Pioneers, Provo History, Utah History, Ute Native Americans, War

Provo Settlers Once Started to Build Walled Enclosure For Protection Against Indians

Click to see original imageDid you know that the pioneer settlers of Provo once started to build a 12-foot mud wall around a section of the city for protection against the Indians?

The walling project – never completed – began in the spring of 1854 during intermittent Indian troubles associated with the “Walker War,” named for a hostile Ute chief.

Historian J.M. Jensen recounts that the wall was to extend from Sixth South to Fifth North and from Seventh West to University Avenue.

Rock Foundation

Specifications called for the barrier to be 12 to 14 high, 4 to 6 feet wide at the base and tapering to a width of two feet at the top. An 18-inch layer of rock was to provide a foundation.

For military defense, port holes were to be built in the wall.

Each man was assigned a segment of the wall to build. Some complied energetically and completed their quotas; others defaulted in part or altogether.

Some Indians were puzzled by the wall… called it a threat to their peaceful pursuits. Chief Walker finally said if the colonizers would quit building walls the Indiana would cease fighting. (He probably had in mind other areas of the state also. Provo wasn’t the only city to be walled.)

Partly completed

Work on the wall, says historian Jensen, continued off and on for about two years, during which time the west and south sides and part of the north side were pretty well completed.

According to Provo, Pioneer Mormon City by the Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration, a volume published in 1942, an aged pioneer Dominicus Carter recall in 1941 that “the wall was never continuous. It never did extend east of Fifth West, which was then Main Street.”

The last fragment of the wall, on the Lars Nelson property, was torn down in 1890, despite Mr. Carter’s entreaties that it be preserved as a landmark.

Death of Chief

Chief Walker died at Meadow Creek in Millard County in January 1855. Before his death, Walker became convinced the settlers were his friends and he enjoined his tribe to live at peace with them, reported historian Jensen.

The project to wall the city should not be confused with the forts built by the pioneers in founding Fort Utah, forerunner to Provo City.

On a call by President Brigham Young about 30 men came from Salt LakeĀ  Valley late in March 1849 to establish a settlement as part of the church colonization program. They arrived on the banks of the Provo River April 1.

Two days later – April 3, the date adopted as Provo’s birthday – they began building “Fort Utah,” an enclosure made of log cabins interspersed with a section of 12-foot stockade made by setting Boxelder and Cottonwood posts in the ground.

Built Second FortĀ 

The site, near the river in the vicinity of the present Geneva Road, proved quite damp and cold. So the pioneers built a second fort in the spring of’1850 on higher ground at the present site of North (Sowiette) Park, Fifth North and Fifth West.

In the next few years, the colonizers began building homes on city lots or along the river. But the Walker War, beginning in 1853, prompted a trend back to the fort. President Yourg advised some communities to enclose their towns with mud walls for protection, leading to the wall project in Provo.

The Herald’s research has failed to locate any remaining vestiges of the mud wall. If anyone has information about a wall remnant that can be photographed, we would be glad to hear from you.