Bountiful: Utah’s Second Settlement

Bountiful: Utah’s Second Settlement

Bountiful: Utah’s Second Settlement

This article originally appeared in Vol.65, No.2 (2018) of Pioneer Magazine.

by Tom Tolman

The vanguard company of Mormon Saints entered the Great Salt Lake Valley on July 22, 1847, and Brigham Young first saw the Valley on July 24. Two months later, on September 24, and his family arrived, part of the second wave of pioneer settlers sometimes called the Emigration Camp. Sessions had been a captain in the Daniel Spencer Company. After only three days in the Salt Lake Valley, Perrigrine Sessions turned his horse northward past the hot springs and into the next valley to begin settlement of the community that was not yet known as Bountiful With three other men. Sessions took a herd of 300 cattle about ten miles north to winter. He and John Perry remained with the herd during the winter,1 living out of Sessions’ wagon and a dugout in the bank of the creek while their families spent the winter of 1847-48 in the Salt Lake Fort. The two men were the first pioneer settlers in the area.

One can only imagine what Native Americans might have thought as they watched this small group of men with a large herd of cattle come past the hot springs and around the sandy bluffs into this fertile valley. The valley was just what Perrigrine was looking for, with its large patches of willows and a heavy growth of grass covering the lowlands and with its many springs. In the spring of 1848, Sessions completed a small log home for himself, his wife, and two small children, and planted more than seven acres in crops, including wheat, corn, beans, peas, pumpkins, squash, and melons. In spite of a scourge of crickets in March 1848, Perrigrine reported that he harvested more than 500 bushels of wheat that brought a good price in the fall, evidence of the fertile ground on which he had settled.2

Soon other families moved into the valley. Those of , , , and were among the first, followed by the families of , , , and , among others. Later in 1848 more would come to this new settlement: Judson Tolman, Joseph Holbrook, William Muir, Daniel Carter, Ira Hatch, Daniel Wood, and Eric Goudyson Hogan. By the end of the year nearly eighty families were settled in the valley.

As the community grew, it became known as . The settlers built a small log building twenty feet by thirty feet in 1849 that served the community as a schoolhouse and meeting hall. In 1852 a much larger adobe building was constructed on the corner of 200 West and 400 North. The first bishop called was Orville Cox, who served until the fall of 1849 when he was sent by Brigham Young to help settle Sanpete County.

Anson Call was next called as bishop, but he served for only about a year until Brigham Young called him to settle in Fillmore in 1850. At that time John Stoker was called as bishop, serving in that position for twenty-four years. The ward in Sessions Settlement was first called the North Mill Creek Kanyon (Canyon) Ward, later known simply as the North Canyon Ward. When a post office opened in 1850, it was called the Stoker Post Office. For a while all three names—Sessions Settlement, North Canyon and Stoker—were used to refer to the settlement.

In 1853 Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball came for a visit. A meeting was held to talk about organizing a town site. As a result, Jessie Fox surveyed the town and laid out a plat based on the grid pattern used for the city of Nauvoo. Part of the plan included a fort to help give protection from Indians. The fort was to be about three-quarters of a mile square, and its ten-foot walls were to be made of dirt, four feet wide at the bottom and two feet at the top, with recesses and port holes to shoot from. When finished, the fort surrounded the area from 400 North to 500 South and from 400 East to 200 West. Each family was assessed for the cost of the wall according to their ability to pay, and every man in the community was expected to build his share of the wall. However, a man could hire his proportion out at a cost of thirty dollars per rod. The streets running north and south were to be six rods wide and the east-west streets three rods wide.3

On Tuesday afternoon, February 27, 1855, Brigham Young, along with apostles George A. Smith and Ezra T. Benson, visited the North Canyon Ward in Sessions Settlement The people filled their small community building while more stood outside watching and listening through the windows. Brigham Young walked outside to view the fine crop of winter wheat waving in the breeze and asked Perrigrine Sessions if he had decided on a name for the settlement. The answer was no. Brigham said that the view reminded him of 1 Nephi, chapter 17, and its description of the land Bountiful where Lehi took his family. After some discussion, those present accepted Brigham’s proposal, and the name of the settlement was officially changed to Bountiful. Sessions family folklore recalls that it was Perrigrine’s idea to name it Bountiful; the Stoker family tradition claims it was Bishop Stoker’s idea. But they were all in that same meeting and came to the conclusion together that Bountiful would be the name of the settlement.

Indians frequently passed through this area, and comments from early journals indicate that on a single day hundreds might pass by and make their way up the bench to a camp above the old gristmill. The Saints were counseled to be kind to the Indians and feed them when they came around, but they were also encouraged to move their homes and farms within the walls of the town fort.

