The 1891 Yard-Groesbeck House is significant in the broad patterns of Springville history as an example of the larger, more substantially constructed homes built in Springville during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As detailed in the “Historic Resources of Springville City” Multiple Property Submittal, these buildings reflect the growing prosperity and sophistication that the arrival of the transcontinental railroad (in 1869) and other links to communities outside Utah brought to
Springville. The first owner of the house, Edward J. Yard, was a lumber dealer in Springville. The later owners, Nicholas H. and Rhoda S. Groesbeck, were a prominent family in late nineteenth century Springville. Successful first in the mercantile business and then in mining, Nicholas H. Groesbeck
bought a house in Springville commensurate with his station in the community. Contact with the outside world brought awareness of popular architectural styles to Springville. Buildings such as the Yard-Groesbeck House were the result of such awareness.
Springville City, in Utah County, Utah, was settled in September, 1850 by a company of pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) led by Aaron Johnson. The colonizing families had crossed the plains during the summer as part of a train of 135 wagons
captained by Johnson. Upon arriving in Utah, they were called by church leader Brigham Young to establish a permanent community on the banks of Hobble Creek, in Utah Valley. The suitability of the area for settlement and agriculture had been noted earlier by William Miller and James Mendenhall, who had traveled the length of Utah Valley during the winter of 1849.
The pioneering period of establishing Springville as a viable community was followed by an era of growth and diversification of industry and commerce. Promotion of the organized cooperative movement may have helped to initiate this new phase of development. The greatest impact, however, was brought by the railroad. Completion of the transcontinental rail line in 1869 ended Utah’s geographic isolation, linking the state to the products and markets of the entire nation. It made goods from the outside more readily available, created new markets for Utah-produced commodities, stimulated commerce and the development of new industries, and brought in more settlers together with more outside influences. The pioneer period, with its emphasis upon basic essentials of community survival, self-sufficiency, and cooperative group effort, was brought to a final close.
By the early 1900s, Springville had grown to a city of approximately 3,500. The 1911 R.L. Polk & Co. Directory shows Springville to have two banks, fourteen grading contractors, three hotels/rooming houses, one flour mill, one canning factory, and a municipal electric power plant. There were four
general stores in operation: G.S. Wood Mercantile Co.; Deal Bros. & Mendenhall Co.; Packard Bros. & Co.; and IT. Reynolds & Co. Principals in the latter three firms also were prominent in the field of railroad contracting. Springville was served by two railroads: the Denver & Rio Grande Western, and the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad of the Union Pacific system.
According to current owner Margaret B. Conover, 157 W. 200 South was built in 1891 by Edward J. Yard, who was a lumber dealer at the time.4 Mr. Yard reportedly operated his lumber business out of the home, with offices in the lower front rooms. He originally built the house as a single story dwelling, adding the second story at a later date. The home’s frame construction, an uncommon building material for substantial buildings of this time in Springville, is consistent with Mr. Yard’s profession. The arrangement of an additional front entrance on the front-facing cross gable of the house is also consistent with Mr. Yard using rooms of his house as his offices.
Official title records list Mr. Yard as actually owning the parcel on which 157 W. 200 South stands only for a brief period in 1892. Little information is available regarding James D. Davis and George W. Snow, each of whom briefly owned the property prior to its purchase by Mr. Yard. Initially, Edward J. Yard owned a large portion of Lot 3, subsequently selling off sections to Anna S. Ingalls in 1892, Nettie K. Groesbeck in 1895, and George P. Thompson in 1899.
Rhoda Sanderson Groesbeck was the first wife of Nicholas Harmon Groesbeck. She was born in England in 1846, to John and Rebecca Wood Sanderson. The family came to Utah in 1856 with the David H. Cannon company of Mormon immigrants and settled in Springville in 1861. Rhoda
Sanderson and Nicholas H. Groesbeck were married in Springville on December 16,1892. Nicholas Harmon Groesbeck was born in Springfield, Illinois in 1842. He was the oldest child of Nicholas and Elizabeth Thompson Groesbeck. The family emigrated to Utah in the summer of 1856, settling in Salt Lake City.
In 1858, members of the Groesbeck family moved to Springville as part of the temporary migration of northern Utah Saints south to Utah County to escape the approaching Federal troops of General Albert Sydney Johnston’s Army. Nicholas Groesbeck (Sr.) opened a small dry goods store in some rooms of the old fort row. The business later moved into a building on Main Street and First South. Prior to coming to Utah, Groesbeck had been a prominent merchant and businessman of Springfield, Illinois. He subsequently established himself as a leading merchant, mining man and real estate investor in Salt Lake City.
Nicholas H. Groesbeck continued to live in Springville after the family’s return to Salt Lake City in 1858. In 1861, he built the Groesbeck Theater, of which he was owner and manager, on Main Street between Center and First South. He outfitted the theater with fixtures obtained from the army’s Camp Floyd (near Fairfield, in northern Utah County) theater, which closed down when troops returned east at the outbreak of the Civil War.
In 1863, Nicholas H. Groesbeck bought out his father’s interest in their Springville Mercantile business. When the cooperative movement was organized in 1868, he sold the business to the new co-op. The LDS Church’s cooperative economic system, adopted some years earlier by certain Utah communities, was significantly expanded during 1868. In that year, Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (Z.C.M.I.) was organized at Salt Lake City. The cooperative system had its basis in LDS church doctrine, and was encouraged by church leaders, most notably Lorenzo Snow. It espoused the
principle of an independent, self-reliant society in which members would work for the common good rather than personal gain. The early success of Springville’s cooperative system was destined to be short-lived, however. As was the case in other Utah communities, the cooperative ideal fell victim to
increasing competition from private concerns and the reluctance of the cooperative’s members to participate fully in the communitarian system.
Turning his attention to mining, Groesbeck joined with his father and brothers to develop the Flagstaff Mine, which became a major producer in the Little Cottonwood Mining District, outside of Salt Lake City. Groesbeck left Utah in 1871 to serve an LDS Church mission in Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois. Upon returning to the west, he purchased mining properties in Montana, which he then sold in 1876 to the Packard brothers of Springville. Taking the Packard Bros. Springville store as partial payment, he re-entered the mercantile business for several years until leaving on a second LDS Church mission, this time to New Zealand, in 1880. After returning from his second mission in 1882, Groesbeck, remained engaged in mining ventures and also entered the real estate business. His first of three wives, Rhoda Sanderson Groesbeck, resided at 157 W. 200 South until her death in 1932. During her life in Springville she was active in LDS Church and charity work, and was a member of the daughters of the Utah Pioneers. She and Nicholas H. were the parents of ten children, five of whom were surviving at the time of her death.
In 1935, Harrison and Margaret Bird Conover moved into 157 W. 200 South. Mrs. Conover is the granddaughter of Nicholas H. and Rhoda S. Groesbeck. Her parents were Martin W. and Mary Groesbeck Bird. Title abstracts show the Birds inherited the house in 1937. However, they appear not to have lived in the house. In 1939, the Conovers gained ownership of the property.
William Harrison Conover was a prominent publisher, state legislator and county official during his career. Born in 1907 in Provo, he married Margaret Bird in 1933. He was president of Art City Publishing in Springville from its founding in 1933 to 1983, publisher of the Sprinqville Herald newspaper from 1939-1967, and Utah County Assessor from 1967 until his death in 1983. He was a member of the Utah House of Representatives from 1957-1959. Mrs. Margaret Conover has continued
to reside in the house since her husband’s death, as she has for over fifty years. The house has remained in the family through three generations of ownership spanning 96 years.