The Founders of Holladay: A Historical
(Author: Jay M. Todd)
The story of the families and individuals who first founded Holladay and gave to it the village character that still prevails today is a very complex one and in some ways can best be seen as a five-year odyssey stretching from 1846 to 1831. The very name of Holladay is rooted in the more panoramic story connected to its namesake - South Carolinian John D. Holladay, who in the early 1820s transplanted his young wife, Catherine, to Alabama, where years later they and others nearby met missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and decided to alter the course of their lives by linking themselves with the Mormons. For it was John D. Holladay who, as a captain of 10 LDS Utah pioneers in 1847, by lot "drew . . . a high bench" location "six miles southeast" of Great Salt Lake City. Subsequently he "asked permission . . . to locate three miles further south at a large spring" tributary known as Spring Creek, the historical geographical center of the village of Holladay.1
LDS missionaries arrived in the Southern states at least as early as 1839. By 1843 there were hundreds of Latter-day Saints, including some black converts, located in adjoining counties - northeast Monroe County in Mississippi and northwest Marion County in Alabama. But it is following the martyrdom of LDS Church prophet Joseph Smith in 1844 at Carthage, Illinois, and the subsequent decision of Church leaders to find peace and safety by migrating to the Great Basin mountains that the story of Holladay comes into tighter focus. In LDS Church headquarters at Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1843 was living 25-year-old John Brown, a gifted Tennessean leader-to-be and former Church missionary to the South who had married in 1843 the daughter of a Mississippi member. Thus, in anticipation that the Camp of Israel - the name Church leaders gave to their massive migration westward of thousands of Latter-day Saints - soon would be on the westward move, John Brown was assigned in January 1846 to return to the Mississippi-Alabama area to gather members there, then to head northwestward with them and look to join up on the Platte River with the rest of migrating Church members.
In late March 1846 the John Holladay family, along with some other Alabamans, had settled their affairs and left their homes. They were soon joined by some Mississippians (who departed April 8), making a company of "some sixty persons"2 who together under John Brown began a trek that was destined to become one of the longest (perhaps even the longest) wagon-traveled pioneer group-treks in LDS Church history. Their actual trail mileage to Great Salt Lake City likely exceeded 2,600 miles, sufficient to span the entire width of the United States. Many - probably most - of the first-year founders of Holladay were among this historic group.
By May 26 they were at Independence, Missouri, the jumping-off point for both the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. Here their party was enlarged by at least 16, most of them relatives to some already in the company. Also here at Independence, the company, now of about 80 persons, organized themselves, a person in the group leadership reflecting each of the three basic parties: William Crosby from Mississippi was selected captain, with Robert Crow of Illinois and John D. Holladay from Alabama as counselors. Then onward they trundled, reaching today's Grand Island, Nebraska, in mid-June and expecting to either meet or follow Brigham Young and other Church members westward. But unknown to the group, they were already 170 miles farther west than Brigham Young, who with Church leaders had decided to delay by one year the Mormon pioneer trek and establish for the many future thousands of oncoming LDS pioneers a major outfitting locale at today's Nebraska-Iowa border (called Winter Quarters on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River and Council Bluffs on the Iowa side). Thus, at Grand Island the group that came to be known as the "Mississippi Company' or "Mississippi Saints" made a major decision that again would assure their place in history. Thinking that Brigham Young and the others must be ahead of them, they decided to press farther westward. Meanwhile, back at Winter Quarters the Church also was making a major decision that would soon impact the Mississippi Company - and that would determine who would be some of the other early settlers of Holladay.
The years 1846-48 are important in U.S. history because of the Mexican War, the treaty of which greatly enlarged the geography of the nation and placed what would become Utah within the United States six months after the arrival of the July 1847 pioneers. In June 1846 the war was under way. In response to entreaties made by representatives of the LDS Church for work projects the Mormons might do to help finance their way west, U.S. president James K. Polk authorized the formation of a U.S. Army unit soon to be named the Mormon Battalion. At its July 16 inception, the Battalion had about 300 one-year-enlisted Mormon men accompanied by at least 80 women and children, the women to help as laundresses and in other such ways. Within a year, the Battalion would march southwesterly from Kansas to the Pacific Ocean, blazing in a number of places new wagon trails in one of history's longest infantry marches. Before that happy ending, however, the destinies of the Mississippi Company and a significant number of the Mormon Battalion would coalesce.
