Taylorsville

Taylorsville is a city in Salt Lake County, Utah, United States. The area called Taylorsville today is made up of three historic communities in the central part of Salt Lake County: Taylorsville, Bennion, and Kearns. Taylorsville, Bennion, and part of Kearns became the City of Taylorsville during the centennial anniversary of Utah statehood, 1996.
The land on which Taylorsville is located is part of an interconnected alluvial plain that was formed by the wearing down of the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains to the east and west. Beneath the surface Taylorsville sits on more than a kilometer of unconsolidated rock, sand, and clay. The inactive Taylorsville Fault has been traced down the center of the Salt Lake Valley. Lake Bonneville shaped the topography of the area and deposited lake bottom clay and sand. As Lake Bonneville dried up over the past 14,000 years, the salt from the breakdown of rock remains, making the soil alkaline. Like most desert soils, it has little organic material and is hard to work.A broad, east-west running ridge called "Bennion Hill" rises perhaps a hundred and fifty feet above the surrounding area. Bennion Hill is the eastern end of a wide ridge which rises toward Farnsworth Peak in the Oquirrh Mountains to the west.
The first (unnamed) people in the region appeared during or after the last ice age on the shores of what remained of Lake Bonneville. Less than five miles (8 km) from Taylorsville evidence of people killing and eating a mammoth have been found. Some of this region’s first named visitors were Fremont people who used the area to hunt and gather food along the Jordan River more than a thousand years ago. A large Fremont settlement on City Creek used the land where Taylorsville is located as hunting and foraging especially along the river. In more recent times Ute bands passed through the valley between the marshes of the Great Salt Lake and Utah Valley. Most of the area was dry sagebrush-covered land without any natural water sources except the Jordan River. A well-used Ute trail wound along the west side of the river at approximately 1300 West which the Ute used in spring and fall. Early settlers observed small encampments of Ute in the cottonwoods along the Jordan River. At least one local settler called these people the "Yo-No'". Whether the name is his own creation or an approximation of something they said is unknown.
There are poorly documented suggestions that Spanish missionaries, soldiers, and explorers came through the area beginning in the mid-1600s. The whole region was called "Teguayo" and "Lake Copalla" (Utah Lake) appear on maps of Spanish Nuevo Mexico.  Spanish and then Mexican land claims remained until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican War in 1853 and ceded the whole of northern Mexico to the United States including a few thousand Mormon settlers who had taken up residence in July of 1847.
The first Mormon pioneer settlers, Joseph and Susanna Harker from England built a log cabin on the west side of the Jordan River in November 1848 on what was called then “the Church Farm” near 3300 South. In 1849 Samuel and John Bennion and several other families moved south crossing the river on the ice in January. There was little in the way of building materials, so the families dug into the bluffs of the Jordan River for shelter. The tiny settlement, the first "over Jordan," was called Harker’s Settlement, and they began the difficult work of digging ditches to move water out of the Jordan River and onto the land on the west side. The soil was hard to work and they kept looking for better land to farm. The infamous crickets destroyed much of that year’s crop and so the group moved farther south to where Big Cottonwood Creek flowed into the Jordan River about 4800 South known then as Field’s Bottom.
By working together eight families managed to bring in the first successful crop in 1851 using water brought down from Bingham Creek by what was later called Gardner’s Millrace. John and Esther Bennion’s daughter, Rachael, was the first pioneer child to be born in Field’s Bottom. Despite the struggle to get food and shelter in those early days, John Bennion described Field’s Bottom in these words:
if peace dwells upon this earth it is here and here are the happiest and most prosperous people in the world, enjoying free soil, pure air, liberty to worship our God just as we please…
By 1851 more families settled in or near Field’s Bottom where they dug the "lower ditch" and cleared land for small farms and pastures. In January 1852 Harker’s Settlement was organized as a part of the West Jordan LDS Ward that included the Salt Lake Valley west of the Jordan River. Some families returned to cabins they had built earlier and dismantled them and brought the logs across the river and reassembled the cabins.
