“Heeding the Prophet’s Call,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 30
President Brigham Young closed the Nephi, Utah, conference in central Utah in 1868 by reading the names of 154 men and their families called to strengthen settlements along the Muddy River, three hundred miles south of Nephi. Elizabeth heard only her father’s name and began to weep bitterly, tears spoiling the new white dress she had purchased with her earnings as a telegraph operator. Her friend said, “Why are you crying? My father has been called, too, but you see that I am not crying because I know he won’t go.” Elizabeth looked directly at her friend. “That is just the difference. I know that my father will go and that nothing will stop him.”1
Elizabeth’s father, Samuel Claridge, did go. Obedient to the call of a prophet, Brother Claridge labored on the Muddy until that mission was abandoned, then went on to pioneer three more settlements during his lifetime. Like many other early Latter-day Saint pioneers, he willingly sacrificed his possessions repeatedly, investing his holdings instead in the kingdom of God (see accompanying article, “Sacrificing for the Kingdom”).
Considered a test of faith, obedience to the call of the prophet by families such as the Claridges was a key to the success of Latter-day Saint pioneer settlement. President Brigham Young called faithful Saints to help establish new settlements just as the Prophet Joseph Smith had issued calls to certain members to help establish proselyting missions. Saints attributed calls to settle to divine inspiration. Everyone gave such calls serious consideration. Some with doubts declined to accept their calls. In time, thousands of members answered their calls and thus helped build up the kingdom of God on earth.
Some diarists noted their feelings upon being called to help found settlements: “This is the hardest trial I ever had,” wrote Charles L. Walker, “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.”
Christopher J. Arthur wrote, “I did not feel well over it for several weeks.” However, he went and served as stake president.
Elijah Averett returned home after a hard day in the fields to discover he had been called to Dixie (St. George). He dropped into a chair and said sternly that he wouldn’t go. But after a few minutes, he stood up and said, “Well, if we’re going to Dixie we’d better start to get ready.”2
Jesse N. Smith wanted to go on a colonizing mission, but he still made a great sacrifice in doing so. “In the fall of 1851, my brother and I were counselled … to settle at Parowan in Iron County. We prepared to move, … sold our city lot … , [and] were soon under way and stopped for the night … at Uncle John’s. … He wished me to remain and go to school at his expense. … Although I greatly desired to get an education, I preferred to go upon the mission.”3
Most of the Latter-day Saints were involved in those early settlement efforts. The 1850 territorial census shows that 84 percent of the people were under forty years of age, 72 percent under thirty years, and 40 percent under fifteen years of age. Among them were families who had passed through persecution in Missouri and Illinois. This core group of Saints had had their faith and loyalty tested in the fire of persecution and had survived the loss of land, homes, possessions, and loved ones.
There were also great numbers of convert emigrants from the United States, Great Britain, and Scandinavia. Many of these had given their all for the gospel’s sake. From 1840 to 1869, an annual average of about 800 British and about 580 Scandinavian converts immigrated to the sacred refuge of the mountain valleys of the Great Salt Lake.
From the time the Saints left Nauvoo, Church leaders sought a place where they could live in comparative isolation from the world and thus be free to live their religion in peace. Advance scouts entered Salt Lake Valley on July 21. Two days later, others having come, members of the camp were called to gather at City Creek, where Elder Orson Pratt “dedicated the land and themselves unto the Lord.”4
President Brigham Young entered Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847, officially marking the beginning of settlement in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Those first days in the valley were filled with feverish activities. The pioneers set to work at once: plowing, planting, and watering; setting up a blacksmith shop; and building a grist mill and a pit saw, a storehouse and corrals. At the same time, parties explored nearby mountain canyons and neighboring valleys. On Wednesday, July 28, at five o’clock, President Young and the Apostles met between the two forks of City Creek and designated the site for the temple and gave the details for laying out the city. At eight o’clock, a public meeting was held on the temple site.5 President Young called on the Saints to express their feelings on the subject of locating there. Howard Egan wrote: “It was moved and seconded that we should locate in this valley for the present, and lay out a city in this place; which was carried without a dissenting voice.”6 The company thus unanimously confirmed President Young’s prophetic pronouncement that “this is the right place.”
