In The Shade Of The Mountains
The splendor and beauty of Cache Valley was common knowledge long before the arrival of Cache Valley’s first permanent settlers. The fur trappers, along with the government explorers and surveyors, had just recently discovered the natural beauty and future possibilities of the Valley known by the Nomadic Indian tribes of the Mountain West for centuries. These trappers and government workers had made suggestions for a settlement and or a military outpost in this mountain area.
Major Moses Harris, a noted scout and trapper and a man who had guided emigrant trains to the Oregon Territory, pointed out to Brigham Young that Cache Valley was a far more desirable place for a settlement than the Salt Lake Valley.
The only real disadvantages to this area seemed to be its killing frosts and its sometimes-severe winters, and these appeared small when compared with the advantages.
President Brigham Young in a speech at Richmond in 1860 saw the potential of Cache Valley when he said, “No other territory is equal to this. This has been my opinion ever since I first saw the Valley.”
With the arrival and eventual settlement of the Salt Lake Valley by the Mormon pioneers during the summer of 1847, there began an all out exploration of the surrounding areas. President Brigham Young sent exploring parties in all directions to survey their newfound land and to report their findings to him. He was concerned with locating those areas, which would provide his people, the Saints, with the material necessary for a good life: water, wood and rich soil.
President Young and his people had learned from Jim Bridger and other Mountain Men (fur trappers) that Cache Valley was not as dry and barren as was most of the Great Basin Region. The Cache Valley area was thought by some Mountaineers to be the most desirable section for the construction of a permanent settlement.
With this in mind, President Young was anxious to get a definite report of Cache Valley from members of his own group. On August 9, 1847, he sent a small exploring party under the direction of Jesse C. Little to Northern Utah. Upon his return to Salt Lake City, Little reportedly gave President Young a very favorable account of the Cache Valley area.
The stories of the severe winters and of the killing frosts of Cache Valley led President Young to postpone the settlement of Cache Valley. So, during the next eight years (1847–1855) Cache Valley continued to be as it had been in the past—the hunting grounds of several different Indian tribes because of the wild game that frequented the area.
In the 1850’s the continuing stream of new emigrants arriving in Utah almost daily; the terrible drought around the Salt Lake area and south, which destroyed the crops and caused a real possibility of famine, brought pressures upon the Salt Lake Valley. As a means of relieving those pressures, President Young considered opening the Cache Valley area to settlement.
As he pondered the situation, Peter Maughan called upon him to report on the conditions existing in the Tooele area. Maughan explained to President Young that he and his neighbors faced famine and death because of the destruction of their crops by grasshoppers, the failure of their grain to mature—the result of drought and salt in the soil—and Indian raids upon their cattle.
President Young acted at once and commissioned Peter Maughan to take a small colony into Cache Valley and commence the settlement of it. On September 15, 1856 they arrived at and founded Maughan’s Fort, later called Wellsville.
Maughan makes no mention of it in his writings concerning the establishment of Wellsville, but upon his arrival in 1856, Alexander B. and Robert B. Hill, sons of Daniel Hill, had already settled along the western side of the valley. About five miles north of the present site of Wellsville, these young men had built a log cabin on the brow of a hill and a dugout into the hill on the south side of what we now call Graveyard Hollow, just northeast of where Mendon is now located.
The story is told that in the spring of 1855, these two brothers had driven some range cattle north from Brigham City to the Malad Valley to range for the summer. The adventurous young brothers crossed over the mountain range into Cache Valley. They found it better suited for grazing livestock and brought their cattle with them around the Collinston Pass, camping near the present site of Mendon. The Hill boys liked the valley, and decided to make it their home. They went right to work in constructing the aforementioned log cabin. The brothers remained in their cabin that winter where Robert had the misfortune of having his feet badly frozen while out hunting and caring for the cattle. In the spring of 1856 they located farms just east and south of their log cabin and near the northeast corner of Mendon City proper.
