History of the Hill Family at Mendon

Written by Dr. Daniel B. Richards, as part of the Hill family History.

Mendon Utah Logo

History of the Hill Family at Mendon

In the spring of 1855, Alexander Brice Hill and Robert Brice Hill, the sons of Daniel Hill, the miller, (who was then working at Brigham City, Utah), drove a herd of range cattle into Malad Valley to range for the summer. During this summer these two brothers crossed over the mountain range into Cache Valley. They built a log cabin on the brow of the hill and made a dug-out in the hill, on the south side of Graveyard Hollow and just northeast of where Mendon is now located. They wintered there and Robert had his feet badly frozen. In the spring of 1856 or 1857 they located farms just east and south of their log cabin and planted these farms with grains. Alexander B. Hill brought his young wife, Eliza J. Wimmer, daughter of Robert Wimmer, to reside there; but she becoming discontented, deserted her husband, abandoned her home and returned to her parents at Mill Creek, or Cottonwood. This house was occupied till the “Time of the Move,” in the spring of 1858, at the advent of the Johnston-Harney army. April 10th, 1859, Robert Brice Hill married Margaret C. Gardner and brought her and Charley Pinney, a 15 or 16-year-old lad, to live in the old home.

About the 1st of March 1859, Rodger Luckham, with his two daughters, Mary and Susan, and Robert Sweeten, his stepson, Alfred Atkinson and Charley Atkinson, his brother, two little Englishmen, and their families, all from Mill Creek arrived at where Mendon City now stands. Following them in quick succession were James H. Hill, Isaac Sorensen and Peter Larsen, also from Mill Creek, and James G. Willie from the eighth ward of Salt Lake City, where he had served as bishop. John Hill Richards and his brother, Hyrum Thomas Richards, a lad ten years of age, also from Mill Creek, arrived a few days later. After planting some wheat and vegetables the Richards boys immediately commenced building a house of quaking-asp logs, which were cut and snaked or hauled from the banks of the “Big Sec” at where the hollow enters the southwest corner of Mendon. Isaac Sorensen, aided by his brother Peter Sorensen, then living at Maughan’s Fort also commenced building a log house in the “Old Fort” at Mendon about the same time; but it appears that the Richards house was the first completed and used as a dwelling. August 10th, 1859, Jesse W. Fox, Sr., a surveyor from Salt Lake City, surveyed and laid out this “Old Fort.” At this time the other pioneers were all living in their tents and covered wagons. Owing to the hostility of the Indians at this time, the very few women were taken to Maughan’s Fort for safety and the greater number of men went there to stay also, but would return at intervals to work on their farms. Robert and Alexander Hill were among this number. Robert Sweeten, one of Mendon’s first pioneers states: That Mendon is “easily” the second oldest town in Cache Valley; that of July 4th, 1859 after the farmers at Mendon had all their crops planted and their grains were up and looking fine, that he, Robert B. Hill and Margaret Gardner Hill, his wife, all drove to Maughan’s Fort in a wagon, where a dance was being held and the people were dancing on split quaking–asp poles. They then drove to the east side of the valley, where Providence now stands; that there were no signs of a settlement there, save four or five wagons camping under the bushes and the men were planting and seeding the land. He further states that they then drove to where Logan now stands, and the same, conditions prevailed there. In speaking of Mendon, Bancroft, the historian, says; “About five miles to the west (northwest) of Wellsville, the settlement of Mendon was commenced in 1857, by Alexander and Robert Hill.” (History of Utah by Hubert H. Bancroft, P. 597.) “Walter G. Paul, Mendon’s newspaper correspondent, states in a footnote that Wm. Gardner, Alexander B. Hill and Robert B. Hill were the first settlers of Mendon.” But as a matter of fact, Wm. Gardner never settled at Mendon at all. He settled at Gardner’s Creek, a suburb, two and one-half miles south of Mendon.

