The Andrus Halfway House and Neff Station

by Russell Stocking

After the early settlement of the Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley the normal movement of people was to the north and south following the natural terrain of the valleys, probably the largest movement was to the south.

To satisfy the needs of travelers, freighters, stagecoach, trappers, etc. numerous places for overnight accommodations were built. A natural one was midway between Travelers Rest near 6400 South and Porter Rockwell’s layout near the point of the mountain.

The Andrus Halfway House and Neff Station

Milo Andrus was an early pioneer and great missionary for the L.D.S. Church, having come to Salt Lake Valley in 1850 with a company of saints who he had charge of coming from England. He organized this group of saints and others and was their leader while crossing the plains and brought them to the valley with very little difficulty. He later served various colonization missions and was a pioneer also of Green River, Dixie, and Cache Valley in Utah and Salmon River and Oxford in Idaho. He moved some of his families in the mid and late 1850’s to an area called the Jordan Bottoms near and north of present day 10600 South where he had filed for 160 acres of land which he purchased and later received a U.S. patent deed dated September 10, 1875. This land extended east to present day State Street which was then as now the major road (before the freeway system) going south from Salt Lake.

This area was also called Dry Creek which was a former outlet for Little Cottonwood Creek, where there was an abundance of good water available by digging wells. After some stay in the Jordan Bottoms which in those days had also plenty of water and natural grasses for forage for livestock. Milo, previous to a call to serve a mission to England in 1859, called his families together and gave them several assignments for the caring of livestock and distribution of food etc. in order to survive while he was away.

Some of the wives at Dry Creek then, were Lucy Loomis Tuttle Andrus, Adeline Alexander Andrus and Jane Mundy Andrus. To Lucy, he assigned the responsibility of building a hotel at 10330 So. State. The hotel was renamed the Halfway House and has carried that name even to present day times.

Lucy, along with many others, had suffered many hardships. Having had black scurvy while crossing the plains and had been left a widow with a young family previous to her marriage to Milo Andrus, she was an industrious and well organized person.

The building she was assigned to build when finished had a large dining room and a large kitchen and a parlor downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs.

After the Halfway House was finished, naturally the wives found themselves sharing communal living which was a new situation for them and caused some adjustments but they learned to accept conditions as they were. One wife was assigned the job of cooking, to another housekeeping and washing of dishes, to another sewing and to another the care of the livestock and horses and milking of cows. Adjacent to the house was a large barn with a goodwill nearby.

The girls of the families, many who were very talented, entertained the guests at the Halfway House which was a real oasis in those days. The wives walked to and from the Draper Ward to attend Relief Society which was a distance of eight miles there and back before they could afford other means of transportation.

Jane Munday Andrus had many special talents. She taught school in South Jordan across the river. She went to school for training and became a graduate midwife. She ran a knitting machine for the Draper Relief Society and owned one of the first sewing machines brought across the plains. The building, although used as a residence for the Andrus families and available to a degree for overnight lodging by travelers, also had other uses. The Andrus children and those of nearby neighbors were taught school at different intervals, probably by Jane Munday Andrus.

During the interval of the Pony Express, April 31, 1860 to October 24, 1861, it has been mentioned in some of the Andrus histories that some of the boys of the families took care of horses for some of the riders, and it has been generally thought for a long time that it was a Pony Express Station but that is officially not correct. It may have been used as an emergency station only, as the official stations south of Salt Lake were Travelers Rest at 6400 South State and Porter Rockwell’s major stop-over at the Point of the Mountain, which was one of the largest stopover places going south. It was a major stagecoach, travelers and general rest area and also a relay station for the Deseret Telegraph. Mention is made that the Halfway House was called a tavern and as word was spread of its availability many segments of the traveling public used the accommodations available.

A special note, but not a happy one  should be mentioned of one of the children of Emma Covert and Milo Andrus. When times were hard they gave one of their children to the Archibald Gardner family in West Jordan. This child was Carrie, born September 17, 1872, and at the age of six, on Christmas Day, trudged across the Jordan River to the Gardner home carrying all she owned done up in a large bandanna. She later married Robert Gardner, A daughter of Carrie, Elva Gardner Gaff, was kind enough to help this writer gather some lead information on the Andrus family which was more helpful in establishing a base for research.

Lucy Loomis Tuttle Andrus operated the Halfway House for about seven years. In the late 1860’s times became hard for the families. A freighter and friend by the name of James Miller told Lucy that a great opportunity presented itself for a hotel in Spanish Fork. Lucy explored the possibilities and decided in 1868 to move her family there. They built the Spanish Fork Hotel which turned out to be a very prosperous venture and operated it for many years. They were able to purchase other properties in the area and were among the early stalwart pioneers of Spanish Fork. By this time some of the other wives had moved to other places.

With the coming of the Railroad south from Salt Lake, travel diminished considerably on State Street causing hard times to operators of the Hotels and travelers stopovers.

