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Older man outside wearing a jacket and a hat - steve Taylor

Steve Taylor

Historian and Storyeteller

2022 Pando Artist In Residence

Bio

Steve Taylor is a local historian specializing in the early history of the Fremont River communities. Mr. Taylor lives in Fremont on a small farm where he teaches a weekly history class. He is the sixth generation of his family to have lived in this valley with many of the first settlers being his direct ancestors. Mr. Taylor received his education in math and physics and spent forty years in environmental  management for the resource extraction industry. Steve continues to do consulting on fire and explosion suppression for the oil and aircraft industry.

Steve Taylor gives a talk to volunteers working on the Pando Photographic Survey

During the Pando Photographic Survey, there were nightly talks with guest speakers for volunteers on a variety of topics. One of those nights, Steve Taylor, a local Wayne County historian and oral history storyteller, shared a treasure trove of stories about the history of Fishlake and the surrounding areas. The group was so enchanted by Steve’s wealth of knowledge that due to multiple requests, we brought back a crew member to visit Taylor to record the histories.

Note from Friends of Pando. This history of Fish Lake National Forest by local historian Steve Taylor includes language for indigenous peoples and describes conflicts with European colonists in terms and concepts that may be offensive to some audiences. This history entails the use of violence, theft and slavery as forms of punishment, control and oppression by various groups toward each other and, as used by Europeans against indigenous groups well into the 1970’s.

 

In no way, do we maintain Taylor’s history can or should tell the whole story of the colonization, which began with the Spanish explorers previous to the timeline where Taylor picks up.

 

According to our outreach efforts, we lack any indigenous mythologies, legends or, histories specific to Pando and assume in good faith, the Pando Tree was likely unknown as a unique entity in its own right by indigenous peoples. Having said that, based on archeological research, we do know that indigenous peoples have used Pando’s homeland for some 1,500 years, and still use it to this day. (Vachel Carter, 2022)

 

Outside of this work, we use the term “indigenous” to refer to peoples who first lived in and, managed these lands. Where requested and appropriate, the name of the tribes as they choose to be known ex: Pauite.

 

To learn more about the indigenous community who, to this day, maintain treaty rights in the Fishlake Basin, we strongly encourage readers to visit the Paiute Tribe of Utah’s website at: https://pitu.gov/

Transcripts

Steve Taylor's History of Fish Lake, Part 1

Recorded by Tiesha Smith and transcribed by Hope Smith

OK, to start off with, you need to understand somewhat the geology, because that’s critical as to how the settlement took place, how Fish Lake has been treated, and so on. I know I’m stepping out, but I want you to look at this map right here. This is the map of Utah. It’s the first one ever produced [in] 1872 and it shows the Rabbit Valley, which is the valley we’re in. But it doesn’t show 1000 Lake Mountain, it refers to it as the lone mountain. And this was developed by the Topographical Engineers when they came in to survey the country.


We’re going to start off with Fish Lake history and the origin of these mountains that contain Fish Lake, which is what we call the Fish Lake Plateau. There’s 11 or 12 of these plateaus in southern Utah and they go all the way from over in the Delta area clear to the other side of 1000 Lake Mountain. We’re located right now between three of those high plateaus, the Fish Lake Plateau to the north, 1000 Lake Plateau to the east and Awapa Plateau to the West and then of course the Fish Lake Plateau to the north. We’ll confine our presentation primarily to the Fish Lake Plateau because the other plateaus are not necessarily relevant. The origin of this area is a result of what they call the mountain building period. About 100 million years ago, what’s called the Farallon Plate started to push underneath the American plate. That created a tremendous amount of heat and that heat resulted in volcanic activity, and that’s the process of [how] all of these mountains were formed, not only in Utah but in Colorado [and] in California too, along these fractures in the Earth’s mantle.


The hydrology of the area basically originates with Fish Lake, but it doesn’t originate from surface flows. It originates from sub surface flows that are below the water level. If one measures the water coming out of Fish Lake, it’s always a lot greater than the three or four little streams that are running into it. But it was those little streams that brought the attention to the various settlers and what-not because those little streams contained trout that would spawn and then move back into Fish Lake and we’re going to talk more about that because we destroyed that fishery. The lake drains to the north into what’s known as Lake Creek. Lake Creek then extends from there to the confluence between Lake Creek and Seven Mile Creek, and then it flows over and down through Zedd’s meadows, and it basically follows the Fremont River Canyon all the way down.


There have been periods of glaciation. That’s evident on the north side of the Fish Lake valley where it joins 7 Mile Valley and it’s also evident further down the Canyon. At one time, there was a tremendous flow come down the Canyon. We don’t know when it was or what caused that flow, but it was very similar, for example, on a much different scale than Dry Wash in the center of Washington, where the Columbia River was backed up by a glacier for several years, and when it finally gave way, it carved a channel half a mile deep and half a mile wide clear down through the middle of Washington. This massive flow that we had here, I think, comes from a lake in the Seven Mile area and I think it broke out, creating the canyon that goes down into Zedd’s Meadow. It moved tremendous, literally, millions of tons of rocks into this valley, and you can see them everywhere and that’s the result of that massive flow that we had.