In order to make Walter G. Paul’s statement correct, that “Wm. Gardner, Alexander B. Hill and Robert Hill were the first settlers of Mendon,” then we must recognize the following facts, viz.; that Gardner’s Creek, which was afterwards known as Mendon Mill, was part of Mendon City. This would require no great expansion of the human imagination, because William Gardner and his wife, Janette Livingston and their six following named children, Neal, Duncan, Margaret, Brigham, Heber and Henry, all left Mill Creek in the autumn of 1856, and settled at Gardner’s Creek, in Cache Valley, about two and one-half miles south of Mendon City proper. This proven by the fact that Mrs. Margaret G. Luckham and her husband, Rodger Luckham, went to visit her brother, William Gardner, and family at Gardner’s Creek in the fall of 1856. While there Rodger Luckham and his wife concluded to return and establish a home at where Mendon Fort was afterwards built, which Mr. Luckham and family, (His wife having died in 1858) did in the spring of 1859. That William Gardner and family were living at Gardner’s Creek in the winter of 1856, is evidenced by the fact that when John Gardner, his eldest son, was frozen in December, 1856 his body was taken to Gardner’s Creek for burial. The Mendon people built the great dam there in 1861 to irrigate the farmland on the north and east. George Thurston built the Mendon gristmill there in 1864, and he and his family and his miller, John Lea and his family, were all members of Mendon Ward. To recapitulate: Gardner’s Creek was a part of and belonged to Mendon. It was settled by William Gardner and his family in the fall of 1856 about the same date of Wellsville’s colonization.

In the spring of 1859, Charles Shumway was authorized to take charge of the public affairs of the new settlement, which he did until his son, Andrew P. Shumway, was ordained and set apart as the bishop of Mendon ecclesiastical ward on the 19th day of December 1859, and he the son served as such for ten years thereafter. Thick and fast, other people were arriving at the Mendon Fort: Ralph Forster, Wm. Findley, Charles Bird and Wm. Bird, with their families, arrived from the Cottonwoods, and Winslow Farr, from Ogden; Jasper Lemmon, Abraham Sorensen and Nicolai Sorensen, all from Mill Creek, and Andrew Anderson, from Salt Lake City, with their respective families, came during the spring and summer of 1859. Joseph H. Richards arrived in July of the same year. The remainder of the Richards family, including the father and mother, John K. and Agnes Richards, and the children, Rachel, Alexander and Daniel, arrived on Christmas night, 1859; Agnes arrived later. Alexander H. Hill and his wife, Jane Park, William H. Hill and his wife, Mary C. Sorensen, arrived from Mill Creek early in the spring of 1860 and their father, Alexander Hill, Jr., came and located a farm. Geo. W. Baker, Albert M. Baker and Amenzo W. Baker, all from Salt Lake City, and Manning Rowe and his family from Payson, all came to Mendon in the spring of 1860. On August 10th 1859, when Jesse W. Fox surveyed and laid out the plat for Mendon Fort, he also with the aid of Joseph H. Richards, Robert Sweeten and others, surveyed and laid out the plot of Mendon farms laying east, north and south of Mendon as far as Gardner’s Spring and Creek, where Mendon Grist Mill was afterwards established by George Thurston.

In the winter of 1859-60, James G. Willie, John H. Richards, Robert Sweeten, Isaac Sorensen, and perhaps, others, went into the mountains east of Cache Valley and chopped down long pine logs, with which to build a public house for the hamlet of Mendon; and other men went into the canyons on the west side of the valley for the same purpose. During the spring of 1860, a public house was built there. It was 18 feet wide and 24 feet long, and served for worship, schools and recreation. On one occasion, when Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and other Church authorities were taking a tour of Cache Valley, Heber C. Kimball suggested that the fort be named Mendon City in remembrances of Mendon City in New York State, where he and Brigham formerly resided. This suggestion was gladly accepted. Mary Ann Sorensen, widow of Hyrum H. Hill and daughter of Abraham Sorensen and Marie Jensen, being born February 19th, 1860, has the distinction of being the first child born at Mendon. Matthew M. Forster, son of Ralph and Margaret Forster, born March 29, 1860, was the second child born there, Alexander Park, born September 20th, 1860, was the third child. Alexander Joseph Hill, born December 12th, 1860 the son of William H. Hill and Mary C. Sorensen, and now the first vice-president of the Hill Family Organization, has the honor of being the fourth child born there. (Alexander Joseph died at his home in Granger, Utah Nov. 26, 1926, and was buried in Mill Creek Cemetery.)