By early July the Mississippi Company had pressed 330 more miles westward and had reached Fort Laramie, Wyoming. They met oncoming travelers from the West who told them the sad news that Brigham Young and the Mormons were not farther westward. The Mississippi Company was already 320 miles and a year ahead of the LDS pioneers back at Winter Quarters. But without sure knowledge of where Brigham Young would settle and not wanting to forge alone into the Rocky Mountains, the Mississippi Company accepted a mountain mans suggestion and on July 10 headed with him southward some 280 miles to today's Pueblo, Colorado, located on the eastern side of the Rockies where the winters were warmer and corn and food supply for man and animal were available. To help us put simultaneous activity in mind, six days later, on July 16, the Mormon Battalion departed from Council Bluffs, Iowa, heading for its unknown future rendezvous with the Mississippi Company.
Meanwhile, upon reaching Pueblo on August 7, the Mississippi Company found a small trading post and was met by six to eight mountaineers and their Indian, Spanish, or Mexican wives. Perhaps as many as 13 mountain men and their families may have headquartered in Pueblo at the time. In exchange for supplies, the future Holladay settlers immediately set to work, helping the trader-trappers strengthen their 60-yard-square mud fort by building some cabins that with others were further positioned to resemble a fort. About a half mile away apparently, the Mississippi Company built on the south side of the Arkansas River a row of cabins for themselves and planted some turnips, pumpkins, and melons. However, seeing that the rest of the Mississippi Company was secure and knowing the group would need to stay the winter before learning what next to do, seven of the men - including John Brown, their captain William Crosby, and 20-year-old Alabaman John D. Holladay Jr. - left on September 1 to take the Santa Fe Trail to Independence and thence back to their Southern U.S. homes, intending to bring west next year additional relatives and Church members.
Their homeward journey was providential, for as they traveled, on September 12 they were surprised to meet the Mormon Battalion, some of whose enlisted soldiers had become ill during the arduous military march to the Southwest and were too weak to be of military aid. These soldiers, as well as a large number of the women, some of whom had younger children with them, had become an encumbrance to the Battalion. When Battalion leaders learned that some 273 miles westward at Pueblo the already established Mississippi Company was wintering, the news was as a godsend. Within four days the first of ultimately four different groups from three detachments and most of the women and children were escorted to Pueblo over a period of several months, where the Mississippi Company took them in to nurture and care for the ill among them. No one knows what would have been the outcome for those in need had there not been the Mississippi Company and its future Holladay settlers so fortuitously located.
More rows of cabins were built, including cabins between the Mississippi Saints' cabins so that only back and front sides and roofs would need to be built to form new cabins. Also built was a small church for worship as well as for socials held two to three times weekly. By mid-January, when the last of the sick Battalion members arrived, the Pueblo LDS contingent had soared to around 300 - including 134 soldiers and nearly all of the women and children accompanying the Battalion. During the fall and winter of 1846 and the following spring, life and all its vital statistics unfolded - at least nine deaths, seven births, and three marriages. Also, because Fort Bent was within two days' riding distance, the Battalion members could obtain military provisions while a few people of the Mississippi Company secured temporary work there. Further, the Mississippi Company at last had learned where Brigham Young and the rest of Church members were - and mail exchanges occurred between Battalion members and Church leaders back at Winter Quarters. As a result, the Mississippi Company learned that Brigham Young would head west in early spring 1847 and that they were to intercept him at Fort Laramie as his famous vanguard company headed west.
Meanwhile, under the circumstances, the wintering went fairly well for many of the enlarged Pueblo contingent. Of importance to the story of Holladay, however, is the bonding together of the two LDS groups in Pueblo. Thus, when there came an opportunity in Great Salt Lake City for some of them to work together to settle the area of Holladay, they took it.
Now, to see one of the ironies of history and how it related to the future Holladay settlers when they journeyed to the Great Basin, turn in mind to John Brown and the six others of the Mississippi Company who left Pueblo on September 1, 1846, and met the Mormon Battalion, which in turn brought about the large LDS 1846-47 wintering group in Pueblo. John Brown arrived back in Monroe County, Mississippi, on October 29, 1846. But while he and those who returned with him prepared to leave with others the next spring, instruction came from Church leaders in Winter Quarters for members still in the South to wait one more year - until 1848 - to come west. Further, there was instruction for them to send some able-bodied men to join Brigham Young's company the coming spring of 1847. Chosen to go was John Brown and five others - four of whom were slaves.
