Riverton City is gearing up for a big 150th year celebration of its “founding” in 2015. That is all well and good, except for the fact that the city will be fifteen years too late for that sesquicentennial event.
It is positively baffling to me why City Fathers are using the date of 1865 for the so-called “founding” of Riverton. They have inscribed that on all the nice-looking boulders found at key entrances to the city and on the city logo (“Founded in 1865”). What are they using to establish that as the so-called “founding” year?
That is the year when N. T. Silcock first bought a farm from James Gordon on the bottomland. He first lived in a dugout just east of where the Riverbend Golf Course clubhouse is, down the hill, between the clubhouse and the Jordan River. I saw the foundations of that dugout several years before the golf course was built.
But if City Fathers would have carefully read the first chapter of my and Scott Crump’s book, Riverton: The Story of a Utah Country Town, they would have seen that N. T. Silcock was not the first settler in Riverton. People lived in Riverton years before 1865.
On page 6 of our book, I wrote that Archibald Gardner was the first person to actually live in Riverton. Although sources aren’t clear when Gardner actually built his house in Riverton, it may have been about 1855-56. But at least by 1860 there were two or three families living in houses on the Riverton bottomlands. So it is a mistake to date Riverton’s founding to 1865.
Scott and I published our Riverton book in 1994, but almost ten years later I stumbled on a source that I hadn’t seen when we wrote the book. In Franklin Wheeler Young’s autobiography in the LDS Church History Library, I learned that Lorenzo Dow Young should be credited as being the first person to settle in Riverton. I published this finding in a monthly historical newsletter that my wife, Karen, and I produced for five years (see Riverton Yesterdays, vol. 3, no. 5, Dec. 2003, pp. 8-9).
Lorenzo Dow Young was one of Brigham Young’s brothers. He came to Utah with his wife, Harriet, and two of his children in the Vanguard Company led by his brother/prophet in 1847. Part of his family, including his 9-year-old son, Franklin Wheeler Young, followed a few weeks behind in Jedediah M. Grant’s company. The young boy Franklin helped herd his father’s cows and sheep across the plains. A few weeks after their arrival, Harriet gave birth to the first white male child born in the valley. In 1849, Lorenzo went back to Missouri and bought a herd of 500 sheep and some cows. These are the sheep and cows that Lorenzo Dow Young brought to his Riverton ranch in the fall of 1850 “on the west side of the Jordan river opposite of what is now called Draper.” They had a “herd house” on their ranch there. Franklin, at age 12, helped his father with herd duties. In 1853, Lorenzo traded his Riverton ranch for a small farm in what later became Murray.
If Riverton City wants to be accurate about their history, they need to use 1850 as the first documented date of its settlement. And this may be fussy, but I believe “settled” is a more accurate word to use than “founded.” Those first people who came to Riverton were not part of any organized body of people intent on establishing any town. They came there independently of each other and settled in a scattered condition along the west bank of the river bottoms. Over time, more people came and a community developed.