The Willard Pioneer Cemetery’s first burial was August 1854 with the death of five-day-old John Memorial, Jr., son of John Memorial (Memory) and Samantha Wells McCrary. This site, selected by Willard’s first settlers, is located one block east of the first group of log houses erected in Willard in 1851.
The McCrary baby was buried in the southwest corner of the the cemetery. Subsequent burials were north of this gravesite in order of the date of death. Loved ones were not buried by their families unless death immediately followed the last burial. For this reason, a new cemetery was chosen in 1869 on the foothills north of the original location. One hundred and fifty settlers were buried in this cemetery, and one hundred ten burials have been documented. Names of the other forty are being sought. That last known burial in this cemetery was in 1905.
The Willard flood of 1923 devastated this hallowed site. Floodwaters, cutting a large trench, caused markers and some remains of the graves to be washed into the field west of town. Located remains were brought back to the cemetery and buried in a common grave. Headstones and markers were replaced as accurately as possible.
In 1869 the United States Army sent First Lieutenant George M. Wheeler on a brief reconnaissance which later created the Country’s “Geographic Survey West of the One Hundredth Meridian”. This survey gave our leaders the first accurate mapping of the Western half of the Country, collecting data of the natural history, geology, geography, climate, weather and ethnology.
(From Box Elder County) Among the first settlers to this little valley was Kumen Tarbet. It is said that as he broke the ground from the sagebrush that he used oxen to pull the equipment. Oxen were eventually replaced with mules, and later came horses. Other early settlers were George Henrie, Fred Manning, Tony Nelson, John Adams, P.N. Pierce and John W. Deakin. It wasn’t an easy job clearing the ground of sagebrush and bunch grass. The process of railing, stacking, burning and then plowing with a team of mules or horses was accomplished by long hours and hard work.
Water was a premium. If you drilled a well and were blessed with good water, it was a great advantage. Some wells only produced warm air while others had warm, nasty water. One well, hand dug by the Peter Jensens, was over 400 feet deep and “Cemented up” from the bottom with pipes placed across at intervals as a ladder descended for repairs and maintenance. It is said that Mrs. George Shuman would stand above, holding a mirror so the suns rays could reflect light into the well enabling the workers to see. There was a community well located on the section lines, east of what is called the “Big Field”. Many families would haul water from there for themselves and livestock.
There were two blacksmiths in the valley: Fred Doutre, who also was a craftsman with leather, and Roy Southwell who served as a janitor for the school. Several of the teachers boarded in his home. The fist school was held in an old house in 1914, and in 1915 a new one-room school was built for eight grades and one teacher. The school burned the same night as Mr. Richard Ilger, the storekeeper, was murdered at the Blue Creek Store, and school for the rest of the year was discontinued. The next year a new two-room schoolhouse was built to accommodate two teachers. In 1934 there were four 9th graders and three 5th graders. This was the school’s final year.
A Blue Creek Store was located on the section line north of the Blue Creek Springs. It also housed a post office and was the family home. A third store was located about two miles north by the main road to Snowville. It contained the post office, the family home, and the gas station, and it was the school bus stop for the Snowville bus going to Bear River High School.
In March of 1900, just North of the Blue Creek Springs, Mr. Lewis Grant purchased 160 acres of ground. He built a large two story building which served as their home, a boarding house, and a dance hall. Some of their tenants were school teachers and weary travelers. Just north of their home Mr. Grant opened a store in 1910, selling much needed supplies to the area families and others in need as they were traveling.
Centerdale was an L.D.S. Branch of the Howell Ward. It was organized in 1914, with Peter Jensen as Presiding Elder. Other Presiding Elders were John Adams in 1917, Albert W. Bishop in 1918, John W. Smith in 1923. The total population of Centerdale Precinct was 131. Many baptisms for this area were performed in the large water trough at the Art Nelson Place. Many dances were held at this church building, and there was always a large crowd attending from several communities in the area. Mr. John Glenn played his accordion, and Arba Glenn was his accompanist. Civic functions and other forms of gatherings were held here. One event took place in 1940 when W.W. Whitney was the “Wheat King”. Harvesting 40 bushels per acre, he held a dance and watermelon bust. This was one of the many harvest dances held there.
With the coming of gas powered vehicles, better roads made traveling easier and faster. The families “staying on the farm” soon became part of the past. Electricity came to this valley in 1947, bringing more changes to the way of life. Ice no longer had to be cut during the winter from the reservoir and stored in sawdust or straw for the summer to keep food and drinks cold. As the many years have come and gone, so have many families, and experiences, memories of good times, names and faces fade.
In July 1853 Brigham Young ordered the people settled in the Brigham City vicinity to construct another fort to provide protection from the Indians. This fort extended north and south about 15 rods and east and west about 8 rods from a point located about 15 feet east of this marker. The fort was later expanded to accommodate more settlers and a school house was then built adjacent to it. The exterior walls of the fort were actually the walls of the log houses which comprised the three walls of the fort. The south end of the fort near the location of the school was left open. The Indian danger soon abated and President Brigham Young ordered that a survey and a plat of the city be made in 1855 to allow the settlers to move from the fort.
The same sun, moon and stars shone over these everlasting hills when old Lake Bonneville’s waters reached midway up these mountains. Later, native American hunters roamed these lands which they called Woebequachee. Here they fished Pe-Ogway (Bear River) and streams draining into the salty sea they named Onaba.
Pioneers came to Deseret in 1847 and went north among the Shoshone Indians. By 1852 Willow Creek, 3 Mile Creek, Box Elder and Call’s Fort were established as new settlements. Many trestles and miles of steel helped to span and conquer these new lands. The Golden Spike driven on 10 May 1869 at Promontory, brought a hive of industry to the west.
Brigham City was one of the most prosperous and progressive settlements in this territory. During the 1870-80 era, the city realized a high point of achievement in living the United Order. Brigham City experienced a healthy expansion as choice people, fruit and crops made the desert blossom like a rose. And now, in more recent days, America has reached the moon and other galaxies, inspired by thoughts and actions of people in the Brigham City area. The sacrifice, commitment and charity of all generations of those who lived, loved and died here is symbolized and honored by this building. May this dancing fire of the human spirit continually burn within us and renew our faith and love for one another.
In 1961 the Box Elder Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers sold the Community Center property to Brigham City Corporation, then donated $10,000 to Box Elder County Commissioners for the purchase of this site for a nursing home. Besides the Sons of Utah Pioneers, countless others have given time, talent and patience to develop this facility known as Pioneer Care Center.
I grew up listening to President Boyd K. Packer and loved him. I stopped by to get pictures of President Lorenzo Snow’s gravesite and some of my family’s as well and was surprised to see this one here.