On Sunday it will have been 175 years since July 24, 1847, when pioneers first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Today, the 24th is a state holiday set aside to honor the pioneers. Who are those pioneers and what can be learned today from their efforts and experiences?
Three Cache Valley residents who are descendants of the first pioneers who helped in settlements from Wellsville, Richmond and Smithfield pay tribute to their ancestors who heeded a call from their prophet to leave their homeland, coming from England and Denmark to gather and help build up the burgeoning Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in America.
When these descendants learned of the struggles, failures and triumphs that their ancestors went through, they expressed that they are proud to have these stalwart forebears whose examples they can follow.
Located at the northern edge of Utah, Cache County is a green, fertile valley with the Wasatch and Wellsville Mountains and the Bear River flowing through it. The first European inhabitants of the valley were beaver trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1824. The valley was also habited by Shoshone Native Americans who lived there for many years. The trappers were generally on friendly terms with the Shoshone and kept mostly to themselves along the rivers and streams of the valley.
The first permanent settlers to come to Cache Valley were a Mormon pioneer group sent by Brigham Young, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in 1855 to begin a cattle ranch near the Blacksmith Fork River. The ranch was called Elkhorn Ranch.
The settlers gave up after the harsh winter and drove the cattle back to the Salt Lake Valley.
Born in Milton, England, Peter Maughan first traveled to the United States in 1841 shortly after the death of his first wife, bringing along their six children. He met Mary Ann Weston Davis in Ohio, and they soon wed after traveling to Nauvoo, Illinois, where they had eight more children. They left Nauvoo, and arrived in Salt Lake City in 1850, settling in Tooele, where poor soil, lack of water and grasshoppers made survival difficult.
On September 15, 1856, Brigham Young sent Peter and Mary Ann to make a permanent settlement called Maughan’s Fort, now known as Wellsville. More settlers began to arrive, and by 1859 five more towns were formed: Mendon, Providence, Logan, Richmond and Smithfield.
Peter Maughan is the 4th great-grandfather of Richard Leishman Maughan, 82, of Wellsville.
“I learned from reading about the life of Peter Maughan to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s salary, and to make sure you enjoy what you do,” Richard said. “I’m proud of my heritage. Peter was sent by a prophet. There has been a lot accomplished by the Maughans in Wellsville in helping to settle this area and he was successful. I pay tribute to my ancestor for his example of honesty and integrity.”
At 60 years old, Peter contracted pneumonia and died on April 24, 1871, just under 15 years after arriving in the valley. He is buried in the Logan cemetery.
“I feel great about Peter Maughan being my ancestor. I have read about his life. I learned that he was a true believer of the LDS religion,” Mitchell Maughan, another of Peter’s descendants, said. “He was a very peaceful man, and had a good rapport with the Native Americans.”
On the southern end of Cache Valley in Smithfield, there are two LaMont Poulsens and both of them are descendants of James Poulsen, their common ancestor.
To LaMont Poulsen of Smithfield, James Poulsen is his great-great-grandfather. LaMont, along with other family members, recently sold a family property to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the Smithfield Temple that held the groundbreaking for the temple in June 2022.
The other LaMont Poulsen of Smithfield — who goes by Mont — is a teacher and home designer.
“James Poulsen is my great-grandfather. He immigrated from Denmark to Wellsville to settle with the Danish settlers there. Then the Prophet Brigham Young sent James to Bear Lake to help settle that area where he stayed for one year,” Mont Poulsen recalled. “My father, Larry Neil Poulsen, told me that James returned to Wellsville explaining to the prophet that they couldn’t live there as it was uninhabitable, that they froze and nearly starved to death with only a 180-day growing season. But the prophet said he knew it was hard but they wouldn’t starve.”
James Poulsen returned to the Bear Lake Liberty area where he lived for the rest of his life.
LaMont Poulsen’s ancestors migrated back to Cache Valley in Smithfield, Utah, while Mont Poulsen’s ancestors stayed in Bear Lake for two more generations. Mont’s father, Larry Poulsen, eventually moved to Utah Valley, where Mont Poulsen was raised in Lehi, Utah.
Though having never lived in Cache Valley, Mont’s first connection to Cache Valley since his great-grandfather James Poulsen had lived in Wellsville came when Mont was hired by the LDS Church Seminary system teaching Seminary at Sky View High School starting in 1990 and to work on a Master’s Degree in history at Utah State University.
“My wife and I traveled throughout Cache Valley looking for a place to live and kept returning to Smithfield for some reason and bought a house there. When I learned that the other LaMont Poulsen family, whom I didn’t even know about, had helped settle Smithfield, I felt that I have come full circle. I discovered a whole side of the family I didn’t know and I am getting to learn about them. I feel it is an honor to live here in Smithfield because of my ancestors.”
Mont Poulsen said that knowing of the hardships that his ancestors encountered to survive have instilled in him some important priorities in his life that help him on a daily basis. For instance, his great-grandfather, James Poulsen, known as the “Faithful Dane,” was baptized in Denmark. Soon after he and his wife and three children emigrated to America, due to measles and other diseases that infected their ship, James’ wife and three children were buried at sea.
“For me, those ancestors followed the prophet, they joined the church, they immigrated which made me an American, they came to Cache Valley and now I live here, has also now made me a Cache Valley resident. I’ve lived here in Smithfield longer than I’ve lived anywhere,” Mont said.
Mont has another great-grandfather, William Waddoups, who immigrated at age 18 along with his 16-year-old sister, waiting until their parents could join with them where they settled in Lewiston, Utah.
James Hendricks and his wife, Drusilla Dorris, together with their son William D. Hendricks were one of the early pioneering families of Richmond, Utah.
After living in the Salt Lake Valley for a few years, and following the evacuation from Johnston’s Army in 1858, Brigham Young sent the Hendricks family to settle in Richmond. Even though James was still suffering from injuries that he received during the conflicts in Missouri, his son who had recently been released from duty with the Mormon Battalion had many skills. William (W.D. as he was known) opened a sawmill in Richmond and provided timbers for building up the area. W.D. was called to be the first Stake President of the Oneida Stake which included much of northern Utah and southern Idaho. His home was where the current Richmond City building now stands.
Hendricks is the great-great-grandfather of James Waite of Nibley. Milo Andrus, an early church leader and pioneer, was patriarch in the stake and is also one of Waite’s great-great-grandfathers.
Hendricks was born of Dutch ancestry on June 23, 1808, and raised in Franklin, Kentucky. In 1836, James and Drusilla were converted to the LDS Church. However, due to conflicts in the area, they moved to Missouri and purchased a farm near Far West. Tensions caused saints along with the Hendricks family to move to Nauvoo, Illinois, where they ran a boarding house. Again, due to the trials of that time they left to go west with the saints, staying at Council Bluffs and then traveling in a covered wagon, reaching Salt Lake Valley on October 4, 1847. Their son W.D. arrived from California from his duty with the Mormon Battalion on October 14.
James Waite learned of his family history after reconnecting with the Hendricks family and was asked to write a book on his grandfather George Gideon Hendricks, W.D.’s son.
“It was an amazing journey for me. I learned of my pioneer ancestry and that they were courageous, loyal and showed great perseverance through many trials and injuries. Their testimonies obviously strengthened me as I look to them in my life,” Waite said.
James Hendricks died July 8, 1870. He is buried along with his family in the Richmond cemetery.
From these tributes, although encountering hardships, the pioneers also found joy throughout their journey, singing and dancing at nighttime along the way. They had to prepare physically as well as spiritually. They made sacrifices and had a great deal of faith in their religion to travel and settle in a new area.