Pioneer Day is upon us. There are rich pioneer traditions in Morgan. The earliest settlers in the Morgan Valley were all pioneers, and this weekend we will celebrate their sacrifices and commitment as we gather in parks and with families.
The earliest inhabitants of the Morgan Valley were here as early as the 1820s. Morgan Valley, which in its beginnings was a part of Weber Valley, was mainly inhabited by Native Americans; explorers, trappers, and traders. They were a transient people, so they did not stay to settle in the valley, but rather moved on after a short period of time.
The early settlers to Morgan came from various places around the world which brought together many cultures and customs. The first man to settle down and make his home in Morgan County was a trapper named Ben Simon. He built the first house in the valley, and it became known as Simon Spring. This land is now known to residents of the county as Stoddard Spring.
Simon was a descendent of both French and Cherokee ancestors. He, and his Native American wife, had traveled to the Morgan Valley from Mexico. They came to Morgan before Mexico had ceded the area to the United States at the close of the Mexican War in 1846.
Mr. Simon was described to be “very kind to the first white settlers.” His property consisted of a spring and a large tract of land.1 “Early settlers were attracted by a large crystal clear spring.”2
In 1860, Judson Lyman Stoddard purchased Ben Simon’s property. Mr. Stoddard was described to be “a very progressive and well-to-do man. He brought a large number of cattle and horses into the valley. At one time there was a settlement of ten or twelve families on this property. The place was named in honor of Mr. Stoddard.”1
Judson Lyman Stoddard was born in the township of Upper Canada on April 13, 1823 to Lyman Stoddard and Ruth Wright Stoddard. When he was thirteen years old he and his parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He was called to serve a mission in New York State. He served with John S Gleason and they returned home together in the fall of 1845. Later that year, on October 29, Stoddard married Rhoda Chase, second daughter of Isaac and Phoebe Ogden Chase.
They endured the many hardships in Missouri with other members of the church and they were forced to leave their homes and travel to Nauvoo. In the spring of 1846, the Stoddards left Nauvoo and headed west with other pioneers. They traveled until winter stopped them. The emigrants stayed at Winter Quarters, Nebraska for the duration of the stormy season.
In the springtime of 1847 Stoddard’s group traveled to Council Bluffs, Nebraska where they ended up staying for one full year. Council Bluffs had become an important settlement and outfitting for companies traveling to present-day Utah. In the spring of 1848 when their company was restocked and prepared, they once again hit the trail that would take them to gather with Brigham Young and the other saints and make their new home.
They reached this final destination of the Salt Lake Valley in September of ‘48. After arriving, they prepared for and stayed in the fort (Current Day’s Pioneer Square) for their first Utah winter. There, they lived with others who had arrived during the same time period and those saints lived as one family in order to work together in caring for and meeting the needs of the weary, but happy to be home, travelers.
At the commencement of their first winter, the Stoddards then moved to North Canyon, just north of Salt Lake City to spend the spring of 1849. They later moved to current day Centerville, to make their home where there were only three other families living at that time. While in Centerville Stoddard married a second wife, Sylvia, Rhoda’s older sister.
At this time, Judson L. Stoddard, A.O. Smoot and Porter Rockwell had charge of the mail service. These three men brought the news of the arrival of Johnston’s Army in Utah. When they arrived to tell the shocking news, they found the people all in Cottonwood Canyon celebrating the 24th of July in 1857. It was Judson Lyman Stoddard who carried the news of the army’s arrival to President Young before returning to his home.
In later years, Stoddard and George O. Chase ran a successful sawmill in Farmington Canyon. Stoddard initiated the first store, in Farmington, located where the Davis County Court House now stands. He later passed the bar and had successful law practice for many years. He also served as Davis County Judge, in 1859.
It was the following year, 1860, when Stoddard purchased Ben Simon’s property . He only lived there for a few years, however, before he retired to Farmington to live out the last few years of his life. “Stoddard was the father of 20 children and was a faithful Latter-day Saint. He spent his last years in his home in Farmington, in which he had recently moved. He died in his home, January 9, 1870.”1
As for the land he had purchased and which would bear his name, “Most of the residents of Stoddard were farmers or ranchers, an occupation which the environment of the area favored. A thriving settlement soon developed in the area. Families that located in Stoddard included Philemon C. Merrill, Conrad Smith, the Manhards, Nick Barkdahl, Henry Rock, Miller Parish, John Hess, Than(Nathan) Smith (brother of Lot Smith), Dave Saunders, John Hayes, and Jake Grover. Another noted resident of Stoddard was Lot Smith, who played an important part in impeding the advancement of Johnston’s Army through Echo Canyon.
The 1870 United States Census lists as residents of Stoddard Lot Smith, a farmer, age forty-two; Smith’s two wives Julie age thirty-two, and Jane, age thirty-five, eleven Smith children, David Clawson, E.F. Lyon, Charles J. Pentz, Alfred J Hemming, Conway Morris, E.M. Preece, and W.P. Rollins.
In 1869, Olof Rose with his wife, Mary Lina Brink and family, moved to Stoddard and farmed for Bishop Hess and for Judson Stoddard
In her history, Mrs. Rose quoted a family member, H.H. Rose. He wrote that the family moved, “...and farmed for Bishop Hess (Hess had been an LDS Bishop in Farmington prior to coming to Stoddard) and then [they farmed for] Judson Stoddard. At one time forty acres were planted into grain and not one bushel harvested due to grasshoppers.”
Some of these names are familiar ones and still live in the communities of Morgan. Many of the first pioneers and settlers of the community have sections of the community that bear their name today to honor their memory. Also, the posterity of these early pioneers are numerous, and many of those still have the family surname today.
I’m grateful to those early settlers of Morgan County, and their gentleness with preserving this land for generations. The natural beauty is what I believe draws people of all walks of life here to Morgan.
My parents fell in love with the wide open spaces and the beautiful mountains that surround Morgan County. Though they were raised in the Uinta Basin Area and have lived in the Salt Lake Area something always brought them back to Morgan. My first home was in Stoddard. May you enjoy honoring and remembering the pioneer heritage, wherever yours maybe.
Special thanks to the following for sharing their knowledge and giving assistance in compiling facts and information for this article of Morgan’s Pioneers:
The Historical Society
1. Morgan Pioneer History Binds Us Together by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.
2. A History Of Morgan County by Linda H Smith.