Salt Lake City was soon surveyed and laid out according to the “City of Zion” plat given by the Prophet Joseph Smith. It called for the streets to run north-south and east-west, marking off square blocks. Each block was divided into eight or twelve city lots for family homes, orchards, and gardens. A common pasture and farms were outside the city. As in Salt Lake City, at least one block in every subsequent Latter-day Saint settlement was set aside for a school and a church house.
Land was allocated by lot according to need. Water rights were tied to the land. Irrigation demanded cooperation. There was no monopoly of natural resources, no speculation in land, water, or timber, but rather community management for the good of all. Salt Lake City, as the center of the Latter-day Saints, soon became the base of operations for founding settlements. Basic policies and practices established in Salt Lake City would soon be repeated in other settlements.
On a map, Church leaders marked boundaries for a preliminary State of Deseret, which encompassed most of southwestern United States. The leaders wanted to be prepared for the possible thousands of Church members who might gather to this new Zion. They also wanted to establish settlements in as many valleys as they could and as quickly as possible in order to preserve the Latter-day Saints’ seclusion and autonomy.
Key to the selection of suitable Latter-day Saint settlements was the Lord’s guidance and inspiration to his people. In addition, several factors facilitated the extension of Latter-day Saint settlements. First, and especially relevant during the first years in the valley, was the peaceful acceptance of the pioneers by the tribes of Indians already in the region.
Second, the topography—the Wasatch Mountains in the north and high plateaus broken into narrow valleys farther south—provided good sites for settlement. At the base of mountains and plateaus, streams had created deltas, which became desired settlement sites because pioneers could control the water for irrigation and had access to timber in the mountains.
Third, a steady flow of immigrant Saints supplied the human resources and industry needed to settle an increasing number of areas.
Fourth, Church leadership was experienced in the matter of moving large numbers of people from place to place. Their experiences in Missouri, Illinois, and while crossing the plains had schooled them, creating a unified people of one mind, one faith, and one goal of establishing the Lord’s Zion in the tops of the mountains.
During the first winter of 1847–48, some 1,670 people lived in 423 cabins of the “Old Fort.” A few others camped in the outlying areas with their herds. The thousands of cattle that had come into the valley with the immigrants had to be pastured, and herd grounds were selected inside and outside of the Salt Lake Valley. The campsites at the herd grounds outside of Salt Lake City would eventually grow into villages, resulting in the founding of Bountiful and Farmington (north of Salt Lake City) in 1848, Tooele (west of Salt Lake City) in 1849, and Provo (south of Salt Lake City), also in 1849.
After the winter of 1848–49, the Old Fort with its leaky roofs and muddy floors was abandoned. The bounteous wheat crop of 1848 ended the threat of famine in the Salt Lake Valley, and on August 10 several hundred people met under a large awning and celebrated a thanksgiving feast. It included “almost every variety of food, all produced in the valley.”7 Prayer and thanksgiving, music and dancing, and firing a cannon marked the festival.
Salt Lake City and the area along the Wasatch Mountains, known as the Wasatch Front, consistently attracted most of the immigrants, and it grew rapidly. Many skilled craftsmen, farmers, and entrepreneurs settled there and their skills became an important resource for the city.
Some, however, looked at settling away from the city. Settlement in other areas of Salt Lake Valley appears to have developed gradually on its own. By the fall of 1848, a dozen farmers had picked out sites along the Jordan River or its tributaries. Soon each built a cabin, which drew the attention of other people, and the next year others joined, built cabins, and a meetinghouse. Before long, small communities such as Big Cottonwood, South Cottonwood, North Jordan, and West Jordan were established.
For the next four decades, Salt Lake Valley was a destination for waves of Latter-day Saint immigrants. Converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, they had turned their backs on the world and looked toward Zion—a place where they could build a society based on gospel teachings. These Saints either had or soon developed pioneer virtues. It took faith to convert, emigrate, answer the call, and follow counsel. It took loyalty to sustain leadership and withhold criticism. The practical pioneer virtues of initiative, resourcefulness, industry and hard work, sacrifice, acceptance of assignments, determination, and dependability held the society together.
