Early History of Ogden, Utah. This page is part of WWW.JIRVINH.COM Jay Irvin Hadley a descendant of Ambrose Shaw, related to Ezra Chase.
Lorin purchased a fair sized piece of land from his father in law, Ezra Chase just below the mountains and near the Ogden River.He built the first saw mill and grist mill in league with Charles Hubbard. Later, Lorin bought out Hubbard and took his brother Aaron in the milling business. Due to troubles with the Shoshoni and Ute Indians the Ogden settlers under advice from Brigham Young and others constructed a fort which came to be known as Farr's Fort. President Young had suggested to the settlers not to settle to loosely or carelessly on the Ogden and Weber Rivers. The fort was five acres in size with cabins build end to end around its border, except on the north where Mill Creek acted as a shield to the settlers. Strong cottonwood poles twelve feet in air were placed firmly in the ground which were closely tied and interwoven together. Lorin Farr’s house, sheds and corrals occupied the south border. In the center a log cabin 30 x 20 feet was used for school, church and recreation purposes. School was also taught here, a Mrs. Chrila Abbot being Ogden’s first teacher. Fresh spring water was obtained from in the southwest corner of the floor which was flowing year round. Three Farr babies Joseph, Alertus and Tirzah were born in the fort.
John Farr gives a good review of his father’s ownership of land in Ogden over the years. He said Lorin had around 400 acres of land widely scattered. There was the East Farm part of the Farr Fort, the Saw and Grist Mill. Later there would be a Woolen Mill installed where the Grist Mill was. John Farr related that the land had been in the hands of the family continuously for 106 years when he wrote this in 1956. John purchased it himself in 1890. The West Farm consisted of 150 acres located about three miles north west of Ogden. Its north boundary is now Second Street. The property known as the Pasture was west of Grant Avenue and north of the present 21st Street and consisted of 30 to 40 acres. The Mill Lot consisting of about 50 acres which ran from 19th Street to Canyon Road. Part of this Lorin gave to his brother Aaron. On this property (19th & Washington) his new 100 barrel flour mill was located. Another piece of property was south of 20th Street east From Washington Blvd. to Adams Avenue, south to the middle of the block between 21st and 22nd Streets. Some land was west of Washington Blvd. Another part of his land he sold cheaply to unfortunate friends, immigrants and others who needed it. Lorin's great desire was to help others.
The soil was rich in Ogden and the 100 acre farm located there was used to raise corn, wheat, oats, sugar cane, broom corn, hemp, vegetables, berries and fruits. The balance of the farm was in meadow and pasture. Ezra Chase reported to Brigham Young that the land could produce a hundred bushel of crickets to the acre and fifty bushels of mosquitoes. Many times the sun would be hidden from view by the hordes of grasshoppers. Fighting grasshoppers was an annual affair. Many new settlers began to pour in which required a system of settlement and organization. They assisted one another by building homes of log cabins, adobe huts and dug-outs, also sheds for stock built of poles, willows and bull rushes. Roofs were covered with canes, hay, straw, etc. and later, with sugar cane squeezings. Some huts provided buffalo robes for doors and windows which gave them some protection from deep snows while northerly winter blasts of freezing wind roared over the sage brush flats. Roads, ditches and waterways were constructed. Hundreds of years later it is hard for us to visualize the trials and hardships those hearty pioneers were called on to endure. Lorin Farr discussed the importance of irrigation to Utah when he said "I came in 1847 to Utah with the first ten wagons. All the country about Salt Lake and Ogden was then a wilderness without a break in it. How it was transformed everybody knows. We began to irrigate the country, and I learned irrigation, till now I think I know as much about it as nearly anybody that lives. Irrigation has done astonishing things for Utah, yet we have large areas of what are called dry lands and produce twenty bushels of wheat to the acres. "
We have a description of the early frontier homes that these pioneers built from Matilda Olson Sprague:
"We lived in a wagon box when we first came to Bingham’s Fort. In November, father built our first house between Harrisville and Five Points. He dug a hole in the ground, eight feet square, and then placed two logs on each side and put poles and willows and sod on top for a roof. A little window was at each end. When the snow came it covered our house until one could not see where we lived. We had to dig our way out in the winter. When spring came the melting snow ran into the dugout and we had to dip it out with pans. For furniture we had three wooden stools, a chest that made my bed, and some poles driven into the earth wall to make a bed for my parents. Father used to have to break a trail through six feet of snow in the winter when I went to school.” Sarah Dixon Walker described her first home in Ogden as follows:
“It was a humble little one-room dugout with one door and one window, a dirt floor and a dirt roof. The stovepipe chimney stood just above the surface of the ground. The furniture consisted of a stove, table, four chairs, one large bed and a trundle bed which was rolled under the large one during the daytime, and a large wooden spinning wheel about the size of a wagon wheel.”