If this information is correct, than it could be said that the first home to be built and permanently occupied was located at the present site of Mendon.
The only exception to this would be the possibility of a cabin built on the Elk Horn Ranch (the church ranch) in the College Ward area, which was also established during the summer of 1855. As an added feature to this whole story, (there is some discussion as to the dates of the Mendon site in 1856; but, according to Dr. Daniel B. Richards in the Hill family history, they were there in 1855) George W. and Joseph Baker, sons of Simon Baker and future residents of Mendon, were among those that established the Elk Horn Ranch for President Brigham Young.
The settlement of Cache Valley was interrupted briefly when a misunderstanding arose between the Federal (U.S.) Government and the Mormons. In 1857 President James Buchanan dispatched three thousand men of the United States Army to Utah. They were sent to ensure the installation of the new governor, Alfred Cumming (replacing Brigham Young, who had been both governor and church president since the founding of Utah) and to aid him, if necessary, in executing the laws.
The dispatching of these troops to Utah caused President Young to call in the outlying settlements concentrating his people in the area south of Salt Lake. The colonizers were obliged to leave the valley in the spring of 1858, the Hill brothers included.
Fortunately, the “Utah War” was averted because of the willingness of both sides to cooperate. Thus the way was again open for the resettlement of Cache Valley.
However, the resettlement process did not get underway until early spring 1859. In April of that year, Peter Maughan and his small band of settlers began their trek back to the Valley. But the deep snow in Sardine Canyon forced Maughan and his troop north through what is now called Collinston Pass, through what is now Petersboro and Mendon and on to the Fort and their homes at the present site of Wellsville.
The influx of new settlers now coming into the Valley not only strengthened Maughan’s Fort, but it also led to the settlement of the second oldest town in Cache Valley—North Settlement, as it was then called, or Mendon. These new settlers were attracted by the excellent streams of water pouring forth from the several canyons to the west of the present site of Mendon. The country was strikingly beautiful. From the Muddy River on the east to the mountains on the west, the area was like one great green carpet of rich waving grass. There has been some question as to who made up that first group. According to Isaac Sorensen, the first permanent settlers of North Settlement, so called by the people of Maughan’s Fort (Wellsville), arrived in the spring (May) of 1859. The group included Roger Luckham, Robert Sweeten, James G. Willie, Charles and Andrew Shumway, Charles and Alfred Atkinson, Peter and Isaac Sorensen, Peter Larsen and Alexander Hill Jr. and his sons Alex, James and William the uncle and cousins of Alexander B. and Robert B. Hill. Some of these men had their families. Others arriving shortly thereafter were Charles Shumway, Ralph Foster, William Findley, Andrew Andersen, Jasper Lemon, Kelsy and Bradford Bird, John Richards Jr., Hyrum T. Richards, Alfred Sweeten, Charles and William Bird, Hans Jensen and Nicolai Sorensen with his other two sons, Jacob and Abraham. Also arriving during that first period, but somewhat later, were the two Hill brothers. They ran farms near Mendon and assisted their father; Daniel with a gristmill located about half way between Mendon and Wellsville.
As planting season was pretty well along when the settlers arrived, they commenced at once to make wooden beams for the plows; also to make their triangle harrows with wooden teeth. The land had to be broken up; and it was hard work, especially for the ox teams, which were so poor and weak. The men found it necessary to cooperate and help each other by putting two or four yoke of oxen on the plow and breaking land one day for one man, and then another day for another man, and so on until each had a piece of land plowed. The crop lands where situated so as to be able to irrigate the fields from the surrounding streams.
During this early period the new settlers lived in their wagons boxes and in tents. Because of the danger of Indian attacks (they had located themselves in the Shoshoni hunting grounds) the pioneer families of North Settlement moved to Maughan’s Fort while the men returned almost daily to care for their crops and build their cabins.
