Whether you think of Clarkston, Utah, as home, the
granary of Cache Valley, or an isolated place, I will always remember Clarkston
for the kind, warm, genuine people who live there. Owning the
store in town for more than fifty years, uniquely put our family in the
center of everyone's sorrows, joys and challenges on a day-by-day basis.
"Within a valley of the Wasatch Mountain range, in the northwest part of Cache Valley, the town of Clarkston is located, and her homes hug the foothills of the western mountain which is known as "Clarkston Mountain." The highest peak of Clarkston Mountain bears the descriptive name of "Gunsight;" through this high mountain land the deer roam, luring many seasonal hunters. The mountain streams and springs fill the water sheds that supply culinary water for Clarkston, Newton, and Trenton. Across the valley and stretching up the slopes of the surrounding hills are neatly blocked dry farming areas. Livestock graze in the meadows where the creek waters flow."1
Clarkston was settled in the fall of 1864. Among the first settlers were Israel J. Clark, James Myler, William Ricks, Michael Poulsen, Johannis Dahle, Gideon Harmison, David Cook, John Griffiths, John Griffin, John Godfrey, Samuel Whitney, Ole S. Jensen and their families; also the Thompson and Hansen families, A. W. Heggie, a Mr. Parker, Paul Paulson, Andrew McCombs, Simon Smith, Isaac Cook, A. H. Atkinson and others.
The settlers first began to build on what is known as the flat, just east of where Clarkston is now situated. But since the water was not very good here, and there had been considerable sickness among the settlers, Brigham Young advised them to move to higher ground nearer the head of City Creek and other springs.
Israel J. Clark built the first log house two blocks east of the present school building (City offices, 1995). The first school was held in this house, with Mr. Clark's wife, Betsy Clark, as teacher.
Because of Indian troubles and the extreme isolation of Clarkston, all the settlers in the spring of 1866 moved to Smithfield, Logan and other parts of the valley. Some left the valley entirely.
When the settlers expressed a desire to return to their homes in Clarkston in the spring of 1867, Brigham Young advised them that they might do so if they built a fort and a public corral for protection of the livestock. This was done. Houses were built in the form of a fort extending along both sides of the present Main Street, and a public corral was provided.
The existence of the Clarkston settlement was threatened in 1869 when a majority of the settlers, due mainly to discouragement because of the severe winters and heavy drifting snow, decided to move to the present site of Newton. But a few people decided to stay in Clarkston and some who had left returned, and the settlement became a permanent one. There was a controversy over retaining the name Clarkston for the original settlement or transferring it to the "New Town."
City lots were laid out and the land surveyed by James H. Martineau, county surveyor. Israel J. Clark, first bishop of the community, and the man after whom the settlement was named, assigned the lots and the farming land to the settlers. Ten acres of land were given to each single man and twenty to each married man. Small irrigation streams were made from the Clarkston Creek and other springs. At this time dry farming was not thought of, but early histories report that Brigham Young predicted that someday all the dry land area north, east, and south of Clarkston would be productive and would grow good crops of wheat. (He even prophesied that they would harvest while sitting under a parasol, which caused many to laugh.) A few years later the settlers began experimenting with different types of wheat and ultimately a seed type was found which would mature on the dry land. In time Clarkston became the best dry farming area in the county and one of the best in the entire state. Today dry farm wheat is the major crop in the area. One of the pioneer dry land farmers in Clarkston was Samuel A. Whitney.
Clarkston carries special historical distinction as the burial place of Martin Harris, one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. The Latter-day Saint Church has erected a suitable monument at the grave of Martin Harris, and hundreds of people visit the spot each year.2 Martin lived with his son, Martin Harris, Jr. in Clarkston until he died.
The cemetery was originally a lookout hill for Indians, and for many years, arrowheads could be found there. Today it is major gathering place at least three times a year. The town has erected bleachers and an outdoor stage for the annual Martin Harris pageant entitled "The Man Who Knew." This pageant is very popular and well attended. Even though the production isn't until August, the tickets are usually all distributed by early spring. Every May the ward hosts a commemoration for the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. Memorial Day is a wonderful time to gather and spend hours visiting with friends and relatives.
