Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019
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Crystal

The Crystal area of Arbon Valley was homesteaded later than the Arbon, West Fork, Pauline, Summit, and Buist areas of what today is known as Arbon Valley. This is attested to by the fact that of the long list of homesteaders in the Crystal area, only three men proved up on their homestead before 1910 (Joseph Meadows, 1907; John Johnston, 1909; and Henry Kettler, 1909). Of the homesteader names listed prior to 1920, the Hayden, Bradley, Stewart, and Wright families are the only ones with homes and farms still in the Crystal area.

Back when there were families on every quarter section (160 acres) of land, every area had its own post office, store, school, and sometimes church and cemetery. Every area expected to someday grow into thriving independent towns. The Crystal area was no exception. Twain and Michelle Hayden currently live in the renovated Crystal store and post office.  The cemetery, at least those burials which could be found, was relocated to Pocatello sometime in the 1970s.

The Crystal area is a high basin with a series of small springs that feed two main creeks, Midnight and Rattlesnake creeks, that eventually feed into Bannock Creek as it flows north through the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation. The Crystal area relies mostly on dry farming, which relies on rainfall and fallowing the soil every other growing season.  The base of the valley is good for farming (barring drought), surrounded by rolling hills that make good rangeland for cattle.

The following information is paraphrased from the book, Bannock Valley, by Laurie Jean Ward (1982, p. 147): The Crystal Post Office opened in 1910, with Cora Snyder as first postmistress. However, no official mail route was established.  People took turns bringing the mail from the Hawkins Basin, which was twelve miles southeast over questionable roads – sometimes the mail took two months getting from Pocatello, down to Hawkins, and finally on to Crystal!

Close to the Mink Creek Road, turning up Mid-Crystal Road, the old Crystal school house (in District 14) sits in what today is the Hayden stack yard, with the old chalk board still attached to the wall inside.  This Crystal Central School was built in 1912. It was a frame building, 28 feet by 48 feet and cost the community $1,750 to build.  Money was hard to come by, so the building of a school in any homesteading area attested to the attitude of the importance of education the homesteaders held. There were five other schools in the Crystal area too, as the area encompassed about fifty square miles.

In 1911 a unified Sunday School was organized on Rattlesnake Creek to be used by all denominations. This met in the Rattlesnake schoolhouse, close to the Bradley ranch, up Mercer Creek Road, the first house on the right. This is now a private home, and the owner does not want visitors.

An LDS meetinghouse was built near the Crystal schoolhouse. This ward was organized in 1913, and at first was a thriving congregation of about fifty people. But as families moved to town in the winters so their children could go to high school, and as the crops failed and families moved out permanently, this little branch faltered. At one time there were only three priesthood holders in the branch. It was finally disbanded in 1935.

There was also a store and amusement hall built about three-quarters of a mile southwest of the LDS meetinghouse. Since the establishment sold alcohol, this was probably also well-attended on Sundays!

Sources:

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

Crystal Timeline:

1907Joseph Meadows was first to prove up on his homestead in the Crystal Area. Other original homesteaders include Hayden, Bradley, Stewart, and Wright.

1910 – Crystal Post Office organized, with Cora Snyder first postmistress. This was located in what is today the Twain Hayden home. No mail routes – people took turns picking up mail in Hawkins. Sometimes a letter took two months.

1911 – Unified (non-denominational) Sunday School was organized in the Rattlesnake School House (on Mercer Creek).

1912 – Crystal Central School built, District 14. There were five other schools in the Crystal area, including the one on Mercer Creek just up from Rattlesnake.

1913 – LDS meetinghouse built. This covered an area of about fifty square miles. This was disbanded due to depopulation in 1935, and incorporated into the Pocatello Stake.