Early in the spring of 1861 a United States post office was established in Mendon and James G. Willie was appointed postmaster. In the winter of 1860-61, the first school was opened at Mendon and Amenzo W. Baker and Jasper Lemmon became the first schoolteachers, followed by Adam Craig Smyth and John Donaldson. In the early spring of 1861 the Mendon people turned out en mass with their axes, picks and shovels, their teams and slab-scrapers to construct the “Big Dam” across Gardner’s Creek to irrigate the farm land on the northeast, the east and southeast of these springs. They succeeded in diverting the water onto their lands early enough to irrigate their growing crops this summer. September 27th, 1861, John Hill Richards, returning from Salt Lake City, where he had been for medical treatment, died near Weber River bridge, south of Ogden. His sister Agnes and her husband, Geo. W. Baker, who were with him, brought his corpse to Mendon for burial. He was the fist one to be interred in the Mendon City cemetery. September 30th, 1861. In the spring of 1862, under the general direction of the Perpetual Emigration Fund, Peter Larsen and Isaac Sorensen started for Omaha, Neb., with two ox-teams to bring the immigrating Saints to Utah. Henry Hughes came with his family from Cottonwood to Mendon in the same year. In 1863 the Mendon people responded again by sending two ox teams to the Missouri river for the poor immigrating Saints. Ralph Forster and Jasper Lemmon were the teamsters. In the spring of 1862 or 1863, Nicolai Sorensen, Rodger Luckham, Robert Sweeten and John K. Richards planted flax seeds from which they raised flax and made jute from the bark, which was converted into warp to be used in the manufacture of “home-spun” clothing and grain sacks. John K. Richards planted hemp seed and raised hemp on the north side of the old Richards farm, northeast of Mendon and diverted water from Three Mile Creek to irrigate it. The seeds were used as feed for poultry, etc., and ropes and cords were made from the bark. In the spring of 1864, a town plat was surveyed by James H. Martineau and the families began leaving the “Old Fort” and moving onto their city lots of one and one-quarter acres each, eight of which formed a ten acres square. Until this time, the people had been living in the fort, with one principal street running east and west, and a tier of houses on either side, which formed a fortification against the Indians. In the spring of 1864, Joseph H. Richards was called by the church to drive a team across the plains to Omaha for the poor immigrating saints. He started with his father’s brand new wagon, drawn by four yokes of oxen. Other families of Mendon had furnished the use of their oxen for this seasons trip. This labor and the use of the wagons and teams were furnished gratuitously, with the exception of receiving credit on the tithing books for labor performed.

