Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019
Login

Buist

The Buist area is in Oneida County, at the south end of Arbon Valley.  This area was at first known by several names, among them North Holbrook, Curlew Valley, and Sheep Creek. The altitude is between 5500 and 5600 feet above sea level. Today the name of Buist is known only to a few residents of Arbon Valley.

Buist played an important part in the California Gold Rush that many people today are not aware of. The new trail was promoted in 1849 by a man named Benoni Hudspeth who was trying to find a way to get to the California gold faster than via the old Fort Hall route, which took them quite a bit farther north as part of the old Oregon Trail. Instead of going from Soda Springs, Idaho north to Fort Hall (near Pocatello) and then breaking off at Fort Hall onto the California Trail, the Hudspeth Cutoff went west from Soda Springs, south into what was later called Dairy Creek (by the current Daniels Reservoir at the southern end of Hawkins Basin), dropping into Arbon Valley in the Summit area. It meandered south on the valley floor, and went west basically on what is today the road through Bull Canyon.

At that time the whole area was known as Bannock Valley. The creek running north through the valley is still called Bannock Creek.  The emigrants were very happy to finally get a day’s rest at Twin Springs, which provided enough water for all the livestock and people in a wagon train.  This new route presented easier hills than the old Fort Hall route, so emigrants often prefered it, even though it did not save much actual time. (To see Twin Springs today, go to Holbrook, Idaho, and follow the road to Rockland. It is now a picnic area on the west side of the road, complete with shaded picnic tables and – yay! – brick bathrooms.)

The Hudspeth route soon became the main route to California between 1849 until 1859. It rejoined the older California Trail at the City of Rocks (in Idaho). One historian guessed that an estimated 45,000 emigrants traveled the Hudspeth route in 1850 alone. About 250 wagons a day, with all their hundreds of additional livestock, traveled that trail, and it did not take long for the road to look like a well-traveled highway. Imagine Arbon Valley today with over 250 wagons traveling through it daily!

In the meantime native people, mountain men, and trappers came into the valley to hunt, but never to stay through a winter. Cattlemen grazed their cattle in the high native grasses – cattlemen who were not happy to see homesteaders come into the valley to create farms and build fences.

Filing on 160 acres took only sixteen dollars – and then five years of blood, sweat, tears, and hard work to prove up. One of the first homesteaders in the Buist area was Brigham Young Mansfield, who started a ranch in the area in 1898. He had been born in England and immigrated to Samaria (by Malad, Idaho). He promoted the lower Bannock Valley to other men in the Samaria area.

As more homesteaders came into the valley, a post office was established in 1909.  It was named Buist, after a homesteader named William Buist.

With homesteaders (and their wives and children) came social institutions such as churches and schools. This valley, like others in the area, had at one time a family or homesteader on every quarter section. That made for a lot of children who needed to go to school! The Mountain View school was built in 1914 and continued until 1935. It was located on land Bert Marble later owned. Another school was built in 1916, north of the Mountain View school, up by where the Willie family had homesteaded.  This was called the Buist School. While it was being built, school was held in the Willie home. This school was active until 1931. The old building was torn down in 1969 by Andy King, and the lumber was used to build Merrill Perry’s house (on the south side of West Basin Road).

The Buist Branch of the LDS Church was organized in 1913 as a branch of the Holbrook Ward, in the Malad Stake.  At that time, Sunday School had been being held for a few years before the area was organized into an official branch. In 1915 the Buist Branch was re-organized into the Meadow View Ward. About twenty-five families were part of this ward.  But when hard times came, people moved away to better economic situations or schools. The ward stopped activities from October to April, and later in 1937 the ward was discontinued.

The earliest telephones came about 1922, with the old crank phones, everyone with their own special ring pattern, and everyone on party lines.  The wires were barbed wire strung on fence posts. Even though every household had their own special ring, anyone along the line could listen in on another person’s conversation if they wanted to – this must have been a harsh temptation to several isolated homemakers. In 1952 a more modern system came from Holbrook that got rid of the old crank phones but retained the party lines for a few decades still. 

Electric power came to the Buist area about 1947. Other advanced blessed the Arbon families – the gravel road was first “oiled” about 1959, between Holbrook all the way up the valley north to where the road turned to the Crystal area.

The 1930s were particularly hard on farmers everywhere, and especially “dry” farmers. The high commodity prices from WWI were a thing of the past, prices bottomed out, and then to add insult to injury, the rains didn’t come. During the Depression era, many people left the Buist area, just as they did in other parts of Arbon Valley. The post office was discontinued in 1936 as more and more families left the Buist area due to drought, depressed crop prices, and other issues.

The US government declared Buist unsuitable for cultivation, and created the Curlew National Grasslands. The Buist Fields encompassed 7600 acres. Even though Buist was thought unsuitable for farming, the government started relocating dust-bowl farmers from the midwest into the Holbrook and Stone areas, just a few miles southwest of Buist.

From the earliest homesteading lists, the only surnames that still exist in Buist are the Bird, Hess, Marble, and Willie names. Interestingly, the Willies listed here were the children and grandchildren of Captain James Willie of the infamous Willie Handcart Company. Of these earliest homesteaders, only the Hess family still farms here, but new names have taken the place of the old, such as the Hubbards.

Today many of the old homestead cabins have been knocked over to make the fields easier to farm, navigating with large tractors and equipment. Some of the schools and cabins have been incorporated into existing farmyards as outbuildings. The old wells were filled in, sometimes to open up again and create a scary surprise for tractor operators. Only the foundation survives of the Buist church that took so much time and sacrifice from the original homesteaders. Many modern farms and homes dot the area, but no functioning community buildings exist.

Sources:

Ward, Laurie Jean, Bannock Valley (Providence, Utah: Keith Watkins and Sons, 1982).

Buist Timeline:

1898 – Brigham Young Mansfield homesteaded. Other families flood in, taking every 160 acres, so there were four families on every square mile. Some of the first names that are still familiar to valley residents today include Bird, Hardman, Hess, Jensen, Marble, and Willie.

1909 – Buist Post Office organized, named for an early homesteader, William Buist.

1913 – Buist LDS Branch organized under direction of the Holbrook Ward. In 1915 it was renamed the Meadow View Ward. It met only April to October, as most families moved to town in the winter. This branch was disbanded in 1937 due to depopulation.

1914 – Mountain View School built. Disbanded in 1935.

1916 – Buist School organized, meeting in the Willie home at first until a building could be built. In 1931 this was disbanded.

1922 – first phone lines, with old crank phones and party lines.

1936 – Buist Post Office discontinued.

1947 – Rural Electrical Act (REA) enabled power to be brought to rural farmers.

1952 – modern phone lines, no more crank phones, but still had party lines.

1959 – first oiled road through the valley.