Fish Lake is primarily known for its fantastic fishery. But the fishery is not the same as it was initially. When they settled the area, the early settlers did quite well in this area and we’re going to talk a lot in the next session about the cheese camps and what was produced at those cheese camps and so on.


But we’re going to touch on some of it now because the fishery at Fish Lake acted as a magnet for Indians all over the area. And there’s a lot of confusion there because we referred to those Indians as being the Paiute Indians, where in reality, they weren’t Paiute. They are now because there was a few Paiute that survived the Blackhawk Indian War, and they joined up with the Koosharem band and that Koosharem band is still intact. Most of those Indians live over in the Richfield area.


There were trails as a result of this, that came in from all directions and one of the most prominent ones was what’s known as the Fish Lake Cutoff. We’ve got a good definition of the Fish Lake Cutoff, simply with the fact that Lieutenant Brewerton was with Kit Carson when they went over the trail, headed back East to deliver the message that gold had been discovered in California. In the process of going over the Fish Lake Cutoff, now the Fish Lake Cutoff originates where the trail divides its Fremont Junction. You know where Fremont Junction is in Emery County. The trail splits there into two or three trails. One of the trails was the Fish Lake Cutoff and it comes from that split up Red Canyon, over the rim in the Sheep Valley, down through Sheep Valley into UM and then on down the Fremont River, then into the reservoirs. Brewerton and Kit Carson encountered a caravan, somewhere around Paragoona. It was one of the annual caravans that went over the old Spanish trail and we’re going to discuss these trails now. There were actually four trails that split into four trails. One of them continues on down Salina Canyon down through Sevier Valley and joins up with the other branch at Junction, you know where Junction’s at in Paiute County. From there on the different branches are together. In the process of traveling over that trail, Lieutenant Brewerton gives us a whole lot of information about what’s going on. He describes one of the annual caravans coming out of California, with the thousands of mules and horses that they were taking from California. We’re going to talk more about the old Spanish trail. Another trail leaves the Fremont Junction, basically follows Hwy. 72, clear into Fremont. It goes up over the rim, what’s called the Hogan pass, down into the Fremont junction. Probably the most used of these trails was the Hogan Pass trail, because it was the easiest to move livestock over and there were literally herds of horses that came out of California over this trail, several thousand at a time. There was also a tremendous amount of slavery on this trail. And in one of the books that you’re going to borrow, by Sanchez, it gives a really good description of that slave trade, and so on. And that, by the way is the reason there were no Paiute Indians here, because they’d been wiped out by the Ute Indians on the slave trade.


Brewerton gives us a really good account of the fish in Fish Lake. They readily, when they got to Fish Lake, discovered that there were some small streams flowing into the lake and this was in June and that’s when the trout that was in Fish Lake were spawning. And so, we have, Brewerton encounters this, and he talks about scooping these fish out with his hands. Well, first they encounter some Indians, Ute Indians. And they were out of meat, and they wanted to buy some meat from the Indians. The Indians, all they had was a part of a goat, mountain sheep, but they had fish and so they asked for fish and soon discovered, Brewerton even says that the next day he stood in the cold water up to his knees, throwing fish out until the point it had ruined him for the rest of his life, you know. The Indians who were here are referred to as the Red Lake Utes, and they also went by the Red Fish-eaters. What that says, and it’s somewhat of a hypothesis, is that the fish in Fish Lake were not cutthroat trout. They were probably a char, because the meat was red and, in every account, I can find, they referred to them as the Red Fish-eaters. And so on. So, I’m reasonably sure that what we were dealing with is a char. Now that’s not uncommon. For example, the eastern brook trout is a char. Dolly Varden is a char. There’s as many that are char as there are trout, but we refer to all of them as trout.


Some of the other trails, where there was a trail come up and we call it the old Indian Trail and they come all the way from the Colorado River, crossed the Henry Mountains up through the desert, then up onto the side of Boulder Mountain and then swings around and down into to Rabbit Valley. That was used quite extensively and our first knowledge of that was the early surveyors when they were surveying, they ran across that group of Indians down on Miner’s Mountain and the Indians were gathering pine nuts at the time. These would have been Ute Indians and they would have been what’s referred to as the Red Lake Utes.


Up until about 1830, there was very little traffic over the Old Spanish Trail. Simply that they didn’t really exist much. The Indians had used it. Historic accounts had used it and so on. But there wasn’t much as far as the settlers here. It was long since gone. Even though Allman Thompson discovered where it goes down off Boulder Mountain and followed it over the Henry Mountains and so on.


