Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019


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 Hudspeth Cutoff came right through that part of the valley.  It began to be used in 1849 by a man named Benoni Hudspeth who was trying 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 into Fort Hall (near Pocatello, Idaho) and then breaking off to go to California, the Hudspeth Cutoff went west from Soda Springs, south into what was later named Dairy Creek (by the current Daniels Reservoir at the southern end of Hawkins Basin, east of the Arbon Valley), and then up the mountain and over into Arbon Valley. 

At that time the name of “Arbon” did not exist in the valley, and the whole area was known as Bannock Valley. The creek running north through the valley is still called Bannock Creek.  The Hudspeth route meandered through the valley until it went over the west hills through Bull Canyon and ended up at Twin Springs.  The route was known for a scarcity of water with long days between water sources – the emigrants were very happy to get a day’s rest at Twin Springs, which could provide enough water for a wagon train.  But this way also had easier hills than the old Fort Hall route, so emigrants braved it. (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 brick bathrooms.)

The Hudspeth route soon became the main route to California between 1849 until 1859 when the Lander Cutoff (south of Afton, Wyoming) became more popular in the 1850s. This alternate trail was about 132 miles long, but didn’t save that much actual time in the long run. It rejoined the older California Trail at the City of Rocks (in Idaho). One historian guessed that an estimated 45,000 emigrants traveled the 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!

In the meantime native people, mountain men, and trappers came into the valley to hunt, but never to stay through a winter. Then cattlemen grazed their cattle in the high native grasses – cattlemen and cowboys who were not happy to see homesteaders come into the valley and break up the native sod to plant their farms. It was several decades more before homesteaders came into the valley to stay and create farms.   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 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), and he promoted the 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 another 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, or just winter, 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 area, just a few miles southwest of Buist.

Of 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 surprise modern residents. Only the foundation survives of the Buist church that took so much time and sacrifice from the original homesteaders. No functioning community buildings exist.


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