Sister Louisa Barnes Pratt, a missionary widow with four young daughters, had those virtues. When she inquired why she had not received help in her preparations to leave Nauvoo, she was told, “Sister Pratt, you are expected to be smart enough to go yourself without help, and even to assist others.” The remark awakened in her a spirit of self-reliance. She replied, “Well, I will show them what I can do.”8 And she did!
Sister Pratt, like most Saints arriving in Salt Lake Valley after a long journey by water or land or both, was cheered on to Emigration Square. Saints greeted her as they did all incoming pioneers and soon helped answer the immigrants’ question, “Where do we settle?”
Families were given free rein to go where they might choose—a place popularly recommended or where friends or relatives had settled or were planning to settle. A bishop, Apostle, or President of the Church also might be at the square to recommend places or perhaps call the family to a specific locale. Through inspiration, experienced stalwart pioneers were called to go to distant valleys, often to perform a difficult mission that held a special place in the overall plan of establishing Zion.
The plan was to form one strong settlement outpost in each major valley and then encourage the addition of other settlements around the parent community. President Brigham Young assigned most of the Twelve Apostles to take up residence in major valleys and preside over all affairs affecting the Saints. These early major valleys included Cache Valley, Ogden River Valley, Weber River Valley, and Morgan Valley north of Salt Lake Valley; and Heber Valley, Provo River Valley, Juab Valley, Pavant Valley, Sevier Valley, and Sanpete Valley south of Salt Lake Valley. By 1850, there were a total of forty settlements in these major valleys.
During the first decade, 1847–57, the territorial population grew to more than thirty thousand, and about one hundred settlements were founded. By 1857, two-thirds of the total population lived in the Wasatch Front counties, yet nearly half of the settlements—about thirty-eight—were north of Brigham City or south of Provo.
The first distant outpost consisting of people who answered “the call” was in Sanpete Valley, 120 miles south of Salt Lake City, in nearby land of Ute Indian chief Walker. In June 1849, Chief Walker invited President Brigham Young to send settlers to teach the Utes how to farm and build. The invitation was accepted, the territory explored, and the project approved in the October general conference. In November, Isaac Morley was called to preside over the proposed settlement. Some 224 persons were called by name from the pulpit to settle Sanpete Valley. No sooner had they arrived on 22 November 1849 than snow fell and a bitter-cold winter closed in on them. In these circumstances, the settlers could not erect cabins or build a fort. The Indians, who initially had been so friendly, now turned unfriendly and demanded food. The settlers fed the Indians and saved them from starvation but greatly diminished their own food supplies. Measles spread among the people, taking the lives of several children.
On 20 February 1850, Isaac Morley wrote: “We have put up about twenty houses, but some of our people live in tents and in caves of the earth. The lines are measured off for a fort, but only a little work has been done on it. We have enough to do in tending fires and the cattle.”9
At last friendly Indians helped, and men were able to get to Salt Lake City and back on snowshoes, bringing much-needed supplies. In May ten teams with grain were sent from Salt Lake City to Sanpete. With the coming of spring, the settlers turned to plowing, planting, and building shelters and fences. Chief Walker showed his positive feelings for the Saints when on March 13 he was baptized. On 7 July 1850, Isaac Morley asked Chief Walker if some of his people wanted to be baptized, and 120 of the 250 were baptized.
When President Young visited the settlement, which he named Manti, in August 1850, surveyors marked out a city with eleven blocks, including a temple site. By the end of 1850, the settlement numbered 365 people.
As time passed and agricultural progress remained slow, many of the people became discouraged. But when President Young sent large companies of Scandinavian immigrants to Sanpete Valley, the outpost succeeded. In due time Sanpete became the granary of Utah.10
Concurrent with the founding of Manti, Elder Parley P. Pratt and his Southern Exploring Company searched out the valleys of central and southern Utah. Between 25 November 1849 and 2 February 1850, the company essentially traced the routes of today’s highways US 89 and US 91 (I-15), which both run north and south the full length of the area. Sites of most of Utah’s settlements are along these routes. Elder Pratt’s report, which included a description of discovered deposits of iron ore, precipitated the call of persons to establish the Iron Mission at the sites of Parowan and Cedar City.