Times were hard, supplies were short and the work seemed never done; but, despite all this, the people prayed together, sang together, worked together and celebrated together. On the 24th of July of that first year, all the settlers gathered at Wellsville for a celebration and a big feast. They had many pies made from the rich juicy mountain berries and plenty of good fat beef and other good things to eat. Also present were many Indians; they were fed and they took part in the celebration. After the feast the settlers enjoyed themselves in a dance.
On August 10th, Jesse W. Fox Sr., a surveyor from Salt Lake City, surveyed and laid out the Old Fort. The plans was to build two rows of log houses facing each other with a six–rod street between. The single street would run east and west with the houses located on the north and south sides, south of the public square. The street extended approximately forty rods (about two blocks). Houses were close together with the space between them merely enough to drove a team and wagon through and very much alike. They had two windows, a lumber door, a one–third pitch roof with willows covered with dirt, a dirt floor and a big fireplace. There were roads around the sides and ends of the Fort. To the rear of each lot there was a street for convenience to enter at the back of the houses and also to enter corrals and stack yards on the opposite side of this street. Beyond the stack yards were the gardens, which made up the outer parts of the Fort. The town remained in this condition until the spring of 1864 when town lots were surveyed. The initial or starting point being the southeast corner of the public square.
As winter approached, the settlers turned their attention to building their houses. The Hills and the Sorensens were the first to complete their log houses in the Fort.
The grain that fall was harvested in September and the last of it in October. A chaff-piler came from Brigham City and did the threshing, but it was necessary to haul the grain to Brigham City to get it made into flour. About twenty–five bushels per acre were harvested that year.
In November, President Young sent Apostles Orson Hyde and Ezra T. Benson to Cache Valley to effect religious organizations and to name the towns. Wellsville, Mendon, Providence and Logan were settled in the spring; Richmond in the summer; and Smithfield in the autumn of 1859. According to Isaac Sorensen, a meeting was held at the home of Charles Bird during the winter of 1859. It was proposed that Elder Benson should do the naming. He decided it should be called Mendon, after the town in which he was born, (Mendon, Massachusetts) and that was satisfactory with everyone present. Another story is told concerning the naming of Mendon: When Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and other church authorities were making a tour of Cache Valley, Heber C. Kimball suggested that the Fort be named Mendon City, in remembrance of Mendon City in New York state, where he and Brigham Young had formerly resided.
Temporary organizations were set up within the settlement with Charles Shumway, Sr. acting as leader. With the coming of Elders Hyde and Benson, Mendon was organized into a ward in the late fall of 1859. Andrew P. Shumway was proposed and sustained as the first bishop of the Mendon Ward, a position he occupied for ten years.
The winter of 1859–1860 was a busy one. It was decided to build a combination school and meetinghouse. The logs for the building were secured in the mountains west of the settlement and slid down over the snow. The structure, eighteen by twenty–four feet, would serve for worship, school and recreation and had a “real” lumber floor. By early spring this new edifice graced the Fort. It was a welcome change from meeting in the cramped quarters of private homes. All the social activities were held there. The winters were spent enjoying the theatricals provided by home talent and dancing by the light of tallow candles.
During the next two years Mendon continued to grow at a rapid pace. Among those arriving were Edward Wood; Manning Rowe; Adam C. Smyth; Simon Baker and sons, Jarvis, Albert, George W. and Joseph; John Donaldson; James McBride: Magnus Larsen; John Gardner and sons, James, Henry and Alfred; Henry Hughes; Neils Jensen; Christian Jensen and James Hancock and sons James and Joseph.
In the winter of 1860–61 the first public school was opened; and Amenzo W. Baker is said to have been the first teacher, although some say a Mrs. Dabell was the first. The school only ran for short periods each year and was held in the log meeting house. Desks were placed around the sides and slab benches were used for seats. Reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling were the subjects taught, with slates and slate pencils for the writing equipment. After the school quarter was over, the teacher visited the families and collected his or her pay, which consisted of wheat, flour, and other products. Money was very scarce, and it was mostly barter and exchange with the people. Other early teachers were Jasper Lemmon, Charles Bird Jr., Adam C. Smyth, John Donaldson, Henry and Alfred Gardner and Isaac Sorensen.
