Kaysville: Davis County’s Beloved Fourth Settlement

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

by Twila Van Leer

Soon after the first members of the Church arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847, Brigham Young initiated a vast colonizing effort across the Intermountain West. Among the first colonizers were those assigned to travel north of the Valley to found communities in what became Davis County.

Bountiful, Centerville, and Farmington were the first three of these communities, each a bit farther north along the Wasatch Range, each situated in the foothills along a clear mountain stream that attracted settlers to establish farms. Kaysville was the fourth of these “unplanned settlements.” As with the others, its townsite was not designated beforehand by Church leaders; its initial inhabitants received no “call” to establish the community. Instead, its first settlers simply chose to settle there.

A Day In Summer, Kaysville – LeConte Stewart, 1935 “A little farm well cultivated near homes, I know, is your doctrine, and it is mine and ever was.” Henry Lunt to President George A. Smith, 1865.

Hector Caleb Haight, who wintered in the Farmington area with his son during the winter of 1847-48, began to explore land immediately north of there. He liked what he saw and built a log cabin on the mountain stream that still bears his name. After moving his family to the spot, he cleared land for a small form and planted a stand of trees that gave the settlement its first name, Haight’s Grove. By the mid- 1850s Haight and his family had moved back to Farmington, but the seeds of a community had been planted.

The next settler in the Kaysville area was Samuel Oliver Holmes, who in 1848 built a cabin two miles north of where the Haights had put down roots, Like Haight, Holmes would eventually leave the area, but his presence there in 1849 led to the next step in settlement. In the winter of 1849 two friends—Edward Phillips and John Hyrum Green— were trapped near Holmes’ cabin during a snowstorm while making their way to Browns Fort, the early name for Ogden. Holmes invited Phillips and Green to spend the night at his cabin, and by the following day the two had determined to remain at Haight’s Grove. They chose a spot on Sandy Creek about two miles north of the Holmes cabin and named their tiny settlement .

A dose friend of Phillips and Green, William Kay, soon joined them, drawn by their reports of a country “covered with a luxuriant growth of grass.” Soon other Saints arrived, many of whom had known each other in England as members of the United Brethren, a self-named sect which had separated from die Wesleyan Methodists. The United Brethren joined the LDS Church en masse in 1840 (600 men, women, and children in all, with only one member of the congregation refusing baptism) after Wilford Woodruff later the fourth president of the Church, preached the restored gospel to them.

As these and other new settlers arrived, they drew lots for their acreage and established homes and forms. The first years were very difficult. Families often lived in their wagon beds or simple dugouts while building cabins, and they ate what the land provided— plants, seeds, berries, bulbs, and small game. Grasshoppers competed for the first tentative crops.

After several difficult years, the town’s foundation grew stronger. Surnames on the 1850 US Census indicate that, besides embracing farmer members of the United Brethren and others from the British Ides, the settlement had also become home to Saints from Scandinavia, Germany, and South Africa. With a population of more than 300 the town now sprawled north to the Weber River south to Haight’s Creek, east to the mountains, and west to the Great Salt Lake.

Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball arrived in January 1851 to organize the town’s first ward. They stayed in Edward Phillips’ home and asked Phillips to serve as bishop. He declined, saying he felt unprepared for the responsibility, and he was called instead as first counselor to William Kay, who became the towns first bishop. John H. Green accepted the call to serve as Kays second counselor.

In all early settlements established by Church members, members of the towns bishopric were generally designated as local civic leaders responsible for enforcing both religious and civil law, At Haight’s Grove, then, Bishop Kay arbitrated civil and religious cases and dispensed justice.

By mid-1851 the town was informally known as “Kay’s Ward”; soon the name was formalized. Over time, “Kay’s Ward” became “Kaysville.”

The town’s earliest homes were also its first schools. Initially, the small settlement held only a handful of school- age children. But by 1852 the number of children was far more than could be crowded together in even the largest of Kaysville dwellings, and a comfortable log building was erected near Edward Phillips’ home on Kays Creek. Over time, other buildings were successively constructed to provide appropriate places of learning. One of the successful early teachers was William Halls—whose family was actually living in the school when his son, Mosiah, was bom there in March 1862. Soon a companion log school was built in north Kaysville to meet the needs of a rapidly growing community.2 Teachers in this twelve-by fifteen foot schoolroom, which had a thatched roof coated with clay, were Arm Gilbert and George Green, They were paid primarily with bacon, flour, and produce.