In December 1850, 119 men, 310 women, and 18 children from Fort Provo answered the call to move south. An additional hundred families were called in 1852 to strengthen the settlement. The mission included English, Scotch, and Welsh miners and iron manufacturers. The settlers in Parowan grew food for the iron workers. All labored hard for seven years with only moderate success. Faced with the combination of Indian trouble, river flooding, cold weather and heavy snow, crop devastation, and mining problems, the Iron Mission failed. However, the settlements of Parowan and Cedar City succeeded as agricultural communities.
Outposts were settled and fortified in rapid succession during the early 1850s. Nephi in Juab Valley and Fillmore in Pavant Valley were both founded in 1851. In the 1851 October general conference, Saints sustained three companies to proceed in two weeks “to make or strengthen settlements in the southern parts of the Territory.”11 Because there were justifiable fears of the Indians, the 1850s became a time to “fort up.”
Following is a description of the fort in Parowan in December 1851: “The houses [were] on the lines and the intervening spaces [were] filled with pickets, ten feet high. On the southeast corner of the fort a meeting house … was built of hewed logs, which projected sixteen feet over the lines, so as to form a bastion, and completely commands two sides of the fort. On the opposite or northwestern corner a pentagon bastion was erected of logs, so as to hold a cannon. … The stockade of the public corral was built two feet in the ground and six feet above.”12
The Saints enjoyed a decade of splendid isolation, until the onset of the Utah War (1857–58), a bloodless clash between the federal government and the people of Utah. President Brigham Young called for all settlers living outside certain boundaries to move into the central valleys of the Utah Territory. This “Big Move” was soon over because the war ended almost before it began, although it had profound effect on settlements. Many outlying settlements and homes were abandoned. Scores of people changed locations, and scores of new settlements were established. Missionary efforts continued in England and Scandinavia, however, resulting in many convert immigrants coming to Zion.
Self-sufficiency was one of the main goals in President Young’s efforts to minimize dependence upon the outside world. When the U.S. Civil War broke out in 1861, the production and distribution of cotton was curtailed. Latter-day Saints in southern Utah had, during the 1850s, demonstrated the ability to grow cotton. Accordingly, at the October 1861 general conference, President Young launched the Cotton Mission. Under the direction of Elder George A. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who presided over the southern settlements, three hundred men and their families were called to establish the mission. Arriving at their mission area 1 December 1861, the main body of settlers were instructed to raise a variety of semitropical crops, such as cotton, fruits, figs, grapes, and olives. This settlement, St. George, was named for the presiding Apostle and nicknamed Dixie after the cotton-producing southern United States. The mission successfully produced some cotton and also semitropical produce in spite of repeated crop failures. Cotton was processed and milled into cloth and used in the State of Deseret.
St. George, however, was a harsh place in which to live. The summers were very hot, though the winters were moderate. The heat, sand, and wind wore heavily on the people. Unavoidable, complex factors ultimately combined to end the Cotton Mission. Even so, St. George remained the hub of southern Utah as new settlements spread along the Virgin and Santa Clara Rivers. During the 1860s, Utah’s Dixie increased from 691 to more than 4,500 people.
In the 1860s, established valleys continued to receive new settlers, while a few unsettled areas received pioneers.
At the northern end of present-day Utah, Cache Valley attracted hundreds of new settlers who had caught “Cache Valley fever.” Between 1859 and 1860, eleven villages were settled from the west mountains and across the south end of the valley to the banks of streams coming out of the eastern range canyons. Cautious settlers remained in their forts until after 29 January 1863, when the Battle of Bear River reduced the Indian threat.