Thomas B. Graham, father of Caroline Graham Hill and father-in-law of Archibald N. Hill, was born August 12, 1807, at Weymouth, England, and came to Alabama with his father. He later became a slaveholder in the Southern States. He was killed by a grizzly bear November 24th, 1864 on the banks of the Little Bear (Muddy) River, southeast of Mendon. The name of this man gives rise to the following “bear story,” related in the words of Joseph H. Richards, one of the principal participants. This story remained fresh on the memories of all the old settlers of Mendon while they lived, and still lingers fresh in the memories of their children, and will be handed down to future generations as one of the historical events of Mendon and Wellsville. It cast a gloom of sorrow over the good people of these cities. She was a monstrous bear, and gave rise to the talk that she was as big as a cow and weighed 1,000 pounds. On the morning of November 24th, 1864, Andrew P. Shumway and his father-in-law, Thos. B. Graham started for a load of willows with a sleigh drawn by a pair of mules. They drove about three and one-half miles southeast of Mendon Fort to the Little Bear River, known as the “Muddy River.” Father Graham stood his rifle against a clump of growing hawthorns and carrying his axe proceeded into the thicket on the banks of the river, while Shumway commenced unhitching his team. Shumway’s attention was immediately attracted to his father-in-law in the grasp of a monstrous grizzly bear. Shumway jumped to his sledge, wheeled his team about and started with a bound toward home. Richards writes: “I think it was during the first snow of the winter of 1864. I was riding a horse, when Andrew P. Shumway came into the “Old Fort” with a pair of mules and a sleigh— mules on a full run. I was the first person he approached. He said: “I suppose Father Graham has been killed by a bear!” I lost no time in getting my pistol and following his sleigh tracks as fast as the horse could go, and I was on a good horse. I found the old man three and one-half miles from home, lying on his back dead, with his neck broken and his head nearly severed from his body; a bite or bites by the bear, (as I supposed) and a bite in the groins, and both legs broken about the ankles. His axe was lying a short distance away, and his small-bore rifle was standing against some haw-brushes. I followed the tracks of a bear and two yearling cubs. I tracked them to where they had gone into the brush or hawthorn thicket on an island that had been entirely surrounded by water, but was frozen over, and three or four inches of snow lay on top of the ice. By this time Brad Bird (or Robert Sweeten) and myself proposed going in after the bear. I went in first, Baker (or Sweeten) following. I had Graham’s gun and an old dragoon Colt’s revolver. The brush was so thick overhead that we were obliged to lay down of our horses. I had the butt end of the gun forward, and when the bear rose on her hind feet, about ten feet in front of me I tried to turn my gun around, but could not. I said to Baker (or Sweeten), “We have no business with our horses in here.” So we tried to retreat, but Baker's (or Sweeten’s) bridle caught in the brush, and, of course, our retreat was somewhat impeded. Then we decided to get a dog and send him in to entice the bear out. I being the only one who had a dog, started for him, but before I returned with the dog, several men had gathered at the scene of trouble, some from Mendon and some from Wellsville. Among this number were uncle Daniel Hill and cousin Robert Hill, from Wellsville, and cousin James H. Hill from Mendon. Just as I was nearing the place, I heard the shots of the guns, and the bear was lying dead as I came up. They said that Uncle Daniel had said, “Boy, let’s go in and get the bear!” And with that he started up the trail, which was about three and one-half or four feet above the ice around the island. James Hill was next to him and others prepared to follow. They had just started into the brush, when the bear reared up. Uncle shoved the muzzle of his big Yawger into her mouth and tried to shoot, but it missed fire. Jim shot her over uncle shoulder. Uncle was pretty full of whiskey, I shot one of the cubs, I suppose it would weigh about 200 pounds, the mother 600 pounds. This cub was fairly good eating. The other cub got away, and ran to the western mountains. Andrew Shumway and my self took Brother Graham’s corpse to Salt Lake City for burial.

In 1864, a stone chapel was built, which was 28 feet wide and 45 feet long. At the time of its completion, this chapel was considered to be the finest church in Cache Valley. Mendon City was incorporated; a mayor, city council, city marshal and justice of the peace were elected. Geo. W. Baker was the first mayor, and Joseph H. Richards the first city marshal. Ten years later Alexander W. H. Richards became marshal, and in 1884, Daniel B. H. Richards was elected city marshal. In 1866, the settlers of Mendon commenced building a stonewall around their “meeting house,” as a means of self–protection against the wilily treacherous Indians. This stonewall was six feet high, and enclosed about an acre of land. Bastions were built at the northeast and southwest corners, with portholes to guard each side of the outer wall.

As I remember It: In the month of May, 1866 an Indian was killed at Mendon, by some self-constituted person or persons. Myself, a lad in my thirteenth year, and my nephew, David M. Rowe, a lad of ten, were herding our father’s sheep on the grazing land about one-half mile south of Mendon. Times were still troublesome with the turbulent Indians. An erect and stalwart Indian aged 28 or 30 years, leisurely walking by, stopped. He viewed, with longing admiration, the fat, long-wooled weathers, for they were yet unshorn. He spoke of trading his blanket or buying a sheep for $5.00. I answered him in his own language, (for I could then speak Shoshone) that the sheep were not ours and we could not sell or trade them. He passed on to Mendon. The next day it was reported that the Indian was espied, by a neighbor, lurking around the corral and haystacks of a farmer, perhaps for the purpose of stealing horses; that this neighbor put two other men wise, (who were no more circumspect than himself), and they were asked to guard the Indian during the night; that a scuffle ensued during the night between the Indian and the two men, in which the stalwart brave was becoming victor of the one, but was slain by the other, and that next morning at the break of day, the Indian was buried some place near the Little Rocky Point. The public was never taken into confidence with this affair, hence it has always remained a mystery with the people what became of the Indian and who were the perpetrators of the deed. Suspicions were strong and rife, but circumstantial evidence was weak, and the best of evidence could not be procured. The people of Mendon and Cache Valley, however, were soon called upon to appease the wrath and vengeance of the Indians by making them a liberal donation of flour and beeves.

