The Settlement Of Mendon, Cache County Utah. By Jens Jensen

This history of Mendon, Utah was first written in 1931.

Mendon Utah Logo

The Settlement Of Mendon, Cache County UtahJens Jensen

Mendon from 1859 to 1864 consisted of what was called a fort. A line of log houses and dugouts on the north and south sided of the street south of the public square extending east to the farmland 40 rods east of the public square and thence west 80 rods. Houses were close together, space being left merely to drive a team and wagon between. Wood was piled close to the house, next corral for stock and stable for horses.

Some had a small plot of ground, which was used for a garden, while others raised corn and vegetables on farmland east of town.

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. Blocks contained ten acres each, divided into eight lots, containing one and one-fourth acres each. For several years the town was three blocks from north to south and the same from east to west.

Several of the first settlers here were Utah Pioneers of 1847. Among them being Andrew P. Shumway, first bishop of the ward, and his father Charles Shumway, who came with President Brigham Young. Others who came in 1847 were Simon Baker and his sons Jarvis, Albert, George W., and Joseph. Of these Albert and Joseph wee married.

William Bird, a member of the Mormon Battalion, his brother Charles Bird and sons John, Kelsey, Charles, William, Martin and George. John and Kelsey being married. (Charles Bird and family came in 1857). Charles Bird also had a family by a plural wife, young children at the time here mentioned. James G. Willie, Roger Luckham and stepson Robert Sweeten.

James G. Willie returned from a mission to England in 1856 and was Captain of the Hand Cart Company across the plains that snowed in before reaching Salt Lake City and many perished. Others who arrived in Utah later than 1847 were John Richards and family, sons Joseph, John, Hyrum, Alexander and Daniel. John Richards, Jr. who served in the Echo Canyon War died while on his way from Salt Lake City to Mendon, whither the family had arrived on Christmas day 1859 and was the first person interred in the Mendon City cemetery.

Nicolai Sorensen and family, sons Peter, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Christian and Henry. Ralph Forster and family, Henry Hughes and family, William Findley and family, Andrew Andersen and family, Jasper Lemon and family, James McBride and family (who moved away in 1863). Hans Peter Larsen, a single man, Magnus Larsen and family, Lars Larsen and family, Niels Jensen and family, Christian Jensen, a blacksmith, who moved to Bear Lake in 1863. Charles and Alfred Atkinson and families, James Hancock and family, John Gardner and sons, James (with family), Henry and Alfred.

Conditions As To Property

Of the first settlers the Bakers, Birds and Shumways were best provided with horses, cattle and sheep, also wagons etc. and what counted much more than property in settling a new country, they had an experience in pioneering dating back to the early persecutions of the church.

Most of the others named here as early settlers were born in Europe and arrived in Utah possessed of very little of this worlds goods. Some had a yoke of oxen and wagon containing a few personal effects, while a few had four oxen, two cows and a cook stove. Others later on came to Mendon from Europe with little except their bedding and wearing apparel.

Civil Government

As with all of the Mormon towns up to about 1870 civil as well as religious jurisdiction was exercised wholly by the ward bishop, assisted by the ward teachers. All difficulties and grievances including property rights were passed upon and verdicts given, as they deemed fair in accordance with the evidence.

To the honor of these Mormon Elders deciding various civil and criminal cases it must be recorded, that owing to the fairness of their rulings few if any matters disposed of by them were appealed to higher church authority, though such appeals could always be had for the asking. Should also be noted that in trials and hearings mentioned, there was not at any time any cost to plaintiff or defendant other than actual damages if any were assessed against the guilty party.

The bishop was the leader and manager selecting assistants, if thought necessary, of all public enterprises, such as making roads to wood in mountains, seeing that field fences were repaired each spring, as all farm and meadow land was in one common herd for convenience and safety. Each family owned a small flock of sheep, from twenty-five to one hundred; these also were put in one common heard for the summer and a herder employed.

The most expensive project was putting in a dam in Gardner Creek, midway between Mendon and Wellsville. This was a great undertaking, considering the number of people and the primitive tools they had for such work. The first dam was defective and had, after flooding away, to be rebuilt. This after making a canal three miles long, made about five hundred acres of land available for cultivation.

Indian Depredations

About 1864 the Indians took a fine band of horses from the corral of the Baker brothers, back of their house in the fort. A. M. Baker hearing a noise in the night rushed out and was shot through the hand by an arrow. It being a dark night he could see nothing, only that the horses were gone. Among them was a fine racehorse by which they placed great store. Shortly after the horses were recovered in Box Elder County where the Indians had sold them to white residents. In 1867 Ole Sonne’s work team was taken, in the night by Indians and sold to a man in Millville. He finally recovered them by paying a small sum to the purchaser.

