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Joseph “Cap” Hill Cabin

After sitting 161 years on its original building site, the Joseph “Cap” Hill cabin was moved to Layton Commons Park in 2017. This cabin is one of the oldest pioneer buildings in Davis County. It was built by Joseph Hill Sr. and his family between 1851 and 1854 and has been in the possession of the Hill family for over five generations.

Joseph “Cap” and Edith Ann Hill

Born in Gloucestershire, England, Joseph and his wife Edith Ann Marsden Hill, joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and immigrated to America in the 1840s with their three children – John C., Joseph Jr. and Alice Ann. They lived in Nauvoo, Illinois for a time and then moved to Utah Territory in September 1850. After arriving in Salt Lake City, the Hill’s move to the Kay’s Ward (later Kaysville) settlement to establish a permanent home. During this exodus across the plains, Joseph served as a captain of 10 wagons, under the direction of Mathew Caldwell, a captain of 50. For the rest of his life, Joseph would be remembered as “Cap” or “Captain” by his many friends and neighbors.

Joseph Sr. and his family worked hard to build a new homestead in what is now West Layton, on the west side of Angel Street. Once the cabin was built, the family established a farm where they raised hay, grain crops and cattle. In the late 1850s, Joseph Sr., hoping to seek his fortune in the gold fields, moved his family briefly to Sacramento, California; however, they returned to Utah in 1862. While passing through Carson City, Nevada, Edith Ann was critically injured in a wagon accident and died on July 4, 1862. After burying his wife, Joseph Sr. returned to Kay’s Ward and took up residence once again in the cabin he had built. He lived there until his death on august 21, 1889; and he was buried in the Kaysville City Cemetery. Following his death, the cabin was used for a variety of purposes until it fell into disrepair.

Eventually, the cabin passed into the possession of Joseph Sr.’s 2nd great-granddaughter, Odessa Webster Hill Harris and her husband Robert Jay Harris. The couple restored the cabin to its current condition in 1990. In 2000, the Harris’ built a beautiful home on the Hill property next to the cabin and cared and looked after the property until their passing in 2017. After their deaths, the cabin was moved to its current location where it serves as a reminder to Layton citizens as well as to all visitors who see it of those who came before us.


Located at Layton Commons Park at 437 N Wasatch Drive in Layton, Utah

The Joseph Hill Family Cabin, built sometime between 1851 and 1858, is a one-story single-pen log cabin, located at 2133 W. 1000 South in Layton, Davis County, Utah. After a period of vacancy and deterioration, the cabin was rehabilitated around 1990 when it was raised and placed on a concrete pad. The rehabilitation included replacement logs from a derelict barn on site, re-chinking, replacement windows and interior casings, gable trim, an interior brick chimney, drop ceiling, and a new roof with wood shingles. Despite these modifications in some materials and workmanship, the Hill Family Cabin retains its historic integrity in terms of location, design, feeling and association of a pioneer-era log cabin. Although the immediate setting of the cabin has been compromised by the landscaped yard, the wider setting is still rural as much of the original farmstead remains agricultural. A new home built on the 1.53-acre property in 2000 is non-contributing. There is also an associated historic outhouse near the log cabin, but the outhouse has been modified and moved, and is therefore considered non-contributing. The Joseph Hill Family Cabin is one of four extant log cabins in the Layton area and the only example that still retains its domestic appearance. The cabin is a contributing resource in its Layton neighborhood.

The Joseph Hill Family Cabin sits on roughly rectangular property of 1.53-acres, a combination of two descriptions into one legal parcel. The cabin is located at the southeast corner of the property in the backyard of the non-contributing house, built in 2000, facing north to 1000 South. The new house was built where a one-story red brick Victorian-era cottage was located before it was destroyed by fire in the 1970s. The property is mostly lawn with pasture on the three adjoining sides. There is one mature elm tree located north of the cabin. This tree is the only remnant of the copse that surrounded the cabin prior to the rehabilitation. There are newer trees with decorative boulder plantings scattered in the backyard. A non-contributing gazebo structure is in one of the plantings. Just south of the cabin in one of the plantings is a wood outhouse. Although historic and associated with the cabin, the outhouse was recently moved and does not retain sufficient integrity to be contributing. There is also new gazebo west of the cabin.

The West Layton neighborhood at the intersection of 2200 West and 1000 South retains a rural feeling despite recent construction activity in the area. There are newer homes on either side of the cabin property, but there is pasture between. A new barn sits southwest of the log cabin on a separate legal parcel. There are onion fields to the north of 1000 South. To the south is undeveloped open pasture, further south and west are marshes at the edge of the Great Salt Lake. The path of the abandoned Bluff Road is visible in aerial photographs in the vicinity of the Joseph Hill Family Cabin.

