Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019
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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. Summit has roads and areas vital to the valley both then and today.

One such important road was Jenson Pass. The early roads were often nothing more than Indian trails widened by wagon travel. But the homesteaders needed better roads to get their grain to market. 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 up the divide so someone could bring the extra team home. Today this early route is nearly impassable except by four-wheeler or horse.

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

As in other places in the west, cattlemen fought over grazing rights with sheepmen. One 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. But 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.

John Blaisdell remembered when he homesteaded by Holbrook. “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 that they were familiar with” (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 had this to say 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 [William’s brother] and I logged out enough timber from the canyon for Dad to do all the frame work 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, the branch met in the school on Sundays, with no worries about the “separation of church and state.” In May 1930 the branch was disbanded as so many families had moved away.

In Summit’s early days, a Community Church was formed for the Protestants in the valley. This 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. But this too was disbanded about ten years later as families moved away.

In 1915, the Highland school house was built next to the Community Church building, with sometimes over forty children attending. “The School House was divided into two large rooms. The children all met together in the East room where there was a large old stove in which they built fires to keep warm….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). This school was discontinued around 1941, as so many families had moved away permanently.

Of the early Summit homesteaders, some names are recognizable for their notoriety. Certainly one of these sad 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. She left behind two young children, witnesses to 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, building 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 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 year round. 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).