer, Rich was committed to the settlement. He replied, “There have been many hardships, I admit, and these we have shared together, but if you want to go somewhere else, that is your right and I do not want to deprive you of it. If you have a mind to leave here, my blessings go with you. But I must stay here, even if I stay alone. President Young called me here and I will remain until he releases me and gives me leave to go.” A few families did move to warmer climates, but most decided to remain with their leader.11
By October 1866, Rich was beginning to feel the effects of strenuous living. Nevertheless, he continued to lead the community for several years afterwards. In June 1869, Young called David P. Kimball to preside over the newly formed stake in Bear Lake. Later, he called William Budge of Providence, Utah, to move to Bear Lake and become the presiding bishop. By 1869, the Mormon colonies were [p.272] well established, but trouble lay on the horizon.12 For these outer settlements were in Idaho territory, and the political climate in Idaho was becoming unfriendly toward the Mormons. [p.273]
1. Some years later, George A. Smith reported that less than 200 of these first 300 families fulfilled their mission to the south, but this cannot be substantiated. Certainly not all accepted the call willingly. One colonist, Robert Gardner, said that there were “several yarns about Utah’s Dixie. One was—the sheep done pretty well, but they wore their noses off reaching down between the rocks to get the grass.” Charles L. Walker wrote, “This is the hardest trial I ever had, and had it not been for the Gospel and those placed over us, I should never had moved a foot to go on such a trip.” Perhaps a more typical reaction was that of Elijah Averett. After a hard day in the fields, he returned home only to discover he had been called to Dixie. He dropped into a chair and exclaimed, “I’ll be damned if I’ll go.” But after a few minutes, he stood up, stretched, and said, “Well, if we’re going to Dixie we’d better start to get ready.” “The news was very unexpected to me,” wrote John Pulsipher, “for I had a good home and was well satisfied and had plenty to do.” Finally, Goudy Hogan explained: “I have learned that it was profitable to accept all calls made of me by the authorities of the church.”
2. This Swiss company was also noted for its musical talent. George Staheli, who had served as a bugler in the Swiss army, organized a brass band and a choir in his new Santa Clara home. Gottlieb Hirschi and his wife Maryann both had beautiful voices. All along the way during the journey south, the Swiss company furnished entertainment with their singing and music, a much-needed diversion from the monotony of the tedious travel.
3. James Bleak, historian for the Cotton mission, dutifully listed the name of every man, his age, his rank in the priesthood, his previous home, and, for those who reported it, his occupation. Bleak’s list included 31 farmers, 1 horticulturist, 2 gardeners, 2 vinedressers, 1 vintner, 2 with molasses mills, 2 dambuilders, 14 blacksmiths, 2 wheelwrights, 1 machinist, 1 millbuilder, 2 millwrights, 3 millers, 10 coopers, 1 adobe maker, 5 masons, 1 plasterer, 1 painter, 3 carpenters, 1 turner, 1 joiner, 1 shinglemaker, 3 cabinetmakers, 1 chairmaker, 1 mineralogist, 2 miners, 2 wool carders, 1 weaver, 1 tailor, 1 hatter, 1 brushmaker, 1 manufacturer, 1 tanner, 5 shoemakers, 4 musicians, 1 fiddler, 3 school teachers, 4 clerks, 1 lawyer, 1 printer, 2 surveyors, 2 daguerreans, 1 butcher, 1 baker, 1 castor oil maker, 1 tobacco maker, 1 drum major, and 1 sailor.
4. In June 1865, another town was established, called St. Joseph, after Joseph Warren Foote. Joseph Simons established a small settlement called Simonsville and had a grist mill for grinding wheat, corn, and salt. He also had a cotton gin which ginned the first cotton grown on the Muddy. Farther up the valley to the northwest was West Point, now Moapa, settled about 1868. Between St. Thomas and St. Joseph lay Overton, founded in 1869, eventually the most important of the Muddy settlements.
5. In addition, the Indians were becoming hostile. They were constantly stealing cattle; not infrequently they drove them into water and quicksand, for the settlers usually gave the dead livestock to the Indians. Early in 1868 the Indians became threatening when an attempt was made to colonize the upper Muddy. They appeared in the vicinity of the proposed new settlements and demanded that they be paid for the land. The interpreter tried to convince them it would be to their advantage to have Mormon friends settle near them, but the Indians refused to be mollified.[p.263] By June 1869, Indians were not only stealing the pioneers’ stock but also their wheat. In their desperate situation, the Mormon colonists threatened severe punishment, including death, for those caught stealing. Punishment was actually meted out to some of the Indians. In addition, there was an acute shortage of clothing and a need for farm implements.
6. Difficulties continued until well after the 1860s. But the real power of the Northwest Shoshone was broken at the Battle of the Bear River. This defeat made possible the expansion of more settlements in Cache Valley after January 1863.
7. One of the most important areas to be settled was Preston. But Preston was not colonized until the 1870s. This was also true of Whitney, Mapleton, Glendale, Mink Creek, Treasureton, and Windor—all in Cache Valley. The land in these areas was less attractive, and settlement took place more slowly.
8. Rich must have wondered what kind of a friend he had in Benson, who had told Young that Rich wanted to lead in the settlement. What Rich had said was that he had been home from his European mission only a year and would rather not pull up stakes and move his entire family. In any case, Young seemed convinced that Rich was the man to lead the colony.
9. Thomas Sleight and twelve others were following closely behind Rich’s group. Sleight recorded in his journal that it was difficult getting through the canyon, but part of the problem was that they were taking time to build a road and construct fords for those that followed. When Sleight’s group arrived in the valley snow had already fallen.
10. By 1864, Rich had entered the valley by three routes: north from Franklin over Immigration Canyon; through Ogden Canyon and Huntsville; and by way of Bear River, nearly eighty miles longer than the Immigration Canyon pass. Rich decided to build a road by way of Huntsville in Ogden, primarily because this route was entirely in Utah territory whereas the other routes went either into Wyoming or Idaho.
11. The Indians also posed a problem. Although Rich had made agreements with the Northern Shoshone and the Bannocks, some settlers in the spring of 1865 broke his pledge and settled in Round Valley at the south end of the lake. Learning this, Washakie destroyed the settlers’ crops and fences. Later that year, Rich tried to negotiate with the Shoshone chief to get permission to farm in Round Valley. Ultimately, they received permission, but as the whites occupied more and more Indian land, trouble ensued. Continual surveillance of the Indians became a fact of life. Eventually Rich was able to persuade the chiefs to come to a conference at Fish Haven, where he convinced them that white men were coming no matter what they did and proposed a feast if the Indians would agree to be peaceful. Afterwards, Washakie surveyed the land from the foothills west of Fish Haven and bestowed it on Rich. With sadness he asked Rich to consult the government in Washington to see where the Shoshone should go. Two years later, in 1868, the Wind River Reservation was set aside for their use.
12. Mormons had also settled in Malad, Idaho, which became an important trading center. When Idaho became a territory in March 1863, one of the first acts of the legislature was to create Oneida County with a county seat at Soda Springs. Malad was included in this county (as were the Bear Lake settlements later). But by 1866 the people of Malad had lobbied successfully to have the county seat moved from Soda Springs. Many of the Soda Springs settlers were Morrisites, who had been driven out of Utah and were reluctant to turn county records over to the Mormons at Malad. Several members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also lived in Soda Springs. The struggle between these three communities did not resolve itself until after the 1860s.