The trail originates in San Gabriel outside Los Angeles, travels North, and eventually ends up where it divides at the Fremont Junction. That’s a map of the Old Spanish Trail, San Gabriel. It does show the Fish Lake cut off, but it doesn’t show the Hogan Pass Trail or it doesn’t show what’s known as the Gray Bench Trail. The Gray Bench Trail originates in Cathedral Valley, while it originates clear down Hanksville, and it comes up through Cathedral Valley, then up over what’s called the Gray Bench cliffs, over the top of 1000 Lake Mountain in the pass and down in an intersects with the with the Hogan Pass Trail where Forsyth Reservoir is. You know where Forsyth reservoir is at, north of here.


Then there was a trail that leaves Fish Lake and comes straight down over these mountains into here, and it comes into the valley about 2 miles over here. That trail has not been used. It was not used by the early settlers because they couldn’t get wagons over. They had to develop a wagon road and so that road is very well distinct and follow that trail. But there’s been no recent use of it at all.


As I mentioned, the primary trade over this trail, all the main trail as well as the branches, was horse trade and slave trade. Prior to the white people opening up the trail, there was very little slave trade took place. But then there was a particular Indian, and you probably heard him named Chief Walker, who figured out how he could profit extensively from the slave trade and so he and his group spent most of their time stealing women and children from the Paiutes and they basically wiped the Paiutes out as far as this part of the country. Oh, there was a few that survived but not very many. His name was actually Walkara, W-A-L-K-A-R-A, but they referred to him as Chief Walker. But the Ute’s basically rounded them up and sold them as slaves.


Other than that period, they didn’t survive very well. In fact, by the time the white settlers come in, there was only about 30 or 40 of them left, and they were in and around Fish Lake. We do have an account of those because the census took an account of them and that’s how we know there was about 30 or 40 of them and that was all there was. Chief Walker not only ruled over the slave trade, but he held the caravans hostage for tribute. So here you have these caravans coming through, there’ll be several 1000 mules, pack mules, and then there’d be big herds of horses. And Walker says, pay me tribute or you can’t cross my property. So these caravans had to stop and pay tribute, but obviously they didn’t all [pay] because, when the first settlers come here, they found the bones of a massacre just below the Zedd’s Meadow, where the Zedd’s Meadow Dam is, right in that in that canyon. According to Hugh Blackburn, the bones were still there when he was a kid, coming in, when they first settled here. Then Brewerton clarifies it, and says later on, that he found out that it was a group of immigrants from Arkansas on their way to California and they refused to pay tribute. And so Walker wiped them out there just below Zedd’s Meadow. We did put up a sign there showing where that massacre took place, and you stop there sometimes on that overlook looking down at the dam. We’ve got a display there on the massacre.


He could just get away with it. You know there was no law. The law is whatever force you could exert and nobody bothered with Chief Walker because he had some really nasty Braves and the only one that ever encountered him was Kit Carson.
John C. Fremont when his 5th expedition came through here… He was the son-in-law of Thomas Hart Benton, who was the most prominent or most influential senator in the Senate at that time and there was a big debate as to where to bring the railroad, the EW railroad. You know they finished the railroad into northern Utah and there was an issue about where do you make a central railroad? Thomas Hart Benton wanted it to come from Missouri, because that would benefit his state substantially. Well, his daughter had married John C Fremont. John C. Fremont had made a name for himself in the 1840s with the Overland Trail. He was intent on showing that you could build a railroad from Missouri to California along the 38th parallel, now we’re on the 38th parallel. So, he set out on his fifth expedition to map a route from Missouri to California along the 38th parallel.


Well, he didn’t make it. They got as far as. 1000 Lake Mountain or Cathedral Valley and by then they were totally out of food. They were down to just their riding mules. They got caught in a heavy snowstorm. Now this would have been right about this time of year, it was the 13th of February. And they got caught in that terrible snowstorm. And when they got caught in the snowstorm, they were camped right out here. Walk over here a minute. If you look on the edge of that hill, you can see three or four big trees out in the Meadow. They’re going to have leaves on them. That’s where he camped.


Several years ago, my class wanted to do a dig on John C Fremont because we knew where he’d camped there. So, we organize it and the class goes out, with metal detectors and all that kind of stuff and of course, we didn’t find anything… we didn’t expect to, but somehow the word got out to the news media that we were having this dig for John C. Fremont. And lo and behold, we get ready, we go out there and here the newspaper reporters show up. So anyway, it goes on and about a month later, two months later I get a call from a guy in Chicago and he has the lens cap off of John C. Fremont’s telescope when John C. Fremont was on Fremont Island in the in the Great Salt Lake, and he wants to sell his telescope. He says, would you people be interested in buying it? And I said, well, how much are you asking for it? He says, well, I only want $185,000. I says, well, there isn’t that much money in the in the whole county, so you can forget that.


