Off Highway 24 north of Hanksville are some pretty interesting rocks.
Bicknell was originally called Thurber, or “Thurber Town”, for A.K. Thurber, who in 1879 built the first house in the area. In 1897 the town moved to a new location due to sandy soil and poor water conditions.
In 1914 Thomas W. Bicknell, a wealthy eastern author, historian, and Education Commissioner for Rhode Island, offered a thousand-volume library to any Utah town that would rename itself after him. The town of Grayson also wanted the library prize, so in a compromise in 1916, Grayson took the name of Blanding, Mr. Bicknell’s wife’s maiden name, as a tribute to her parents. The two towns split the library, each receiving 500 books.
The first settlers on Carcass Creek were experienced Wayne County ranchers who arrived in 1880. In 1881, more cattlemen settled along Fish Creek. A small number of residents scattered through the area over the next few years. These early settlers referred to their settlement as Carcass Creek. In 1887, the Mormon residents were organized into a congregation called the Carcass Creek Branch, although meetings were held only irregularly due to the distances among homes.
In the early 1890s the growing town was granted a post office, and the name was changed to Grover in honor of U.S. President Grover Cleveland. The Grover Irrigation Company organized in 1893 to build and manage structures for drawing and distributing water from Fish Creek Lake. The first school classes were held in the winter of 1892–1893, and the first log school/church/community building was built about 1900.
In 1935, a new school building was built in Grover. A stuccoed log one-room school, the Grover School was built with funds and labor provided mainly by the Works Progress Administration. Unlike other area schools, it had a fence and lawn. Due to Grover’s small size, the school board quickly decided the school was an unnecessary expense; within three years the older children were sent to school in Bicknell, and in 1941 the Grover School was closed. The building has remained largely intact, and in 1986 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Just east of Capitol Reef National Park near the small Moki Ruins of the Fremont Indians. This structure is in an area under the overhang of the cliff. It was used as a granary by the Fremont Indians to keep their food safe. This is a great little place to pull off the highway, see a piece of ancient local history, stretch your legs, hike around a bit.
In the early 1880s, several settlements in Wayne County were started by Mormon farmers under the leadership of Hyrum Burgess. By 1883 some Burgess family members had moved to the Blue Valley area, constructing a dam and irrigation canal by 1884
The land along the Fremont River was fertile, and the growing season longer than in western Wayne County. The valley’s farming potential soon brought other settlers. The settlement was known as Blue Valley for its blue-gray soil, colored by Bentonite clay and Mancos Shale. The town was built on both banks of the river, but most people lived on the south side. A footbridge connected the two halves. A school building was erected in 1888, but a proper townsite was not laid out until June 1895. At that time residents renamed their settlement Giles, in honor of the late Bishop Henry Giles, who had been one of Blue Valley’s most prominent residents. The crops in Giles grew well, and by 1900 the population had increased to 200. A new meetinghouse went up in 1901, said to be the largest in the county. There was a sawmill in the nearby Henry Mountains, and the town included a grocery store, blacksmith shop, and boarding house.
The early 1900s brought frequent devastating floods of the Fremont River. The flooding in 1909–1910 was so severe that local church authorities gave up on trying to maintain a permanent dam. Unable to irrigate their crops, the residents began to leave. By 1919 Giles was a ghost town.
Two rock buildings still stand at the site, and numerous foundations and old corrals show where the town once was.
Torrey is a small agricultural community on U-24 between Bicknell and Capitol Reef National Park, It was named in honor of Colonel Torrey, who fought in the Spanish American War. Torrey has had several earlier names such as Poverty Flat, Youngstown, Central, Popular, and Bortita.(*)