The site the pioneer settlers eventually named Salem was known to local Timpanogos indians as “Summer Spring,” which referred to a clear spring which flowed to the surface in a sandy hollow and drained through marshlands toward Utah Lake. The first Saints to discover this natural spring were David Fairbanks and David Crockett, both, at the time living at nearby peteetneet (latter Payson). They happened on to the spring in 1851 and realized that, by constructing a dam across the partially open west face of the hollow, they could create a reservoir and store water for irrigating many acres.
Fairbanks and Crockett built cabins and moved their families to the area and recruited others from Peteetneet who wanted more farmland. Together the men built a dam. Fields were planted and some crops were harvested in the fall. The small group of settlers called the new town Pond Town. During the spring of 1852 the farmers rebuilt and strengthened the dam and prepared to plant their fields. However, David Fairbanks was called as the bishop of the Peteetneet ward. When he left Pond Town, the others followed him back to Peteetneet and Pond Town was abandoned for several years.
lyman curtis, who had been married to Charlotte when he was called in 1853 to teach Native Americans in southern Utah, did not correspond with his family—or Church leaders—for the five years he was away. He was presumed dead, and, at that time, it was Church policy that, if amenable to all parties, a widow be married as a plural wife of a daughter’s husband so that she would have protection, food and shelter. Accordingly, Lyman and Charlotte’s daughter, Julia, age 21, and Charlotte were both married to Peter Mack Elliot on the same day in February 1857. Charlotte would have two children by Peter Elliot, a son and a daughter. Reactions of Lyman or Charlotte upon Lyman’s return to northern Utah in 1858 are not known. Charlotte’s marriage to Peter Elliot was annulled in 1861, but she and Lyman did not live together again. In 1862 Lyman Curtis married Sarah Wells Hartley Soper, a divorcee, and adopted her two sons, Perry and Charles; Sarah and Lyman had an additional son and five daughters.
In 1858 Lyman and his and Charlotte’s four sons: Samuel, Joseph, William and Charles moved to Pond Town. Later when his second wife, Sarah, joined them, they were among the first permanent settlers of Pond Town. Later, William and his family also made the town their permanent home. Soon after Lyman’s arrival and partly under his direction, residents of Pond Town built adobe homes immediately next to one another to form a square fort; these “fort homes” were abandoned in 1870 when treaties were signed with the Timpanogos. At that point, a townsite was surveyed and its central area laid out in five-acre blocks.
In 1866 Lyman developed plans for and then organized and oversaw the construction of an eight-mile canal that delivered irrigation water from the Spanish Fork River to Pond Town. This project was completed in 1869. At this time, to honor Curtis for his contributions to their community, residents began calling their town “Salam”—in honor of Curtis’ birthplace, New Salem [Franklin County], Massachusetts. Saints at Salem were in the Springville Ward until 1877 when the Salem Ward was created, however, it was not until May 1910 that Salem City was officially incorporated.
Derek is Program Director for SUP Online; formerly on the Board of the Cotton Mission Chapter, and past president of the Dixie Encampment Chapter. He and his wife, Genine, have lived in the Bloomington Ranches area of St. George, Utah, since moving there from Carson City, Nevada in 2004. Derek also hosts and produces the Hearts of the Fathers Podcast.