On October 29, 1881 the property was sold to John Eddins who moved some of his families from Salt Lake to the Halfway House. He lived part of the time in Salt Lake where he operated a brewery which was the second one built there. He was an expert horseman, Indian Scout and fought in the Black Hawk War. He was also engaged in helping to build the Salt Lake Temple, having come to Utah in 1847 with Heber C. Kimball’s Company.

A daughter, Harriet Susannah Eddins Smith, remembered people stopping at the well at the Halfway House to refresh themselves. She remembers very vividly Porter Rockwell being one of them as he was a frequent visitor and that she often combed and braided his long black hair. Some mention is made in some histories and by some now living that Porter Rockwell operated a bar at the Half Way House and served the necessary ingredients to those who were interested.

The Eddin family sold the property in 1893 to William Winn.  The Winn family were very enterprising people and made a room available to travelers who could qualify. As these were still the horse and buggy days there was still a certain amount of travel on State Street that needed overnight accommodations. It seemed the good water at the well was a good attraction to stop and care for their horses, etc., and generally refresh themselves. About this time there was also a great deal of freight and wagon traffic hauling produce etc. from Utah County into Salt Lake and back. Members of the Winn family now living (spring 1979) remark how people in their wagons etc. would be strung along the side of the road for the overnight stop. There was also a good spring of water across State Street to the East.

Mrs. Winn took in school teachers for boarders which was a common practice in those days. Mrs. Winn, who had become a widow, operated a small store in part of the building. Some of the Winn girls were very talented in the nursing profession.

One of the daughters now living in American Fork, Mrs. Theodore H. “Mamie” Pardahn, whom this writer is well acquainted with, relates that they used to make homemade ice cream and cake and sell it for 10 cents on Sundays. She has mentioned she hated for Sundays to come as people from all over the south part of the valley would come and enjoy the treat. Many people still living can remember that attraction as it was still known as the Halfway House.

There was a large building close to the house which had been used for grain storage and was later used for weddings etc. and in all probability for dances.

The property was sold in 1939 to Williams Sanders who in turn sold it to his brother Elmer Sanders. The lot where the house stands was later sold to Vince Palmansino, who sold the house and lot to ZCMI on May 24,1978.

The barn was torn down in the 1950’s and the house was later moved to Pioneer Trails State Park.

THE

A most significant part of the area was also the Neff property which joined the Andrus property to the north. In the late 1860’s, Benjamin Barr Neff, who served with Lot Smith during 1862 on a special Mormon military contingent to help protect the mail and telegraph lines and travelers from murdering Indians and other destructions. He moved his family to Dry Creek, now Crescent. There he built a home and building similar to the Halfway House and was only a few hundred yards from the Andrus Home.

He operated a hotel type and eating business for a few years. Evidence of this is a receipt of licenses issued in 1868, 1869 and 1870 by the Internal Revenue Office. Due to the coming of the Railroad into Central Utah this type of service ended in 1871.

During this interim the Deseret Telegraph Company had run lines to the north and south from Salt Lake and a designated office was established in the Neff Home in the fall of 1871 and called “Neff Station at Dry Creek.”

Benjamin had married his second wife, Mary Ellen Love, on October 7, 1870. She was a very talented person and had learned telegraphy while living in Nephi. She became the operator at Neff’s Station after her marriage.

In 1873 when the railroad built lines to Little Cottonwood Canyon and Bingham Canyon to support the newly developed mining operations, the Neff Station was moved to Sandy and Mary Ellen was pressed into service as the operator. From this office she worked the north and south lines as well as junction lines running to Alta and Bingham. As proof of her efficiency she was issued a certificate of membership in the Old Timers Telegraphers and Historical Association on May 12, 1904.

Mary Ellen had a special mission call from the Draper Relief Society appointing her to take special training in nursing and obstetrics. She graduated

with honors from Doctor Ramania B. Pratt’s class and practiced this profession in the Dry Creek area. After the death of her husband and division of the properties she moved back to Nephi where she practiced extensively in the Juab area and in later years was noted the most popular lady in Juab County.

Benjamin was by nature an industrious person, having a Swiss ancestry to back him up. He established a large farm with its compliment of dairy cows, horses, mules etc. Benjamin died February 18,1883 and his son John Brenneman remained on the farm which by now was about half the original acreage, and developed a large scale chicken and turkey business.

A well dug by Benjamin Neff is still on the property and has been used until recently in the business operations.

The Neff property along with the Andrus adjoining property has been used until recently in the business operations.

The Neff property, along with the Andrus adjoining property, has succumbed to the new phase of industrialization, as this area has become involved in a new development.

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1 thought on “The Andrus Halfway House and Neff Station

  1. My Father grew up on a country farm. Hillcrest High School was built on my Grandmothers back acres. When I read about a Sister walking eight miles to Relief Society. I remembered how my Father had a horse he could ride to Jordon High School. He had a horse so he and Smarts could herd their cows to graze between the Cottonwood Canyons. My Grandmother Harriet Parry was born in a log cabin (still standing) located in Granite . My Father met my Mother at a dance in the Fort Union Ward.

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