In the spring of 1861, a United States Post Office was established in Mendon. James G. Willie was appointed the first postmaster. The mail was brought in on horseback once a week from Ogden, and it continued this way until the coming of the Utah Northern Railroad in December 1872.
With the beginning of all new settlements there came “firsts.” Some of the firsts in Mendon’s history are: the first mayor of the city was George W. Baker; John H. Richards was the first to be buried in the Mendon City cemetery, September 30, 1861; Amenzo W. Baker was the first sexton; Mary Ann Sorensen Hill, daughter of Abraham and Mary Jensen Sorensen was born February 19, 1860, and has the distinction of being the first child born in Mendon; Matthew son of Ralph and Margaret Forester, born March 29, 1860, was the second child born in Mendon, being the first boy; James H. Hill and Christena Sorensen were the first couple married in Mendon, James G. Willie performing the ceremony January 7, 1860; Adam C. Smyth organized the first choir and was Chorister; and the first Sunday School was held in Mendon in 1863 with James G. Willie as superintendent. The list could go no much longer, but suffice it to say, each first brought new understanding and meaning to the community.
Though the Indians continued to be a menace up until 1870, the most dangerous times were over by 1864. As previously mentioned, in the spring of 1864 the town was surveyed by the county surveyor, James H. Martineau, and the people began to move from the old Fort onto their city lots of one and one–quarter acres each. Some of the log houses in the fort were moved onto the lots and reconstructed and presented a better appearance. In the Fort, the settlers being so close together were compelled to live almost as one large family. Each family could not afford to have all the necessary equipment, supplies and household articles, so borrowing and lending of things in common and life in the little Fort made the ties of friendship and neighborly love much stronger. It was a good schooling for the settlers, as it took considerable self-control and tact to keep always in harmony and prevent little differences. It provided unity, spiritually—as well as physically; and these early settlers, with the help of one another, had accomplished the settling [of] a new frontier.
During those early years within the Fort, there was always plenty to do. But despite this, during the years 1861 to 1864, the pioneers of Mendon accepted their responsibility and did their share in sending ox teams and wagons to Omaha, Nebraska to help bring the emigrants out to Utah. Amenzo Baker, Peter Larsen, Isaac Sorensen, Ralph Forster, Jasper Lemon, Albert M. Baker, Joseph H. Richards, Charles Bird, Jacob Sorensen and Joseph Hancock all made the two thousand mile trek. In 1867 the railroad had been extended more than half way to Omaha, so the journeys were not so far. This year Tarragut Stumpf, Lars Larsen and Bradford Bird made the trip.
With the movement out of the Old Fort, combined with a steady flow of new settlers and a desire for a larger and more modern meetinghouse, the Mendon Saints started to build a stone chapel made of native stone. The new building measured twenty-eight by forty–five feet and for mortar they mixed common clay and sand. Lime was used for plastering the walls. George W. Baker was appointed chief architect and general chairman. He had full charge of raising the funds and getting the building completed. All the work, but the masonry that was done by Robert Crookston and Robert Murdock, was done by town residents. When the building was completed in 1866 it stood as a landmark in the Valley. Not only was it the finest chapel in the Valley, but it was the first stone edifice of its kind. Shortly after its completion, the Saints built a stonewall around the church house for protection, against the Indians. The wall was six feet high and enclosed about one acre of land. Bastions were built at the corners in order to guard each side of the outer walls. Fortunately there was no Indian trouble and the wall was never really completed. However, the work was not all wasted for later, when they built the T on the meetinghouse, all the rock was used.
Throughout this early period Mendon was not without its tragedies. About 1863, the Indians stole a fine band of horses from the corral of the Baker brothers. Other pioneers had valuable horses stolen also at this time. George Thurston and Kelsy Bird had built the Mendon Grist Mill on Gardner’s Creek (south of Mendon and just east of Darley’s barn) in 1864.
