By CLAUDIA ERICKSON
(Editorial Note: Part 179 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted Franklin County. Sources: History of Dayton compiled by Arthea Moser; Larsen-Sant Library Special Collections; The Trailblazer, by Newell Hart.; Riverdale History; Life story of Ellen Woodward.)
The settlement of Franklin, Idaho, began in the spring of 1860, when pioneer colonizers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint of Utah chose the spot to build their fort and begin a new chapter in their lives. They explored the country around the Muddy (Cub River), needing adequate pasture for their livestock and, by 1861, had discovered a supply of marsh grass to harvest for over-wintering their cattle.
“An early Dayton history calls this area Fair Meadows, then Bridgeport, then The Riverbottom. The Riverdale history describes it as a ”lush green meadow that extended from the Bear River Massacre area south to Franklin.” With the waters of the Bear River running through, it was an ideal pasture for years to come.
By 1865-66 there was a small population of people farming and living in Fair Meadows with their families. Fifteen families settled here, began to build homes, and the village became known as Bridgeport. They lived in dugouts and log cabins with dirt roofs and floors. A few were built on the east side of the river. This gathering of people was located three miles east of Dayton, on the west side of the Bear River at the mouth of Deep Creek. Of the fifteen original families only six filed on homesteads: George Freestone, Thomas Mendenhall, Jr, George M. Mendenhall, James Frew, Orson Shipley and Nathan T. Packer.
Bridgeport was a place of business and activity. At first George Mendenhall had a ferry boat crossing the Bear to provide access to the eastern side of the valley. After the Battle of Bear River with the Indian trouble quieted down, ”Nathan Packer and William Davis located a ferry boat south of the massacre site which was used for the purpose of taking people, teams, wagons and freight across the Bear. A license for their ferry was granted by Oneida County in 1869.”
Later Packer built a bridge close to the ferry. Elvira Wheeler, a skilled nurse and midwife looked after the health of the residents living there. A Latter-day Saint ward was organized. A station for the Overland Stage from Oxford was set up at Squaw Springs and later two more stage lines used the location for changing horses for their coaches. “In 1874, the Atkinson brothers, Jim and Fred, got the contract to carry mail once a week from Franklin to Soda Springs.”
Fifteen families had come to settle near these meadows. “Little is known how long the fifteen families stayed in Bridgeport. History shows that the Frews and the Mendenhalls were the two families that have endured all trials and good times in the meadows of Bridgeport.” The tragic story of the Mendenhall family was covered in this column in August of 2017. Neighbors to the Mendenhall’s, the Frew family also developed a cemetery on their homestead.
Among the hardy souls that came to Franklin in 1860 was the John Frew family which had migrated from Scotland in 1856 after their conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. John and Jane Frew sailed on the ship “Enoch Train” from Liverpool, England, to New York and traveled by handcart to the Salt Lake Valley. Their oldest son, James was 13 when they made their way to the Muddy River, at the direction of Brigham Young.
The Frew family was an active part of the community for nine years. In 1869 John and Jane and some of their younger children moved to Hooper, in Weber county, Utah Territory. James chose to stay in Franklin and by then had become a part of the Bridgeport farmers, though not yet married.
James married Ellen Woodward in 1877 in Logan, UT. Ellen and James had 14 children — eight girls and six boys — all born in Franklin, except the first who was born in Bear River a town in Franklin County that no longer exists, but stood
On the bluff above the pastures sought by the Franklin residents is the Frew Family Cemetery. According to information given by Carl Frew, the 10th child of James and Ellen Frew, his parents started ranching on “the river-bottom grass country, south and west of Bear River bridge, back in 1877 – the year your Brigham Young died – and so there were Frew homes both in Franklin and west from Preston, once known as the “Franklin Meadows” (though five or six miles from Franklin). Census records place the family in Franklin in 1880 and 1900, but in Dayton in both 1910 and 1920.
From the History of Dayton: “The Frew Family Cemetery is located on the next little knoll just to the east of the Mendenhall Cemetery. It has only seven graves and is part of the original Frew Ranch. Each person buried here has been a member of the family with some being part of the extended family as were the two infants. A chain link fence surrounds the graves marking their location as there are no headstones with the exception of Ellen W. Frew’s. Iris flowers were planted and the graves were cleaned on a yearly basis.”
Carl indicated that the first grave was that of George Woodward who died in 1878. There are nine graves in the cemetery, the last are those of siblings, Dan and Carlene Frew.