Fremont comes from. John C Fremont’s mother, who had married a Frenchman and the name was spelled a little different than Fremont and then they just adopted the name Fremont after he grew up. His wife was the real mover. She’s the one that wrote the Overland Trail guide, which was used in the 1840s. He would have never reached success if it hadn’t been for his wife, Thomas Hart Benton’s daughter Jesse Benton Fremont.


During the 1860s, we were involved in what’s known as the Blackhawk Indian War. This was really just a war between the Ute Indians headed up by Blackhawk in Sanpete and Sevier counties. There was no settlement in Wayne County at the time. During this war the Utes would come in and steal their livestock. And then they push the livestock over the Wasatch Mountains into the lower areas where they would winter. Well, the Mormons couldn’t enter those areas because of the snow and all that kind of stuff, so the Indians had a reprieve during the wintertime. And then they would hit the settlements during the summertime. Had they, in my opinion, had they have been able to continue one more year, they would have wiped out civilization in southern Utah. That’s how far that they had driven the white people, the Mormons. In fact, the Mormons abandoned most of the towns during that period of time. They abandoned those on down around Kanab. They have abandoned those in Paiute County Circle Valley, just about all of the areas.


In the process of this war though, they decided in order to deal with the Indians, they put together these search-and-destroy missions, very much like what we used in Vietnam. And so, they take a group of the white settlers, and they set out, and maybe there’d be 30 or 40 of them, and their intent was to hunt down the Indians, retrieve the stolen livestock, and kill the Indians. Well, there were several of these expeditions. James Byron Pace was one of the leaders of the expedition and he was the one that named this Rabbit Valley, on that expedition looking for Indians. And of course, that name has stuck as Rabbit Valley and this valley is still referred to as Rabbit Valley.


There was also an expedition by James Andrus. Now James Andrus was down at Saint George here when they called him. What they wanted him to do, was to find out if there was another crossing where the Indians could be crossing the Colorado River. The Mormons had blocked the crossing at Green River and they blocked the crossing at the Crossing of the Fathers, but the livestock was still going out of here. So they sent Andrus out to discover whether there was another crossing of the Colorado River and also to kill any Indians, they could find. Well, James Andrus got lost up on Boulder Mountain and never did find anything, and finally ended up going back to Saint George. But he did find the trail that that they had been looking for, for a long time.


There were several other expeditions that came into the area looking for Indians and so on, but none of them were successful, simply for the fact that the Indians simply moved out into the desert country where they could hide and of course, Blackhawk didn’t have any problem at all recruiting people because he had beef. He was stealing the beef from the Mormons, and in the wintertime is on the other side of the mountains, and he’d parcel that beef out to the Indians. So, he had a following of several 100 Indians. He could have easily wiped out the Mormons, if he had known anything about tactical warfare, it would have been simple. He could have, they could have just simply blocked the livestock and held out until the Mormons went hungry and that it would have been the end of it.

Steve Taylor's History of Fish Lake, Part 2

Recorded by Tiesha Smith and transcribed by Hope Smith

Where 95 crosses the river, there was quite a big town there at one time. It was founded by Cass Hyatt. Cass Hyatt had been a prospector, and he’d heard about the Native Americans killing Merritt and Mitchell there on the San Juan River. Somehow, he got in cahoots with the Chief, and Hoskaninni says, well, you know, there’s no place where there’s any silver, but there is gold along the river, so Hoskaninni took Cass Hyatt to where the trail crossed the river and that’s where the name Hyatt comes from. And then Hoskaninni did show him where there had been Spanish people earlier than that had dug holes down to the bedrock. Now that was standard in these gold fields cause the gold is right on the bedrock. You dig down and excavate that. Well, Cass Hyatt did quite good. And then the word got out and it kind of spawned the mini gold rush. So, by about 1900, we probably had 150 miners on the Colorado River, panning gold in the sandbars down along the river.

 

And then a man by the name of Stanford, who was an engineer, was promoting building the Central Railroad down the Grand Canyon. Now, how you would ever get it through the Grand Canyon is totally beyond me, but he thought it was feasible. He tried to get economic backing and he couldn’t get the backing, but a man by the name of Sandford then stepped in with money. And they built this huge dredge. You’ve probably never seen one. There was One North of Fairbanks I used to take people to see it.

 

They’re probably 500 feet long and about three or four stories high. And what they did was, they just scooped up the dirt. There was a big arm that went out in front, and it went back and forth, and it had buckets on it. Those buckets would fill up with the dirt and then it would go inside, and you’d use gravitational separation. The problem, even after they got the dredge built and put it into operation, the problem was the gold in the Colorado River is what’s called flower gold. The microscopic particles from gold had been flattened down. To the point that they floated on the water rather than sinking. And so, they didn’t recover any gold from using the dredge at all, and that dredge is still there. It went underneath Lake Powell when we filled up Lake Powell, but it may be exposed now. I don’t know.

