What’s In A Name?

A Utah town of any name would be the same

        If you know your Pioneer ancestor was born right here in Zion, and yet the town listed on the Birth Certificate, can’t be found, take heart, you’re not alone.

        Original Pioneer farms were far apart and the name, was either  for the first family there, or for some outstanding feature of the area.  Changes came fast and were no big deal.

        My husband’s Birth Certificate shows him born in the family home, still in the same place, but on 1700 South.  Today, same place, same road, is 4800 South.  See?  

        Brigham Young had a marvelous plan for naming the streets, starting from a point at the southeast corner of the Mormon Temple grounds and going all four directions from that spot.  He divided the land into Blocks, and going south, every Block went from First South, to Second, Third,  Fourth and ended at Ninth South, because that’s where the city ended.

        Every foot of land  beyond was considered desert, but when  some man began a farm a few miles south, no matter how far,  it became 10th South, and the next farm, with no surveying,  became 11th South, and so, 4800 South was  the eighth street  south of that original boundary of 9th south.

        Then there is Redwood Road with nary a tree or a  family named Redwood anywhere near.  Well, Jess W. Fox, Surveyor of the Mormon Grounds, was asked to draw plans for a road from North Temple Street south to where 21st South now is.  He did, and named it Campus Lane, but no one liked  that, so they tried Fairbanks, which didn’t stick, either. 

        Finally ‘Redwood’, the nick-name the workmen had used from day-one, became official.  Thousands of  Surveyor’s Pegs were needed to lay out that road, and those pegs were made from Redwood trees because that wood could withstand the hard pounding needed  to drive them into cement-like ground, as well as hold up under all kinds of weather.  And so, the laborers who did the work, also named it.  Good for them.

        Mormon Wards were the center of Pioneer life, and were usually named after the predominant  family,  and when a ward  became too large, it was divided.  Many families settled west of the Jordan River, and so West Jordan Ward  became its name.  But in 1867  it was divided into many smaller ones and the communities of Bluffdale, Riverton, Herriman, South Jordan, Granger, Taylorsville, Hunter, and Pleasant Green were formed.

        Bluffdale was named after the high nearby bluffs above the Jordan Narrows, Taylorsville after the early Taylor family, and Brighton, at first Silver Lake, was named after Thomas W. Brighton who  built the first home at the top of  Big Cottonwood Canyon.

        Alta, high up in Little Cottonwood Canyon,  was the site of a silver mine, and one of my uncles, Lethair (sp?) Goodall, died along with others in a snow slide there.  And, as many of the miners were Spanish, they used their word for ‘high’ , namely Alta, to mark 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 knows that ‘Alta’ is of Spanish origin.

        Draper Ward opened in 1867, surveyed and planned by the same Jess Fox.  He divided the land into farms, numbered each one, put those numbers on slips of paper, and eligible men picked a slip from a hat Fox held, and, like it or not,  that was where they would live.  They called it South Willow Creek, but soon was re-named Draper after one of those early Settlers.  Willow Creek still lives on, but now just as  an area of the far southeastern part of our valley.

        So. Cottonwood ward was divided, forming Union, after Fort Union; and Granite, after the rock mined nearby to build the Mormon Temple.   Once there were many  smelters in the valley with the one in Murray being the only one that continued through the years,  but one of them, built  upon sandy soil,  became the  Sandy City we know today.

        I like the humor that oftrn crops up in staid journals, and so, with apologies to who ever wants them, Sandy  was,  at that time, known as the Red Light District of the valley.  Oh me.

        Midvale (another smelter town) was first known as Bingham Junction, later as East Jordan and finally,  because of  its location, Midvale.  Bingham 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.

        Franklin, a spot on the railroad  running south from Salt Lake, soon became Murray City, after the territorial Governor Eli H. Murray.  Sugar House was named for a Beet Sugar Mill built  there, and  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, there were many small,  isolated spots with names that lasted so short a time they were never recorded, but nevertheless, that place was here. 
Good luck.

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