Utah Pioneer Stories

Pioneer Dugout Monument

Mormon pioneers arrived in November of 1849. They had barely arrived when a winter storm began its furry. They dug holes in the mountain for shelter.

Settling Sanpete Valley

Dugout

In the spring of 1849, Brigham Young was approached by Chief Walker of the Ute Indian tribe. He requested that Brigham Young send white settlers to his Valley of the Sanpitch to teach the Indians how to plant and grow crops and how to build homes like the white men had.

After much thought and prayer Brigham Young sent Parley P. Pratt to lead a group of explorers to the area to see if it would be a good place for pioneers to settle. Parley’s report to Brigham was positive and soon a group of 50 pioneer families were on their way to this beautiful valley to begin settling in.

The group of pioneers arrived in November of 1849. They had barely arrived when a winter storm began its furry. The valley became covered in several feet of snow. Their wagons were not the best protection from the wind and cold so they began to build shelters in the side of the mountain, which is now known as Temple Hill. They dug holes in the mountain and placed logs to support the roof. The front side was built with logs and mud with a door or blanket to block out the wind. A fireplace was built inside which helped keep them warm. These homes were crude but much better than living in the wagons, and the south facing hill helped protect them from the severe north winds.

The winter was horrible. The Indians said it was the worst winter in decades. Only half of the cattle that the pioneers brought survived that winter. The dead cattle were given to the starving Indians which made for good relations between the Indians and the pioneers. As the Indians were camped only about a mile away it was important to have good feelings between them.

Spirits rose as the winter slowly melted away bringing warmer days and nights and thoughts of the summer which was to come. However, their trials were to continue. The warmer days began to awaken the sleeping rattlesnakes that had taken refuge in the same mountain that the pioneers had built their dugouts in. Soon hundreds of hissing rattlesnakes appeared in the dugouts. They were everywhere! As the sun began to go down the snakes became more plentiful and the battle was on. The settlers armed themselves with clubs, torches and anything else that they could use as a weapon against hundreds of snakes. The settlers killed more than three hundred snakes before morning. It was a miracle that no one was bitten.

These brave pioneers faced more trials in Sanpete Valley as they survived two Indian Wars, insects, lack of water and illness. But they endured and soon Sanpete Valley was in full bloom from north to south and east to west. The pioneers spread throughout the county as new immigrants arrived from Sweden and Denmark. They came with talented craftsmen whose workmanship can still be seen in Sanpete County today.

Much has happened since the winter of 1849. Sanpete County now has many beautiful cities, tourist attractions, farming and industry. It is a beautiful and quiet place to live and to visit.

Sanpete County is a winter paradise for snowmobilers, snowboarders, snow kiters and skiers. In the summer it offers beautiful lakes, swimming, and fishing, camping and boating. Much is owed to the brave and stalwart pioneers who settled Sanpete County in Utah’s heartland. (Some details taken from “The Other 49’ers” by Albert C. T. Antrei and Ruth D. Scow)