Joseph Holbrook records that one winter night during a howling east wind, a family of Indians came onto his back porch and camped there, using the home itself as a wind block from the bitter cold. They ended up staying for a number of weeks, during which time one of their women died. Her remains were buried behind Holbrook’s house along with some of her personal items. For several years after that, Indians would periodically return to pay reverence to her and were invited to camp on the property during their stay.

Another Indian story involves Israel Barlow during the winter of 1849-50. A band of Indians camped near the willows and springs on the northern part of his farm. In April when Israel and his family went to the LDS Conference in Salt Lake City, some of the Indians went into his cabin and took everything. When Israel returned he and his family were sickened by the empty cabin. The determined pioneer found the camp of fifty or more Indians and, despite the lack of a shared language, somehow persuaded them to return his property.

Later that year, the Barlows had another incident with the Indians. Six-year-old Pamela and her older brother, Israel, Jr., were playing in a field full of sunflowers on their farm. Without warning, several Indians appeared. One of them threw a blanket over Pamela, covering her head, and put her on a pony where she was held captive as the kidnappers rode off. Her frightened brother ran home, keeping under cover of the sunflowers. The father quickly alerted some neighbors, and with two or three other men, tracked the Indians to the high bench above the settlement where he courageously faced them and secured the freedom of his little girl.

As Bountiful began to grow, many farms and orchards started to dot the landscape. Water became one of the main issues because most of the people were farmers. There were a few flowing wells on the lower lands, but most of the water came from mountain streams. This beautiful valley with its majestic mountains on the east and the lake on the west provided a lovely place to settle and raise both family and crops. Bountiful would become a garden spot along the Wasatch Front, and its farms would produce some of the finest fruits and vegetables in all the Salt Lake area.

Four main canyons provided the water that made Bountiful’s desert blossom. They also gave access to timber for building cabins and homes and provided firewood for cooking and heat On the far north of Bountiful was Ward Canyon, so named because the town’s LDS ward supervised its use. The stream coming from this canyon was named Stone Creek after Amos P. Stone, who was a blacksmith and Bountiful’s first medical care provider. Later Judson Tolman and his son Jaren operated a lumber mill on Stone Creek just above what would become 1300 East—but at that time called Tolman Road. Jaren Tolman diverted water from Stone Creek into a pond just west of Tolman Road and used the pond to operate the first ice business in Davis County. When winter froze the pond’s water, he would cut the ice into two-foot by four-foot blocks and drag them west to the icehouse. He used sawdust from his sawmill just across the street to insulate the blocks so they would last into the summer. Sometimes he still had ice on July 24, and Bountiful residents were able to enjoy ice cream at their Pioneer Day celebration. Often he would take a wagonload of ice into Salt Lake City to sell, receiving as much as $2 a ton for it.

Going south along the mountains, the next canyon was Holbrook Canyon, named after Joseph Holbrook. Joseph, along with his son-in- law Judson Tolman, built a road into this canyon and operated another sawmill there. This mill produced the lumber to build the Bountiful Tabernacle. The stream flowing from the canyon was named Barton Creek after John Barton, who built his first home near the creek.

Canyon Crest, Mueller Park Area

The next canyon south was Mill Creek, later named Mueller Park Canyon, and the creek flowing from it was also named Mill Creek. William Whipple obtained the rights to build a road and sawmill in the canyon and named it Mill Creek around 1849. In 1851-52 Heber C. Kimball built one of the largest grist mills in the territory on Mill Creek. Remnants of this mill are still visible today. The DUP erected a replica of the mill near the site in 1936, and artifacts from the original mill were located during an archeological dig in 1992. The mills pond was used for area baptisms until fonts began to be included in LDS meeting houses. The historic site can be seen east of Orchard Drive and Mill Street, just south of Bountiful High School.

The fourth canyon south was North Canyon, so named because it was the first canyon north of Salt Lake City past the hot springs. It was often spelled North Kan- yon, and was the name given to the first ward in Sessions Settlement in 1848. The stream from this canyon is North Canyon Creek.

After meeting for several years in the small church on 200 West, local Saints realized that a much larger place of worship was needed. Brigham Young gave permission for the Saints in Bountiful to build a tabernacle. On February 11, 1857, Elder Lorenzo Snow, who had a home in Bountiful, dedicated the ground for the building and removed the first shovel of earth from the comer of 100 South and 100 East.

Architect Augustus Farnham drew up plans for the structure, eighty-six feet long and forty-four feet wide, and specified that primarily local materials be used for its construction. The foundation was to be six feet thick and nine feet high, made from rock hauled in from the local canyons. On the basement level, seven stone pillars, each 4.25 feet square, would support the ground-level floor. The outside walls of the tabernacle were to be made of 12” x 8” x 3” adobe bricks. When completed the walls would be three feet thick.