 

The water in the Fremont River drains into the Colorado at that point. So, if you follow the watershed, you’ve got Fish Lake, and then you’ve got Lake Creek, and then the Fremont River, and then The Dirty Devil River, and then you hit the Colorado. But that’s critical because that’s where the trails went. That’s where the passage took place, and Hanksville wouldn’t have, quite frankly, would not have survived if it hadn’t been for that gold rush.

 

There were several other people that tried to find the where the trail crossed the Colorado. John Wesley Powell on his second expedition had contracted with Jacob Hamblin. Now you’ve heard of Jacob Hamblin, prominent Mormon scout and whatnot. He contracted Jacob Hamlin to take supplies to the crossing at Hyatt to John Wesley Powell, who was coming down the river. Well, Jacob Hamlin couldn’t find it. He can’t find the trail, can’t find where across the river. He couldn’t find any of it, so he went back then and then Jones went down and tried to do the same thing. He couldn’t find it. And it wasn’t until the settlers started to come in here, that they discovered that trail existed, and it was really the cattlemen that discovered it.

 

What brought people into this area? We asked that question, and the answer was the tremendous amount of vegetation that existed. This is the reason that the valley to the West of us was called Grass Valley, because of the tremendous amount of grass that grew. There’re various accounts where they say that the grass was up as high as the stirrups on the horse. It was fantastic. And so, as a result it had real promise.

 

Following the Black Hawk Indian War, the Black Hawk Indians were just basically destitute. There were a few of them around, but not many. Brigham Young sent George Washington Bean and his crew down to negotiate a peace treaty with the natives in 1883. Now any conflict with them had ended prior to that. Anyway, as a safety measure, they sent a group down to sign a peace treaty with the Indians. They met the Indians in Grass Valley, signed the peace treaty, and that was in 1873. They would also negotiate a peace treaty with the Navajo Indians because following the Black Hawk Indian War some Navajos continued to raid. And they raided, for example, the Whitmore Ranch and killed all the people there and so on. But they negotiated a peace treaty with the Navajo Indians who were coming up, crossing the river, and coming into this area.

 

What we wanted and the reason our settlement moved into these areas, is we wanted that vegetation for cattle and livestock, and that’s what our economy has been based on ever since, that livestock. Some of the early, I would say ranchers, who would come in here were non-Mormon and that was one of the reasons for the push to get Mormon settlements here, was to act as a buffer for what was taking place.  

 

Some of the first people to come into Grass Valley was a Doctor McCarty and his sons. They had been up in Montana, buying horses from the various farms in Montana and then taking the horses to Salt Lake and selling them to Johnson’s army, who had set up Camp Floyd after they had come into the valley. Once the settlement started to take place in this part of the country, the McCartys came down and bought cattle throughout central Utah and pastured them over in Grass Valley for the for the winter. During that winter they got heavy snow and there was only two or three people who stayed there. The rest left and went to Sevier Valley for the winter.

 

Anyway, the McCartys brought a large herd of cattle into Grass Valley and that was the fall of 1873. Well later on that year, there was 4 Navajo Indians came into Grass Valley. They’d come out from Northern Arizona on a trading expedition, and they had stuff they wanted to trade, including horses and so on. The problem was during that heavy snowstorm, the Indians moved into a cabin that the McCartys had built, and this would be near where the Auto Creek reservoir is, and they killed three of the four Indians and the 4th one was wounded, and he made it somehow. Somehow, he made it across the Colorado and all the way back to Northern Arizona. But it caused a real problem for Brigham Young. Because we’d promised the Indians that, you know, they were at peace, they would trade with them. There’d be no more warfare. And so on. But the McCartys totally undid that. The Navajos threatened to wipe the Mormons out in southern Utah if the Mormons didn’t give them something like 200 head of cattle, because of killing the Indians.

 

In that case Jacob Hamblin was successful. He convinced the Indians not to not to attack the Mormons. To most of the settlers that started coming in, Fish Lake was a magnet. Most all the settlements moved around Fish Lake because your trails were coming into Fish Lake, just like the spokes on a wheel and there was trails from every direction. Well, because of the tremendous amount of vegetation, it was a paradise for cattlemen. So now we start to get tremendous number of cattle coming in, but they were not beef cattle. That’s the surprising thing. They were milk-strained cattle. And then we asked the question well, why is it milk-strained cattle? It’s because their economy was based on cheese. We won’t cover that until next time because it takes quite a while to get through that, but that had a tremendous impact not only on their society, but on their on their livability and their ability to survive. In fact, at that time, the economy was so good from the cheese camps, that the town of Fremont even had their own brass band. They had their own baseball team. It was just really a thriving community, simply for the fact you had those cheese camps and most of the cheese camps were located in the Fish Lake Valley. In fact, every single stream in the Fish Lake Valley there was a cheese camp on it, and the same with the rest of these mountains. Most all the place names are named after the families that had the first cheese camps there. I’ll give you an idea what this was like, one girl says, she worked for the Forsyth Russell family milking cows in Seven Mile, and she said, “there was five of us and we milked over 100 head of cattle twice a day.” Now, I just can’t imagine… each one of them had to milk 20 cows at a milking, unbelievable. But it really boosted the economy. There were other people that made it into Grass Valley, but they did not stand, but they left some of the names.

