458 N 300 W in Salt Lake City, Utah is home to both the home pictured above, and the William Hawk Cabin pictured below.
The Hawk cabin was built in the period between 1848 and 1852. Family tradition has suggested that it was built in 1848 within the walls of the fort that sheltered the original settlement of Great Salt Lake City, Later the cabin was moved onto the property distributed to William Hawk as his “inheritance in Zion.” Multiple use of cabins in the early settlement period in Utah seems to have been a common economy practiced by Mormon pioneers. Whatever its origins, the cabin is most closely associated with
William Hawk who lived there between 1852 and his death in 1883. The property then descended through his heirs, one of whom briefly used the cabin as a milk house, to the present owner, Clarence Booker.
The cabin’s primary interest lies in its long association with William Hawk, who, despite his modest circumstances during his life and at his death, had a life rich in adventure. In this one individual is found a reflection of the historical development of Mormonism and the West; an ordinary life filled with some extra-ordinary incidents.
“Father” Hawk, as he was widely known in his later years, was born in 1799 in a border area of Virginia that was later incorporated into the state of Pennsylvania. As he grew into a young man he began wandering through the region then thought of as the Western territories. Generally he followed the occupation of farm laborer as he would following his settlement in Utah. Married and with children, he was residing in Ohio when he heard the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his family were baptized into the Church in 1834, and in the years that followed their travels mirrored the changing fortunes and development of the Mormon Church. After moving to Kirtland, Ohio, and then on to Far West, Missouri, and finally to Nauvoo, Illinois, the Hawk Family enjoyed little permanence before being forced to join in the hegira from Nauvoo.
During the flight west William Hawk and his son Nathan (or Nathanial or Nathaniel) enlisted in the Mormon Battalion, Company ‘B’ , to serve in the War with Mexico. After trekking through the Southwest with the Mormon Battalion, William and his son were released from U.S. Army service when they reached California. They did not leave immediately for Great Salt Lake City, but worked for a period in California. It is possible that they were either at Sutter’s Mill or close by when gold was discovered. However, it was to William and Nathan Hawk and eight others that the delivery of the
news to the east and to the world was entrusted. Hired by prominent Mormon and Californian Samuel Brannan to carry special editions of his California Star to Independence, Missouri, Hawk and the others passed through Great Salt Lake City with the news that would be responsible for stimulating the economy of the struggling settlement as it catered to the needs of gold-hungry throngs passing through to California. However, Hawk and his companions found the rest of the journey from Salt
Lake to Independence something of a let-down from the royal treatment they had received from the Mormon settlers. Weather and Indians combined to make the journey to Independence unusually hazardous, and Hawk himself was wounded in a skirmish somewhere along the Platte.
Hawk’s family joined him in Independence and he worked there fore one year before moving the entire group to Utah. Unfortunately, on the Wyoming plains, Hawk’s wife was trampled to death by wagon oxen. Son Nathan did not stop in Great Salt Lake City with his father, but moved on to California, Hawk with the rest of his family resolved to make Utah his home.
On his arrival Hawk received his “inheritance” from the Church. This was an assignment of land distributed according to need and ability to use. Hawk received a city lot and a farm lot located in what was called the “Big Field” just to the south of the city. It was on the city lot, located in the 19th Ward (an ecclesiastical division of the city), that the cabin was built or relocated. Hawk promptly became active in Church activities, with his name appearing in Church and city records from 1852 on. His second
marriage had some difficult periods, notably when Hawk himself appeared as a witness against his wife in a Bishop’s Court proceeding. The wife, Ann Reese Hawk, was disfellowshipped from the Church having been found guilty of blasphemy, bad conduct, and being a bad neighbor.
Later in the year of his testimony against his wife, 1856, Hawk accepted a Church call to assist in the settlement of the mission at Las Vegas, Nevada. This was one of a string of settlements that had been originally designed to connect the core settlements in Utah to the sea by means of a settled corridor running from Cedar City through Las Vegas and Rancho San Bernardino to the sea north of San Diego, But with the advance of Johnston’s Army in 1857, Hawk and other settlers in the corridor were
recalled to assist the defense of the Church’s heartland. He arrived in Salt Lake City just as Church leaders decided against military defiance on a large scale, and had switched their tactics to preparations for a scorched earth policy. Hawk was involved in the setting-up of “torching” squads who were instructed to set fire to everything of value, both property and foodstuffs, should the U.S. Army enter the valley in force. Hawk moved his family south to the community of Payson during this emergency.
Following the diplomatic resolution of the Utah War Hawk moved back to his 19th Ward property and remained there until his death in 1883, His obituary in the church-owned Deseret News, lengthy and complimentary, was a measure of the community esteem of a humble pioneer whose life had been touched with the excitement and adventure that was already making the early west a legendary period.
The Hawk cabin is a one-room log structure probably constructed from native lumber between 1848-1852. The building documents the technology and social status of a particular strata of Mormon society of which little is known. Records and cultural artifacts abound in relation to the socially mobile portions of Mormondom, but the materially less successful and their lifestyle remains largely undocumented. It is known that the early log cabins used as residences in Salt Lake City were quickly replaced with adobe structures, and that most log cabins were relegated to use as ancillary buildings. However, among the economically less vigorous, such as William Hawk, these buildings appear to have been continued in use as residences for a considerable period. The earliest Sanborn maps (1884), dated just one year after Hawk’s death in his log cabin home, show a fair number of these cabins in use as residences in areas known to have a working class population (the 19th and 5th Ecclesiastical Wards). Without exception these other log cabins can no longer be found within the Salt Lake City limits, so the William Hawk cabin remains as a vernacular log structure that documents the material culture housing available to
Salt Lake City residents on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. We are advised that the notching and other details of construction points to a builder with knowledge of the Pennsylvania style of cabin construction. It retains much of its original appearance despite several small fires that have charred some of the timber. The door and window areas have been modified slightly over the years, but the only change since around 1900 has been the cutting of the north facing wall to permit the installation of wooden garage doors. In terms of workmanship the very survival
of the building is testimony to its rugged strength. The cabin exhibits very little technological sophistication in construction, which together with the visible adze work suggests that the date of construction is probably before saw mills were in full operation in the valley (1849-1850), : The summer kitchen that was originally attached to the building was probably destroyed at the time it was moved from the front to the back of the lot. The present roof is a 40 to 50 year old tarred flat type in poor condition.