The Thurston family lived there and on the 7th of April 1869 their three–year–old daughter, Rosie, was stolen by the Indians. Every effort was made to find her, but to no avail. There were many tragedies as these, but none so famous as the one retold by Vance D. Walker. Many a person sat spell bound at the feet of Mr. Walker as he vividly brought to life the story of “The Big Slough Grizzly” and how, during the winter of 1863, Thomas Graham was killed by a big female grizzly bear while after a load of willows, three–and–a–half miles southeast of the Fort on the Little Bear River known as Muddy River.
By the end of the 1860’s and with the beginning of the 1870’s, Mendon began to take upon herself those qualities, which made her one of the leading cities in the Valley. The 1870 census shows Mendon with a population of 345. By this time Mendon had her own store (1869), a post office, a tithing office, a public school and would soon have a branch of the Presbyterian (1879). Mendon was also not without plenty of good entertainment, and lays claim to having the first theatrical group in the Valley. The story goes that along about 1860, just a year after their arrival, Grandfather Wood had seen a drama in England called “Among the Green Bushes” and that he rewrote it from memory, including all the parts and began his casting of the production. It was played in one end of the Fort one night and the other end of the Fort the next night. Repeated performances kept the settlers amused and entertained all winter. But perhaps the one thing that made Mendon one of the most important cities in the south end of the Valley was the coming of the Utah Northern Railroad. It was looked upon as so important by the people of Mendon that upon hearing of its coming, the Mendon people asked for and were granted a city charter by the Territorial Government and it became an incorporated area in 1870. The settlers feared that the coming of the railroad into town would bring saloons and that other public undesirable places might be established. With the settlement incorporated, they could regulate such places to better advantage. Ordinances were at once passed which prohibited the sale of intoxicating liquors and, in fact, Mendon became comparatively infamous because of her rather “Puritanistic” laws.
The plan of construction called for the railroad to take–off from Brigham City, go north along the western base of the Wasatch Mountains for about twenty miles, over the Collinston Hills and down through the Bear River Gorge. From there it would head south through Petersboro and on to Mendon. On December 20, 1872, the little “John W.” locomotive, piloted by Charley Paul of Logan, had difficulty pulling a box car, and a couple of flat cars over the grade into the Valley. But according to Isaac Sorensen when the railroad reached Mendon “all the kiddies in town went out to meet the train; the train stopped and gave them a ride to Mendon.” Mendon was even important enough to justify erection of a railroad warehouse, a two–story building with elevator and basement, which would accommodate the great amount of freight hauled to the Mendon station. The tracks and station were built on the east side of present day Mendon. You see at this time, the railroad was to be built across the Valley East and it was not until 1907 that “the loop” was run from Mendon around the south end of the Valley through Wellsville and Hyrum.
A rather interesting economic and social order was established among the settlers of Mendon in 1874. Apostle Erastus Snow was sent by President Brigham Young to Cache Valley to introduce the Order of Enoch, or the United Order, in which all were to have things in common. At a special meeting at Logan, Apostle Snow presented the plan and the workings of the Order. All the real property of a member belonging to the Order was consecrated to the Order, and the members never expected to own their property individually again. About one–third of the members joined the Order, while the other two–thirds remained out to see how well it would operate.
After a year or more, it was evident that the people were not ready for such a social and economic charge, where selfishness had to be abolished and each have a desire to do his share and not impose on another. With the discontinuances of the Order, the net proceeds and property were divided among the members. Mendon gave this innovation a fair trail and was perhaps as successful with it as any of the other settlements, which tried it.
By the beginning of the 1870’s land became a much sought after item. With the increasing population of the Valley and with the settlement and construction of towns, both farmland and grazing land were looked upon as of prime importance. Many of those areas of the Valley, which did not support big streams of water, but yet had adequate water if used properly, became the next areas of settlement.
