News Release

Church History of the Payson Temple District

The Payson Temple District serves members from Mapleton on the north to Delta on the south, which includes Utah, Juab and Millard Counties in central Utah. The history of the Church in this area is full of grit and perseverance. Native American tribes called this area home for centuries. The first explorers to the Payson Temple District were most likely Father Escalante and Father Dominguez and their party, which arrived here on September 23, 1776. From 1825 to 1847 various trappers and mountain men made this area their hunting grounds.

Church history in the Payson Temple District began three days after Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, when Brigham Young sent a scouting party into the valley south of present-day Salt Lake City and they returned with reports of an area with numerous streams emptying into a large lake.

Most of the cities and communities in the Payson Temple District were early Mormon settlements made possible by the hard work and persistent efforts of those who braved the elements. What follows is a brief description of the settlements that would later become communities or cities in the Payson Temple District.


In the fall of 1850, Brigham Young advised that a settlement be made on the banks of Peteetneet Creek. He selected three families consisting of James Pace, John Courtland Searle and Andrew Jackson Stewart to go to the area. It took the party approximately a week to travel the 60 miles to Peteetneet Creek, where they established a settlement. The settlers arrived at a grove of trees located along the banks of the creek on October 20, 1850, and established camp. The pioneers had most of their worldly possessions loaded into three wagons. Within a few days of arriving, the settlers cut poles and built corrals to hold their stock. They spent the first few weeks living in their wagons. They also began constructing log cabins cut from the cottonwood trees that grew along the creek.

A meeting was held in the cabin of James Pace on December 20, 1850, and a new branch of the Church was established. Elder George A. Smith, a Church apostle, gave the opening prayer and then moved that James Pace be appointed president of the settlement. President Pace selected James McClellan and Elias Gardner as his counselors. In 1851, the Utah Stake became the third stake in Utah; the Utah Stake was centered in Provo and included all the settlements in the Utah Valley. In August 1852, the name of the settlement was changed from Peteetneet to Pacen in honor of James Pace and sons. The spelling was later changed to Payson. On January 21, 1853, the Utah Territorial Legislature passed an act incorporating Payson City. 

In 1901, the Utah Stake was divided into Nebo, Provo and Alpine Stakes. The new stake included Payson, Spanish Fork, Salem, Benjamin, Lake Shore, Spring Lake, Genola, Santaquin, Elberta and the Tintic District of Juab County. On April 22, 1917, the Tintic Stake was formed from part of the Nebo Stake. The new stake included Eureka, Elberta, Goshen, Knightsville, Mammoth and Silver City.

On November 24, 1924, the Palmyra Stake was carved from part of the Nebo Stake. The new stake was comprised of Leland, Lake Shore, Palmyra, Salem and Spanish Fork. In 1935 the area of Santaquin was taken from the Nebo Stake and combined with the Tintic Stake; the new stake was called the Santaquin-Tintic Stake. After this time, the Nebo Stake consisted of the Payson First, Second, Third and Fourth Wards and the towns of Benjamin, Spring Lake and Genola. There has also been a division of many of the stakes and wards in the original Nebo Stake since 1935. There are now seven stakes and over 50 wards and branches in the Payson area. During the last 165 years, Payson has seen many changes, beginning with the 17 original settlers to a population that is now approaching 20,000 people. During this time, the community has progressed from a simple pioneer settlement to one of the important cities in the county.

Source: By L. Dee Stevenson


When Benjamin F. Johnson and those who accompanied him traveled from the Payson area to scout out the feasibility of a new settlement, they named the settlement Summit because it was built on the highest elevation of any town in Utah County, three miles north of the ridge that separates the Utah and Juab valleys. The name Summit City lasted for nearly 27 years until the name of Santaquin was given in honor of a Ute Indian chief by the name of Santaquin.

Homes were built and ground was plowed. In addition to farming, early industries included sawmills, a flour mill, a molasses mill, and a furniture shop. A silk industry was started with the planting of mulberry trees, some of which still remain in the city. Rich ore was discovered in the Tintic area. Several mines were discovered on Santaquin Ridge, or Dry Mountain, with some copper, lead, silver and zinc being mined; the Union Chief mine was the most prosperous.

Source: Myron V. Olson, comp., Give Me This Mountain, A History of the Santaquin Utah Stake (1984).