Thus, on January 10, 1847, John Brown again left Mississippi, this time with a small group quickly heading for Winter Quarters in hopes they would arrive in time to join Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneer company that would enter the Great Basin. The Southerners arrived in time, and four of them joined the vanguard group: John Brown, David Powell, and two of the slaves who had been sent to pioneer - Oscar Crosby and Hark Lay. Indeed, Brigham Young's 1847 company had three black men - all three of whom were associated with the Mississippi Mormons. Two of them were Latter-day Saints at the time, and the third joined the LDS Church some years later.
On April 5, 1847, the famous 148-member vanguard company started to move out. Somewhat simultaneously, 800 trail miles away in Pueblo, there left in the latter half of April an early group of 17 persons from the Mississippi Company, heading back up to Fort Laramie to meet Brigham Young. They arrived in mid-May and waited two weeks before they welcomed Brigham Young to the West and joined that famous pioneer company. At that joyful 1847 Fort Laramie reunion was the Mississippi Company's gatherer and guide of the previous year - the same John Brown who with six others had left Pueblo and had met the Mormon Battalion on the way home to Mississippi-Alabama and then John Brown had raced up to Winter Quarters to join Brigham Young's company. This was John Brown's second visit to Fort Laramie in less than a year, as it was for all others of the Mississippi Company who had wintered in Pueblo. A second group from Pueblo, the rest of the Mississippi Company and those of the Battalion, left Pueblo in May several weeks after the first departing Pueblo group and followed within several days Brigham Young's advance company all the way into Salt Lake Valley.
So it was that a portion of the Mississippi Company accompanied Brigham Young's vanguard company into the Great Salt Lake Valley. Indeed, it was Elder Orson Pratt (an Apostle of the LDS Church traveling with the vanguard company) and John Brown of the Mississippi Company who on July 19, 1847, climbed Big Mountain some 10 miles east of Salt Lake Valley and first saw a glimpse of the valley. By this time the pioneer company had broken into several groups because of the illness of Brigham Young, who was trying to recover and moving slowly. As a result, that first group from the Mississippi Company who had left Pueblo early and who had arrived at Fort Laramie two weeks before Brigham Young, entered the Great Salt Lake Valley on July 22, as well as most others of Brigham Young's company, and immediately set to work plowing and planting after they had dedicated the land in prayer. Two days later, on July 24, Brigham Young arrived. On a "very stormy" July 29, only five days after Brigham Young declared, "This is the right place, drive on," the second Mississippi Company from Pueblo and their Mormon Battalion friends crisscrossed "badly swollen . . . streams all day" and entered the valley.3 They were the second LDS pioneer group to enter Utah, making it fitting that from among them would be established the second Utah pioneer town: Holladay.
Within one week the valley was explored in general terms. However, the first item of business for all was to establish a headquarters and to make preparations to survive in the valley. A fort and log cabins were soon built near today's downtown Salt Lake City. But within one month, on August 26, Brigham Young and about 70 men from the original vanguard company who had entered the valley left to make their way back to Winter Quarters to bring many more people west the next year. Among them was John Brown. As Brigham Young, John Brown, and the others journeyed eastward to Winter Quarters, they met what is known as the "Big Company," about 1,500 Church members who had been assigned to depart two months after Brigham Young's company. The Big Company arrived in Salt Lake Valley in September and October 1847. With it were some additional Southerners and friends who would link themselves with Holladay and the adjacent land south of Big Cottonwood Creek. The pioneer group in Salt Lake Valley now was quite significant in size, and as fall moved on it was timely for considerations of spreading out. Thus, after this all-too-brief look at background events, we come to the point in the story when Holladay will be settled. It has been a journey to discover the significant, if not heroic, achievements of those who first settled Holladay and to place their story in a context.