In the 1853 the continued threat of attack by angry Utes, locally called the "Walker War" or the "Utah Valley War", forced the settlers to build a 2-acre (8,100 m2) adobe fort called the English Fort just north of the North Jordan Burying Ground in 1854. Stories about "Indian depredations" in Utah and Sanpete Counties and the massacre of John W. Gunnison and his surveying party caused such fear that Salt Lake City fortified itself. Two livestock herders were killed in Cedar Valley, just over "South Mountain" and the Ute attacked cattle herds in Tooele County just over the Oquirrh Mountains. Isolated settlements either built forts or were abandoned. Locals nicknamed the fort in North Jordan, "Fort Hardscrabble" because it was built on what they considered a useless piece of ground. About thirty families moved into or near the fort for protection for the winter, but as the threat of attack faded, families spread out once again and part of the fort was converted into an LDS meeting house which also served as the school.
Hickman Fort, farther south in Bennion, was built by William Hickman. It was located about 5800 South on the bluff above the west side of river. Between 1853 and 1857 Gardner’s Millrace was extended north to the Bennion area and called the North Jordan Canal, the first important canal on the west side of the Jordan RiverBy 1860 Harker’s Settlement, as the area was called, had 178 residents. The first post office was established with the name Taylorsville which was the name of the LDS branch in that part of the North Jordan, perhaps to distinguish it from Granger. The post office was discontinued later. Elizabeth Harker’s home was used for the first school classes.
In 1858 the threat of Johnston’s Army marching down Emigration Canyon forced many settlers to pack up everything they could and move south until the situation could be resolved. Most residents ended up in Spanish Fork or camped out at Pondtown (Salem) near Utah Lake. The home guard who remained behind to watch over the settlement observed “Johnston’s Army” camp the first night after passing through Salt Lake on the "flats' above the North Jordan farms. Its large livestock herd ate everything to withn an inch of the ground. The US Army continued on its way the next morning. In July of 1858 Taylorsville residents returned and settled back into the interrupted routine of summertime chores. By 1859 the adobe fort was dissolving into the mud from which it was created. It was decided to build a log school on top of the “hill” on 4800 South which was closer to where most people in Taylorsville lived.
The area west of Jordan was divided into the West Jordan, South Jordan, North Jordan and Herriman LDS Wards. North Jordan also known as Taylorsville had a dependent branch at Bennion. The first business in Taylorsville was a small store located near the school and a blacksmith‘s shop across the street. John Webster, the blacksmith, was appointed postmaster and once a week carried mail from Murray in a clothes basket. In 1867 the log school was replaced by a three room school made of rock and brick called "the Rock Schoolhouse" that was used until 1898.
By 1876 the South Jordan Canal and the North Jordan Canal were joined to carry water from the Jordan River above the bluffs west of the Jordan and brought land from South Jordan to Granger under cultivation. This brought more families to the area, almost all of them farmers. Land west of the canals was cleared for dry farms which were planted in the fall and harvested in early summer. A few families moved just north of Taylorsville near 6200 South and Redwood Road. John Bennion, one of the early settlers, gave this area its name, Bennion. A tiny blue schoolhouse was built on the corner of Redwood Road and 6200 South for the children to attend.
In the 1880’s LDS Church president, John Taylor, hid from US marshals at a home on the west side of the Jordan River near 4800 South. John Taylor's association with Taylorsville has often been used to explain its name. The name, Taylorsville, used before the 1880s seems to call the John Taylor explanation for the town's name into question. In 1881 the Utah and Salt Lake Canal was built which allowed irrigation farming to expand even farther west above the river between Bluffdale and Granger. Un-irrigated land to the west was cleared and planted as dry farms. The 1880s saw a sawmill, gristmill, and woollen mill built in West Jordan. Rawlings shoe repair store was constructed. The Bennion Brothers built a grist mill at 4800 South and the Jordan River.