Other pioneer journals describe living in their wagons before building homes. A description was left of Lorin Farr’s first house. This one built in 1850 had the advantage of floors made of sawed logs covered with rag rugs. All of the furniture was homemade, and each bed had a straw mattress and a feather tick.
The census of 1849-50 showed a population of 1,141. Of the twenty seven who died that year, eighteen died from cholera. Practically everybody farmed but only 200 were listed as farmers. Twenty were listed as blacksmiths, nineteen carpenters, ten tailors, eight masons, six school teachers, five coopers, shoemakers, sailors, merchants, three saddlers, millwrights and yeoman (gentlemen farmers who hired their work done). In addition two curriers, potters machinists, engineers, woodcarvers, dentists, cabinet makers, soap makers, dairy men, wheelwrights, printers, peddlers, bookbinders, bakers, artists, chair makers, tinners, butchers, soldiers, sail makers, stone cutters, and saddle tree maker.
Ogden continued to grow. In 1870 the population was 3,127, in 1880 it was 5,246 and in 1890 it had grown to 14,889 people.
Lorin Farr’s first home would be known as the East Farm. It was well built with good wooden floors of thick planks. Tables and chairs were made of home cut cedar and oak lumber. Nancy had made rag rugs for each room. The beds had fresh straw mats with selected feathers. The pillows for the most part had goose feathers. Soap, candles, shoes and other necessities were made by the Farr’s. They had learned their growing up years to make these needed articles. Nancy taught her children all the household arts.
While Lorin Farr supervised the building of his fort, Captain James Brown, the first Mormon Settler in Ogden, was building his fort (actually relocating it to higher ground to avoid flooding). There was a friendly rivalry between the two men as they worked. After the building of his fort, Brown, was accidentally killed by his coat being caught in cogs of the cane rollers in his molasses mill. It was a sad day for Lorin Farr to preside at his funeral.
Lorin Farr worked with the other settlers in building homes of log cabins, adobe huts, dugouts, sheds for stock. Often pans and buckets were scattered through their cabins to catch rain through the leaky roofs.
Farr’s Fort was built on approximately 5 acres of land where Monroe Blvd and Canyon Road now intersect. It was built one and a half miles northwest of the mouth of Ogden, Canyon, about a block north of the Ogden River. The five acres of land were closed in the fort by the houses, which were joined end to end, facing the inward square. The spaces between the cabins were stockaded with pickets placed deep into the ground and extending upward some twelve feet. The north wall of the fort was never completed. A school house and a store occupied a central place in the enclosure. The school house was 20 by 30 feet and served both as a school and a meeting house. During the Indian troubles of 1850-52, especially right after the killing of Chief Terikee, practically all the settlers on the north side of the Ogden River lived in the fort. After this period most of the settlers moved back to their farms or built homes down on the site of Ogden. Lorin built a new home on 21st Street and Washington Blvd. in 1853. By then Farr’s fort was completely abandoned. From this time forward the saints did not enclose themselves. The building population soon expanded to include the region of Farr’s Fort.
The log cabin doors in the fort were hung by leather or buckskin straps used for hinges. There were wooden latches for locks with a buckskin string extending through the door which hung on the outside to gain entrance to the cabin.
The first store operating in Ogden was established in 1850 by a Mr. De Vorsen. It was located inside Farr’s Fort in a one room log structure with a dirt floor and roof. Mr. De Vorsen, a ‘Gentile,’ exchanged horses and cattle for merchandise. When he had accumulated a small herd of animals he drove them to California and sold them.
Ezra Chase, John and Ambrose Shaw, Charles Hubbard, Jonathan Campbell and others helped Lorin Farr build the Farr Fort. Cabins were built end to end around its borders except on the north where Mill creek acted as a shield to others. The twelve foot poles in between the cabins, already mentioned, were tied together in a protective wall. Lorin Farr’s house, sheds and corrals occupied the south border while John, Ambrose, William Shaw, David Moore, Jonathan Campbell, Richard Berrett, the Montgomery Brothers, John Bybee, Charles Hubbard, George and Frederick Barker, Clinton Bronson, Amos Andrews, Francillo Durfee, David B. Dille, Moses Tracey and others occupied the outside border.
