History of Highland by Cora Beck Adamson


By Cora Beck Aamson

Edited by Charles T Greenland II (grammar, punctuation and spelling left as original)

Adamson, Cora_small2.jpgFollowing the arrival of the pioneers in Salt Lake Valley in 1847, they began to spread out to the north and south exploring suitable places to make homes and settle down as they were tired of their long journey to valleys.  The first settlers to enter Utah Valley was in 1849 and they came over the low hills from Draper into Alpine, calling it Mountainville for its beautiful mountains.

In February 1852, an act of the territorial legislature was passed granting Lehi one third of the American Fork Canyon water.  In the spring of 1853 they constructed a ditch across the Highland bench to Lehi, a distance of seven miles. (ed note: more accurately it was 4-5 miles).  In order to get their share of the canyon water this ditch was dug two feet wide in the bottom and one rod was a day’s work for one man.  The ditch was completed in one season and water reached Lehi the same year to save their crops.

Highland was unsettled till John Poole built a home near the Lehi ditch in 1875 where David Strasburg now lives  It was thought that the first house was built here by Poole in 1874 or 1875 . (ed note: it was in 1873 - The first home in Highland was built by James Pullen in 1870, followed by Hannah Briggs in 1871; Pooles was the third home built).  John Pooles son was the first child born on Highland

As Alpine had secured all the water from the Alpine Canyon, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, and Lehi had taken all the water from American Fork canyon there was no water left for Highland, nevertheless in the year of 1877 a few noble men and women filed on homesteads and commenced the hard task of making homes on the Highland bench. (ed note: homestead filing began in 1869 and there was a dozen filed before 1877) They were a courageous lot these humble pioneers, and it was a long struggle and a desperate fight for enough water to make a living.  John Poole was the first man with his family to try and make a living here.  After clearing a portion of his homestead and planting some crops he took the law in his own hands and took water from the Lehi ditch to save his crops.

This started a lawsuit with Lehi and was carried on in the courts of Provo with George Sutherland as the lawyer.  It has been said that the people wondered lots of times if Highland was right in winning of the lawsuit and getting the much-needed water for their dry land or if they just had the best lawyer in the State.  George Sutherland was the only lawyer to ever be appointed to the Supreme Court from Utah. (ed note: The Supreme Court justice was the son of the lawyer who handled the water case)

This lawyer fought this lawsuit and was supported by other homesteaders: Stephen Moyle, Jacob Beck, Peter Beck, George Myers, Brigham Whiting, William Whiting, John Marvin, Abraham Martin, Hyrum Healey, Edward Winn and others.

They fought and pleaded in court for several years until finally they were granted some early surplus water and a small stream through the season to keep their trees alive and a continuous culinary stream from Lehi.  This history is written about the struggle for a stream of water because without the water right the land on the Highland bench was useless for anything but grazing early in the spring.  And this is what the people of Lehi, American Fork an Alpine were using the Highland bench for.  Alexander Adamson and other American Fork settlers had land upon the bench and on the dry farm above the bench planting rye and other grains.  

In the year 1869 Christian Beck of Alpine homesteaded 160 acres of land outside of Alpine and paid $1.25 for each acre of land that he homesteaded.   Christian Beck was quite well off when he came here from Denmark as a convert to the Church and he helped a number of Saints from Denmark to come to Utah.

In the old Homestead book in the Federal building in Salt Lake there is recorded that George Y. Myers took out a homestead in the year 1869 but it was later canceled.  In 1875 John Poole took out his homestead papers and built a home, a frame house with about three of four rooms with a porch on the front.  This home stood just north of Dave Strasburgs home and has recently been torn down.  He built close to the Lehi ditch so he could have culinary water from the ditch.