Reportedly sometime in the fall of 1847, the very first Holladay settlers-to-be came to Holladay and planned a community. One member of that group was William Decatur Kartchner, born in Pennsylvania and later a resident of Illinois. Along with his wife, he was one of the 16 persons who joined that 1846 Mississippi Company at Independence, Missouri, before they journeyed to Fort Laramie and then on to Pueblo for the winter. His account was written sometime later and expresses several concepts without a great concern to identify tight time periods. Even so, it is the most detailed known account of how Holladay came to be. After arriving in Great Salt Lake Valley on July 29, 1847, "we were directed to build a fort surrounding ten acres of land," Kartchner wrote. "We ploughed a narrow strip outside of the line designed for the wall and turned on the water and tromped it with the oxen and made adobes and built the outside wall very thick with occasional portholes. We drew our lots or space inside to build our homes." 4
All of this is about Great Salt Lake City (the name was later shortened to Salt Lake City). After more description of events, he says: "Spring arrived, we were to farm as we had traveled, by tens, fifties, and hundreds. The land our ten drew was on a high bench six miles southeast of the city and our captain, John Holladay Sr. He asked permission from his captain to locate three miles further south at a large spring. It was granted, and soon we moved out there, built a row of small houses and fenced a field." 5
This key account by one who was in the original 10 families is highly significant and lets us know that different nearby locations were selected for settlement through drawing lots. Further, we learn that John D. Holladay was asked to head 10 families and that he drew a location about three miles north of present Holladay, but also that, likely upon further examination of the locale, permission was requested to settle three miles farther south along what they would call Spring Creek. Kartchner's account does not rule out at all a fall 1847 site selection and community planning that are so prevalent in many later reports.
The next issue focuses on the riddle of who were those very first 10 families who came out to Holladay to examine their Spring Creek locale. There are two plausible answers: (1) the original group was confined completely to the Mississippi Saints; (2) the group would be those families who would want to join with John Holladay - fellow Alabamans and Mississippians, and if there were more families needed to obtain 10 families, they most likely would come from their circle of Mormon Battalion friends.
An examination of additional information relative to the first answer will now be helpful. Let us focus carefully on critical phrases of William Kartchner's text: "We were to farm as we traveled, by ten's, fifties, and hundreds. The land our ten drew . ..; our captain [was] John Holladay, Sr. . . . ; we moved out there, built a row of small houses and fenced a field" (emphasis added).
Assuming that the group of 10 would be from the group that traveled together, the question is, with whom did William Kartchner and John Holladay travel? The answer is, with other members of the Mississippi Company. Indeed, en route to Fort Laramie and Salt Lake City from Pueblo, the second or main group of Mississippi Saints traveled as a unit, and the Mormon Battalion detachment accompanying them - befitting their military appointment and nature - traveled in their military units, albeit the two groups journeyed somewhat together.
A further account is now most helpful. There is an important entry in the Journal History of the Church in the LDS Church's Historical Department that is central to the discussion. The Journal History is a compilation of news reports, journal entries, and other information that applies to each day in Church history and is grouped together under each specific day for each year. Under the day of July 29, 1847, the day the Mississippi Saints and the Pueblo Mormon Battalion detachments entered Salt Lake Valley, is a list by M. J. Shelton naming the Mormon Battalion members who entered the valley that day. In his account, which was written sometime later, he also lists at its end 11 families from the company of Mississippi Saints who entered the valley with the Battalion that day (his spelling is retained): "Wm. Smithson and family, Alien Smithson and family, James Harmon, wife and daughter, W. D. Kartchner, wife and child, John Holiday and family, ___ Gibson and family, Porter Dowdle and family, ___ Roberts and family, George Sparks and family, Wm. Mathews and family, [and] Benjamin Mathews and family." 6
Note that 11 families are identified. The reference to 10 families by William Kartchner who came out to Spring Creek could mean a precise figure of 10 or an approximation referring to all 11 families of the Mississippi Saints who together traveled from Pueblo to Salt Lake City. Either way, it is very probable that these are the actual names of the original and very first pioneers of Holladay, the persons who reportedly came out to the site in the fall of 1847 to examine their location, planned their village, and either specifically or generally plotted their individual home and farm sites. The entire group would be from the company known as the Mississippi Saints. Accordingly, it would be two or three men from the Mississippi Saints who reportedly spent the 1847-48 winter in dugouts near Spring Creek, which action further strengthens Holladays linchpin claim to being Utah's second pioneer-founded community.