Right to the west of Farr’s Fort, near what is now Canyon Road, Lorin would supervise the building of a Saw Mill and Grist Mill in 1850, and later the Woolen Mill in 1867. Lorin Farr built the original grist mill with Charles Hubbard in the summer of 1850 after which he bought Mr. Hubbard out and ran the mill himself for several years before taking his brother Aaron into the business with him.
In August of 1850 Governor Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt and others came to visit Lorin Farr. After a good meal with the family they sat down to plot out the city of Ogden. There were many visits by the leaders to Ogden. Later Lorin Farr was asked what was the most interesting period of his life. He replied, ‘All of It.’ Then in reflection he replied more in depth to the question that it was, ‘the hours of association with the prophets of the Lord and the building of a city. The taking of a native land, where only wild animals and wild Indians have trod and make dreams come true in the building of a city for the good of friends and neighbors. That is real joy.”
Brigham Young, with others, formally laid out a city between the forks of the Ogden and Weber Rivers on the site selected by the President the year before. The new city was the continuation to the northeast of Brownsville and lay to the south of Mound Fort and southwest of Farr’s Fort. Brigham Young suggested they name it Ogden City in honor of the Hudson Bay trapper, Peter Skene Ogden and of the river on which it was located. This was recorded on January 31, 1850 with Governor Young signing a bill passed by the General Assembly of the State of Deseret giving the name of Ogden City in Weber County with the boundaries outlined. While laying out the city the Mormon leader suggested the people move from their forts to the city. They were to build substantial homes, school houses, a meeting house and other necessary buildings.
Early in 1851 Lorin Farr directed Henry Sherwood to survey the Ogden town site. From 1850 through 1870 and 1877 through 1878, Lorin Farr would serve as Mayor for, much of the time without pay. In 1854 William Dame and Jesse W. Fox completed more surveying in the town. The farming land was divided into blocks a half a mile wide and one mile in length. Streets ran north and south every mile and east and west every half mile. Each farm contained twenty acres, fronting the streets east and west. This survey covered an area approximately six miles square.
In the summer of 1851, Lorin Farr saw people were taking up choice spots of land at their pleasure throwing the county into confusion. So he engaged Surveyor-General Lemon to survey those portions adjacent the plat of Ogden City. Lemon, who died, was followed in this project by the aforementioned Dame and Fox.
When Lorin Farr received the appoint- ment from Brigham Young to serve as Ogden’s mayor (later confirmed by popular vote) he was given a right to the land in the city. He sold lots to city residents. He also traded land for what is now known as Lorin Farr Park. A Miles Jones bought land extending east of Jefferson Avenue and south of Canyon Road. Separated by two residences were the Jones and Farr Groves. These groves were used as picnic and playgrounds. Later Farr’s Grove was renamed Glenwood Park and a dancing pavilion was built. Many city celebrations along with the 4th and 24th of July celebrations were held in these groves.
A great proportion of immigration in 1850-51 was sent to Ogden by Brigham Young. Lorin Farr attended the State of Deseret formative meetings where Salt Lake was incorporated with Jedediah Grant as Mayor. The city was divided into four municipal wards. This established patterns for future cities in Utah revealing the New England influence on these western communities. On February 6, 1851 the State of Deseret incorporated Ogden, second only to Salt Lake. A city council was created to consist of a mayor, four aldermen and nine councilors. Lorin Farr was appointed mayor by Brigham Young and as mentioned served twenty two years in that office being re-elected every two years. Voting was very informal with the citizens gathering at some point within the city to elect the nominated officers. There was usually only one set of candidates who had been nominated by church authorities.
In the fall of 1853 acting on orders from Brigham Young, Bishop Erastus Bingham began the construction of what would be known as " Bingham’s Fort." Located north of 2nd Street and west of Washington Blvd., the fort extended westward along the Harrisville Road. The fort enclosed about 40 acres. Each family within the fort were assigned a certain portion of walls to build. Some completed the assignment, others did not. They did not have much lumber so mud, poles and willows comprised much of the construction. Wilford Woodruff wrote of preaching the 753 inhabitants of the fort in December of 1854. Finally in 1856 after the fear of Indian attack had lessened Brigham Young recommended moving into Ogden City to help build that up. In 1855 the city council passed an ordinance providing for a wall six feet wide and eight feet high to be built around the Ogden City area within what is now Madison and Wall Avenues and 21st and 28th Streets. Wall Avenue received its name from the west wall of the fort. The building of this fort cost the citizens about $40,000 and made a big impression on the Indians. The fort was never completed and the need faded for it as the Indians calmed down.