 July 3, 1877 Jacob S. Beck and Stephen Moyle of Alpine went to Salt Lake and filed on 160 acres each on the Highland bench and they also paid $1.25 an acre for the land.  Jacob Beck earned is money tending a stagecoach station in the lonely country of Wyoming.  Alexander Adamson filed his homestead rights October 1886 and it is from this hard working thirfty Scotsman that we get the name of Highland.  This high bench reminded him of his beloved homeland of Scotland, and he gave it the name of Highland.  His homestead was a strip of dry farm on the north of Highland and is said that he was one of the first men to plant rye on his land.  He made many trips across the bench and his young sons herded their cows for many years on the high land above American Fork.   Alexander lived for many years in the north east part of American Fork and was a veteran of the Black Hawk War.

In the year 1878 Peter Beck a brother of Jacob Beck homesteaded 80 acres on the West end of Highland.  Edwin Sawyer is mentioned as homesteading in 1877 also.  In the year 1876 George Myers left his home in Salt Lake and came out to Alpine to be near his land.  He worked hard to clear his land, his father-in-law John Whiting who was a very good Mason, helped George Myers to build a nice two room adobe home on his land.   Later on he signed the homestead paper in 1878 and his father-in-law, who was well-to-do, helped him pay his $1.25 an acre to the government.  In the year 1876 George Myers went to work up in Cottonwood Canyon for extra money to live on until he got his farm going.  Many of the farmers took their teams in the fall and hawled ore from the mines to get extra money.

John Whiting also helped build homes on the bench for his sons Brigham Whiting and William Whiting and his daughters Sarah Whiting Marvin and Emma Marcia Martin.   He paid for their homestead rights and built along what is the Myers ditch placing all of his family quite close together.   Hyrum Healey came to Highland about this same time and also built up on this same street.  Edward Winn had a home on the south of Highland and Sam Webb down in the East Creek along the American Fork Creek bed, where the railroad bed was made to lay the tracks for the narrow-gauge railroad to the mines in American Fork Canyon.  Remains of the railroad bed are still visible through the creek, there is a higher rise of ground and the railroad can almost be followed from the rodeo grounds to the mouth of American Fork Canyon.

These people and few others came about the same time.  Stephen Moyle built first on the south side of Dry Creek or the Canyon stream from Alpine to Lehi, but this home burnt and then he built on the north side of Dry Creek, his home stood right in the middle of the place where the surveyor had placed the line for a road through to the dry farms.  So consequently, when the road was built, and they refused to buy the Moyle’s home they had to make a jog in the road as they came down the knoll going north in order to get passed his home.  It set just on the brow of the hill, it has long since been torn down. 

 Jacob Beck hawled ore from the mines in American Canyon and met and married Elizabeth Healey also from Alpine.  She was working at this time at the boarding house at the Pacific Mine in the canyon.   Mining in American Fork Canyon at this time was a booming business and many farmers made enough to live on by hawling ore out of the canyon or working in the mines.  Jacob Beck and Elizabeth Healey were married in the fall of 1878 an moved out to Highland on their homestead.  Jacob at first built a two-room adobe house but it was later built on to and finally it was increased to ten large rooms and was beautifully and very richly furnished.

These earliest settlers as a rule built well and the homes are many of them still standing and are still being lived in to this day.  Living on Highland was a hard and difficult task.  There was the everlasting problem of not enough water, and the problem of getting the children to school and to church.  Some of the people sent their children to American Fork to attend a boarding school and some were sent to Lehi and a few faced the blizzards on the cold winter mornings and attended school at Alpine riding in buckboards and sleighs.  Jessie Myers and her sisters remember going down to the boarding house and staying and how lonesome and homesick they got as little children.  

At one time a school was held in the home of Marcia (Marchia) Martin, and there was a small store on the north east corner of the land that is called the old Marvin place.  Then the roads were often blocked with the bad storms and many people traveling from the small settlement of Alpine to American Fork or Lehi were often stranded on the bench and would spend the night at the home of Jacob Beck or other settlers on Highland.