When husbands were called on missions or served away from home in the Nauvoo Legion, the Church’s military, Kaysville’s women were left to rear children alone, help newcomers settle in, and scratch a living from the soiL The women engaged in home manufacturing of fabrics—spinning threads or yam created from sheep’s wool, flax, or (for a brief period) even cotton3 and then weaving threads into fabrics and knitting yarn into stockings, caps, sweaters, or blankets. Fabric dyes were produced from cedar berries, mountain mahogany, madder (bloodroot), dogberry, indigo, goldenrod, and rabbitbrush.

As the community grew, common needs gave rise to home industries or businesses that met those needs. One such business was the William Kay saw pit built by John H Marriott, a business that provided lumber for the community when the demand for houses grew. The saw pit was described by Emily Stewart Barnes as a hole “about as large as a room” lined with logs.4 Logs to be cut were laid across the top of the pit, positioned and damped against a metal guide. Two sawyers worked a long steel saw with a handle on each end, one positioned in the pit below the log, the other on a walkway across the pit, gradually creating each cut lengthwise through the log, then repositioning and re-damping the log, the sawyers produced rough board lumber.

A pond across the street from William Beesleys home provided ice that was stored in sawdust to last into the summer. One of the important “summer uses” of ice was to preserve the bodies of the dead until they could be interred. John Barton became the community’s first undertaker; Samuel L. Jones carved headstones of marble and other materials. Jane Wilkie Blood, who owned one of the few sewing machines in Kaysville, made clothing for the dead.

Certain industries, such as the manufacture of adobe bricks, were communal rather than private. If log cabins were the first step up from wagon beds and dugouts, adobe homes were the second. Creating adobe bricks was a relatively simple process. lime was purchased in Bountiful and was mixed with local day. Then the adobe mix was pressed into forms that held two bricks each. Sun dried, the brides were used for one- and two-story buildings. Often, extended families pooled resources and initially shared a single dwelling with only one or two rooms.

Marriages were a much-anticipated part of community life. Weddings truly were community events, and most were very similar to that of Christopher Walton Burton and Susannah Stewart, who exchanged vows on November 10, 1864, with Bishop Christopher Layton officiating. After the ceremony there was dancing, and friends and neighbors were treated to a dinner of stewed chicken, squash pie, and molasses cake. As a rule, such marriages were later solemnized in one of Utah’s completed temples.

In early 1854 Brigham Young grew concerned about Indian unrest in the southern and central areas of Utah Territory and instructed all Mormon settlements to build a fort. That spring, Jesse W. Fox, the Church surveyor, arrived in Kaysville to lay out the site of its fort. Fox selected a site enclosing part or all of eighteen city blocks and bounded by First Street on the west, Seventh Street on the east Maple Street on the north, and Cherry Street on the south. A Spanish adobe wall—six feet high; five feet thick at the base and tapering to three at the top—would surround the fort and would be made of clay shoveled from its perimeter. Thus, the completed fort would be protected by a double barrier: a strong adobe wall and a deep ditch outside it.

All able-bodied men were expected to help with the construction of the fort wall or to pay someone to take their places on assigned shifts. City records for June 8, 1854, show that John R. Barnes, William B. Smith, John Marriott, and William J. Barnes worked the first shift.

Only the south and west walls of the fort were completed before the project was abandoned. Kaysville s European Americans had good relations with the Goshute Indians, the primary tribe in the area. Indeed, the founders of the community had unwittingly chosen to settle on land contained within a “neutral” area for Goshutes, Utes, and Shoshones, whose tribal representatives had agreed not to fight there.

Kaysville City was incorporated on March 15, 1868, with Thomas F. Rouech as mayor and Grandison Raymond, Rosel Hyde, Robert Egbert, Joseph Allred, and James Taylor as city council members.

Despite many challenges as a fragile nineteenth- century town, Kaysville survived and prospered. Its citizens matured as vigorous and wise leaders who strengthened their neighborhoods, religious bodies, and larger community. Kaysville has evolved as a thriving, viable city—and as the beloved home of thousands.


  1. This article is derived from Carol Ivins Collett, Kaysville: Our Town (Salt Lake City: Moench, 1978).
  2. This school was built in an area of Kaysville later shaved off to create Layton City.
  3. The cotton-growing experiment on one of the town’s east benches was soon abandoned: the growing season was determined to be far too short to produce good cotton.
  4. The recollections of Emily Stewart Barnes appear in Claudel Barnes, ed.( The Grim Years (Kaysville: Inland, 1964).

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