The day after the groundbreaking Judson Tolman and Joseph Holbrook were put in charge of harvesting the timber to start construction. Most of the timbers came from a place in Holbrook Canyon called “meetinghouse hollow,” but the exact location is unknown. Local historians suggest that because Bountiful pioneer Judson Tolman and Ezra T. Benson operated a sawmill in the Oquirrh Mountains near Tooele, some of the very large timbers used in the roof of the tabernacle may have come from that mill, but reliable evidence of this has not been found.

The intrusion of the Utah Expedition into Utah’s settlements also occurred in 1857. The Saints in northern Utah were told to leave everything behind and go south. The timber brought down from the hills for the tabernacle was made into wagons and storage boxes. Workers Med the foundation of the tabernacle with wheat from the granaries and then covered the building site with dirt so that it looked like a plowed field. The people of Bountiful went south to Utah County, leaving twenty men to guard the community. The Army passed through the valley to the west of Bountiful, and after three months the people returned to their homes in time to plant crops for 1858.

With much sacrifice and hard work, the building progressed President Brigham Young had always taken an interest in the construction of the tabernacle, and he called some of the best craftsmen and artisans to assist Brigham often visited the site to see how the building was coming along. The list of names associated with its construction and finishing constituted a roster of the stalwart pioneers who built the city of Bountiful. Red pine timber was used for the roof of the tabemade, with wooden pegs holding it together. Mortar was made from lime rock hauled from the region near the hot springs and burned in two kilns in Barton Hallow just east of the tabernacle block.

Thomas Fisher, who had done carpentry in the service of Queen Victoria, brought two chests of tools with him from England, and these were used by him and others to build the beautiful winding staircases in the tabernacle. Many other artisans and craftsmen helped to make the tabernacle both beautiful and enduring. The Bountiful Tabernacle, from its towering spires to its hand-grained columns and crystal chandeliers, becomes a more-beloved treasure with each passing year.

One of the final features added to the tabernacle before its completion in 1862, and one that endeared the structure to each person who entered it, was the mural of the Prophet Joseph Smith at the center of the front wall of the chapel. Brigham Young energetically requested the mural be included in the building, as Joseph never enjoyed beholding the Salt Lake Valley in person. A young artist named Dan Weggeland, a convert from Norway, was engaged by Young to paint the mural, which portrayed a statuary bust of the Prophet gazing out on the Promised Land. During the most recent remodeling of the tabernacle, craftsmen carefully removed the mural. It is now displayed in the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City.

The Bountiful Tabernacle

The Bountiful Tabernacle was completed and dedicated in 1863 by Heber C. Kimball. It has the distinction of being the oldest LDS chapel in continuous operation, a record now stretching more than 155 years. From its beginning the tabernacle was the center point of the community. The Saints gathered here for worship, for civic affairs, for dances, and for almost every celebration. A baptismal font was added, and many were baptized in it Couples were married there, and funeral sermons were delivered from its pulpit In 1879, Bountiful residents enjoyed a big July Fourth celebration with a parade, brass bands, and food and games. It concluded in the tabernacle with a reading of the Declaration of Independence by one of the bishops. Then the benches were moved back, and the people danced until three or four in the morning. Everyone had a great time and then went home in time to do early-morning chores and begin another day’s work.

Local author and poet Mabel Jones Gabbott said it best:

“The Tabernacle has aged with grace and beauty. The blessings, the integrity, the power of this great Tabernacle is not found in the timbers tied with thongs, not in the walls three feet thick, nor in the benches, once red, now golden brown, not in the stately windows and doors, nor the winding staircase, nor the chandeliers, but in the spirit of the Saints as they come to worship, in the blessings given to babies and to others as they needed them, in testimonies of truth and goodness, in the tears shed and memories shared at funerals, in the sure knowledge of the love of members for each other and for the Lord, and in the joy of realizing that the Lord has accepted this building, this Tabernacle in the land Bountiful and the faith and sacrifice of the people who have built it here.”4

As the years passed, Bountiful transformed from a small, verdant nineteenth-century farming community into a vibrant, populous residential city. Families grew, farms prospered, orchards blossomed, and the second pioneer settlement in Utah—full of “much fruit and wild honey”—now stands as an enduring monument to the faith and commitment of those who founded and nourished it.


  1. Glen M. Leonard, / History of Davis County (1999), 17.
  2. The Diary of Perrigrine Sessions: Pioneer of 1847. Online.
  3. A rod is 55 yards or 165 feet, and is the basic unit of measure for an acre, which is an area eq ual to 160 square rods.
  4. Mabel Jones Gabbott,’A Tabernacle in the Land Bountiful’ (ca. 1992).

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