In 1888 a one-room schoolhouse was built in Bennion on the corner of 6200 South and Redwood Road. It was funded by the families of students who attended. In 1890 another room was added and after demolishing the older room, two new rooms were added in 1892 and the building painted blue. From that point on it was called "the little blue schoolhouse". Enough musicians lived in the area to establish a brass band. People in Taylorsville and Bennion depended on growing corn, wheat, oats, and alfalfa. In the 1890s sugar beets became big business and many farmers started to clear additional land to grow them. The beets were hauled to the West Jordan cutting station until 1916 when the West Jordan Sugar Factory was completed. Taylorsville and Bennion remained very small farming towns.
The 1890s saw increased growth and the establishment of a small business district at the intersection of Redwood Road and 4800 South. The largest store was Lindsay and Company which was later called the Taylorsville Mercantile Company. In 1894 the Taylorsville LDS Meetinghouse was built to house the Taylorsville Ward of the LDS church.  The territorial legislature passed Utah’s first Compulsory Education Law in 1890 which gradually brought most children off the farms and into the classroom. It had little effect until the early 1900s when small local school districts, seen as a road block to raising the standard of Utah education, were consolidated. In December 1904 the Salt Lake County Commission voted to combine 22 of the 36 local school districts into the Granite School District with boundaries that matched the LDS Granite Stake boundaries. Schools which up to that time were often numbered were given names.
In 1905 600 people lived in Bennion, enough to split from the Taylorsville LDS Ward and create the Bennion Ward to the south. Meetings were held in the blue wood-frame schoolhouse for a time until the Bennion meetinghouse was built in 1907 at the corner of 6200 South and Redwood Road next to the school.
The need for a ‘modern’ school and the establishment of compulsory tax-supported public schools throughout Utah gave rise to the old Plymouth Elementary School on Redwood Road and 4800 South. By 1907 there were so many children in the Bennion school that the upper grades were sent to the two-story red brick Plymouth School in Taylorsville. In 1909 an amusement hall and classrooms were added to the Taylorsville Chapel. Electricity came to the Taylorsville area during the early 1900s but had little effect on the life of most people who saw little use for it outside lighting their homes. It was considered a luxury and many families chose not to connect to the “new-fangled” wires until the 1920s or 1930s when rural electrification made power available to everyone.
Two railroads were important to Taylorsville, the Rio Grande and Western to Bingham Junction (Midvale) and the Bingham-Garfield Railroad was added through the area in 1910. A well was dug at 4700 South and 5400 West where a locomotive watering station was built. In 1913 the electric Salt Lake Inter-Urban, often call the “Orem Line,” was built to make it possible to ride into Salt Lake or as far as Payson on the “Red Arrow” in from the Francklyn Station in Murray or at the Bennion Station. The line ran parallel to Redwood Road about 1800 West. In 1915 the first water system was built by private subscription. People who wanted clean water piped to their homes paid to have it delivered to them. Later this system was bought and expanded by the Taylorsville-Bennion Improvement District. Electricity came to the area in 1916 along Redwood Road. During World War I four young men from Taylorsville lost their lives and sixteen served in the armed forces.
By the 1920s two canals were built to carry water to farms farther and farther west. Redwood Road was finally rebuilt using concrete making it faster and easier to travel for the mixture of automobiles, wagons and horses that used it. How Redwood Road got its name has been the subject of much debate but, when there are no redwoods in the valley, the following explanation rings truest. A line parallel to the base meridian was surveyed on the west side of the Jordan River for use in measuring property lines. Redwood stakes which did not decay in the ground were used for the "Redwood Line". It remained the Redwood Line until 1895 when Redwood Road was built as a main thoroughfare for the west side of Salt Lake County. In 1927 the "Pole Line Road" 2700 West was constructed.