Important for understanding the story of Holladay is the fact from Kartchner's account that Holladay exists where it does - instead of one mile this or that way - because of where Spring Creek flowed. The settlers wanted to be near the creek, which was much larger then than it is now and which could be fairly easily tamed for irrigation. Further, when it came time the next spring in 1848 to implement their plans, they duplicated their Pueblo experience and built a row of small houses, a fact sustained by all early reports about the first Holladay settlement. Their experiences in Pueblo, as well as early on in Salt Lake City, persuaded the group led by John Holladay to form a small, cohesive village. It was that early action by John D. Holladay and his group, in harmony with wanting to be close to Spring Creek, that stamped the village character upon Holladay that has endured for over 150 years.
Let us now focus on the second possible answer - that the original pioneers were those families who would want to group themselves with John Holladay - fellow Alabamans, Mississippians, and perhaps friends from the Mormon Battalion. This possibility may well hinge upon better understanding the sequence of events that likely began to unfold in the late winter or early spring of 1848, when the actual homesteading families arrived as a group to their preplanned village on Spring Creek. For tradition has it that the first Holladay cabins that went up that spring were built by William H. Walker - one of the Mormon Battalion men who had wintered in Pueblo with the Mississippi Saints - and by his brother-in-law Aaron F. Farr.
A likely solution to the riddle is that both answers are correct. That is, it is likely that it was the families of the Mississippi Saints, specifically those who traveled with John Holladay to Salt Lake City from Pueblo, who grouped themselves together and came out to Holladay in the fall of 1847 and planned a community. Therefore, it would be from among them whence came the two or three men who wintered in Holladay (or who traded off wintering here), doing preparatory work on-site. However, inasmuch as the site seemed promising, other families - Mormon Battalion friends as well as others - may have asked to be associated with the group and were granted approval to link themselves with John Holladay, further enlarging the numbers by the time the homesteading group actually came out to Holladay in the spring of 1848. Such action easily would have been approved by Church leadership overseeing valley settlement. After all, the Mississippi Company and their Battalion friends had proved at Pueblo that they could survive and found a community. Trust in their ability was already established, and there would be little concern by leaders that the group could not succeed again.
Consequently, once the southeast valley settlement was established, the location was soon called Holladays Burgh after its founding captain (though the name was spelled in a variety of ways). Soon, however, another name began to be associated with the locale. Because so many of the core group there were from the Mississippi Company, the area was early on called the Mississippi Ward, and in a lay LDS Church leadership role John D. Holladay was appointed presiding elder over the growing number of already-bonded Southerners and their Battalion friends, as well as others who had joined with them.
For our understanding, it is helpful to know that the area on both sides of Big Cottonwood Creek was identified in the beginning as part of a general area known as Big Cottonwood - and in fact would next be named the Big Cottonwood Ward. Yet, inasmuch as there were two powerful creeks of similar name - Big Cottonwood Creek and, five miles farther south, Little Cottonwood Creek - the whole area between them was called from the beginning "the Cottonwoods." Thus, the term "Cottonwood" or "the Cottonwoods" was used to refer generically to almost anything within that big space as well as specifically to an area stretching several miles south of Big Cottonwood Creek. But in this whole geographical area, it was the concept of a tightly compacted village built on Spring Creek in the spring of 1848 that formed the "town-ness" of Holladay. Elsewhere settlers spread out and took advantage of the abundant land for settling and establishing their farms.
But what was that first 1848 spring and summer like in Holladay for those intrepid settlers? William Kartchner's account is very telling and interesting:
"My rheumatism had now settled in my ankles and feet and I stood on my knees to do the ditching, my portion of that fence. During this time our breadstuff gave out. We had our last ox killed, an old favorite of mine. I could not kill it myself, it would be like killing one of my family, so my neighbor John Sparks, saw my predicament and went and killed him, saying to me, 'You had better skin that ox, for he is dead.' It was very poor beef but was very good boiled with thistle roots I gathered daily. Our last bread was of a bushel of wheat I bought from our beloved Brother Parley P. Pratt, Sr., who had refused a ten dollar gold piece, and took one ton of hay from me for it. We could obtain no more for love or money. I went to town [Salt Lake City] and bought four pounds of flour at 50 cents per pound for our little girl, our only child. . . .
