History of Holden

" In 1853, a group of wagons came over the rise of Scipio Summit. The Pioneers saw a valley covered with grass and sage brush with trees defining the creeks. This large fertile valley was surrounded by the Pahvant range of mountains on the south and east, by the House range on the west, and the Canyon range on the north. To the west was Pahvant Butte (also known as Sugar Loaf), an ancient volcanic cone. Beyond lay the Cricket and the Sawtooth Mountains. To the north were the blue mountains of Eight Mile, with Starswanzy and Church Spring Hills in the fore-ground. In the east spread the canyons-wild Goose, Wide Canyon, Maple Hollow, Johnsons, and Pioneer-Crowned by Jack’s Peak, Old Baldy, Blow Hard, and the Indian Ranch peaks. A short distance to the southwest, lay the Twin peaks. The shore line of old Lake Bonneville could be traced here and there along the mountains in the east. Sand dunes lay about eight miles to the west. On a windy day the sand drifted high as it traveled its incessant march to the north. These pioneers did not know it at the time but the climate was typical of the North Temperate Zone, too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.

"William Stevens and Richard Johnson obtained permission from Brigham Young to start a new settlement. On June 15, 1855 the two men and their families came from Fillmore and settled on Pioneer Creek. The two families lived in dugouts and wagon boxes on the creek until fall. These men built a log guard house and began hauling rocks for a fort. The first plowing at this area was done and attempts were made to plant crops but the harvest was poor because of the shortness of the season and menacing grasshoppers.

"Elijah Edward Holden was born March 27, 1826 in Kentucky to Edward and Sarah Holden. His father died when he was eleven. At the age of nineteen he was ordained a Seventy at Council Bluffs, Joined the Mormon Battalion, and marched to California. He came back to Utah in 1847, soon as the pioneers arrived.   On September 5, 1857 Holden took a load of wool to Salt Creek (Nephi) to have it carded and made into rolls of thread for the women to spin. When he left, the weather was average for the time of the year. On his way home, a cold rain started to fall which soon turned into a fierce blizzard raging towards him from the south. The temperature dropped very quickly and snow began to fall. Elijah Edward Holden had traveled from the Missouri to the Pacific in all kinds of weather and felt he could face the storm on foot for the 30 miles ahead. He wasn’t prepared for the sudden change of weather. By the time he and his team reached Chicken Creek, about a half day’s drive, the storm was so strong that the team would not face it. Elijah left his team and wagon there and attempted to walk the rest of the way. With him was a young lad, Thomas Bailey, whom he had hired to help him. Thomas became exhausted on the steep part of Sevier Hill south of the Sevier River. Holden carried the boy as far as he could, then wrapped the boy in his grey cloth over shirt, and left young Bailey by the side of the trail where he perished. Holden continued on, dressed in just his shirt and trousers. He mounted the hill and crossed Round Valley, climbed up Round Valley Canyon and finally he was over the top, and got as far as one-half mile south of the Scipio Summit. It is conjectured that as he went on he felt his strength was gone. His goal was in sight, except for the raging storm. He sought shelter in a clump of scrub oak by the side of the road, thinking he would rest, and then go on when the storm was abated. His limbs were numb. Elijah could scarcely feel the cold. He was hungry, exhausted, and sleepy and soon fell into a deep sleep. His body was found a few days later on September 8th on the west side of the road frozen to death. His team was found in Levan. He left a wife and four small children. His body was taken to Fillmore where he was buried next to his first wife and baby daughter. His second wife and family moved away shortly after his death.  

"The first post office was established in 1858 and the name of the town was changed from Cedar Springs to Holden in honor of Edward Elijah Holden who had frozen to death the year before. Rosaline Chandler Harmon acted as postmistress in the fort. Later the post office was operated in connection with the Co-op store. At first the mail was delivered once a week. The official charter for the post office was dated December 7, 1864. David Riley Stevens was given the contract to care for the horses of the mail carriers who brought the mail from Fort York, south of Santaquin, and took the mail on as far as Pioche, Nevada. Later, Mr. Stevens was given the contract to take the mail from Juab to Kanosh and from Holden to Oak City.

"Richard Johnson was Postmaster from time the Post Office was chartered in 1864. The Post Office was discontinued on April 20, 1866, and reestablished 3 years later when Charles Wood was appointed Postmaster.