Because of the geographical isolation of Clarkston, the people became self sufficient. "The pioneers built a schoolhouse and a meeting house of native rock. In the schoolhouse they learned to read and write, and could worship God or find recreation in the little chapel.
There were three women who brought the babies: Aunt Caroline (Griffin Thompson), tall and stern and commanding, Aunt Marthy (Gover Griffin), a prim little English woman with her hair in a little bob on top of her head, and Aunt Agnes (Jardine Shumway), always immaculate in a fresh white apron with knitted lace along the bottom. Birth was a natural process that worried no one, and if complications ever set in it was not known. These women were on call night and day for the sum of $8 or less if you could not afford it.
(Thomas Godfrey pulled our teeth while his wife retired to the cellar so as not to hear.)
Uncle Jack (Thompson), with his long curled, white mustache, set the broken bones, and always told jokes during the painful process. Uncle Jim (Thompson), the painstaking carpenter, made the caskets of native lumber and lined them with white outing. Sometimes he covered them with black or white velvet depending on what was available, but the dead never wanted for a neat, substantial coffin. Our needs were complete with short stocky Uncle Joe (Myler) who led the choir and fiddled for the dances. Of course the father of the ward was the bishop (John Jardine & Ben Ravsten) who was both lawgiver and interpreter of the will of the Lord, and whose word was supreme. He frowned upon undertakers and doctors and so everybody did. Both interfered with the natural processes of God, and were an uncalled for expense and luxury. We could take care of the dead and the sick ourselves. The store stocked castor oil, senna leaves, Epsom salts, asafetida, and "vermifuge" for worms in children, and that took care of our physical needs...
Our town was laid out in blocks, three north and south and three east and west, with houses on both sides of the road. The architecture of the homes was very similar. People built first a two-room house and as their family and finances increased they added a kitchen and dining room and connected them with a large L-shaped porch. In every back yard was a well with a bucket tied to a rope and fastened to the curb. There was a chopping block sprinkled with chicken blood and in the chips glazed rooster heads with half-open eyes bore mute evidence of many a fine dinner. In the corner stood a whitewashed privy with the convenience of a can of ashes and a Sears Roebuck catalog, and sometimes some old newspapers. Here one could retire with impunity and rest or read. Every lot had a row of plum trees. Under them sat a few farm implements profusely sprinkled with droppings of chickens and birds. Close by, the straw-covered stable provided shelter for a team and a scrub cow or two, and near this was a log hen house without windows. Five or six sleek porkers peeked up over a crude pen, and these with the dog, a few cats, and the roosters completed each barnyard orchestra.
There was no need for locks or bars on the doors of our little town. Neighbors shared freely. At butchering time meat was exchanged, and starts of yeast went from house to house, as well as bread and fresh honey...." 3
With modern transportation, good roads, television, and telephones, Clarkston is not isolated in the same sense it once was. The school children are transported to different locations in the valley for school. Groceries, clothes, doctors and hospitals are readily available in Logan, and recreation is no longer always homemade. However, there is still the part left that made Clarkston a great place to live in 1864.
After a visit to Clarkston today in 1995, one notices the yellow smog hanging over Logan as you approach the Newton hill. There is a longing to want to remain in the clean air and slower pace that is still found in the town of our roots--to just sit on the front porch, visit and relax in the evenings as we have done so many times in the past. It is little wonder that so many people return to Clarkston to be buried. It is like going home.
Compiled by Kaylene Allen Griffin from:
1. Ravsten, Euince P. & Ben J. History of Clarkston:
The Granary of Cache Valley, 1864-1964.
2. The Herald Journal, Pioneer Centennial Edition, 1947.
3. Hansen, Ann Godfrey. Isolated, "Tell Me a True Story."
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