As early as 1867, a man by the name of Sylvanus Collett had settled at a spring near Bear River about ten miles north and slightly west of Mendon. This was the first settlement in what is now Cache Junction. However, for many years it was a part of an area called Petersboro. Originally Petersboro included all the land south of Bear River to about four miles north of Mendon and everything west of the Bear River to the Box Elder line. Later the region was divided into two precincts, Petersboro No. 1 being present day Petersboro, and Petersboro No. 2 being present Cache Junction.
Charles W. Maughan was the first settler in what is now Petersboro, locating with his family at what is locally known as Four Mile Spring.
In 1872 when George L. Farrell moved to the Petersboro area, it was reported he produced the first dry farm wheat of any extent in the area. He planted and harvested some twelve acres. It was cut with a dropper, bound by hand and threshed with a flail. The wheat was sold for thirty cents per bushel. An interesting note to this is the comments made by Vance D. Walker of Mendon. Mr. Walker states that Mr. Farrell had talked to him concerning the growing of dry farm wheat and alfalfa and that he Mr. Farrell, had produced dry farm wheat, without irrigation, as early as 1860 in this area. If this is true, then dry farm wheat had been produced some twelve years before its reporting date and that the first dry farm wheat of Cache Valley was produced in Petersboro.
Between the time Mr. Farrell arrived and 1880, the following families had established homesteads; William Kidman, Thomas Muir, Elias Davis, Morgan Phelps, Leander Lemon, Soren Carlsen, P. M. Poulsen, P. P. Petersen, Jens Petersen, William L. Williamson and Thomas Morrell Sr.
One or two room log cabins, roofed with dirt, were the homes of most of these first settlers. A few were made of rock. These homesteaded cabins were built on eighty to one–hundred–sixty acres and since water was of prime importance, homes were built near streams or springs. Later, for some homes, wells were dug.
Like the earlier settlers of Mendon, the people of Petersboro believed that education was important and as early as 1873, Miss. Emma Farrell taught school in the home of her father, George L. Farrell. Later a dirt roofed, one room log cabin was built just north of the county road and about one–third mile south and slightly west of the Gilbert H. Peterson home.
In 1884 a one-room rock building, eighteen by thirty feet, was constructed. This was used for meetings and school purposes and stood immediately south of still another more modern Brick schoolhouse, which was later, constructed in 1920. In 1936 the consolidation of the Petersboro and Mendon schools took place and from 1966 to 1948 the vacated schoolhouse stood as a recreation center for the residents of Petersboro. In 1948 the building was purchased by the Gilbert H. Peterson family.
Mrs. Verna Sorensen, a teacher at the Petersboro School from 1922 to 1926 assisted by her husband, Claude, initiated the school hot lunch program. From all the information one can gather, this was the first hot lunch program in the county and possibly the first in the state. The food was furnished by the students and prepared and served by the older students at the school.
Religious services were conducted in private homes until the completion of the rock meeting house. Petersboro was first organized as a regular Branch of the Mendon Ward in 1876. Elias Davis was appointed as presiding Elder. In 1887 Petersboro was organized into a Ward with W. D. Cranney as the Bishop with Elias Davis and Morgan P. Evans as counselors. These men retained their positions until the disorganization of the Ward in 1896. Because of the great amount of area that Petersboro contained at this time and with the 1890 census listing Petersboro with a population of three hundred thirty–seven people, the Saints of Petersboro were distributed among four Wards: Mendon, in Hyrum Stake; Benson and Newton, in Cache Stake; and Beaver Dam, in Bear River Stake. With the consolidation of the two Wards in 1896, Petersboro added a membership of one hundred thirty–nine or about twenty families to the rolls of the Mendon Ward.
At or near the turn of the century, Petersboro had a store and a brick industry, which was widely known throughout the Valley. The Cache Pressed Brick Company was established about 1892 and was located about two miles north of the schoolhouse. It is reported that the bricks in the old Woodruff school building and in the Moses Thatcher Jr. home, both in Logan, were made by the brick company.