In World War II 75 men from Taylorsville served and two lost their lives overseas. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US Army Air Corps wanted an isolated place to build a training base safe from any attacks by the Japanese and on the main rail routes to the Pacific Coast. The War Department bought 5,000 acres (20 km2) of dry farmland in the western part of Salt Lake Valley. The land originally was part of a federal land grant to the state of Utah to be used to benefit schools and universities in Utah. But it had long since passed into private hands and was used for dry farms. Camp Kearns went through renamings as the focus and mission of the base changed, Camp Kearn was the name which stuck. It opened in 1942, but took about a year to gain its final size. The base was named for Senator Thomas Kearns of Utah who had made his fortune in the silver mines at Park City.
Just a year later Camp Kearns had 40,000 residents and was Utah’s third largest city at the time. It had two main missions. It served as a basic training facility for replacement troops headed for the war against Japan. Camp Kearns included a huge 600 target practice range, the largest in the US, a difficult, mile-long obstacle course, a grenade practice ground, and barracks for thousands of men on their way to the Pacific coast. The motor pool hired more than eighty local women just to drive trucks, in all about 1200 civilians worked at the base as any given time. Camp Kearns had the largest hospital in Utah at the time which spread into ten buildings. A camp newspaper called the Valley View News provided information and entertainment to the troops stationed there.
The base had a water system and one of two water treatment plants in the state. The streets were laid out in a huge grid pattern lined with over 900 wooden buildings covered with tar paper. A railroad spur from the Denver and Rio Grande was built to transport equipment and personnel to the base. By August 21,1942, the Kearns had 1,700,000 square feet (158,000 m2) of warehouse space, two all-purpose theaters, gyms, two fire houses, several dusty parade grounds, a post office, a lending library, and a bank. Thousands of trees and shrubs were planted to keep the dust down.
The second mission of Camp Kearns was a practice air force base for Army Air Corps ground crews. In time technical training of air force ground crews became Camp Kearns main objective. This included many kinds of schools: navigation, intelligence, radio, teletype, clerical and many others. It was not an air force base with airplanes landing and taking off, ground crews were trained on planes scattered around the base.
The base had five chapels, three stores, and three theaters, one of them for African-American servicemen. It still exists as part of Kearns Junior High School. THe USO brought many entertainers to the base to keep the troops from getting homesick. The Band Wagon Committee raised more than $15,000,000 in war bonds from the communities around Salt Lake and from the men and women in uniform.
The base was dusty, hot in summer and cold in winter. Men who trained there thought it was an awful place to live. They stayed in the long tar paper-covered wooden sheds heated with pot-bellied stoves and lighted with a few light bulbs. Each barrack was home to sixty men sleeping in squeaky metal beds with thin mattresses and not enough blankets in the winter and poor ventilation in the summer.
Most of the men who trained at Camp Kearns stayed only a few weeks and were glad to roll away from it on a train to California. Despite the boost to the local economy, Salt Lake and the surrounding communities did not appreciate the huge military presence and tried to limit soldiers to the area around the base. African-American soldiers were segregated both on and off base.
As the war drew to a close, the base began a rapid decline. Vice-President Truman made an inspection visit in August 1944. The training functions were moved to California. Camp Kearns was closed as an active base in 1946, and the buildings and materials auctioned off in 1948. Some of the first homes in Kearns were built from materials left over from the buildings of the base. Oner of the chapels survived to be incorporated in Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows Catholic Church.  Camp Kearns gave an indirect boost to Taylorsville in that a huge water pipe brought water from the east side of Salt Lake to the camp. Once Camp Kearns closed, the presence of clean drinking water and a sewer treatment plant made it possible for people to move to Kearns and live in some of the first large subdivisions built in western Salt Lake County in the 1950s.
Taylorsvilleand Bennion joined to form their own water and sewer district to provide clean water. The large water tank on the hill at 3200 west and 6200 South and the others ones buried inside the hill are a part of the work to provide the clean water. Salt Lake County’s rapidly growing population began expanding west in the early 1970s and farmers found they could sell their land to developers for a lot more than they were making on the farms. Subdivisions began springing up. Urban Realtors, who are familiar with the area and can show you homes there include This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Return to home.