 

You had cheese camps wherever you had a cold-water stream, and there’s two or three on 1000 Lake Mountain and there’s some out on Boulder or quite a few on Boulder Mountain, and of course, the Fish Lake plateau. What they would do is, they’d go to where there’s a stream and you’d build a cabin over the stream leaving the stream to flow through the bottom, so all you had is a cap, and then it had shelves in there. And the girls would get some milk and they’d heat up a big vat and put the glutenase in and make cheese and then the run it through the cheese press and then they’d store it on shelves in this little cabin they had built. Most of your really prolific cheese camps were just north of Seven Mile or Johnson Valley Reservoir, and there’s still some private property in there that never did go over to the federal government. You can drive up that Rd. from Johnson Valley Reservoir and you can see a few lodges off to the East, and that’s the only private property that survived that.

 

After discovery, Fish Lake turned out to be a real magnet for recreation. At one time there was even a Steamboat on Fish Lake. Believe it or not. Guy by the name of Funk in Sanpete County diverted a stream into a low area and made a huge lake out of it. That lake later on become what we know today as Palisades State Park in Sanpete County. But he had built this steamship and he had it on his private lake in Sanpete County, and a storm came up, capsized it and killed 8 or 9 scouts, but it didn’t deter him. He built another steamship. How he got it to Fish Lake, I don’t know, but I’ve got a picture of it going, taking people for rides on Fish Lake.

 

Some of the other stockmen that come in and basically named most of the places around, John Johnson was the first to bring his dairy cattle into Johnson Valley. He came up from Salina and he was only there one year and then they called him to be Bishop of Redmond and he didn’t come back up. That was in 1875, and then you had quite a few come in 1875 and 76. The Jorgensons, the Thompsons, Russells Forsythes, Robinsons, Petersons. And then there’s a family by the name of George Cloward. And they were in Seven Mile and they got in the cabin. There was a heavy rainstorm and they got in the cabin, and there was twelve people in that cabin when the roof collapsed. And it killed a woman and two kids. Scalded them to death. She had a big tub of hot water on the stove, and it scalded them to death. But why the heck they would have 15 to 12 people in one little cabin is totally beyond me, but they did. That cabin, I’m not sure where it’s located, I think it’s located right in the narrows between the Fish Lake discharge and the Johnson Valley Reservoir. I walked that area several places, but I can’t identify where they may have been.

 

The Mormon Church picked up on this very early. So by 1880 they were holding conferences at Fish Lake. And I’ve got a couple of pictures that show the covered wagons leaving, leaving the conference and it looked to me like there’s about 50 or 60 of them that come there. In any event, AK Thurber was state president at the time, and he said no more conferences at Fish Lake, because you people are having too good a time, and we can’t have that at a church function.

 

One of the things that made this valley so extremely attractive was a series of springs they called Spring Creek and they’re located here in Fremont, just over on the other side of the valley. That had the advantage that come spring, it didn’t flood. You didn’t have massive snow melt and flood coming down. You didn’t have your ditches washed out every year. You didn’t have all the extremes because the stream was constant, and it was warm enough that it didn’t freeze in the wintertime. So, this was a godsend to these early settlers, so the settlement of the valley took place along Spring Creek, initially. Later on, we had settlement taking place along the Fremont River, which went right down through here. It’s just. Well, it goes right down through my property right over there. But it that’s all in a pipeline now, that comes from the reservoir right inside of a pipeline. We’re almost right on top of the pipeline. It’s buried right out here, about 20 feet.

 

I talked about the McCartys, Doctor McCarty and his sons. They were the ones that got Butch Cassidy into being a cattle rustler. Because they were stealing cattle when they were in Grass Valley, and after they killed those three Indians, Brigham Young sent them a letter saying they needed to give the Indians back their property and they just told him to bug off. And they left here, took their herd of cattle over into Colorado, to the mines in Colorado, and then they came back and were stealing cattle over around Monticello. They robbed the bank there, and a young guy who had just gotten a new Sharps rifle, shot two of them as they were fleeing the robbery, and that ended the McCartys as far as any further activity.