Some of the early colonists of Goshen Valley stated that when they entered the area in 1856 there was a well-established horse-raising ranch located about a quarter mile north of Warm Springs named Stewart. Stewart claimed a squatter’s right to all of the bottom land watered by the springs. In the year 1881, Phillip Thomas and his son-in-law, Carl Borup, secured some land from Stewart and settled on Warm Creek. The earliest settlers of what is now called Genola were dry farmers who also engaged in hunting, fishing and trapping. A few people lived near the Townsend rock quarry. This industry furnished work for some for the early landowners.

The community had at one time or another borne the name of Hardscrabble or Silver Lake, but by 1916 it was called Idlewild. During the winter of 1916–17 the citizens of Idlewild met at the schoolhouse and by a majority vote changed the name to Genola. The first formal Church organization was in 1919 when a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formed. In 1924 it was made into a ward, with members meeting in the schoolhouse until 1939, when the Church purchased the school grounds. Genola is essentially agricultural in character. Houses in Genola are located on farmsteads rather than in clusters, and the social life of the community revolves around the Church and the community park. Dairy farming is still a prominent business; however, the fruit business is taking over large acreage.

Sources: Raymond Duane Steele, Goshen Valley History (1960) and Records of Max E. and Melba Nelson, 1987.


Goshen Valley was discovered in 1858 when some men were rounding up stray cattle. The men were impressed by its large meadow and accompanying creek. One of the men, Phineas Cook, led an evaluation of the meadow's potential for settlement. Soon after, Cook sought permission from President Brigham Young to start settling the valley. By the next spring the first 10 families moved to Goshen, and by summer’s end there were 25 families. These early settlers lived in shelters inside a fort to protect themselves. Today, Goshen has remained a smaller town with under 1,000 residents.

Source: Raymond Duane Steele, Goshen Valley History.


Eureka is located approximately 70 miles southwest of Salt Lake City in Juab County. Incorporated as a city in 1892, Eureka became the financial center for the Tintic Mining District, a wealthy gold and silver mining area in Utah and Juab Counties. The district was organized in 1869 and by 1899 had become one of the top mineral producing areas in Utah. Eureka housed the "Big Four" mines — Bullion Beck and Champion, Centennial Eureka, Eureka Hill, and Gemini — and later the Chief Consolidated Mining Company. As with other mining towns, Eureka developed from a camp to a settlement and then a town. It benefited from competing transportation services of the Union Pacific (1889) and the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroads. Population ebbed and flowed between census years because of the transitory character of a mining town.

Sources: Beth Kay Harris, The Towns of Tintic (1961); Alice P. McCune, History of Juab County (1947); Philip F. Notarianni, Faith, Hope and Prosperity: The Tintic Mining District (1982).


Elberta is a small rural community near the southwest tip of Utah Lake, three miles west of Goshen. It was established in 1895 and was first called Mount Nebo, after the nearby peak. The next name came from the early Elberta peach orchards planted there by Ernest Rognan. Records indicate the name was given intentionally to attract settlers.  Most of the acreage around present day Elberta is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is the gathering place for the Church’s dairy resources, wheat farming and crops used within the welfare system of the Church. It is also home to the recently built “old city of Jerusalem,” where the Church makes most of its biblical films. This present city is located near the old Church feedlot about two miles south and one mile east of the present Latter-day Saint ward building. Today Elberta is still a fruit-producing town.


Mona is eight miles north of Nephi. The community was settled in 1885 with an early name of Clover Creek, after the luxurious patches of wild clover growing in the area. There is a disagreement as to the origin of the name Mona; it could be either an Indian word meaning beautiful or a contraction of the Italian word Madonna. It also means “Manx, by the mountains.” The word Manx refers to the people from the Isle of Mann. Matthew McCune is reported to have suggested Mona after his former home on the Isle of Mann.


Nephi is located at the mouth of Salt Creek Canyon; the north peak of Mount Nebo is to the northeast and the Red Cliffs are to the southeast. The city covers an area of approximately four square miles. Nephi's founders were Mormons, and the name of the town came from the Book of Mormon. In the summer of 1851 Joseph L. Haywood and Jesse W. Fox, the territorial surveyor, were instructed by Church leaders to lay out the town of Salt Creek, so named for the local salty stream. The settlers immediately began to clear ground and build homes. Nephi was known for some years as Salt Creek. However, early Church records refer to it as the Nephi Branch and some government records also called it Nephi. Until May 22, 1882, mail to the town was addressed to the Salt Creek post office. Nephi was incorporated in 1889, and on January 16, 1882, an act by the governor and the legislature of the territory was approved, making Nephi the county seat of Juab County.