In1889 Bannock Indians stole six or eight valuable horses from Robert Sweeten while they were in the field north of town. Only one of them was ever recovered. In 1874 Indians shot and killed a cow belonging to John Bird while it was on the range west of town.

In the spring of 1866 a four year old girl, daughter of George Thurston, who operated a grist mill two and a half miles south of town, disappeared and it was supposed Indians had taken her as they dragged and drained the mill pond and people searched in all directions, but no trace of her was every found.

Military Affairs

Am not certain of date of military organizations. Local drilling in which all able bodied men were requested to take part took place as early as 1866 if not before. Later Andrew Andersen was captain of infantry and Albert Baker of cavalry. The bishop organized these companies, giving such men as he thought most capable the positions. This organization was an outgrowth of the Nauvoo Legion and was never called out to guard against Indians. For several years ending in 1875 a three-day drill was held annually, after the harvest was over, in which all the towns in the county participated. This was a time of enjoyment and nearly the entire population of the county made a holiday trip to the encampment, where they were entertained with horse races, foot races, wrestling, etc. The first gatherings were held in the meadows southwest of Logan and the last on east and north of Logan River, a mile or so east of Petersboro Bridge, on the road to Logan.

Incidents In Early Mendon Affairs

In the winter of 1864 and 1865 Thomas Graham was killed by a bear near Muddy River, one and one half miles southeast of town. Mr. Graham with his son-in-law, Bishop Shumway, went with a span of mules and a sleigh to get river willows for firewood. When they reached what they deemed a suitable place, Graham went to look for willows while Shumway cared for the team. Presently Graham shouted, “Watch the team there is a bear,” immediately the bear charged him and it was thought instantly killed him. Shumway was unarmed so returned to town for help. Wellsville as well as Mendon sent their best armed men to get the bear which proved to be a big grizzly with two half grown cubs and it was difficult to dislodge them from the willows. Finally Daniel Hill of Wellsville proposed to enter the bears den and James H. Hill of Mendon proffered to go with him. When well within the willows on a path too narrow for both to go abreast, Daniel Hill took the lead when the bear charged them. Daniel Hill aimed and his gun missed fired. The bear being upon him, he thrust the barrel of his gun into its mouth, and being a strong active man, thus saved his life, as the man behind him had no chance to use his gun. The bear rushed back to the cubs but within a few moments charged again and rose on its hind legs as bears do when near their prey. James H. Hill then held his gun over Daniel’s shoulder and shot the bear in the heart, killing it instantly, after which the cubs were easily dispatched.

Public Buildings

1866 witnessed the erection of a new meetinghouse, built of native rock, common clay and sand mixed being used for mortar. Lime was used for plastering walls inside and painting outside. George W. Baker was appointed by the bishop to visit each family and allot in proportion to their property and ability their share of the cost, part to be paid in cash and balance in labor such as hauling rocks, clay, sand etc., and hauling lumber from saw mills in mountains on the east side of the valley. Some got out logs, which were made into lumber. All work save the masonry was done by town residents. Carpenter work, including window sash and doors, was done by George W. Baker, Andrew Andersen, William Kidman and George Walker. At the same time, owing to fear of a general Indian uprising, a rock wall, intended for a fort, about six by six rods and four feet high was built around the house so that in case of an attack the people cold take refuge in the fort. Fortunately there was no Indian war and the wall was never quite completed.

Most of the pioneers of Mendon, prior to 1866, lived in log houses with roofs made of small poles, straw and dirt, and during the fall and winter rains were obliged to set pans and pails to catch the water that leaked through in order to protect their bedding etc.

Men like Adam C. Smyth, afterwards Professor Smyth of Salt Lake City, had their pioneering experience in such work as hauling wood, raking prairie hay with a hand rake etc. He, being with a neighbor after a load of wood, set the wagon where the ground was rather steep, and as they were about to begin loading, the wagon was jarred and started down the hill, Smyth grabbed a hind wheel and tried to hold it back out of course he was sent sprawling as he weighed but 100 pounds. What the early settlers lacked in means and experience was balanced by an unbounded enthusiasm.

In the minutes of Teachers Quorum of an early date it stated that Henry Stokes, who had worked in a glass factory in England, was directed in investigate as to the feasibility of starting a glass factory in Mendon. Needless to say it did not materialize.


