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Spring City

Published / by Jessica Guynn / Leave a Comment

Write-up by Jessica Guynn

Placed by: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, No. 158

GPS Coordinates:  39.4794986, -111.4965053

Historical Marker Text:

This spring was long used by Indians and early scouts as a camp site. James Allred, directed by Brigham Young, on March 22, 1852, led his sons and their families here to build their homes. In 1853 a large colony of Scandinavian immigrants joined them. The waters of canal creek and natural springs supplied the settlers twice. The Indians drove them out burning their fort and all their possessions; but in 1859, they returned to establish permanently the town of Spring City. Canal Creek Camp. San Pete County.

Extended Research:

In 1980 the U.S. government designated the entire town of Spring City as a National Historic District for its significance as an example of Mormon settlement patterns and for its well-preserved construction using geologically unique, Sanpete oolite limestone. [1]

After crossing the plains to Utah from Missouri in 1847, James Allred was assigned by the Latter-Day Saint Prophet, Brigham Young, to leave the Salt Lake Valley with his extended family in 1852 and settle an area to the Southeast known by the Mormons as Sanpete County.

Allred’s journal recorded, “I remained in Manti City, Sanpete Co. until the Spring of 1852, when according to the council of President Young, father and I moved 16 miles north and started a new settlement. [2]

Allred patterned his frontier village after the architectural plan created by Church founder Joseph Smith to build Zion, the ideal city. The template called for wide streets dividing symmetrical blocks of five acres. Center lots provided space for religious structures and businesses, while surrounding blocks accommodated individual acre lots for homes.[3]

Likewise, survey maps for Spring City display a grid of streets dividing the land into analogous squares, thus imprinting urban order onto the wilderness. [4] The plat called for private residences to be constructed of brick or stone and set back from the street to allow for both a front yard and garden behind.

Farmers utilized open space outside the village for their crops, allowing inhabitants to live centrally rather than spread themselves as distant neighbors among their fields.

Villagers eventually called Allred’s eponymous settlement Spring City after a natural effusion of cold, clear water at its center. It was one of nearly 500 communities across the West to imitate Smith’s original design, thus shaping the nascent urban landscape in the Great Basin and California. [5]

However, Mormon pioneers were not the first to claim the Sanpete valley as their home. The Ute tribe had inhabited the land for hundreds of years, migrating from the south perhaps as early as 1000 CE and establishing settlements throughout the Great Basin. [6] Ute Chief Wakara, who had grown rich from trade with trappers and Spanish colonists in New Mexico, initially viewed the pioneers as trading partners and allowed them to settle the Ute tribal hunting grounds east of the Wasatch mountains. However, tensions between villagers and tribespeople grew when Mormons sought to regulate Ute raids and sales of livestock and captives that had become their currency. [7]

Isolated acts of theft and violence increasingly led to open hostilities that culminated in the Walker War and the destruction of the entire town of Spring City by fire in 1854. [8] Settlers fled to nearby Fort Manti and didn’t return until 1859 after the withdrawal of federal troops from the Utah War (1857-58) between Mormon settlers and the U.S. government over territorial sovereignty. [9]

A large group of newly arrived Danish converts, many of whom were skilled stonemasons, joined the original villagers in reestablishing and rebuilding Spring City. Their chief material was a geologically unique Sanpete oolite limestone found in nearby outcroppings. Abundant and easily accessible, craftsmen prized the stone for its creamy hue and pliability. Oolite was the principal element of both public and private structures that began to fill the town. Stonemasons crafted churches, homes and civic buildings.

Perhaps most notable is the Spring City LDS Chapel for its intricate oolite brickwork.[10] Many of these structures still stand as monuments to pioneer industry and resilience.

[1[ “The Founding of Spring City” https://friendsofhistoricspringcity.org/history-2/ (accessed: February 21, 2020)

[2] Allred, James Tillman Sanford. Diary. (1825-1905). https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets?id=cacd6a43-7eb9-4cdb-b348-ce2ee27d758d&crate=0&index=2

[3] “Plat of the City of Zion, circa Early June–25 June 1833,” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed April 1, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/plat-of-the-city-of-zion-circa-early-june-25-june-1833/1

[4] Burr, David H. “Survey Maps.” N.P, 1857. Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, Spring City, UT.

[5] Provost, Claire. “Building Zion: the controversial plan for a Mormon-inspired city in Vermont,” The Guardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jan/31/building-zion-controversial-plan-mormon-inspired-city-vermont (accessed: February 20, 2020)

[6] Wimmer, Ryan Elwood, “The Walker War Reconsidered” (2010). All Theses and Dissertations. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/ (accessed: April 1, 2020). P. 21

[7] Ibid, 53

[8] Antrei, Albert C.T. and Roberts, Allen D. Utah Centennial County History Series – Sanpete County. Utah State Historical Society and Sanpete County Commission, 1999. P. 71 

[9] Poll, Richard D. and MacKinnon, William P. “Causes of the Utah War Reconsidered”  Journal of Mormon History, Vol 20 (Fall 1994): P. 17

[10] Parry, William T. “A majestic Building Stone: Sanpete Oolite Limestone,” Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol 81 (Winter 2013): P. 55