Sources: Keith N. Worthington, Sadie H. Greenhalgh, and Fred J. Chapman, They Left a Record: A Comprehensive History of Nephi, Utah, 1851–1978 (1979). Mary N. Porter Harris. History of Juab County (2003). Sadie H. Greenhalgh, Chronology of Nephi Branch, 1851–1868; Nephi Stake of Zion, 1868–1877; Juab Stake of Zion, 1877–1974; Nephi Utah Stake, Jan. 20, 1974 (1982).


In 1860, two families from Nephi established a ranch on the Chicken Creek, about 17 miles south of Nephi. Although the settlement grew and even obtained a post office, it was recognized that the soil of the area was not highly suited for cultivation and the water supply was short. Community leaders asked the Church to assist them in the selection of another site for the town. With the assistance of Church apostle Erastus Snow, the new site, between Chicken and Pigeon Creeks, was selected. The name of the settlement was changed from Chicken Creek to Levan, a name chosen by Church President Brigham Young. Settlers for the new town site arrived in 1868 when the William Dye family located on block 34. The first brick home was erected in 1871 by Elmer Taylor. Dry farming of wheat on the Levan Ridge, north of town, was initiated in the early 1870s. The farming was successful and the agricultural economy and lifestyle of Levan was established.


The previously settled West Millard farming area was already becoming prosperous from alfalfa seed production when Frederick R. Lyman and others of his Oak City family began investigating the possibility of diverting Sevier River water upstream from the relatively new Gunnison Bend Reservoir, which was used for cultivating lands at Oasis, Deseret, Hinckley and Abraham. After farmers from those communities claimed winter runoff water and commenced building a larger reservoir, Lyman persuaded his fellow members of the Millard Stake presidency, Orvil Thompson and Alonzo A. Hinckley, to call attorney James A. Melville to determine the feasibility of forming a new irrigation company in connection with this reservoir project. The Melville Irrigation Company was organized for that purpose on March 24, 1906. That spring, 15 stockholders met at Oasis and selected a town site. The town site was named Melville, then changed to Burtner. The town's name was changed to Delta in 1911.

Source: Utah History Encyclopedia, Edward Leo Lyman.


Oak City is 10 miles east of Delta. It was first known as Oak Creek for the creek next to the site where the early residents settled. The area was used as an early grazing range by herders from nearby Deseret. The town was later settled by these herders and their families.

Source: Utah History Encyclopedia, John W. Van Cott.


Lyndall received its name from a telegraph operator’s shoe. She was testing the equipment and the recipient asked the name, and she gave the brand name from her shoe. It was a railroad community with a stop in the town. As time went on, if passengers wanted a ride on a train, they had to flag it down. The town originally had two hotels and a bar. The town now is a farming community and many of the residents work for an electrical power plant located about 25 miles away.


The town of Leamington on the northern border of Millard County is situated in a small but fertile valley of the winding Sevier River. It is surrounded on the north, east and south by the Wasatch Range. In 1871, a group of people from Oak City visited the present site of the city. The first permanent settlers built their homes in 1873. Unlike other Utah settlements, these people were not sent there by Church authorities; however, Bishop Platt Lyman of Oak City did send John Lovell to act as the presiding elder. Leamington was named after a town in England by Frank Young, a nephew of Brigham Young who was one of the early settlers in the area. It is located on the south side of the Sevier River. The early settlers came to farm and ranch of their own accord.
Sources: Joan Nielson Bird, Histories and Stories of Leamington and Fool Creek Flat (2000).


Deseret is an agricultural community nine miles southwest of Delta. The settlement was established in 1860 and received its name from nearby Fort Deseret. "Deseret" is a term from Mormon scripture meaning "honeybee." In March 1891, Deseret was divided into three communities: Oasis, Deseret and Bloomington (later known as Hinckley).


Oasis is a census-designated place in Millard County. Once the main rail shipping point in Millard County, Oasis declined in importance after the establishment of Delta, now the county's largest city.