 

But, at the same time, we had major economic collapse, just total economic collapse well over around Monticello, in that area. You had all these young boys who were drovers, taking care of the cattle. Once the big ranch is folded up because there was no feed left, then those young men all turned to rustling cattle, and that’s where we get Butch Cassidy and the Wild bunch and all of that comes from those drovers. They weren’t really outlaws, they were just drovers, kids who were out of work and they figured those ranches were closing up, so might just as well have a few of the cows, and so that’s what they did. It got so bad in Wyoming, that the governor called out the National Guard to control the outlaws. Because they were putting up a fight about the government.

 

Two major points I want to get across next time. One is the fish in Fish Lake, because people are not aware that we destroyed that fishery. What we did is we blocked off the outlet and wiped out the spawning ground and the fishery collapsed within three years. To me, that’s the greatest environmental tragedy in Utah’s history. They blocked off the outlet because they wanted to use the reservoir, the lake as a reservoir. They didn’t pay any attention to the fact they were blocking off the fish, nor did they even care when the fishery collapsed. I don’t think they even really understood what the hell was going on.

 

I asked myself the question, well, how much economic value did we get from that water? How much were those farms worth as far as production and whatnot? It didn’t come close to the amount of protein that was produced by that lake. I mean that lake had been feeding Indians for 10,000 years and we destroyed it in three.

Steve Taylor's History of Fish Lake, Part 3

Recorded by Tiesha Smith and transcribed by Hope Smith

That we had a typhoid carrier, similar to the famous Typhoid Mary. It’s a person that’s inflicted with the
typhoid bacteria but doesn’t show symptoms. But yet they can give it to somebody else, just like this
plague we got now. But this contamination was so bad that it was killing about half of the children here
in the valley. A Dr. Grigg had a son that settled here, and he come here to visit. He wrote a letter back to
what today is the Center for Disease Control, saying that there was a typhoid epidemic here, like nothing
he’d ever seen before. You can go to any one of these cemeteries in the valley, and you’ll find that a full
50% of the people buried their children. Another example, Lucy Kent Young buried eight of her nine
children in the Fremont Cemetery. The oldest was about two years old. In addition to contamination,
epidemics due to typhoid, we had problems with several of the other diseases. One that they didn’t
have to put up with is cholera. They’d already been hit by cholera when the settlers were coming into
the valley. 

 

Following the economic collapse, anybody that could move moved out of the area. One of the great
moves occurred as a result of the government opening up the Uinta Basin for homesteading. When the
Mormons had first settled in Salt Lake, Brigham Young had sent a letter to the federal government, as he
was the Indian agent, saying they ought to give the Uinta Basin as a reservation to the Indians, which is
what they did. But then, when they discovered that there was economic value in the streams and the
Uinta Basin and whatnot, they took it away from the Indians and put it up to the white people for
homesteading. Forced the Indians onto a reservation in the Uinta Basin, and that’s where they’re still at.
There was a small group of Indians here. The reason it was small is simply for the fact that you had fish
here, you had Indians coming into the area every year, and that’s verified by all these trails. We just
talked about the one trail, there’s four other trails that come into the area. 

 

 The Indians would come here every year to harvest the fish in June. That’s when these fish spawned,
was in June, and that’s the only time they could catch the fish because they had to use their hands to do
it. Or on very small streams, they built willow baskets. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a willow basket
fish trapper but it looks like a cone. The fish can go in and then can’t turn around and come back.
Most of these Indians that come in here from all over the country were Ute Indians. But by now they’d
opened up the old Spanish trail. So now you had a road to market. Prior to that, the slave trade didn’t
amount to much of anything because you didn’t have a road to market. Once that road was opened up
the Indians, Ute Indians had captured the Paiutes, or buy them, one or the other, take them over the old
Spanish trail and sell them in Los Angeles. And that gave rise to a massive slave trade. The guy that
headed up that slave trade was Chief Walker or Walkara, and he became a close friend with Brigham
Young, but Brigham Young alienated him when Brigham Young put a stop to the slavery. And there’s
some really good books written on that slavery that took place, but it’s relevant due to the fact that it
was the same Indians that lived at Fish Lake who were participating in the slave trade. 

 

You’d had the Walker War, and that had ended when Chief Walker died. Then you got into the Black
Hawk War. And the Black Hawk War affected the people in Sevier and Sanpete Counties, and through
this area. The Indians would cross over the mountains, steal the livestock, go back over the mountains in
time for the winter to come, so the white people couldn’t get to retrieve the cattle and so on. But due to
the fact that they’d had a war going on for three or four years, the Indians were basically decimated.
There was probably well, as near as I can count, there was about 40 Indians alive in the whole valley,
when the white people come here now… the Ute Indians, the Paiutes were gone and they had they had
been decimated by the slave trade. 

