Author Archives: Chas Rafiti

Huntington Settlement

Published / by Chas Rafiti / Leave a Comment

Write-up by:  Chas Rafiti

Placed by:  The Daughters of Utah Pioneers, no. 105. 

GPS Coordinates:  

N 39°21’10.47” 

W 111°0’45.82” 

Historical Marker Text:  

In 1875 Leander Lemmon and James McHadden seeking a good range for their horses, found feed plentiful at the mouth of Huntington Canyon and vicinity. Mr. Lemmon brought sheep and cattle from Cottonwood, Salt Lake County. In the Autumn of 1876, he built the first log cabin on Huntington Creek, near this marker. An irrigation ditch was dug, taking water from the nearby creek. The town is situated on Huntington Creek, from which it receives its name. 

Extended Research: 

The history of Mormon colonization is generally separated into distinct phases.  In the first decade after Mormon arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, several important cities were founded to the North and South of Salt Lake City, such as Ogden (1848), Provo (1849), Parowan (1851), and Cedar City (1851).[1]  This north to south string of colonies provided the Mormon settlers with a solid base of control, along a route commonly referred to as the Mormon Corridor.  Many of these cities had become very important outposts for the Mormons. As the years passed, and as some of these southern settlements became prosperous and overpopulated, calls to venture east were made by the LDS Church hierarchy. Overpopulation had become a major problem for many Mormon settlements by the 1870’s, as a new generation of people had grown up in Utah.[2]  This issue, along with encouragement from the Church hierarchy in the early and mid 1870’s, led to the eventual colonization of Castle Valley, and therefore the city of Huntington among others.

The establishment of the first settlements near Huntington creek occurred in the 1870’s during the third decade, or phase, of Mormon colonization.  Different from the second phase, which was a result of the threat from the Federal Army under General Johnston in 1857, when colonists were called back from outlying areas such as San Bernardino and Carson Valley, the third phase saw a huge expansion of Mormon settlements all across the territory. This phase led to the development of ninety-three new colonies in Utah, including the Huntington settlement.[3]

The region where the town was eventually established had likely been named by the Huntington brothers, Dimick, Oliver, and William, who first explored the area in the 1850’s.[4]  However, it was not until 1875 when the first settlers of European descent arrived in the area. Four cattle herders, Bill Gentry, and Alfred Starr, as well as the two men referenced in the marker, James McHadden and Leander Lemmon, brought their herds to Huntington Creek in search of a place for their stock to graze and rest.  McHadden and Lemmon jointly developed the area along the creek, where the marker is placed. However, of these four men, only Leander Lemmon remained permanently to settle the town, his house likely becoming the first above ground building in the area, and still stands today.[5]  These men migrated across the La Sal Mountains, in Sanpete County, into the Huntington area, where they attempted to find new lands worthy of settlement. The prosperous towns of Sanpete County had become overpopulated and lacked available land and water, thus prompting their desire to seek new homes. Soon many other settlers made the same crossing, coming into Castle Valley in significant numbers in the late 1870’s. 

The original house of Leander Lemmon, built around 1901.

As Leander Lemmon built his house, dug irrigation ditches, and cared for his livestock, more families came into the area, largely from Sanpete County.  On August 22, 1877, Brigham Young issued a declaration to colonize and explore the areas of Castle Valley, including Huntington.[6]  This was in response to overpopulation in Sanpete County as well as an attempt to stake claims on available land before non-Mormon settlers could.  He sent an expedition from Sanpete County in 1877, led by Elias Cox to scout the region for arable land.[7]  This party would approve of the area and began construction on ditches and houses near the Lemmon homestead.  As this area opened up, more parties from Sanpete migrated to and settled the lands near Huntington Creek and Cottonwood Creek to the south, largely relying on agriculture and livestock. Initially, the settlement of the Huntington area was the result of one man, however only a few years later, entire families and other immigrants were entering the area and starting new lives. What began as Leander Lemmon’s need for land for his stock, led to a colony with a population of 126 by 1880, and eventually the city of Huntington.[8] 

Fast forward to the modern day and Huntington is the largest city in Emery County. In the decades after the initial settlement, coal mining and the railroad became the main industries of the area, while having significant agriculture and livestock production as well.[9] Although definitely small compared to larger and more well known cities in Utah, Huntington is important because it represents the late stages of Mormon colonization and this initial settlement helped spur the development of Castle Valley and the entirety of what would become Emery County. The creation of Huntington was a result of the successes of other cities throughout Utah, as more people emigrated to this area in search of unused land. This is an important area in Utah history because it was one of the last areas to be developed by colonists, and is a piece of the timeline of Mormon settlement. To this day the marker for the initial camp and the house of Leander Lemmon still stand, and Huntington remains a small town, secluded in the beautiful setting of Castle Valley.

[1]  Powell, Allan Kent. Utah History Encyclopedia. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1995. 106.

[2] Powell, Allan Kent. Utah History Encyclopedia. 108.

[3] Powell, Allan Kent. Utah History Encyclopedia. 107.

[4] Powell, Allan Kent. Utah History Encyclopedia. 264.

[5]  Geary, Edward A. A History of Emery County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1996. 52.

[6]  Taniguchi, Nancy J. Castle Valley America Hard Land, Hard-Won Home. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2004. 34.

[7]  Taniguchi, Nancy J. Castle Valley America Hard Land, Hard-Won Home. 33.

[8]  Powell, Allan Kent. Utah History Encyclopedia. 264.

[9] Powell, Allan Kent. Emery County: Reflections on Its Past and Future. Salt Lake City, UT: Utah State Historical Society, 1979. 128.

For Further Reference: 

Primary Sources:

Berrett, William E., and Alma P. Burton. Readings in L.D.S. Church History: from Original Manuscripts. First ed. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1955. 

Secondary Sources: 

Geary, Edward A. A History of Emery County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society,   1996.

Powell, Allan Kent. Emery County: Reflections on Its Past and Future. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1979.

Powell, Allan Kent. Utah History Encyclopedia. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1995.

Taniguchi, Nancy J. Castle Valley America Hard Land, Hard-Won Home. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2004.