In 1853 Lorin Farr completed a new house located on the southeast corner of 21st Street and Washington, which contained twenty one rooms. It was a two story building with a large basement and furnished with homemade articles. As the people achieved greater prosperity houses were being built of lumber, brick, rock and concrete replacing the older adobe homes. Most of the houses were planned and built by Shadrach Jones. Jones and his father, expert masons from Wales, constructed the most beautiful homes of early Ogden.
The pioneer housewives had to be resourceful in furnishing their homes of varied structure. A very useful plant found abundantly in Ogden was the "cat tail." It is a tall growing marsh reed which fluffs into a down substance from which the women made mattresses and pillows. They would fill their "ticks" with this substance and it was said that the resulting mattresses were as soft as feathers. Ticks filled with straw were probably the most common bedding used, but corn husks were also used. An ideal sleeping arrangement was a cat tail tick on top of mattresses made with straw or corn husks. When enough chicken or goose feathers were accumulated they made husks. When enough chicken or goose feathers were accumulated, they made even better beds.
These industrious people made their own soap from lye. Lye was made from wood ashes placed in a frame called a leach. A leach was made by putting four posts into the ground in the shape of a rectangle. A trough was built through the rectangle with the lower end projecting out to drip into a bucket. The trough was half filled with straw and wood ashes places over the straw. Then water was poured over the mixture to drain through the straw into the bucket. This water was heavily laced with lye. Another method was to place several days savings of ashes in a barrel to which water was added. After repeated stirring and skimming, waste ashes settled to the bottom. Then the clear lye water was ready for use. For months the housekeeper would save all their fat trimmings from their meals. Then the lye water was heated and the fat added to the mixture. The contents were cooked in a kettle for several hours until the skilled soap makers found the mixture firm and white. Then the mixture was poured into tubs to cool and harden. Often mint, lavender, dried rose petals or some herbs were added for a more appealing aroma. This was necessary as Lorin Farr in his early days in Vermont had described the vile odor coming from the grayish colored soap mixture and wondered how such awful stuff could get clothes so clean and good smelling. Homemade matches were produced by cutting box elder wood into small flat strips dipped into melted sulphur. The earliest homes were lighted with a rag placed in a dish of fat. These were called, ‘bitches.’ Candle wicking or string was looped over a stick and used double for the candles. Tallow, usually mutton tallow, were heated in a deep receptacle, after which the wicks were dipped in and hung over a tub to cool. Several dozen candles could be made in one day. The wicks were dipped several times, then cooled until the right size was obtained.
The ladies also made starch by grating potatoes, placing the grated pulp in a tub of cold water and then stirring vigorously until the starch separated from the pulp. After the starch dried it was broken into pieces and placed in containers for household use. Starch was also obtained from grated corn. The resultant product was used for starching clothes, making puddings and sauces, as a powder for babies and young girls.
The father of the household or a carpenter made the household utensils from wood. Butter bowls, flax wheels, reels, churns, cheese pressers, butter ladles, milk bowls, dish pans, straw splitters and rollers, food choppers, knife and fork boxes, comb cases, spinning wheels, knitting needles, carding combs, potato mashers, rolling pins, ironing boards, breadboards, napkin rings, walking canes, musical instruments, washboards, buckets, tubs and barrels were produced. Knives and forks were even made from wood. Tin was a good substitute when obtainable. Candleholders, candle molds, plates, cups, dippers, biscuit cutters, night lamps, and lanterns were made. Often tin was obtained from wagon trains going through to California. The industrious fishermen made fish hooks out of wire, braided fiber for line and used a rock for a sinker. Those lucky enough to be skilled in fly fishing could find success in this technique to catch trout. Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the church, found early success as a boy in Hartford, Conn. He carried a fishing rod from his earliest recollections. He reported catching trout in the Provo River weighing up to 40 pounds. President Woodruff reported success in learning to fly fish with Father Richard Smithies on the River Ribble in England. Smithies was renowned as a top fly fisherman. In the July 1847 crossing of the plains Wilford reported hooking up his fly rod and reel that he had purchased in England to fish some trout streams near Fort Bridger. He reported taking twelve beauties while those fishing with grasshoppers and other meat bait failed to catch any. He recorded later experience in having much success with the fly on various streams in Utah. Fly fishing would become an avid past time for many Utahns, including various settlers in Ogden. They would have no concept of limits catching hundreds of fish when given the opportunity.