"In March was a very pleasant spell of winter. On the tenth William Matthews planted his corn and urged me to plant my morsel of seed; but as our next years bread depended on the good use made of the few kernels of corn I had, I waited. A cold spell of weather set in in April and Mr. Matthews seed corn rotted in the ground, but he had other seed to plant a second time. A third time he replanted the same patch and he was put out with my slow actions. My corn ground was ploughed and ready waiting one month and on the 10th of May I planted the long saved seed. It soon sprouted and came up to a hill. It grew finally and to my surprise began to shoot near the ground as I never saw Spanish corn grow before and had from six to eight ears to the hill and we had sufficient bread for three families.
"One lovely morning, latter part of June 1848, our captain, Brother Holladay, came to me holding a quarter of a skillet loaf of bread in his hand, eating at the same time of it, and said, 'Brother William, what under heavens are we to do for bread?' I told him to cheer up and pointing to a green piece of wheat said, 'There is bread.' At that time I had not tasted of bread or any substance of grain for nearly two months. I often visited the patch of wheat and as soon as it would rub out, I had the greatest feast I ever had on any occasion. The appetite was so sharpened for bread." 7
Incidentally, all names referenced by Kartchner, except Parley Pratt-who was not living in Holladay-are from the Mississippi Saints.
The first year of settling Holladay was not over, however. More Southerners were soon to arrive. Recall that a year earlier, in August 1847, Brigham Young and about 70 other men returned to Winter Quarters to bring yet many more LDS pioneers westward. Recall that with them was John Brown. But on reaching Winter Quarters, John Brown rested only briefly before he hurried all the way to Mississippi, the second time in 1847 he would be there, where he soon would lead north families of the men who had left Pueblo with him in September 1846, as well as the other Southerners who had been told to wait a year, until the spring of 1848, to come west.
It is now in the Holladay story that another factor came into play and further describes something about part of early Holladay. On March 10, 1848, the well-traveled John Brown left Mississippi, this time with a caravan of 54 people - 30 whites and 24 black servants - and headed to Winter Quarters, where he was joined by still others already there from Mississippi to form a group of 91 Southerners: 57 whites and 34 black servants. With many others they soon left Winter Quarters; the bulk of their group is said to have arrived in Salt Lake City on October 16. The next day they went to Holladay and south of Big Cottonwood Creek in the enlarged Cottonwood area to unite with family and friends. For the family of John D. Holladay Sr., it had been more than two years since they had seen their son, John D. Holladay Jr., who had left Pueblo in September 1846 with the group that had providentially met the Mormon Battalion. Reunions for a number of other families similarly affected were very joyful - including that of the William Crosby family, whose black servant, Oscar Crosby, had crossed the plains with John Brown in 1847 and had become part of the original Brigham Young vanguard company. Oscar and another black servant, Green Flake (slaves often took the last name of their masters), had been sent west in 1847 to help pioneer but also to remain in the valley and build a home and farm for their masters, who when they now arrived in October 1848 found their servants had been totally honorable in their assignments and had built log cabins in the Cottonwood area.
As much as anything else, the fall of 1848 infusion of more Southern relatives and friends caused the so-called Holladay expansion and relocation in the spring of 1849. In fact, associated with the 1848 trek from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City was Elder Amasa M. Lyman of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Very impressed with the Southerners, he took the lead in obtaining a mile square tract of land south of Big Cottonwood Creek, between the two Cottonwood creeks, and had it divided into 10-acre lots. Consequently, the square-mile area was called the "Amasa Survey."
Among the Southerners who went to the "Amasa Survey" was William Crosby, who had been selected captain back in Independence in 1846 when the first Mississippi Company was making its historic trek to Laramie and thence to Pueblo. (Recall that he was among those men who had returned home to get more family but had been instructed to wait one year before coming west.) Not surprisingly, therefore, William Crosby was soon appointed as the ecclesiastical leader for the area generally south of Big Cottonwood Creek, a natural northern dividing line because it was often hard to cross at various times of the year. This appointment of Mississippian William Crosby from among a number of other Southerners points to a reason so many Southerners grouped themselves both at Holladay and south of Big Cottonwood Creek between the two big creeks. A considerable number of the Southerners were intertwined as kin, and they shared a cultural background that included having servants, a number of whom had been brought west with them. Not only for their own sociality did the Southerners want to live not too distant from each other, but also for the sociality among their servants.
