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The Settlement of Ashley Valley

It was the summer of 1776, when a party composed of ten Spaniards started on a journey, their only travelling companions were a few sturdy burros. This was the Escalante expedition from Santa Fe, who were seeking a more direct route to Monterey, California. After many days of travel they came to a river bordered by waving green trees and willows which Escalante named Rio Buenaventura (Beautiful Adventure). It was later called the Green River. After camping on the banks of the river for two days, they pushed bravely on to another area of dry country, not knowing where they would find more water.

They had not gone very many miles when, mounting the summit of a little hill, they gazed down into Ashley Valley. The land was dry and arid, the soil sandy, and the vegetation consisted mainly of sagebrush, cactus and other desert plants. Through the northern section ran a ribbonlike creek. This creek is now called Ashley Creek.
After Escalante's entrance there is no record of the valley being visited by white men until 1825, when General William Ashley passed through, leaving his name to both creek and valley. He was with Andrew Henry, the founder of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company on a trading expedition. With their party was a young man, Jim Bridger, who afterwards received much fame as a frontiersman.

On July 21, 1851, the Uintah Indian Agency was established by proclamation by Abraham Lincoln. Governor Brigham Young also held the office to superintend the Indian Affairs, under appointment made by the U.S. President, and the agency was made in the Uintah Basin. Lieutenant Pardon Dodds was the first agent to take charge of the reservation. He received his appointment in 1867.

Mr. Dodds was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, left home at age fifteen and went to Wisconsin. He finished common school and had entered college when the Civil War broke out. This was his schooling.He entered the Civil War and was appointed to the rank of Second Lieutenant and was discharged from the army in 1865, coming to Salt Lake City in 1866. He was appointed agent for the Indians and took over the agency in the fall of 1867. He was first located on the upper Duchesne and then moved to Rock Creek and from there to Whiterocks.
It seems some of the early settlers have questioned his appointment and in an excerpt written by himself he said "I was appointed agent under $20,000 bond under President Andrew Jackson." The journal reads that he reached Whiterocks on Christmas Day, 1868, where the Uintah agency was established. Whiterocks is the oldest white settlement in Uintah County, not counting the old trading post and fort. Critchlow succeeded Pardon Dodds as agent in 1872. Dodds came back as a stockman to Ashley Valley in 1873 and brought with him Morris Evans and Dick Huffaker. They erected the first house built by white men and all of the work from timber to dirt floor was done by them; the windows brought in from Salt Lake City. The main part of the building was first built to afford them a shelter and as time permitted, a lean-to was soon added. The house served as a home for the Dodds family from 1873 to 1897.

Alfred Harvey Westover and Jimmy Rineman came here together June 10, 1876. On November 16, 1876 Robert Snyder arrived, and later Mrs. Snyder, their daughter, Ida, and a girl by the name of Clara Crouch. On May 11, 1878, the first white child was born here and was named Robert Ashley Snyder. On June 16, 1878, Robert Snyder was killed by lightning in his dooryard, leaving Mrs. Snyder with two children to pioneer the wilderness. On Mar 22, 1881, at the age of three, little Robert died.


The Snyder Family

During 1876 and 1877, a number of persons moved in, among them were: Mr. and Mrs. William Gibson, Mr. and Mrs. John Fairchild, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hardy, Mr. and Mrs. Alma Taylor, William Powell, Lewis Kabell, Al Westover, S.P. Dillman, Jimmy Aiverman, Perry Decker, Pat Lynch, Robert Blankenship, Mr. Mason, Mr. Downing, William and Finn Britt, James Gibson, the Bingham party which consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bingham, The David H. Bingham family, Enoch Burns and son, the Frederick G. Williams family, Alma Taylor and two children, Joshua Chell and Lola Hall and child, Orson Hall, Charles Allan, Charles Nye, Ben Lofgren, Niels Lofgren, Charles Jenson, the John Nelson family, Allen Beceus, George Carry, Richard Veltman and Bill Bunnell. The Jeremiah Hatch and David Johnston families arrived early in the year of 1878. For more information on other early white settlers in Ashley Valley between 1879-80, see the Hard Winter.

-Excerpts from the "Builders of Uintah", courtesy of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers