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Summit

The Summit area of Arbon Valley is the highest part of the valley – hence the name “Summit.” It is fairly level ground, good for dry farming. Summit lies between Arbon and Buist.

Early roads were essential to the homesteaders, but the early roads were often nothing more than Indian trails widened by wagon travel. The earliest roads were (1) Rocky Ridge in the Arbon area and (2) the Turkey Trail, about a mile south of Rocky Ridge.

But the homesteaders needed better roads to get their grain to market. the next road important to the history of the valley was Jenson Pass, built in Summit. This early road was named for the project supervisor, Joseph C. Jenson, who was also an early homesteader. The road was started around 1910, using a horse-drawn Fresno scraper.

According to the book, Bannock Valley (p. 237), this scraper was pulled by a team of horses. “They would walk behind holding [the scraper] down, and when they came to rocks and rough places, they had to blast [it out] with giant powder. The road was narrow with [just] a few turn outs so two wagons could [barely] pass.” This was an important road to Malad for many years. Later, about 1921, the road was relocated on the north side of the hill to make it easier to keep open in the wintertime.

Sacked wheat at a hundred pounds a sack was stacked on wagons and taken up and over Jenson Pass to Malad. “It required six head of horses to pull the load to the top of the divide” (Bannock Valley, p. 260). Four horses could take care of the load the rest of the way to Malad, so usually an extra person rode along starting up the divide so he could bring the extra team home. Today this early route is nearly impassable except by four-wheeler or horse (even though MapQuest has been known to send unsuspecting tourists over it).

Another area important to the Summit area’s history is Bull Canyon. California immigrants traversing the Hudspeth Cutoff decades before the homesteaders came used the southern end of this canyon to get to Twin Springs.

Unlike the Western movie stereotype of the cattlemen versus the sheepman, the Arbon Valley homesteaders with their recent British, Welsh, and Danish roots had no aversion to sheep. Many young boys herded their family’s flocks on the mountain, and many of the earliest homesteaders traveled east over the mountain into the Daniels area to help in the extensive shearing sheds that were there at that time. However, as in other places in the west, cattlemen fought over grazing rights with sheepmen. One anonymous sheepman was even said to have been “strung up” on the high end of the wagon tongue, though it is not known today if he was actually hanged or if the cattlemen were just sending a dangerous message.

The canyons held their share of secrets in the early days. An early Holbrook homesteader, John Blaisdell, remembered that “many times he was booted out of bed in the middle of the night by road agents, robbers, and thieves making their get-away from a hold-up or other unlawful act they had participated in further south. They would make him feed them and give them a grubstake and sometimes fresh horses. They told him they were heading for Bull Canyon to hide out from the law for a while. In that mountainous region with a lookout posted high on a mountain pass, they could observe anyone approaching from a long distance off, giving them time to escape capture by traveling east into the Arbon area, west into the Rockland area or farther north into more inaccessible mountain canyons” (Bannock Valley, p. 237).

The earliest legal documents concerning Bull Canyon was when cattlemen Thomas Sparks and Charles Herman filed land claims just a few days apart, in August 1885. It is thought that Charles Herman possibly worked for Thomas Sparks. The earliest water rights claims were filed in 1893 and 1894. The 1894 claim was filed by Peter Larsen, whose grandson Alan still lives on the road going through Bull Canyon today.

During the days of Prohibition, Bull Canyon was known to harbor a moonshine still, owned by a man named Pete Ospital. “Everytime the law would make a raid, somehow Pete would find out ahead of time that the law was coming and by the time the law arrived, Pete and his bunch would have everything hid away, then they would smile as the law hunted and looked for the evidence” (p. 253).

Summit native William King said about Bull Canyon: “It was quite an important place at that time because much of the lumber and logs for the homes out there probably came from the canyon. I can remember that the Walkers had a sawmill in Bull Canyon; then there was the Nunnelly brothers and last of all Walt Fredrich. My dad logged out of Bull Canyon enough timber to build his first home in Buist, also a granary in 1910. Later on in 1936 my dad with the help of Max [his brother] and I logged out enough timber from the canyon for Dad to do all the framework for a home that he was building in Logan, Utah” (Bannock Valley, p. 129).

An LDS Church branch was formed in June 1913, the first meetings of the Canyon Branch being held in private homes. After the Highland schoolhouse was built in the fall of 1915 next to the Community church building, the church branch met in the school on Sundays, with no worries about “separation of church and state.”

Highland School was well attended; sometimes attendance was over forty children. “The school house was divided into two large rooms. The children [often] met together in the East room where there was a large stove in which they built fires to keep warm” (Bannock Valley, p. 252).

In Summit’s early days, a Community Church was formed by the Protestants in the valley. They met in various private homes, ministered to by a traveling preacher who could get there mostly only in the summer months. An actual building was built around 1913 on the main road by Jenson’s Lane.

The Community church was disbanded about ten years later as families moved away. After that, the church building was basically used to shelter the horses the children rode to school. “Some of the children rode their horses to get to school, then they would tie them up inside the old abandon[ed] church house for the day….School would last until late November or until the winter snow set in making it too hard to travel” (Bannock Valley, p. 252).

In May 1930 the LDS church branch too was disbanded as so many families had moved away. This school was discontinued around 1941, as so many families had moved away permanently.

Most of the homesteaders lived quiet lives of hard work. But of the early Summit homesteaders, some names are recognizable for their notoriety. Certainly one of the saddest cases was Julian Maes, who murdered his love interest, Mrs. Esther Westcott, in January 1915. She was buried in Pocatello; he was buried in the unhallowed ground just west of the Arbon Cemetery, being both a murderer and a suicide. Esther left behind two young children who had witnessed their mother’s violent death. Julian left behind a suicide note leaving his land and any assets to the Westcott children. Even though Esther’s mother claimed Esther was a widow, in reality her husband was alive and well back in Nebraska, and he raised his motherless children.

Unlike poor Julian Maes, other homesteaders are not remembered for their final act but more for their staying power. Early homesteader names that many in Arbon would recognize today include Jenson, King, Larsen, and Sorensen.

The Jenson family was known in the valley for being very musical. Joseph C. Jenson organized the first brass band in Logan, Utah, before he homesteaded in the Bannock Valley. He was the first commissioner of roads in Arbon Valley, being the builder of Jenson Pass. He also organized an orchestra which played at all the dances in Arbon Valley. He made his own violins, could tune a piano, repaired shoes, and made harnesses and cabinets. He was probably typical of the independent, isolated, multi-talented homesteader.

One time an old cattleman named Mr. McKay came through the valley visiting those Arbon families he still knew. He told a story which took place in Summit. “When he used to run cattle in Arbon, one time he was out checking on his cattle and he rode his horse up on the south side of the cedar knoll on the ground Clyde [Jenson] now owns and there on a litter up high in a cedar tree was a dead Indian all dressed in his burial attire with many Indian relics all around him….Sometime later he decided to go back and look at the Indian and his belongings again, so he rode back up to the same spot, but someone had set the tree and the Indian a-fire and everything was burned up….[That] cedar knoll must be an old Indian burial ground” (Bannock Valley, page 253).

Today only a few families live in the Summit area. If you want to enjoy a beautiful drive, go up Bull Canyon in the summer or fall, but avoid it in the winter or spring!

Sources:

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

Summit Timeline:

1885 – Cattleman Thomas Sparks and his hired man made first land claims in Bull Canyon. The hired man later sold his claim to Thomas Sparks.

1893-1894First water rights in the Summit area were made. The earliest were Peter Larsen and Stephen Longstroth. Peter Larsen and Walter Fredrick made further water claims in June 1894. Peter Larsen and Joseph T. Wood made first homestead claims in this area. Names of early homesteaders included Hardman, Jenson, King, Larsen, Orison, Sorensen, and Wood (see Bannock Valley, pp 239-40 for full list).

1910-1912 – First roads were called Rocky Ridge and Turkey Trail, but these were little more than Indian trails made wider by settlers in wagons. In 1910 Oneida County hired Summit homesteader Joseph C. Jenson to supervise building a new road that would later be called Jenson Pass in honor of its builder. This better road would help the farmers get their goods to market in Malad.

1913 – The Canyon LDS Branch was organized, meeting in private homes.
It was originally part of the Arbon Ward of the Malad Stake. It was later organized (1915) under the Holbrook Ward of the Curlew Stake.

1913 – The Summit area’s Protestant homesteaders organized a Community
Church which met in private homes. The congregants quickly grew too large to meet in a home, so Mamie Nunnelley gave one acre of land for a church building. This church was active until the valley started losing population during WWI; it was discontinued in early 1920s. After that the building, which was next to the Highland School, was used to shelter the horses the children rode to school.

1915Highland School built. From then on, this was also gathering place
for church meetings and social gatherings. At first teachers “boarded around” with different families, but later the teachers later had their own cabin to live in during the school sessions.

1915 – First meeting of LDS Canyon Branch, Curlew Stake held Dec. 15th,
meeting in the new Highland school house. Joseph Benson was its first Presiding Elder. Missionaries sent out from this branch included Ammon Sorensen (1925), Frank Sorensen (1925 and 1928), Don Jenson (1926), and Archie Orison (1929).

1915 – On January 15th, lovelorn homesteader Julian Maes murdered female
homesteader Mrs. Esther Westcott with his shotgun. She was buried in Pocatello; he was buried in the field west of the Arbon Cemetery. He left his earthly goods to Mrs. Westcott’s two young children, aged seven and five. The children were sent back to Nebraska and raised by their father. Julian’s suicide note can be found on FamilySearch.org.

1920s – Pete Ospital operated a still up Bull Canyon. He never got caught, and seemed to have almost magical abilities to know when the government men would be out looking for his still. Regardless of the “Gov’ment men’s” inability to find his still, many Arbon men seemed to have no trouble at all finding it and generously shared Pete’s elixirs around at the many dances.

1930 Canyon LDS Branch was dissolved. the sixty or so families were
distributed between other wards, Holbrook or Arbon.

1941Highland School disbanded due to continuing population depletion
that started during WWI and continued through the Depression.