School was begun almost as soon as the first families were located, the first teacher being Mrs. Dabell followed by Jasper Lemmon, Amenzo Baker and Charles Bird, Jr. Each for a very short period. About 1865 Adam C. Smyth, a recent arrival from England, who later became prominent chorister and composer in Salt Lake City, was employed and occupied the position of teacher until about 1872. Besides being far superior educationally to the previous teachers he was a great asset to the ward as musical instructor. His equal in that line has not to date (1931) resided in Mendon. The schoolhouse and furnishings were very primitive, having seats without backs or desks.

Adam C. Smyth was succeeded by John Donaldson who came from Scotland, he being for the times an efficient instructor and had charge of the school for many years. Henry and Alfred Gardner taught one school term and Isaac Sorensen finished the latter part of a term as John Donaldson left for a mission to his native land.

Until about 1880 schools were financed wholly by local taxation and tuition. Teachers being paid more by farm products, firewood etc., than by cash. Each family was required to deliver on load of wood each year for use of ward and school purpose, the same building being used for both.


The first overalls worn in town was in 1868, made of heavy white canvas, were very strong and durable. With the coming of Johnson’s Army many were supplied with U. S Army overcoats and other articles of clothing, otherwise the clothing was mostly home made, the women washing, picking, carding, spinning and dyeing the wool which was then taken to local weavers, the first being Mary Sonne. Later Magnus Larsen and Emil Stumpf did weaving and the women were relieved of carding by a carding machine being installed in Wellsville.

Some flax was raised and made into cloth and Mrs. Peter Sorensen made some into thread, she having worked in a thread factory in her native land. Some of the first settlers made shoes from leather, which was tanned in the valley. Footwear, however, was very poor for excluding wet.

Each spring Indians would bring packhorse loads of buffalo robes and blankets, which they exchanged, for horses and provisions. These assisted in supplying bedding. Sewing was all done by hand until 1871 when some crude sewing machines were purchased. Stockings were also hand knit.

Soren Mortensen, a tailor came to town in 1865, he making the homemade cloth, as well as some that was purchased into suits for men.

George W. Baker and Andrew Andersen were the first carpenters and a part of their work was making caskets, for which services they received not a cent, and indeed did not expect pay, much of the time furnishing the material free of cost. The first casket bough was for Joseph L. Baker, Killed in a railroad accident, January 10, 1880.

Social Activities

Social activities were mostly dancing and theatricals. Theatrical entertainment being provided by local talent, it being assumed that all possessed dramatic ability. Entertainments were free to all.

Dancing was very popular and at first no admission was charged, but later on in the seventies a fee of twenty-five cents was charged, with perhaps a benefit party annually when fifty-cents was charged, for Traugott Stumpf for acting as janitor for the meeting and schoolhouse, the only compensation he received.

The musicians for many years received no remuneration, but later on received what would now be called a mere pittance for playing nearly the entire night. Music was first and second violin, triangle and accordion. Lars Larsen from 1863 to 1877 was the principal violinist, and was for a country fiddler, a real genius and it would be hard to find his equal outside of professional class. George Bird, Joseph Hancock and Isaac Sorensen all played as assistants to Lars Larsen.


From information obtainable, singing in church was for sometime congregational while Roger Luckham acted as leader.

Later Adam C. Smyth, who taught school from 1865 to 1872, was musical instructor and choir leader, and for the times was a very capable man. He was succeeded as choir leader by Isaac Sorensen, who held the position until 1912, save for two years while he was absent on a mission He did a good work by painstaking diligence in training the best talent available. His work and long service, a period of nearly forty years, is very praiseworthy. Henry W. Hughes in 1864 played a fife and an accompanist, whose name I have forgotten, was the first martial music in the ward and answered the purpose very well for those early times.

In 1882 Harry Williams, a tailor, and very good along hat line, organized a boys band, with fife, piccolo, flute, drum, etc. They drilled at odd times and in time became a very efficient band. At an outgrowth of this, Robert Sweeten, Jr. later organized a band reputed to be the best in Cache County.


First goods were sold in the early sixties, being brought by wagons and peddlers and consisted of such goods as shoes, calico, shirting, tea, coffee, etc., tea being $5.25 per pound. Charles Robing of Logan operated a sort of store in the home of Charles Shumway about the year 1867 or 1868, just for a few months.

In 1868 or 1869 a cooperative store was established and located in a house belonging to Charles Bird, a rock structure where Mormon Bird now resides It was managed by Bishop Andrew P. Shumway and James G. Willie acted as salesman. Bishop Shumway going on a mission to England in 1869, the management was transferred to his successor in office, Bishop Henry Hughes.