The Joseph Hill Family Cabin in Layton, Utah, is locally significant under Criterion A, in three distinct areas:
Exploration/Settlement, Commerce, Transportation, and Ethnic Heritage. The log cabin built by the Hill family is a rare extant example from the early settlement of the area formerly known as West Layton. The exact date of construction is unknown. In local histories, the construction of the cabin has been attributed to either Joseph Hill Sr. upon his arrival in 1851 or his son, Joseph Hill Jr., prior to his marriage in 1858. Both families are considered important early settlers of the Big Field area of West Layton. The Hill cabin was never moved from the family farmstead along the Bluff Road contributing to the cabin’s significance in the areas of Commerce and Transportation. Bluff Road was the preferred route for California-bound gold seekers leaving Salt Lake City to travel around the north end of the Great Salt Lake. The Hill family raised cattle on the flats below the bluff and sold beef and other commodities to the travelers. The family also represents the small minority of Mormon settlers who were lured to California by the promise of gold and silver. Joseph Hill Sr.’s extended family left Layton in 1860 and returned in 1862 after an unsuccessful and tragic journey, which resulted in the death of his wife, Ann Edith Marston Hill. After their return, Joseph Hill Jr. built a red brick house for his wife, Ellen Sheen Hill, and family. During that time Joseph Sr. may have lived in the cabin behind the brick house. The Hill Cabin is the only extant log cabin in Utah that is linked to the Bluff Road and it is the only known cabin in Layton to have continued a residential use into the twentieth century.

The Hill Cabin is also the only documented building in Davis County to be associated with the Japanese soaking tub practice (known as ofuro), which gives the building significance in the area of Ethnic Heritage. The continued maintenance of the log cabin as a residence likely contributed to its easy conversion to a bathhouse/dressing room in the 1940s and 1950s for one of the many Japanese families that rented farms in West Layton. Beginning in the 1920s and continuing into the 1950s, several Japanese families moved to Davis County to become farmers. Because the immigrants were discouraged from owning land, the immigrants share-cropped or rented the farms of older residents. Despite modifications that occurred during a circa 1990 rehabilitation, the building retains many of the characteristics that it had during an exceptional long period of significance that represents a century of productive use. The Joseph Hill Family
Cabin is a contributing resource in its West Layton neighborhood.

The history of Layton begins with the history of Kaysville, Utah. In the winter of 1847-1848, just a few months after the arrival of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) to the Salt Lake Valley, Hector C. Haight kept a herd of cattle in the area, and in April 1850, William Kay and Edward Phillips raised wheat near what became known as Kay’s Creek. They were later joined by several families. By 1853, the population of Kaysville, which included present-day Layton, was 417. Among the settlers who came in 1850 was the family of Joseph and Ann Hill. Joseph Hill Sr. was born in 1806 in Sandhurst, Gloucester, England. His wife, Ann Edith Marston, was born in 1808 in Norton, Gloucester, England.34 They were married in 1828 and had three children, John Calvert (born 1835),
Joseph Jr. (1837) and Alice Ann Marston (1839). The family immigrated to the United States before 1850. Joseph Hill Sr. was designated a captain over a team of immigrants while crossing the plains and was known as Captain or “Cap” Hill for the rest of his life. The family was living in a log cabin on “the salt flats near or on the dividing line between Kaysville and Layton” by time of the 1850 census enumeration. This area was known as the “Big Field.” A hand-drawn map of the early settlement places the Joseph Hill Sr. home north of Kay’s Creek in the northwest quarter of Section 31, Township 4 North, Range 1 West.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Joseph Hill Sr. did not file for a homestead patent for his land. The first recorded claim to the land was when his son, Joseph Hill Jr., obtained a deed for 159 acres in the west half of Section 31 from the Union Pacific Railroad Company in July 1880. While the exact location of the first home of Joseph Sr. and Ann Hill is unknown, historic records agree that by the time of his marriage, Joseph Hill Jr. lived in a log cabin at the present-day intersection of 1000 South and 2200 West, although neither street existed prior to the 1880s. Joseph Hill Jr. married Ellen Sheen on December 28, 1858. Ellen Sheen Hill was born in 1837 in Berrow, England. She came to Utah in a handcart company in 1856 and settled in west Kaysville with her family. Joseph Jr. and Ellen Hill had two sons and five daughters. They lived in the log cabin until they were able to build a red brick house that faced north to a lane along the north line of Section 31 (today’s 1000 South). The 1870 and 1880 census enumerations show that after Ann Hill’s death in 1862, Joseph Sr. lived next to Joseph Jr. and Ellen. The juxtaposition combined with the Victorian-style windows added to the cabin suggest that Joseph Sr. may have lived in the log cabin on the property until his death in 1889.

By the 1880s, residents of the Layton area wanted to separate from Kaysville, which had been in incorporated in 1868. They questioned Kaysville’s authority to tax their property without providing municipal services. The Layton Ward of the LDS Church, named for early settler Christopher Layton, was established in 1889. The West Layton Ward of the LDS Church was organized in 1895, one year after a court case was decided in favor of the residents. Layton became an independent unincorporated area in 1902 and an incorporated town in 1920. By the time of incorporation, roads along the section lines (e.g. 2200 West) were created to connect to Gentile Street, the main east-west road to the Layton’s growing
commercial district and the railroads.

Only a tiny fraction of the thousands of log cabins built by Mormon pioneers exist today. Of the twenty-seven log cabins built before the coming of the railroad that appear in the Utah SHPO’s database of historic resources, seventeen have been moved to museums or city parks for display. For example, the circa 1865 Levi Roberts cabin originally built on Kay’s Creek was moved to This is the Place State Park on the east bench of Salt Lake City in 1977. The Layton area is current represented by only four extant log cabins: the Hill cabin, the Higgs cabin on Fort Lane in East Layton, the Webster cabin on Angel Street (moved 500 feet), and the Kay cabin (moved to Syracuse). More importantly the Hill Cabin is the only
surviving cabin that sits on its original farmstead and was associated with the emigrant trail along Bluff Road.