Signs Of The Times: The City's Historic Committee Hard At Work

Signs Of The Times: The City's Historic Committee Hard At Work
Posted on 05/01/2015
Mike PetersonBy Mike Peterson - City Council Member
The Historic Committee of our city is currently made up of nine dedicated members. Each month, they meet to gather and preserve information in order to provide future generations evidence and understanding of our city’s cultural foundation. Each generation must do its part to preserve and protect the local history.

The Historic Committee has been very busy over the last few years, developing and installing 15 historic markers along the Big Cottonwood Canyon Trail. The committee has also been present at each Butlerville Days to share photos of our city’s historic past, and presented an historic photo display at our City’s 10th Anniversary Celebration, drafting historic narratives of individual communities within our city, and much more.  Most recently, the Committee has developed signage that has been posted around our city identifying significantly important historic areas.

In 1847, when the pioneers first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, control of the land in this area belonged to Mexico.  It wasn’t until February 2, 1848 that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, officially transferring much of the land in the southwest to the United States. This treaty ended the U.S. - Mexican war and is the oldest treaty still enforced between the United States and Mexico.  As a result of this treaty, the United States acquired more than 500,000 square miles of territory, including the land in Utah. 

On September 9, 1850, the same day that the State of California was admitted to the union, the Utah Territory was established by the United States Congress. Shortly after, the United States Government surveyed the area into one- square-mile sections.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until an agreement was signed with the Native Americans in 1867 that the Federal Government finally had clear title to the land.  In 1869, the Federal Government began issuing Homestead Grants of up to 160 acres to qualifying residents living in the Utah Territory.

This was a very important time for our State and the area of our city.  When the pioneers first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, they settled in areas where soil was fertile and some water available. It wasn’t until the Homestead Grants became available that people chose to settle permanently within the boundaries of our city.  The areas known as Butler Bench, Poverty Flats and Danish Town were settled by those who had received these Homestead Grants.

The Butler Bench area, which was the high area south of the Big Cottonwood Canyon Creek from the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon and west to the top of the hill at about 2700 East, is literally a geological bench on which part of our city was located.  By 1870, there were seven families with homesteads located on the Butler Bench. Besides farming, many of these families worked in and/or provided support services to the lumber and mining services.  They were the families of William S Covert, William McGhie, William C. Ritter, Philander Butler, Leander Butler, Neri Butler and James Maxfield. All three of the Butler brothers worked in the lumber business. Philander Butler also built a brewery and a hotel along Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. William McGhie provided stables and corrals for teamsters to rest their animals. William Ritter was a miner. He was killed January 26, 1875, along with five other miners when a snow slide came off the mountain above the Richmond Mine in Big Cottonwood Canyon, just as a group of eight miners and teams came out of the mine entrance hauling ore on skids. One miner was able to dig himself out and help another get free, but they were not able to rescue the other six miners. William Ritter is buried in a miner’s cemetery in Silver Fork.  His wife, Jeanette, with the help of their children, continued to run the farm on the Butler Bench. 

Other historic areas with signage or proposed signage are Colebrook Corner and Danish Town which have equally interesting histories.

In addition to these general areas of historic significance, there is Butler Hill, Brown’s/Colebrook’s Hill, Will Dyer’s Road and Union Fort Road. For decades, settlers living on the benches of Butler, Danish Town, and the area in between the two communities, there were just three main routes to reach their farms from the Valley.
We now have signage around our city tastefully identifying most of these locations.  If you would like to read in more detail the brief history behind each of these historic information signs, please check out the city’s website at on the Historic Committee page.  Thanks to the members of the Historic Committee for their many hours of service to document and preserve the history of our city for future generations.

If you see one of the members of the Historic Committee  please give them a pat on the back for a job well done!

Our Historic Committee:
Chair: Tom Shimizu
Vice Chair: Gayle Conger
Members: Don Antczak, Jerri Harwell, Melinda Horton, Beverly Lund, Sylvia Orton, Dean Smart, and Carol Woodside