 

This little group of Utes adopted the name Paiute, later on, and one of the leaders, I’ve got his
statement, he says the reason they adopted the Paiute is there was no Ute tribe to adopt to at that
time. There were some Paiute that ended up down Circle Valley and down on the Shivwits reservation
near Saint George, but there was no Paiute left here that we know of. The Utes had been decimated but
that doesn’t mean that if there was Paiutes come in, that they didn’t adopt them. Of course they did,
because the Indians stuck together, but the Paiutes that were basically wiped out by Walker and the
slave trade. 

 

 Fish Lake became, after they planted the lake trout, became quite popular for lake trout. I think it held a
world record on lake trout for a long time, somewhere around 40 pounds and that was caught
sometime when I was a kid, because I can remember them talking about it and so on. And I think that
40-pound fish was stuffed, and I think that was in that restaurant that was there before they did away
with that restaurant. But anyway, Fish Lake became very popular as far as fishing for lake trout and it
became very popular for recreation. It was too cold for waterborne sports like skiing and so on, the
temperature is about 38 degrees, but has become very popular as far as a mountain retreat. There was
lots of functions held there. In fact, at one of the camps north of Fish Lake, the Mormon Church still has
their annual scouting get together at that camp. 

 

 And I showed you the picture of the of the steamboat… the story behind this Steamboat… the guy’s
name was Funk, and he built a Steamboat. And there was a stream near Sterling in Sanpete County, and
he diverted that stream into a low spot and formed a lake. And then he took people for joy rides on the
lake in his steamship. But he got caught one day out on the lake when a terrible gust of wind came up,
and it capsized the boat and drowned 9 scouts… 9 young boys. 

 

After that he built another ship, and that’s the steamship we’ve got the picture of, and hauled it down to
Fish Lake and put it on Fish Lake and was giving rides there for people who wanted to go for rides. I
would have thought losing all those scouts would have put a stop to it, but it didn’t. Today they
converted that lake and it’s Palisades State Park. And I showed you the picture of the Steamboat. It
would hold about 30 people. It was a side-wheeler rather than a stern-wheeler. It still is very popular for
recreation. You’ve got campgrounds. You’ve got fishing. You’ve got boating. 

 

The only private property is on Jorgenson Creek and the Callister family owns that. And then you got
some private property on the east side of Seven Mile, three or four miles up from the junction by the
road that goes up over Gooseberry. And if you drive that new road that goes over to Gooseberry, on the
East side you can see some private houses in there, that there’s a strip of private property there. And
then there’s this strip of private property where the Callister’s is there on Jorgenson’s Creek.

About the mid-1920s, the Skougaard family put up the money to build the Fish Lake Lodge. Now that

may seem kind of strange, but that was the period of big lodges. You could go to any one of the resort
areas where it was popular, and you’d find a big lodge. Probably one of the biggest was at Banff, in
Canada. That lodge, I think, held something like 1000 rooms. I can’t remember what the deal is. But the
Fish Lake Lodge, which is still there, was sizable. That lodge was a central attraction probably for 60
years. When I was a young man, a teenager, it was extremely popular because they had a big dance
there every Friday night. We made it a point at least once a month to go up to Fish Lake and get a case
of beer and see what new girls were up there. And now every holiday they would have a big dance there
and those dances turned, a lot of times, into brawls. You got booze and men and girls, and it turns into
brawls, and I can remember going up there and seeing fights and all that kind of stuff. But the days of
the big resort houses are gone. They went away when people got campers, because then they could
camp wherever they wanted. They didn’t have to stay at a big resort town. Today, Fish Lake is just more
of a stopping place for people that are travelling and coming through.


They are redoing the harbors, which I thought was fantastic. They’ve redone the harbor on the North
end and they’re re-doing the harbor on the South end. This opens it up for a tremendous amount of
recreation. Because it then gives adequate parking for people, their campers, and their trailers… all that
kind of stuff. There’s a dump station there. You’ve got a sewer treatment plant that handles sewage
from the rental lodges and so on, so it’s an ideal situation for those people that want to spend their time
there in the summertime.


There’s also lots and lots of trails that one can hike. Probably one of the most popular is the trail on the
North end of Fish Lake. And it’s very close to where they built the dam across the lake and blocked the
water. In fact, you can stand at that trailhead, and you can see the cement abutment where they put in
the dam to block the water. But you can hike that trail and it takes you up on the mountain to what’s
known as Crater Lakes, and then it comes back down to the shore of Fish Lake and along the shore,
partway along the east side of Fish Lake. It doesn’t go completely along the east side because it drops
straight off in that area.


But there are about 50 homes on the West side of Fish Lake. They do not own the property, they lease
the property from the Forest Service, and I don’t know how much they pay, but they’re on a 100-year
lease. So, if you had one, you got it for at least 100 years and then it has to be turned back to the Forest
Service

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