North and east across the mountains from Cache Valley lay Bear Lake Valley. In the fall of 1863, President Brigham Young called Elder Charles C. Rich of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to establish a settlement there. It turned out to be a very difficult assignment due to the high mountainous elevations, short growing season, and severe winters. After trying to make a go of it, some of the settlers asked if they could go elsewhere to find better conditions. Said Elder Rich to the group of settlers, about thirty families who had spent the winter of 1863–64 at the site of Paris, Idaho, living in aspen log cabins with dirt floors, sod roofs, and no windows: “There have been many hardships. That I admit … and these we have shared together. But if you want to go somewhere else, that is your right. … My blessing will go with you. But I must stay here, even if I stay alone. President Young called me here, and here I will remain till he releases me and gives me leave to go.”13
The Sevier Valley had been crossed many times, but it was not until January 1864 that twenty families moved into the area of Richfield. Soon other families were called, and Salina, Glenwood, Joseph, Marysvale, Circleville, and Panguitch were founded. This expansion upset Indian hunting and gathering grounds, and tensions mounted between Indians and settlers, resulting in the Black Hawk War (1865–71). This was Utah’s most devastating Indian conflict and resulted in scores of families moving from their homes into forts. During those years, men had followed Indians into the canyonlands to the east and seen land suitable for agriculture.
In the years following the war, a dozen or more small settlements were founded in the plateau valleys and the canyonlands area. The San Juan Mission of 1879 is especially noteworthy. These pioneers cut their way through stone walls from a high plateau down through the Hole-in-the-Rock to the Colorado River (see accompanying article, “Hole-in-the-Rock”).
In 1874, at the urging of President Young, a movement was begun to establish settlements patterned after the United Order set forth in scripture (see, for example, D&C 104). Of all subsequent United Orders, Orderville was the most successful. For ten years this community lived as one family—all members working to the best of their ability for the general welfare, each person receiving according to his or her need. The community became self-sufficient in almost every way. Settlers raised their own food and grew their own wool to make all their own clothing. They acquired land, raised herds of sheep and cattle, and operated all the home industries. For some years community members ate their meals together in the communal dining hall.
Throughout this period of several decades, many immigrants pioneered more than one settlement. Silas S. Smith, president of the San Luis Stake in Colorado “made homes in 35 different localities.”14 Francis A. Hammond, president of the San Juan Stake, southeastern Utah, wrote, “I have built or bought twenty-five different homes since I married.”15 Typically the pioneers, who were well suited to help strengthen settlements, pioneered from two to eight communities.
One of the last areas of settlement was the Uintah basin in the upper eastern area of what is now Utah. Explorers of the 1860s had characterized this area as unpromising, so Latter-day Saints avoided the region until the late 1870s, when enterprising families entered the basin to farm and ranch. By 11 July 1886 there were enough Latter-day Saints to form the Uintah Stake.
By the 1880s, the readily obtainable irrigable land had been taken up and young families found it necessary to seek land and homes elsewhere. “Myself having a large family of boys and Long Valley being such a small place,” wrote one Utah Orderville pioneer in 1883, “I felt it would be wisdom for me to go further south [to Arizona].”16
The comparative degree of isolation that Latter-day Saints experienced early on gradually declined and the settlement era came to a close toward the end of the century. Yet in that 45-year period, some four hundred to five hundred settlements had been established in what is now Utah.
Credit for the successful settlement of Utah Territory goes to Brigham Young for his vision, practical leadership, annual visits to the settlements, and his knowledge of people. Credit also goes to the pioneers who turned a barren desert land into a Zion. Pioneers like Jesse N. Smith, Louisa Barnes Pratt, and Samuel Claridge and his daughter, Elizabeth, all survived the transition from conversion to emigration to settlement and filled our Church history with stories of sacrifice and rewards.
Jesse N. Smith, who gave up his education to help settle Parowan, became an example of how some pioneers gained an education through mission experiences and voracious reading. He served two missions to Scandinavia and served twice as mission president (1862 to 1864 and 1868 to 1871). He learned to speak the languages of the mission as well as German. Through a lifetime of purchasing books and reading, he became one of the most highly educated Latter-day Saint pioneers.
Louisa Barnes Pratt helped pioneer eleven settlements in all. She also served with her husband, Addison Pratt, in the Society Islands. A clothier, she earned money by her needle and by teaching wherever she settled.