During the early period and continuing until Petersboro became more closely associated with the Mendon Ward, the residents of Petersboro had formed a friendly, close knit farming community. Whether it be dancing, involvement in sports, working or just visiting, they enjoyed being with one another. Who can forget the fun and enjoyment centered around the old “Petersboro Reunions?”
Whether the settlers made their homes in Mendon or Petersboro, it made no difference when it came time for winter. It seems Cache Valley stood up to its reputation of long and severe winters. A severe winter was experienced by the people in 1873-1874. It commenced in November and did not break up until the middle of April. Feed for livestock became so scarce that all the old straw on the sheds that had been there for several years was taken off and used for feed. By the time spring arrived the horses were so poor they could scarcely work at all and it was difficult to prepare the land and get the crops planted.
A similar winter also occurred in 1879. The story is told that the stock became so poor and weak that special groups of men had to go around and help lift the horses and cows to their feet so they could get around to help themselves. Despite these hard winters every few years, the people were slow to accept the suggestions of President Brigham Young that in times of plenty they should save and conserve for times of scarcity. He advised the farmers to pile their straw and chaff from year to year and save it, buy when they had plenty to use in times of scarcity. (Perhaps there’s a message for us in 1974 found within that advice.)
In 1917, again the winter was severe, feed was scarce and hay was being sold for forty to fifty dollars a ton, if you could find it. Many recall the winter of 1948–49. The Herald Journal stated that the Valley was experiencing the “worst weather in Cache history.” The snowfall had “set an all–time record, with eleven inches falling in November, thirty–one in December, forty–three in January and over fifteen in the first week of February. One hundred inches of snow had fallen and by February 7, 1949, there was a snow depth of twenty–nine inches on the level.”
Although life was undeniably hard during those early years in Mendon and Petersboro, the settlers found time and energy for social and recreational activities. Dancing, singing, instrumental music, theatricals, community socials, and sports all made their contribution towards a more enjoyable life for these people. Many of the activities begun during the early period have become a revered part of our community heritage.
Some mention has already been made of the early theatricals and the importance they played in entertaining the settlers during the long winter months. About 1908 a “younger” generation took over with L. K. Wood as general manager, a position he held for many years. Under his direction such plays as “Up Vermont Way,” “Brookdale Far,” “In the Shadow of the Rockies,” “Lone Tree Mine,” “Under the American Flag,” and others were presented. Drama was accepted with great enthusiasm by the people and was an integral part of their winter entertainment until the 1920’s, when its prestige was dampened somewhat by the coming of movies.
It is said by early sources that Mendon and Wellsville were extremely fortunate because they had enough fiddlers to furnish the music for the square dances, which the pioneers enjoyed. It is stated that Lars Larsen from 1863 to 1877 was the principal “Violinist” and was, for a country fiddler, a real genius. Larsen was assisted by George Bird, Joseph Hancock and Isaac Sorensen. Mendon has been blessed with many good fiddle players and Alonzo Wood is remembered as one of the finest in recent times.
In 1860 Isaac Sorensen was chosen as Choir leader, a position he held for fifty–six years until 1916. To show the importance placed on music and singing by the Saints in Mendon, in 1870 Bishop Henry Hughes offered “ten acres of the best land in the settlement… for a good bass, tenor, and soprano, who were good members of society, and good readers of music, and would settle in Mendon and attend meetings regularly.” This offer was made at a time when irrigated land was difficult to obtain. Whether the Mendon Singers were enticed to come or whether a few “slipped” past Wellsville without their knowing, no one knows for sure. The fact remains and the choir is the proof, that the Saints of Mendon Ward are well blessed vocally.