The suspicious circumstances under which this Indian disappeared were brought to the attention of Brigham Young. I have often heard it said that he predicted: the right hand of the man who slew that Indian would “wither” and become helpless; and that this man and his accessory to the crime would never prosper. I can and do hereby truthfully bear record, that the right hand of one of the men, upon whom this suspicion rested did “wither” and become practically useless, and so remained until the time of his death. And neither of these men prospered financially or otherwise during the remainder of their earthly career.

April 1st, 1869 a co-operative mercantile store was organized at Mendon, with Jas. G. Willie as general manager and chief clerk. He labored under the directions of a board of directors. Their Motto was “Small Profits and Quick Returns.” This company flourished and did a good business under the general management of Jas. G. Willie assisted by Alfred Gardner. Later it was under the management of Henry Hughes and Andrew Anderson, with Alfred Gardner as chief clerk, aided by Jemima Forster. This store finally became financially embarrassed and ceased to prosper. In the winter or spring of 1891, Hyrum T. H. Richards purchased the store and all its property, and successfully operated it, together with his business as a grain and livestock merchant till the time of his death, October 18th, 1915.

In the summer of 1867 and 1868 the gardens and farm products were devastated not only at Mendon, but all over Cache Valley, by innumerable, monstrous black crickets and flying grasshoppers. Men, women and children turned out en mass, to wage war against this encroaching pest. The crickets were driven into and under thinly strewn straw on the surface of mother earth, and then burned or enticed and driven in to concave trenches and permitted to die of starvation. The stench, which then and there from arose, seems yet (in my imagination) to penetrate and linger in my nostrils, and produce a sickening suffocation. The grasshoppers were on the wing the whole of the day, until late in the afternoon. The noonday sun was visible only as we see dimly the eclipsed sun through a smoked glass. When they alighted upon a field of oats, or upon acres of newly headed wheat, in the well-spent afternoon, and were not driven from their lurking place, there they remained during the whole of the night; and like the ground–squirrels, busied themselves in nibbling, chiseling and chopping off the heads of the grain. When the farmer came next morning to view his fields of growing grain, alas! What should he behold, but the surface of the earth literally strewn with grains of oats and heads of wheat; if, perchance the heads of wheat were not completely severed, then he was reminded of the “weeping willow by the brook.” Next morning at the hour of ten, these flying devastating intruders rose to the sky and winged their way to an unknown region, there to pester other agriculturalists, and their vacancies were soon filled with other myriad swarms.

In June 1866 (or 1868) a Women’s Relief Society was organized in Mendon, with Elizabeth A. Willie as its president. The principal objects of this association were to assist the poor, administer unto the wants of the afflicted, comfort those who were called upon to mourn, and to do good unto the members of the Church in general. On April 7th, 1869, the town of Mendon was plunged into sorrow, owing to the fact that George Thurston’s daughter, two years and five-months-old, suddenly disappeared from Gardner’s Creek or Mendon Mill, midway between Mendon and Wellsville. This event produced profound sorrow throughout Cache Valley, and particularly among the people of Mendon and Wellsville. These residents turned out en mass to drag the great millpond. A posse of volunteers was raised who followed the directions of a professed astrologer, Enoch Hargraaves of Providence, Cache County, inquest of the Indian tribes, whom he said had kidnapped the child. At times he would look through his “peep-stone,” and the tears would gush from his eyes. On one of these occasions he said: “See! That filthy black squaw is trying to make the little white girl nurse at her black breasts!” Two weeks were spent in vain, searching for the lost girl. It was never definitely known whether she went to a watery grave, or spent the remainder of her days dwelling in tents and roaming with the nomadic Indians.

