Home of East Mill Creek Chapter
This article originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 1980 issue of Pioneer Magazine
by D. P. Bartschi
On July 19th, 1847 the mississippi company caught their first glimpse of the Great Salt Lake. They entered the arid but recently inhabited valley to begin their exploration of the tributary canyons and streams with an eye toward settlement. Their summer explorations, some fifteen miles or so from the Fort of Great Salt Lake, took them to the base of a lofty peak between Mill Creek and Big Cottonwood Canyons. The general area, with what appeared to be an abundance of free-flowing, spring-fed streams; green with scrub oak, birch, willows and cottonwood, seemed to bear at least some resemblance to their treasured Mississippi and Alabama farms. No doubt the spot of greenery with the sparkling streams was a most welcome sight after months of travel in their lumbering wagons.
Twenty-four men with their families in nineteen wagons made up the Mississippi Company. William Crosby was Captain, Robert Crow of Perry County, Illinois and John D. Holladay, Sr. of Marion County, Alabama as counselors. They had followed the now fairly well-defined Oregon Trail fully expecting to make contact with the main group of pioneers somewhere along the far reaches of the Platte. In July 1846, just short of Fort Laramie, they received the disheartening news of the plight of the Nauvoo Companies and the Mormon Battalion. Not wishing to breast the Great Rockies alone, they decided to winter somewhere on the east slope.
A lone wayfarer, john renshaw described what might be a suitable place 250 miles south at the headwaters of the Arkansas River, a Spanish settlement called Pueblo (Colorado). The fall of 1846 saw them busily preparing for winter in Pueblo. The Indians were peaceable and the natives seemed to have ample food supplies. A small group of white men were then dispatched to return to Mississippi to wind up affairs and assist additional members of families to prepare for the western journey. Enroute on the Sante Fe Trail, this group perchanced upon the Mormon Battalion. The Battalion sent some civilian families and sick infantrymen to winter with the Mississippi Company at Pueblo.
Spring of 1847 came and a small group of seventeen persons with seven wagons retraced their trail to Fort Laramie and waited two weeks for the arrival of President Brigham Young’s advance company on June 1, 1847. President Young dispatched Amasa Lyman and three companions to Pueblo to lead the main Mississippi Company back to Fort Laramie and westward. Making excellent time in the wake of the Young Company, the Mississippi Company, now headed by John D. Holladay, Sr., arrived in the Salt Lake Valley only five days after the now celebrated date of July 24, 1847.
Late summer of 1847 saw the Mississippi Company, almost intact, exploring and staking out properties along Spring Creek at the base of that lofty peak later to become known as Mount Olympus. Crude dugouts served as shelters for several men who braved the winter while most of the company, including John D. Holladay, Sr., moved into the Fort at Salt Lake City.
Spring of 1848 and they hurriedly set out to establish a village and homes. A church branch was established and was known briefly as Mississippi Ward. John D. Holladay was appointed Presiding Elder. A small quantity of “Taos” wheat was sown, later to yield 110 bushels and become a hardy and productive strain throughout the area. Church services were held in a log chapel on the north bank of Big Cottonwood Creek, however, some members would traverse the fifteen or so miles to Salt Lake City for Sunday services. Reporting to all their great adventure upon their return. John D. Holladay, now branch president and sometimes known as Jack, became the temporal as well as the ecclesiastical leader of the little village.
Most of the sturdy settlers of Holladay’s Burgh were from the Mississippi Company, however, some from the Mormon Battalion as well as the Nauvoo Group settled there. The original field plat surveyed February 23, 1849 showed eighteen families assigned to approximately 181 acres bounded by now 48th South, Highland Drive, Cottonwood Lane and Holladay Boulevard. The largest plot going to john lockhart with twenty-eight acres; the smallest to william whitehead with 1.6 acres. It is reported that John D. Lee constructed an adobe house and settled just south of now 48th South and on the west side of Highland Drive.
At least one real estate transaction is recorded: in 1855 one twenty acre plot was exchanged. The owner received three cows, estimated value $30.00 each. No mention is made of the broker’s commission. The Upper Canal Irrigation Company was formed then canals and irrigation systems were built. The Company levied taxes and hired a water master. By late 1848 the first Utah flour was being produced at john neff’s mill near now 37th South and Hillside Lane.
In 1849 an adobe building was erected (14 x 14 feet) which served as a combination school, town hall and chapel. lyman wood, the first school teacher, received the equivalent of one dollar per child per month. The cash or more likely produce was paid by the parents of the students.
In 1851 some of the residents of Holladay’s Burgh were again faced with the grim but firm call to the faithful from the President of the Church to move to and settle at the base of Cajon Pass in California. They had now been in their Holladay’s Burgh homes barely three years, three years of constant toil and tenacious survival. John D. Holladay, Sr., his son John Jr. and their families once again journeyed to California and settled near San Bernardino. Both father and son to become active and prominent in Southern California affairs. The Utah war of 1857 again brought the Church recall of the leaders of the remote settlements. John D. Holladay, Sr., returned to Utah but never to the village that bears his name. He stopped first at Beaver then moved on to the village of Santaquin. He died there on December 31, 1862, having answered to the call of his church many times in the brief span of years.
From the year 1851 when the Holladay families left until 1911 the name of Holladay’s Settlement became known interchangeably as Big Cottonwood, Holladay’s Burgh, Holladay Burgh, Holladaysburgh, Holladaysburg, Hollidaysburgh and probably many other derivations. Big Cottonwood seemed to be used as the legal designation as well as the ecclesiastical name of the eleven plus square mile area.
Sometime in the early 1900’s the name Holliday appears to have been used quite generally. In the late 1920’s some controversy arose as to the proper spelling. After some research the consensus of the residents ruled to re-establish the Holladay spelling. Many signs, records and printings were so corrected. The Holliday Water Company is now the only retainer of the old spelling.
Because of its pristine quiet and spaciousness, Holladay was soon to become a haven for country estates of the affluent merchants and businessmen of the proliferating Salt Lake City. Many of these stately structures yet stand magnificently midst the towering cottonwoods and conifers of Cottonwood Creek on their original acreage.
The area is abundantly mellow in pioneer lore and history. One needs only to accost a proud and friendly native on a busy street of Holladay and chances are good that you will hear a pioneer tale from one of the descendants of the Mississippi Company of 1847. Furthermore, they will probably assure you that it is “Holladay” and not “Holliday.”