Pages From The Past - Jensen Utah History
By Doris Karren Burton
Uintah County Historian
Jensen, which lies on the Green River east of Vernal, was first settled by white settlers in 1877.
The first people to arrive were Isaac Burton, Sr. and his family. They had been on their way to Arizona to settle and were equipped with 5 new covered wagons, horses, mules, and a store of supplies. In Heber City they met Joseph Samuel Campbell,Abram Hatch and "Judge" or "Heat" Hatch, all of whom had cattle interest in the Ashley Valley. Their reports of the valley so impressed the Burtons that instead of going down Provo Canyon and on to Arizona, they directed their course up Daniel's Canyon and into Ashley Valley, arriving on November 17, 1877. They camped on Ashley Creek or Fork for three days while they explored and then moved on to what was known as "Lake Botton" on the Green River, just south of where Jensen is now located. They built two cabins and spent the winter there.
Besides the Burton family which consisted of twelve children at that time, they later had three more, and Ann Frisby, who worked for Mrs. Burton and later married Isaac, Jr. (Ike), there was a Dr. McClain with a light wagon and team, Ellis Reese and wife, with two yoke of oxen. Mrs. Reese was a sister of Annie Frisby.
They had only been there about three weeks when a compnay led by Thomas Bingham, Sr. arrived. They came by way of Echo canyon, Fort Bridger, through Browns Park over Diamond Mountain to Brush Creek. They followed the creek down to Green River. Then down the Green River to where Burtons had camped.
The company consisted of Thomas Bingham, wife and 2 children, David H. and Phoebe; Chell Hall, his wife Lola, one child Salley; Orson Hall; John Neilsen, wife and one daughter; Charley Jensen and Ben Loffgreen; Alvin Battey; Charles A. Nye and his brother Osborne Nye. The above were from Huntsville. The following came from Eden Ogden Valley. Alma Taylor, his wife and children; Enoch Burns(who Burns Bench is named after) his wife Martha Jane, with two children, Jacob and Sarah; Frederick G. Williams, a son-in-law of Enoch Burns, his wife Amanda and one child.
The winter was very mild and in February, the men, becoming restless, began laying out a townsite a little west on Burn's Bench. Each family chose a lot and began minor improvements along with the general project of digging a town well. When they struck water, it was so bitter from the soapstone element at its base that the families all abandoned their claims. Most of them moved 24 miles west to Dry Fork, but the Burtons went up the river and homesteaded the section south of where Brush Creek joins the green River. They built a comfortable log house with a real board floor in it. A boom of railroad ties had broken loose in Green River and they caught hundreds of floating ties. They whip sawed these ties into boards and made one of the first floors in the valley.
In April 1878 they took the first water from Brush Creek for irrigation purposes. They planted eight acres of corn, some potatoes, and Mrs. Burton said she raised three crops of peas that summer.
This became known as Riverdale; When the people first came they usually settled the for a while. The road did not go where highway 40 is now, but down past our present city dump and on east through brush creek just above the Burtons.(Joe Haslem now ones this ranch).
In the 1850's, Isaac Burton had lived in Green River, Wyo. where he was owner of the Old Ferry, where the Pioneer Trail crossed Green River near the mouth of Big Sandy Creek in Wyoming. Now once more they found themselves located on the Green River, and a ferry being needed, they built one. Although it was initiated as a father and son project, in 1881, after the birth of his 14th child, the father sold his interest in the ferry as well as his farm to his sons, Ira and Theodore, and moved to Old Ashley, where he ran a store and his wife served as post mistress.
In the fall of 1979, while Isaac, Sr. was still on Green River, the Meeker Massacre occurred in Colo. (see last weeks article for details on this). The frightened settlers hearing this news, feared the Utes on the Uintah-Ouray reservation might attack them or that the White River Utes might come over from Colorado. They and other families along the river built a fort (some of the Indians who were friends to the white told them if they would gather in forts, they wouldn't be hurt) The fort was built around the Burton Place because the water in their well was the best along the river. The stockade was made of cottonwood logs and up-ended ties that had come down stream, and it covered one acre. Cabins were built to house about thirty cowboys and the following families: Enoch Davis, Lars Jensen, John and Annie Snyder, Mrs. Fred Williams and Jacob Burns. Although the fort was maintained during most of the winter, some of the families returned to their farms during quiet intervals.
When the first Indian excitement had subsided, Judge Hatch, as Captain, picked about 18 cowboys and farmers to go to Blue Mountain to see about the cattle. Although they found cabins and corrals burned, fences torn down, and the cattle so scattered it took eighteen days to get back to the low-lands with them, they did not personally encounter any Indians on the trip.
That winter was one of the hardest the pioneers here had to meet. Besides the fact that the Indian scare drove them into the fort before many of them had their provisions stored, the winter itself was one of the valley's worst. It is called the 'hard winter of '79'. Snow lay five feet deep on the level, and temperatures grew extremely cold. Even the supplies the Burtons had, which included two tons of flour and other things in proportion, dwindled down to scanty rations when shared with those
in need. They all had to cooperate, because of their close quarters, and they only had one stove for all to cook on. There was a small amount of milk and butter saved mostly for the youngsters. The animals were so nearly starved that when any were killed for food they could be eaten only after prolonged boiling. The people had money but could not buy anything with it.
About the year of 1887 Arthur and Jim Johnson from New York built a store. A boarding house was built and operated by Huscrofts. The first saloon was owned by Tine and Fae Little. The second saloon by Frank Moore and Ren Hatch. A blacksmith shop was operated by Henry Humble. All these things were used by both cowboys and Indians, as well as the settlers. Horse racing and gambling were the main sports.
The name of Riverdale was not approved by the Postal Department, and the names of Valparizo and Jensen were submitted. Jensen (after the Lars Jensen family) was chosen. The name of Riverdale is still the name of the voting district.
The information in this article was taken from a History of Jensen by Thomas Bingham, History-Jensen, Utah by Ila Cowan; Burton History as told by Ike Burton to Gladys B. Kennard.
Correction: In the article in the April 28, paper, I mentioned the name of Robert Blankenship as one of the first settlers. This should have been John B. Blankenship