Taylorsville, Utah - History - Mormon Settlement

Mormon Settlement

The first Mormon pioneer settlers, Joseph and Susanna Harker from England built a log cabin on the west side of the Jordan River in November 1848 on what was called then “the Church Farm” near 3300 South. In 1849 Samuel and John Bennion and several other families moved south crossing the river on the ice in January. There was little in the way of building materials, so the families dug into the bluffs of the Jordan River for shelter. The tiny settlement, the first "over Jordan," was called Harker’s Settlement, and they began the difficult work of digging ditches to move water out of the Jordan River and onto the land on the west side. The soil was hard to work and they kept looking for better land to farm. The infamous crickets destroyed much of that year’s crop and so the group moved farther south to where Big Cottonwood Creek flowed into the Jordan River about 4800 South known then as Field’s Bottom.

By working together eight families managed to bring in the first successful crop in 1851 using water brought down from Bingham Creek by what was later called Gardner’s Millrace. John and Esther Bennion’s daughter, Rachael, was the first pioneer child to be born in Field’s Bottom. Despite the struggle to get food and shelter in those early days, John Bennion described Field’s Bottom in these words:

if peace dwells upon this earth it is here and here are the happiest and most prosperous people in the world, enjoying free soil, pure air, liberty to worship our God just as we please…

By 1851 more families settled in or near Field’s Bottom where they dug the "lower ditch" and cleared land for small farms and pastures. In January 1852 Harker’s Settlement was organized as a part of the West Jordan LDS Ward that included the Salt Lake Valley west of the Jordan River. Some families returned to cabins they had built earlier and dismantled them and brought the logs across the river and reassembled the cabins.

In the 1853 the continued threat of attack by angry Utes, locally called the "Walker War" or the "Utah Valley War", forced the settlers to build a 2-acre (8,100 m2) adobe fort called the English Fort just north of the North Jordan Burying Ground in 1854. Stories about "Indian depredations" in Utah and Sanpete Counties and the massacre of John W. Gunnison and his surveying party caused such fear that Salt Lake City fortified itself. Two livestock herders were killed in Cedar Valley, just over "South Mountain" and the Ute attacked cattle herds in Tooele County just over the Oquirrh Mountains. Isolated settlements either built forts or were abandoned. Locals nicknamed the fort in North Jordan, "Fort Hardscrabble" because it was built on what they considered a useless piece of ground. About thirty families moved into or near the fort for protection for the winter, but as the threat of attack faded, families spread out once again and part of the fort was converted into an LDS meeting house which also served as the school.

Hickman Fort, farther south in Bennion, was built by William Hickman. It was located about 5800 South on the bluff above the west side of river. Between 1853 and 1857 Gardner’s Millrace was extended north to the Bennion area and called the North Jordan Canal, the first important canal on the west side of the Jordan River.

Up until 1859 the West Jordan Ward was headquartered in what is today Taylorsville.

By 1860 Harker’s Settlement, as the area was called, had 178 residents. The first post office was established with the name Taylorsville which was the name of the LDS branch in that part of the North Jordan, perhaps to distinguish it from Granger. The post office was discontinued later. Elizabeth Harker’s home was used for the first school classes.

In 1858 the threat of Johnston’s Army marching down Emigration Canyon forced many settlers to pack up everything they could and move south until the situation could be resolved. Most residents ended up in Spanish Fork or camped out at Pondtown (Salem) near Utah Lake. The home guard who remained behind to watch over the settlement observed “Johnston’s Army” camp the first night after passing through Salt Lake on the "flats' above the North Jordan farms. Its large livestock herd ate everything to withn an inch of the ground. The US Army continued on its way the next morning. In July 1858 Taylorsville residents returned and settled back into the interrupted routine of summertime chores. By 1859 the adobe fort was dissolving into the mud from which it was created. It was decided to build a log school on top of the “hill” on 4800 South which was closer to where most people in Taylorsville lived.

In 1859 the West Jordan Ward included all of Salt Lake County west of the Jordan River and even had a section east of the river. The North Jordan dependent branch of the West Jordan stake was organized in 1859. Its first president was John Bennion. He was succeeded in 1863 by Samuel Bennion. He was later succeeded by Heber Bennion so that until 1907 the presiding LDS authority in Taylorsville was a Bennion.

The area west of Jordan was divided into the West Jordan, South Jordan, North Jordan and Herriman LDS Wards. North Jordan also known as Taylorsville had a dependent branch at Bennion. The first business in Taylorsville was a small store located near the school and a blacksmith‘s shop across the street. John Webster, the blacksmith, was appointed postmaster and once a week carried mail from Murray in a clothes basket. In 1867 the log school was replaced by a three room school made of rock and brick called "the Rock Schoolhouse" that was used until 1898.

By 1876 the South Jordan Canal and the North Jordan Canal were joined to carry water from the Jordan River above the bluffs west of the Jordan and brought land from South Jordan to Granger under cultivation. This brought more families to the area, almost all of them farmers. Land west of the canals was cleared for dry farms which were planted in the fall and harvested in early summer. A few families moved just north of Taylorsville near 6200 South and Redwood Road. John Bennion, one of the early settlers, gave this area its name, Bennion. A tiny blue schoolhouse was built on the corner of Redwood Road and 6200 South for the children to attend.

In the 1880s LDS Church president, John Taylor, hid from US marshals at a home on the west side of the Jordan River near 4800 South. John Taylor's association with Taylorsville has often been used to explain its name. The name, Taylorsville, used before the 1880s seems to call the John Taylor explanation for the town's name into question. However since Taylor was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve before the Mormons even arrived in Utah, and was the wounded survivor of the mob attack that killed Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and served at various times as speaker of the Utah Territorial Legislature, naming the town after Taylor at any point from 1847 on is quite believable.

In 1881 the Utah and Salt Lake Canal was built which allowed irrigation farming to expand even farther west above the river between Bluffdale and Granger. Un-irrigated land to the west was cleared and planted as dry farms. The 1880s saw a sawmill, gristmill, and woolen mill built in West Jordan. Rawlings shoe repair store was constructed. The Bennion brothers built a grist mill at 4800 South and the Jordan River.

In 1894 a three-room school house was built out of red brick, called the 64 District School. It sat on two acres on the corner of 6200 South and Redwood Road. The name of the school was latter changed to the Madison School. Enough musicians lived in the area to establish a brass band. People in Taylorsville and Bennion depended on growing corn, wheat, oats, and alfalfa. In the 1890s sugar beets became big business and many farmers started to clear additional land to grow them. The beets were hauled to the West Jordan cutting station until 1916 when the West Jordan Sugar Factory was completed. Taylorsville and Bennion remained very small farming towns.

The 1890s saw increased growth and the establishment of a small business district at the intersection of Redwood Road and 4800 South. The largest store was Lindsay and Company which was later called the Taylorsville Mercantile Company. In 1894 the Taylorsville LDS Meetinghouse was built to house the Taylorsville Ward of the LDS church.

In 1905 Bennion was made a separate ward from Taylorsville. Prior to this point is was often referred to as South Taylorsville.

Read more about this topic:  Taylorsville, Utah, History

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