In 1882 Frank Williams organized the Marshall Band. The band consisted of young men and boys. It had regular drills and became a very efficient musical group. Frank Williams is credited with helping to introduce May Day to Mendon. Many of the Mendon Saints were of English ancestry and had celebrated May Day in England; it became a holdover from the Old Country. Celebrated each spring in Mendon, the May Pole dance and the crowing of the queen is a tradition. As an outgrowth of the Frank Williams Band, Robert Sweeten later organized a band reputed to be the best in Cache County. Members of Sweeten’s Band of Mendon were Joseph Hancock, M. D. Bird, Ervin Gardner, William Sorensen, George Hughes, Tilbert Sweeten, Morie Baker, Charles H. Baker, Fred Sorensen, Joseph Hancock, Philip Sorensen Robert Sweeten, John Westover, Magnus Larsen and John Baker.
Mendon, in 1896, set out to become [the] dance capital of Northern Utah. In that year Hyrum T. Richards erected a dance hall, reported to have the finest floor in the Valley. The building was made of rocks laid by Joseph Baker. It stood approximately where the Vance D. and Ethyl Walker home is now. This was the first of its kind in Cache Valley and reportedly drew crowds from Box Elder County, Cache County and Southern Idaho. Those who came far could always stay the night at the hotels and return to their homes the next day.
In the years from 1918 to 1967, when one mentioned dance band and Mendon, only one thing came to mind, the Mendon Jazz. Some of the members most remembered through the years were Theo and Hilda Whitney, Orlyn Whitney, Frank Hancock, Cliff Ahrens, Harace Bunce, Bill Adams, and Orval Larsen. The Mendon Jazz brought the big jazz sounds to Northern Utah and Southern Idaho. Whether it be an afternoon “kids” dance or an evening “grown–ups” dance, the Jazz was always present and their presence made dancing fun, relaxing and good entertainment.
In any survey of community activities, the spot sports occupies is usually an exciting and interesting area. In the case of Mendon and Petersboro, it is just that. The sport may be a foot race, a wrestling match, a baseball or basketball game or even a horse race. Whatever it may be, these people participated in it and in most cases gained recognition through it.
As early as 1881, Mendon had built a half–mile circular track for horse racing. The track was built near the Mervyn Willie farm; and the Utah Northern train ran excursions to Mendon, where large crowds would attend the races.
One of the best-known harness horses at that time was L. C. Lee, a brown stallion owned by Willard Richards. He was one of the first real harness horses produced in the Valley and finally went west (California) and made a mark of two minutes twelve seconds in the mile.
A baseball team of some distinction was produced in Petersboro at the turn of the century. The team played together for several years and was mainly made up of members of the Kidman family.
It seems that almost every community in Cache valley sponsored a team at that time. Baseball was very popular and a keenly competitive spirit existed among the various towns. A newspaper clipping dated 1906 reports that Petersboro defeated Newton by a score of eighteen to ten.
Baseball was not the only sport played in the communities. Basketball was and still is of major importance to the Saints of Mendon and Petersboro. In those communities where basketball facilities were available, the people took advantage. Mendon was extremely fortunate after the completion of their new school house (the now post office and recreation center) in 1935. The inclusion of a gymnasium within the school provided the Mendon folks with the incentive to produce a good basketball team, which they did in the form of the Mendon Eagles.
The Church basketball program through the years has seen many a fine team from the Mendon Ward. Mendon has been represented in tournament play on both the Stake and District levels.
With the rise of softball, both fast–pitch and slow–pitch, the era of community baseball seemed to disappear. The softball program within the Church and the idea of participation from more people have been, the two major reasons for the great increase in softball in Mendon and the entire Valley. Presently, Mendon fields Church teams as well as a locally sponsored team within a commercial league.
With the addition of the beautiful new park facilities just recently added to the public square, Mendon ranks among the top, if not first in providing recreation for all ages.
The early settlers of Mendon and Petersboro were social people. They loved being with one another, and looked forward with great anticipation to community celebrations. It was a time of visiting, recalling old memories and of relaxation. In many areas of the country today, community celebrations are a thing of the past—but not in Mendon. Whether it be Old Folks Day, May Day, the old L. K. Wood Threshing Bee, or the newest of celebrations—the July 24th, Mendon continues to be ranked Number One in the hearts of many.