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Pioneer History of Jensen

Reprinted from the December 14, 1933 Vernal Express.

Father Escalante was the first white man to come to this region. He and his companions left Sante Fe, New Mexico in July 1776.

After crossing the headwaters of the San Juan, they came to the Grand and White rivers in western Colorado. Turning west, they reached Green river September 13, 177G. They named the place where they camped "The Plain of the Holy Cross" and their camp "Esparanza." This is at the site of the old Indian ford, four miles above the present bridge. He called the Green river the "Rio Buenaventura." After a three-days' rest they pushed on toward Monterey, Calif., crossing the river on September 16th.

IN THE early nineteenth century, a fur trapping expedition began blazing new trails into the Uintahs and Wasatch. Floating their canoes on the turbulent waters of the Green river, they built Fort Crockett near the Flaming Gorge. This was the first white settlement in Utah. They wintered near a creek which they named-Ashley Creek, for William Ashley, a member of the Rocky Mountain Fur company. The valley of the Green river was a splendid place for the trappers. Beaver were found by the thousands throughout the valley.

Almost sixty years ago when Jensen valley was covered with sage brush, the first permanent settlers arrived. In the fall of 1877 the Burtons, Snyder-Chatwin. A.C. Hatch and hired man and Dick Huffaker decided to winter on the banks of the Green River.

The Snyder-Chatwin family, composed of Mrs. Chatwin, Henry, Will and Lydia Chatwin and John and Jed Snyder, built a cabin at the bend of the river in the Bill Stewart grove.

THE BURTON family consisted of Isaac Burton, Sr., wife and the following children; Issac, Jr., Joseph, Ira, William, Theodore, Bartlett called Caroline, Nellie, Harriett and Lilly, the baby and Miss Ann Frisby, who later became the wife of Isaac, Jr.

The family arrived on November 17th in the Ashley Valley and camped two days. Issac Sr. and Jr. went to Jensen and stayed with A. C. Hatch, who was located at the east end of the lake. at the junction of Ashley creek and Green river. On November 23 and 24 he moved his family there, built a good log cabin and lean-to and strong corrals.

Mr. Burton located by putting up stakes and starting foundations for his home, using what is known as a squatter's right on unsurveyed land. A survey was made two years later. He moved on to that location the next spring.

THE THOMAS Bingham company consisting of eleven wagons arrived December 7, 1877, via Brown's Park. Most of them passed the winter on the banks of Green River at the junction of Ashley creek. In the following spring they left for Dry Creek where they all located.

This group consisted of Thomas Bingham, his wife and daughter, Phoebe and son David, Chell Hall and wife, and daughter Sally, brother Ott Hall Charlie and Osro Nye, Ben Lofgreen and brother Neils and Johnny Nielson.

Mr. Bingham had been to the Jensen valley the summer previously and came to locate on the land where Mr. Burton had chosen for his home. When they found the heart of this section was already taken the next spring, they all went to Dry Frok where they located.

THE JACOB Burn's people took out a canal from Ashley Creek. They laid out a townsite, called it "Indian City," and dug a well about 40 feet deep which later proved to be unwholesome. This townsite embraced the forty acres west of and including the present Jensen school building. The vicinity derived its name of "Burns Bench" from this family,

After the Meeker Massacre the people were afraid of an attack from the Indians. To protect themselves against such a danger they built a fort on the Burton ranch. The fort covered one acre and had a stockade fence around it. A cabin was built and a well dug inside the fort.

THE FlRST Jensen town was built below the place where Ashley creek empties into Green River. It was called Jensen because Lars Jensen and Jens Jensen ran the ferry at that place. A store, hotel and two saloons were built. George Billings was storekeeper and Mrs. Arnold ran the hotel.

The earliest means of crossing the river was a canoe used at the Burton place. Whenever it was necessary to get a wagon across the river it would be taken apart and transported piece by piece, in the canoe. Mr. Burton later built a ferry and ran it at the same place.

THE JENSENS built a ferry below the mouth of Ashley creek in 1882. This was a row boat. Another boat, 12 feet wide and 38 feet long, was sawed out of cottonwood trees and put together with wooden pins. The third ferry boat was 12 feet wide and 42 feet long. This boat was called "Moby's Ferry" because Lars Jensen said "moby" for "Maybe." It was lost by extreme high water and an ice jam: which loosened the cable at the east bank of the river and let the ferry boat go down stream. They were never able to bring it back.

"Skipesy" Johnson bought Burton's boat and run it at the present bridge site. Snow Brothers, Hugh and Albert, and William Stewart, bought it from Mr. Johnson and owned it until a bridge was built in 1911.

LYDIA CHATWlN-Wall, at the age of 14, taught the first school at a house owned by H. G. Williams just west of the present H. M. Moon place. The first school house was built just beyond Ashley creek bridge on the state road. Alice Orser Billings taught there from1885 until 1888. Other log schoolhouses were located on A. N. Timothy's land, Henry Merkley's place, at the mouth of Brush Creek on the hill. An adobe schoolhouse was built on the Dinosaur Monument road, just west of the old-H. J. Chatwin home. This schoolhouse was later burned down. The section was known as District No. 13, Uintah schools. In April, 1914, consolidation took place and the brick structure located centrally.

FOR MANY years schoolhouses were used for community gatherings. In 1891 the Jensen people built their first church house one half mile south of the school house near the N. J. Weiland home. It was built of log, and was 45 feet long and 20 feet wide. It was used only two years until it was destroyed by fire. It caught fire February 15, 1893 after a Mutual meeting. The snow was three feet deep and it was so cold that the heat didn't reach the Relief Society building, 16 feet away. George Billings was the first Bishop.


Source: Vernal Utah Library History Department


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