The history of slavery in the United States is complicated, as any student of history knows. By the U.S. Congressional Compromise of 1850, the Utah territory was a legal area for slavery, and California a free area. With LDS missionary work among Southerners, it was inevitable that some members coming west would bring their servants. In fact, quite a number of Southern LDS converts who owned slaves freed them as a consequence of their new faith. Others thought not to do so. Still others gave their servants a choice to accompany them or to stay in the South. Because of the concentration of Mississippians, Alabamans, and others from slave-holding states in the southeastern valley locale of Holladay and the Cottonwoods, this general area accommodated settlers who owned slaves.
Now, as a result of the fall of 1848 infusion of new residents, the first
settlers of Holladay who did not move in 1849 and those who relocated nearby
felt a stronger sense of community and deepened their roots. Indeed, for the
two years of 1849-50 they did just that, and the story could well close here.
But there remains one additional fascinating chapter to unfold - that of the
1851 departure of most of the Mississippi Company and other Southern friends
and their attendant servants to California where they pioneered in founding
In late 1850, Holladay and the Amasa Survey area south of Big Cottonwood Creek were all abuzz. Wrote William Kartchner: "The winter of 1850, a project was set on foot by some of the Church authorities to plant a colony in southern California. . . . The winter was spent in preparing to start on the 13th of March, 1851." 8
In the beginning, LDS Church leaders envisioned a very big state stretching over much of the Great Basin. Further, in February 1851 they concluded to send a group of LDS pioneers to establish a stronghold in California. Consequently, a large tract of 80,000 to 100,000 acres was purchased. Its LDS residents, in part, were to greet and help propel to Utah incoming LDS converts who sailed to California as their entry point to the West.
The promise of a warmer climate interested many Southerners - including John
D. Holladay and William Crosby, the two Southern ecclesiastical leaders who
presided over the two groups in Holladay and the Cottonwood areas. By spring
1851, many Southerners and others were again wagon trekking some 700 miles
to San Bernardino, where they once more made history. In the same manner as
it had occurred in Holladay-Cottonwood, the Southerners took to California
"their courtly manners, their independent ways, and their spirit of enterprise.
Marvelous frontiersmen, resourceful colonizers, and shrewd traders, most [of
these Southerners] were ultimately called to lead Mormon colonies to other
areas of the West. . . . They and their wives also introduced a certain chivalry
and elegance into the social life of their communities." 9
Because California was a slave-free state, the slaves of the Southerners who settled there were freed, and many stayed there. One black woman, a daughter of two servants who went to California, ended up teaching school to white children in Riverside "and may well have been the first black to teach at a white school in the United States." l0
Thus, wherever they went, the Mississippi Company and fellow Southerners made history. "Intelligent and resourceful, [the] southern women accomplished miracles in establishing homes and rearing their families. . . . Mostly small landowners, stockmen, and frontiersmen, [the men] had already demonstrated . . . their hardiness, [and] became Brigham Youngs trusted associates in managing men and resources for the development of Mormon settlements. Although they became westerners, they retained their mellow Southern drawl and exhibited the hospitality to which Southerners have always been famed." 11
By summer 1851 most of those Southerners who had settled Holladay were now gone and would never return to live in their former village by Spring Creek. But while here they molded a sense of community that has survived for a century and a half and remains memorialized today by the name of their first local leader, John D. Holladay.
1. Our Pioneer Heritage, by Kate B. Carter, 1959, 2:443.
2. "The Mississippi Saints," by William E. Parrish, in The Historian: A Journal of History, 50:489 (August 1988), p. 494.
3. Women of the Mormon Battalion, comp. Carl V. Larson and Shirley N. Maynes, 1995, pp. 89-90.
4. Carter, 2:443.
6. Journal History, July 29, 1847, p. 7, LDS Church Historical Department.
7. Carter, 2:443-44; for purposes of appreciating chronology, the above last two paragraphs of Kartchner's account have been reversed.
8. Ibid., 2:444-45.
9. "Mississippi Mormons," by Leonard J. Arrington, Ensign, June 1977, p. 46.
Sources of Information
For the benefit of those who may wish to read more on the story of Holladay or may wish to probe and extend further our understanding regarding aspects of Holladay's history, I note the following as sources that were useful to me.