May 10th, 1869, Andrew P. Shumway, then the bishop of Mendon, and brother-in-law of Archibald N. Hill, was called as a missionary to Great Britain, where he labored as missionary until the 16th of August 1871. At the time of Bishop Shumway’s departure for England he was not released from the bishopric; but Henry Hughes was appointed “acting bishop” during Shumway’s absence. October 7th, 1872, Henry Hughes was ordained bishop of Mendon Ward and acted as such until October 8th, 1873, at which time he went as a missionary to Wales, and Ralph Forster served as “acting bishop” until the return of Bishop Hughes in 1875. December 19th, 1872 the first railroad steam engine nicknamed “John W. Young”— with its tender, ran into Mendon City on the Utah Northern Railway, December 22nd, 1872, the first railroad train, including one passenger car, one box car and a couple of flat cars, drawn by a stem engine, ran into Mendon City on the Utah Northern Railway and the children were invited to take a ride. Though the grasshopper scourge of last year had laid the farms in ruin around Mendon and throughout the Valley, yet this pest had not obstructed the railroad improvement; for the men and boys turned out with their picks, shovels, scrapers and teams and soon brought the steam whistle to their doors. Cache Valley was thus connected with Ogden by rail, and Ogden was in touch with Salt Lake City by means of the Utah Central Railway.

In the spring of 1874, the United Order was organized, established and put in working order at Mendon. They plowed, sowed, reaped and mowed their farms and did the threshing in common. They built and had the money ready to equip a first-class dairy, nestling among the foothills of the western mountains on the farm now owned by Rachel R. Baker. Twenty men joined this order, and Joseph H. Richards was chosen as its general manager. Among the number who labored in this United Order were: Ralph Forster and his son Robert, Robert Sweeten, the three Baker brothers, Jarvis, George and Albert, Isaac and Peter Sorensen, Andrew Anderson, Ole Sonne, Peter Larsen, Joseph Wood, Traugott Stumpf, John K. Richards and his four sons, Joseph, Hyrum, Alexander and Daniel, et al. Upon the return of Bishop Hughes from his mission to Wales in the autumn of 1875, he resumed the office of bishop. Ralph Forster retired and the United Order ceased at Mendon. December 30th, 1875, the first Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association was organized at Mendon, with John Donaldson as its president. On July 7th, 1875, the majority of the adults at Mendon were rebaptized in the Little Bear River, near the mouth of Logan River. Some few others of the Mendon people were rebaptized at other dates in July of the same year.

In the winter of 1876 the Church authorities called for colonization missionaries to locate settlements in Arizona, Bishop Henry Hughes called upon Joseph H. Richards, the only man called from Mendon, who responded willingly to the call. He sold everything that he owned at Mendon, and on February 8th, 1876 (with twelve inches of snow covering the ground) with his wife and three little children, two wagons and horse teams and Peter Shumway as teamster, he started for an unknown destination. With many other families from all parts of Utah, he finally arrived at a barren, desolate spot on the left banks of the Little Colorado River in Navajo County, Arizona, where the town of Camp Obed was located; and he was chosen presiding officer. October 25th 1877, the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association was organized at Mendon, with Larsine S. Richards, wife of Alexander W. H. Richards, as its president. June 3rd, 1879 the Primary Association was organized at Mendon and Martha Z. Paul was elected its president. In September 1879, a cooperative farm comprising 150 or 160 acres of land lying on the level between Mendon and Gardner’s Creek was established. This farm was surveyed into five-acre plats, and each man entering was allotted five acres of land but it was all farmed in common, and the proceeds were to be used in building temples, supporting Sunday schools and missionaries. This plan did not endure many years.

Henry Hughes held the office of bishop at Mendon until April 26th, 1900, at which time he was released, and John H. Anderson of Logan was ordained to this office, and immediately assumed its functions. He also opened a small mercantile establishment at Mendon, but spent considerable time in managing his clothing store in Logan. After serving as bishop of Mendon ward for three years, John H. Anderson was released from this office, and on April 26th, 1903 Mormon Delbert Bird, son of Emerine Gardner Bird, and grandson of Daniel Hill, the miller, was ordained and set apart as bishop of Mendon ecclesiastical ward by Apostle M. F. Cowley. This office Bishop Bird held until April 11th, 1920.

Mendon City, located on the west side of Cache Valley, at the foot of a high, narrow range of mountains, and about seven miles due west of Logan, had the agricultural advantage of deep, black, alluvial soil, and swift-running streams of clear, cold, crystal-like water. The culinary water system, which was installed March 6th, 1912, is among the best in the state of Utah. In the summer of 1915, the electric railway trains ran into Mendon, and by a loop this railway later connected Mendon with all cities of the west, north, east and northern parts of Cache Valley and southern Idaho. The electric lighting system was installed a Mendon by the Utah Power and Light Company in the summer of 1916.