En route to the Muddy River, Elizabeth Claridge lost all she had been able to buy when the wagon broke loose and tumbled off the mesa, emptying provisions and her wardrobe across the land. Her father said, “My daughter … the day will come when you will have much better clothes than those to wear.” His words came to pass. Elizabeth married Alfred W. McCune, who became one of Utah’s first millionaires. Though she lived in the McCune Mansion overlooking Salt Lake City, Elizabeth never forgot the adobe home she helped build on the banks of the Muddy or the values she learned there.
So it was with most of the pioneers of the settlement era. Their testimonies of the gospel, their ability to work, and their willingness to be obedient carried them through many challenges. Each had answered the call of the prophet to settle some distant outpost, and together they had helped establish Zion.
Most pioneers sacrificed their earthly goods in leaving home and starting anew at different times as they sought to build the kingdom in Utah. Families gave up everything except what a wagon or handcart could haul. Many convert immigrants reached Salt Lake City without money. Most had to start over more than once.
But there was help in the “City of the Saints.” The Church provided wheat and other staples in exchange for labor. Pioneers could work on the city wall or other projects for goods, cash, or tithing credit. People shared what they could.
Providentially, in 1849 and 1850 there passed through Utah many companies of California-bound gold seekers who were in desperate need of fresh oxen and horses, food, and a blacksmith and other services. Gold seekers willingly paid or exchanged goods for everything they needed. Several years later, a detachment of the United States Army, having completed its tour of duty in Utah, also disposed of all surplus properties, which helped the economy.
People in Salt Lake City fared best in overcoming poverty, while those in distant settlements sometimes endured poverty for years. In addition, in some outlying communities the short growing season, killing frosts, crickets, and mice were a constant threat. Nevertheless, the people had muscle and energy, prayer, and commitment. They were resourceful and imaginative. Their human spirit generally showed few signs of faltering.
While there was a variety of experiences associated with the process of establishing a settlement, the steps taken can be generalized as follows:
Exploration of the intended area. Most Utah valleys were explored by 1850. Exploration always preceded settlement.
Selection of a leader. The leader must have had experience in moving large groups of people and be capable of leading a community in religious, political, and economic matters. He must be personable, loyal, faithful, and courageous. Often he was a bishop who served in that capacity for decades.
Selection of the settlers. Usually President Brigham Young issued a “call” by standing up at conference and reading the names of the people selected to go to a certain place. He expected them to be ready to go in two weeks. This call was often extended to persons with special skills needed in a new community: farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, tanners, and others.
Rendezvous. If going south, settlers gathered at the south end of Salt Lake Valley or the south end of Utah Valley. Here the pioneers sustained their leader, and then the leader organized the company after the pattern the Saints had used crossing the Plains.
Arrival at the new settlement site. Camp organization was exchanged for Church organization. If an Apostle was a resident of the settlement, he presided; otherwise the bishop led the community. Bishops were responsible to a presiding bishop (especially for temporal matters) and to the resident Apostle. The bishop handled all Church matters of an economic, political, or social nature. He was, in effect, the “mayor of the town.” Furthermore, he was often the appointed probate judge.
In 1877 President Young set a new organization in place: a stake president and his counselors presided over wards in a stake that often encompassed an entire valley. This greatly lightened the bishop’s load.
6. Working Together. Upon the settlers’ arrival, many routine activities took place simultaneously. Families removed the wagon box and yielded the running gear to those who hauled timber from the mountains. The wagon box or a dugout usually became the immediate shelter for the family. Later, fathers gave leadership to the building of cabins for their families.
Leaders selected the settlement site based on the proximity to irrigation water, good soil, and timber in the mountains. Men were responsible to see that water was turned to the land and seed planted. They constructed a road into the canyon, built a stockade when necessary for protection against unfriendly Indians, and surveyed the town site for city lots and a common pasture. Village life began with the building of a church house that doubled as a school house.
In addition to bringing children into the world, mothers were responsible for many tasks essential to the operation of a home and farm: feed the family, plant gardens, milk cows, care for the sick, clothe the family, harvest gardens and orchards, teach the children, attend Church meetings, and keep the house warm by stocking the woodshed. Women sometimes led out in social affairs once the heavy work was done. They also furnished music and kept alive the bonds of family heritage.