"In 1864 the settlers built an adobe school house just west of the spot where the newer two story school house eventually was built. This building was twenty-four feet long, eighteen feet wide and faced north. The Students remembered it as being long, low and narrow. The only door was on the north end and there were two windows on each side. Between the two west windows was a small stand for the teacher. The school furniture consisted of two long board tables and homemade plank benches for seats, without paint or polish. Six students sat at each table. There was a hole in the northeast corner of the room. The mischievous boys, who sat around the table on the side of the room, would occasionally crawl in and out during school when the teacher wasn’t looking. A large fireplace in the south end sent forth heat during the cold winter months. Homemade tallow candles gave light in the evening to this cozy little building. The drinking fountain was a bucket of water with a long handled dipper. Sometimes the teacher had to remind the students to “stop drinking over the water bucket.” Another Story is told of students sharing chewing gum one with another (this was in the days before germs). Young Simeon (Simmy) Stephenson was given the job of janitor by his father Simeon, who was school trustee, to teach him how to take responsibility.

At first the children were taught in the homes. Charlotte Ashby and Joanna Teeples were two of the early teachers. The first settlers had built a guard house of cottonwood logs on Pioneer Creek. After the fort was finished, this old house was moved into the fort and used as a church and school house. Delilah King was the first appointed teacher. This house served as an all-purpose gathering place. In building school, church, dances and amusements of all kinds were held. Many pleasant hours were spent there by the town’s people. A bowery was built on the public square nearby where church was held during the summer months, as well as the Fourth and Twenty-fourth of July celebrations.


"The children used slates on which to do their school work which consisted of arithmetic, spelling and reading. Slate pencils made a scratch, scratchy noise while writing. The students were required to perform a great deal of concert recitation. Books and slates were stacked on the table in front of each student. Their textbooks were primarily spelling books, a few readers and some arithmetic books. This course of study was the three R’s. In those days discipline was rather severe. An open hand struck with a ruler or a tap on the head when needed was common. There was some paper on which to write compositions and draw maps. Some years later the south wall and fireplace were removed and the building lengthened. On the south wall a new stage was built. A large box stove replaced the fireplace. This building served as a school, amusement hall and meeting house for more than twenty years.

"The first store was in the fort and was owned and operated by William Stevens, the father of the Stevens Family. This store was set up in one room of his house. He stocked cloth, groceries and whatever else was needed. Most of the goods were shipped from Missouri. Produce was exchanged in as there were no paper sacks or wrappings. William Stevens’ son, Edward, made a special trip to Missouri at one time to get supplies for the store

"In 1870 the cooperative store was started by fifty stockholders with a capital stock of $1,000.00 This was the first cooperative store in the county. Charles Wood, Sr. was engaged as the first manager. The store was a log room built in the southeast corner of Charles Wood’s lot. In 1880 the co-op store was moved from the corner of the Wood lot one block north and one block east into a new store which was made of rock. William Harden Ashby donated the land for this new building, He was given the old store in return for this land which he moved out to his land north of Holden. When the co-op store was first organized the settlers would bring in their produce and exchange it for other goods needed. If their goods amounted to more than they wished to spend, they were given their change in the form of scrip. Some of the first scrip was written on paper. Later, light metal coins were issued. They could only be spent at the co-op store. The young children of the town would delight in being able to bring in eggs to exchange for candy. As kids will, often these eggs were taken from underneath the hens by stealth. They were able to get a large amount of candy and nuts for only two eggs.

"When the Co-op store was moved, Charles Wood, Sr. established a store in the little north room of his home which stood on the southeast corner of his lot. This Wood’s Mercantile Institution is one of the oldest in the county. John wood and Edward Wood took over the business in 1901."


The following was written by William R. Teeples and published in the Deseret News, December 24, 1868:

“Holden, or as it is more commonly termed, Cedar Springs or Buttermilk Fort, was a few years ago a place thought suitable for a ranch only, as there was not sufficient water to justify the formation of a settlement, buy through the blessings of the Almighty, the water has increased and, with the discovery of other facilities, we now have a settlement of upwards of 40 families and accommodations for more.

“We have about 90 scholars, which are of the proper age to go to school, and we are very desirous of having a school in a live condition. One or two teachers would do well to come here They could get a small farm and a city lot and have steady employment.

“If any of your readers, being competent to teach should desire to change their location, they would do well to apply immediately.

“We have good water, plenty of wood handy, one of the finest grazing districts in the Territory, and every facility calculated to make a good home. We are not troubled with any apostates or regenerants from outside civilization, but are all trying to do as near right as we can.

“We are a little behind in our Co-operative store, but are going to start one right away. We have a good Sunday school which is well attended, and have the promise of having a Female Relief Society organized here shortly. The health of the people is generally excellent. There have been but five deaths here within the last four years, all of which were persons of under three years of age.”

Taken from History of Holden