Where Was That Utah City?

Right where it always was, just a name change.

A man called recently, introduced himself, and then told me that his great-great-great-grandfather’s (?) Birth Certificate said the man was born in South Willow Creek, and he knew the entire family had been born here during Pioneer days, and wondered where in the world and why they had taken the mother some other place for the birthing and where the birth had taken place. 

“I’ve read your writing for a long time and figure if anyone knows where South Willow Creek was, maybe you will.”  And though it took me an hour or two, by golly I found it and found a lot of other names that have ‘dropped off the map’ in the last half-century.  Here goes.

My husband was born in 1914 in a  home that has never been moved since 1866, but his birth certificate says the place of  his birth was at 1700 South, but, same place, same road, is now known as 4800 South.  See?  And that’s just a beginning.

There’s Redwood Road, or if you want to be picky, 1700 West.  And one’s first question would be, “Did Redwood trees grow out on our west desert?”  Well,  no but . . . Jess W. Fox, who was surveyor for the Salt Lake LDS Temple grounds, was asked to survey a road going south from North Temple to 2100 South.  So he did and named it Campus Lane for some odd reason, but the name didn’t stick. 

The name of Fairbanks came next, but no one liked that one either, and finally the nickname of ‘Redwood’ that had been used all along, became official and it stuck. And the reason was that the Surveyor’s Pegs Fox used to mark out the road, were made of redwood because that wood can withstand the hard pounding needed  to drive them into hard ground, as well as holding up under all kinds of weather, and so . . . by pure happenstance, we have Redwood Road.

The life of those early pioneers centered (as today) around their LDS wards, and when one became too large (as today), it was divided into others.  So, in 1867 and on, West Jordan LDS Ward was divided into many smaller ones and the wards (communities) of Bluffdale, Riverton, Herriman, South Jordan, Taylorsville, Granger, Hunter, Pleasant Green and Brighton were formed.

Bluffdale was named after the high nearby bluffs above the Jordan Narrows; Taylorsville after the early Taylor family, and high up Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton (at first Silver Lake) was named after Thomas W. Brighton who  built the first homes in that mountain valley.

And Alta?  Well, Alta was the site of a silver mine high up in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and one of my uncles, Lethair (sp?) Goodall, died along with others in a snow slide there.  But, as many of the miners were Spanish, they used their word for ‘high; namely Alta, to specify the spot.  The mines and the miners are long gone, but the name, Alta, is known  throughout the world as a Ski Resort and I’d bet that only one in a thousand even think of the name being of Spanish origin.

Draper opened as an LDS ward (town site) in 1867, also surveyed by the same Jess Fox, and the property lots were sold by numbers.  You picked a number out of a hat and that lot was yours.  It was first called South Willow Creek, but as was so often the case, it soon was re-named Draper after one of the early Settlers.  Willow Creek however lived on as an area of the southeaster part of our valley, and perhaps still does.

Union, (after the old Fort Union built as a defense from Indians) and Granite, (after the rock mined nearby for the Salt Lake LDS Temple) were formed when South Cottonwood ward was divided.  And then . . . a Smelter was erected (there were many smelters in the valley at one time, with the one at Murray being the only one that continued through the years) but the cluster of workers who lived nearby and operated that smelter, called that place Sandy because the soil  was actually sandy.

Midvale (another smelter town) was first known as Bingham Junction, later as East Jordan and finally, Midvale for its location named itself.  Bingham City, however, received its name from brothers Sanford and Thomas Bingham who grazed their cattle in that canyon and staked out mining rights to the surrounding hills.

A little town of Franklin (simply the name of a railroad running through it) became a town and eventually became Murray City, after the territorial Governor, Eli H. Murray. Sugar House was so-called because of a Sugar Mill built there. Magna is the Latin word for large, big, magnificent and so on and on and on.

So, if you KNOW your ancestors were born in this valley and yet their birth certificate shows some town you’ve never heard of, and isn’t on any map, don’t fret. Poke around, poke around, there were many small almost isolated groups with names that lasted so short a time they were never recorded, but just the same, that place was once here.

Lois Guest was the one who gave me this list of valley names and I used much of her material at another time as I wrote for the Murray Eagle newspaper, but recently when I was asked again about some odd name, I scoured around and found my old notes.

Thanks Lois Guest, wherever you are.  I couldn’t have written either article without you.


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