Capital stock was $20.00 per share and nearly all heads of families subscribed for one share. In 1871 or 1872 the store was moved into Albert Bakers log house and remained there until the winter of 1873-1874 when it was moved into a stone structure, which had been built for the purpose. For many years it supplied the town people with nearly everything needed, excepting ready-made clothing and wagons and farm machinery, although mowing machines were handled for a time. Grain, butter and eggs were taken in exchange for goods. This store was a great help to the people for many years, finally about 1890 for lack of proper management and support it died a natural death being taken over by Hyurm T. Richards, the largest stockholder. The most that he got out of it was the building and some outstanding debts, the latter worth very little.


From the founding of Mendon in 1859, most of the people until now 1931, have been members of the Mormon faith, in name at least.

During the polygamy crusade about 1884 a Presbyterian school was started and maintained here until about 1910, since when if funerals are conducted by the denomination above mentioned the ward meetinghouse is at their disposal, an generally speakers include our ward bishop or others elders in the services. The only anti-Mormon features manifested here was efforts of Mr. Campbell, a Presbyterian Minister resident here in 1893, when James Lamont was found injured, in some manner not yet accounted for, to make appear that the Mormons had sought to kill him. The Salt Lake Tribune published a sensational article, afterwards when proven incorrect was discredited; said article no doubt was forwarded from Mendon by Mr. Campbell. Lamont recovered and the matter was forgotten.

From 1884 until 1892 when Utah people divided on political lines as Democrats and Republicans, Post Offices in Cache County were mainly controlled by sectarians and so far as I am aware Mormons invariably installed as Post Masters. No real ill feelings as to Mormons and non-Mormons except in the case of Mr. Campbell was manifest here. Other preachers and schoolteachers of the sect named lived here and associated with the people in a friendly and harmonious spirit.


An event of great interest to Mendon and Cache Valley was the advent of the railroad, a narrow gauge line, which reached Mendon about December 19, 1872, with its tender nicknamed “John W. Young” ran into Mendon on the Utah Northern Railway (a steam engine). December 22, 1872 the first train consisting of one passenger car, one box car, and two flat cars, drawn by steam engine arrived in Mendon and a free ride was given the children of the town up to Collingston, then called Hampton Station, and home again, ending with a dance in the evening. As many of the children thus had their first view of a locomotive and cars and a ride besides, it was a real day for them and long remembered. During the winter of 1872-1873 the track was laid to Logan.


Having been told that one winter, in the early sixties some effort was make to get wood from the mountains when deep snow prevailed, otherwise wood for winter was procured during the fall season or willows from the river instead of hauling in the winter season. Beginning about 1880 and continuing to the present, wood hauling is mostly a winter job, sleds being used in early winter before the snow is too deep to hinder driving teams to the base of the mountain were Maple, Quaking Asp, etc., are easy of access.

There were three among the early settlers somewhat noted aside from religious activities. James Jack, born in Scotland, died here in 1880. In his early life went to Canada and later on drifted south to Texas, engaging with Sam Houston, Crockett and Travis in 1836-46 fighting to secure that states independence from Mexico. In person he was a large man, must have been sixty years old when he came to Mendon about 1868.

Andrew Bigler born in Virginia 1836, came with relatives to Utah when a boy. Enlisted in U. S. Army in 1862 under Captain Lot Smith to protect overland mail route east of Utah from the Indians. Served one summer and was honorably discharged. About 1866 as a volunteer was Captain of a Calvary Company from Davis County, guarding against Indians in San Pete County. Later in 1875 moved to Mendon where he was prominent as a breeder of draft and driving horses, also trainer of track horses. He died in 1892.

William Longstroth, soldier under lot Smith inn 1862 guarding overland trail route in Wyoming against Indians. Drew a pension from U. S. Government from disability and old age for several years preceding his death. Born 1840, died 1911. Was the greatest hunter of wild game, from bears to wild fowl that has resided in Mendon.

An enterprising resident from 1878-1894 was Michael Murphy, a citizen of Canada, born in Ireland, in religion a Roman Catholic. He acquired considerable land. In 1880 brought from Canada a carload of horses, three stallions and three mares. Their offspring were a high grade of what was designated “General Purpose” horses and became widely known in Northern and Southern Idaho until about 1899 when horses ceased to have almost any value. He also engaged in stock raising to some extent.

In 1881 a one quarter mile racetrack was built one half mile north of town on land of Joseph Baker. This being the first in the county it was quite a gathering place for all interested in horse racing and seemingly nearly all in the county were very much interested.

The first meet was July 4, 1881 followed by a grand meet in September when a special train brought people from the east side of the valley. After a few years as horses declined in value the track was abandoned and used for farming.

Willard B. Richards, in Mendon 1875 to 1884 raised the first horse making a track record in Utah up to 1890.1

Jens Jensen

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1.Jens Jensen, The Settlement Of Mendon, Cache County Utah, 1931