For pre-settlement background as well as some settlement history:
1. "The Mississippi Saints," by William E. Parrish, in The Historian:
A Journal of History, 50:489 (August 1988). This article is from a Presidential
Address of Phi Alpha Theta, delivered in Washington, D.C., December 28, 1987,
and is of great significance in updating out-of-date "facts."
2. Excerpts from the personal history of John Daniel Holladay, Jr. in the LDS Church Historical Department, and some excerpts in the Utah State Historical Society; see also the short history by the Holladay family on Catherine Beasley Higgins Holladay, wife of John D. Holladay, Sr., in both above locations.
3. Indispensable are the volumes in Kate B. Carter's series Our Pioneer Heritage, by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. See chapters titled "Mississippi Saints," 2:421; "The First Company to Enter Salt Lake Valley," 2:477; "The Negro Pioneer," 8:497; "The Mormons in San Bernardino," 4:365.
4. "The Mormon Settlement at Pueblo, Colorado, During the Mexican War," by LeRoy R. Hafen, in Colorado Magazine, Vol. 9, no. 4 (July 1932).
5. "The Mormons' Contribution to Pueblo's History," a historical sketch prepared for the 1957 dedication of a Denver LDS Church chapel, LDS Church Historical Department.
6. "A Ram in the Thicket: The Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War," by John Frank George Yurtinus, a 1975 doctoral dissertation, Brigham Young University.
7. Women of the Mormon Battalion, comp. Carl V. Larson and Shirley N. Maynes, 1995, 130-page booklet, LDS Church Historical Department.
8.111 Days to Zion, by Hal Knight and Stanley H. Kimball, LDS Church Historical Department; superb for some day-to-day details that relate to Holladay.
9. The 4-volume LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, by Andrew Jenson, is of great value for some details on the personalities involved.
10. "Mississippi Mormons," by Leonard J. Arrington, Ensign, June 1977; of value primarily for observations on the character and personality of most of Holladays early founders.
Specific to Holladays settlement history:
(The following sources are listed in a general chronological sequence of their publication.)
1. Journal History, July 29, 1847, LDS Church Historical Department.
2. "Manuscript History of the Big Cottonwood Ward," LDS Church Historical Department. One simply cannot ignore the importance of what is said and not said by Andrew Jenson from his 1894 visit to Holladay, when he collected information from a group of eight persons, and from his visit to Holladay in 1913 to read to a group of 28 persons his brief history in order to identify areas for correction based upon what those particular people knew or did not know.
3. "A Brief History of Holladay Ward from Its First Settlement," by Emily McDonald, June 13, 1915; 10 handwritten pages.
4. "Holladay Memorial Park," a brochure on the cemetery printed in the 1920s.
5. Fifth Anniversary, Big Cottonwood Stake, 1940-1945, historical booklet.
6. Tales of a Triumphant People: A History of Salt Lake County, 1847-1900, by Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1947; see sections on Holladay Camp, Twin Peaks Camp, South Cottonwood Camp, and Big Cottonwood Canyon
7. "Colonization of Holladay," by Earl Wayman, 10 typewritten pages; date of authorship unknown.
8. "History of Holladay," author unknown; one page attached to the above Wayman manuscript. 9. Holladay, Salt Lake County, Utah, by Elizabeth Newman Hutchison, booklet, 1971.
10. "The Andrus Recorder," vol. 9, no. I, April 1973; family booklet on Ann Brooks Andrus.
11. Holladay-Cottonwood Places and Faces, ed. Stephen L. Carr, 1976; the finest existing all-in-one wrap-up of Holladay's history from 1847 to 1976.
12. David Brinton: Utah Pioneer, by Virginia Bushman, 1978; ancestry and history of David Brinton and his son David Branson Brinton.
13. Incidents, Travels, and Life of Elder William Holmes Walker, a journal, published by the family; publication date unknown.
14. "Holladay's Settlement," The Rotarians, April 1, 1980. 15. Cottonwood Early Days, by Mary E. Faulkner, booklet, 1987.
Appreciation is warmly given to the many dozens of persons who visited with me and those from all over the nation who received my telephone calls in efforts to tie down fleeting ideas or supposed facts that sometimes were able to be confirmed and at other times have had to be left nebulous, suggesting that future work and research should disclose important additional information relative to the Holladay story. In reality, the present work had to be completed in association with the 1996 placement of Holladay's historical markers. Therefore, the work does not represent the final, complete story; others should feel invited to join in the search for true history.
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