Hinckley, five miles southwest of Delta, is a small agricultural community that was established as an outgrowth of nearby Deseret. In 1877 it was named Bloomington; then in 1891 it was renamed Hinckley, honoring Ira N. Hinckley, who was president of the Millard Stake at that time.


Spring Lake is a small community settled in 1850 near a large spring, three miles south of Payson. In 1852 Joseph E. Johnson bought the property and moved his family of five wives and their children into a large adobe house and built an adobe wall around it for protection. They named it Spring Lake Villa, which was later shortened to Spring Lake. Black Hawk, the instigator of the Black Hawk War between the settlers and Indians, is buried at Spring Lake.


Elk Ridge City was originally built on the 1,800-acre Goosenest Ranch, nestled against Mount Loafer in the south end of Utah County. James Fayette Shuler homesteaded the ranch. Eventually, one of the heirs sold his land to Jim Winterton, who, with one of his sons, Keith, developed the subdivision they called Salem Hills. When the population reached 100 residents, the county rules dictated that incorporation was required. On December 22, 1976, Salem Hills Town was incorporated. In 1978, the name was changed to Elk Ridge Town because of the elk herds that populated the fields and meadows.


Considered a bedroom community of Salem for many years, Woodland Hills became a city at the end of the year 2000.


In the spring of 1851 David Fairbanks and David Crockett discovered a large, clear stream flowing through a hollow. They realized that by damning the stream they could conserve the water that flowed out into swamplands. They soon moved their families and built the first dam, assisted by others from Payson who needed additional farmland. Winter and the threat of hostile Indians caused the families to return to Peteetneet. In 1852 the two founders built a second and more secure dam, but by the next year the families had moved to Peteetneet and the new settlement was abandoned.

Settlers from Palmyra, fighting drought and alkali salts in the soil, started over at the abandoned Pond Town. George Wilson and his brothers purchased the Fairbanks-Crockett interest and, along with eight other families, moved to the area in 1856. Lyman Curtis joined in the new development with four of his sons. Homes were built adjoining one another for protection against Indian attacks. The homes were constructed from adobe brick and lumber from nearby canyons. In 1870, when the Indian danger had been reduced, settlers moved into the town, which was laid out in five-acre blocks. As was common throughout Utah, homes and barns were built inside the town, with fields and grazing area outside.


Spanish Fork is built on three distinct sedimentary fans formed by the Spanish Fork River. After two Franciscan friars, Father Escalante and Father Dominguez, passed through the Spanish Fork area in 1776, the name “Spanish Fork” appeared on John C. Fremont’s map of the area published in 1845. Enoch Reece took up about 400 acres of land in the Spanish Fork River bottoms in 1850 and was the first man to locate a home there. He was soon followed by other settlers, including John Holt, John H. Reed and William Pace. Many early settlers to this area lived in dug-outs. These were holes dug in the ground, usually four or five feet deep, with steps leading down into the room from one end, and a roof usually made of willows and mud. A fireplace was built in the opposite end of the entrance. During the fall of 1854, a fort, called Fort Saint Luke, was built on the present site of Spanish Fork. This was occupied by 19 families from the settlement of Palmyra, about three miles west. In 1855 the territorial legislature granted the city of Spanish Fork a charter and boundaries were established. After Palmyra was abandoned in 1856, its citizens, numbering about 400, moved to Spanish Fork and the charter was amended to also include that area.

Source: Elisha Warner, The History of Spanish Fork (1930).


Benjamin is an agricultural community settled in 1863 by Barry Wride. A natural outgrowth of Payson, the town site of Benjamin was first surveyed in 1886. The town was named after Benjamin Franklin Stewart, a Church leader from 1868 to 1885. Other early settlers included John Hawkins and Benjamin's brother, Andrew Jackson Stewart.


Palmyra was founded in 1852 on the banks of the Spanish Fork River. Most of the early settlers resettled in Spanish Fork to build a fort for safety. Present day Palmyra is a farming community in the northwest part of Spanish Fork. Both old Palmyra and new Palmyra were named for Palmyra, New York, a prominent town in Mormon history.


Leland is a farming community. Leland was named for Leland Creer, an early settler. Leland has been absorbed into Spanish Fork.


Lake Shore was first settled in 1860 by families from Spanish Fork. Lake Shore is a small agricultural community on the eastern shore of Utah Lake.

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