Jacob Beck used to tell the story of one morning after a severe storm when he looked out the window of his home a s saw something up the road.  It was a high strange mound of snow.  He went to investigate and found that a family had been caught in the wild blizzard and they had turned their wagon box upside down and crawled under it for protection and the severe storm had raged over them all night.  He took them to his home and gave them some breakfast and after the storm subsided the family went on their way.           In 1893 a school district was organized with George Myers, Stephen Moyle and William Wilcox as trustee(s).  George Munns was constable.  S.M. Groff road superintendent, George Myers registrar and Richie Harkness Justice of the Peace.

It was a hard job to clear the land with the small plows they had in those days and the sage brush was tall and tough.  I remember herding cows as a small boy out in the sage brush and you couldn’t see over the top of it in many places, the land was fertile and the sage brush grew profusely, says Stephen F. Beck.  There was not much land cleared as I remember when I was young.

There was so very little water to soak up the land to make it better to plow and many times the fathers of families left their homes all winter to work in the mining camps and on the railroad to get money to live on.  Sickness and epidemics entered their homes many times and they were just helpless to do anything to help their little sick ones.   Jacob Beck’s little children, Cora Rowena and Reed came down with typhoid fever and all they could do was to rub their little bodies with alcohol and try to get them to take a little liquid, after six weeks Cora Rowena died,

These pioneers had to have faith in the Lord to help keep going.

The worst epidemic to hit their homes was in 1894 when diptheria hit the bench.   In the month of May 1894 George Y. Myers wife and three of his young passed away.  This clipping was found in the Deseret News of May 12, 1894 on page 5.

Mary Ann Whiting Myers died May 8, 1894 at Highland, Tuesday morning of Diptheria.  She is the wife of George Myers and was only 38 years of age.  Also, Belle Myers died Thursday evening of the same disease, age 12 years and 3 months.  She died at 6:30.  Another child Grace died Friday morning May 11, 8 years and 2 months.  All of one family.  The father and seven children are left.  Some of these are still very sick.

Nida age five, died May 24, 1894.

This family lost more than any of the others.  Other families felt so blessed after this tragedy, but in the fall it struck again, and Jacob Beck lost two lovely young daughters the same week, Maude age 11 and Vera Eliza age 6.  Robert Jones lost three children, Edward Winn three, and John Poole, members of his family. (ed note: The Pooles lost three children in the 1879 diphtheria epidemic – they moved from Highland to California in 1884) There were others, but we do not have the names.  No one could hold funerals and George Munns who was constable at this time, took these beloved children to the cemetery and buried them.  John Poole however made a burial lot on his own land and laid his loved ones away by himself.

Stephen Beck can well recall as a small boy seeing these children put into some homemade coffins, or coffins made by Stephen Beck, the carpenter from Alpine, and loaded into buggys and taken away.  My how these early settlers must have prayed that this dreaded disease would pass by their homes and their loved ones spared.

The big problem of water was constantly before these people and about the year 1900 the job of building a reservoir at Silver Lake was started.   George Myers was in charge of the construction and with horses and scrapers and wagons they worked a long time to build a small reservoir that is still in use.  They hoped that they could store some of the early water to save crops later in the year.  They tried every way they knew to find more water and were very often in court with their neighbors because of accusing each other of stealing water.

It was a hard task to keep all the gates closed and see that the last man on the ditch had enough water to wet his land.  It was very hard to see your garden that you needed for a livelihood dry up and the ditch of water went past your home, and many, many an otherwise honest man would open a gate just a little way for a small stream of water and the story is told of the time that Margaret Adamson Winn jumped into the irrigation ditch and held the water going on her land with her skirts hoping to save a little of the wheat for the winter so they would not starve.

In the year 1913 the opportunity came to purchase more water from the Provo Reservoir Company known as the Murdock water.  Named after Joseph R. Murdock of Heber City, who upon seeing the dire need of water in the north end (of Utah Valley) and Salt Valley organized the Provo Reservoir Company and built a reservoir at the head of the Provo River. (ed note: And built a canal across Orem, Pleasant Grove and Highland to the Point of the Mountain)

The farmers of the Highland Bench were more than eager to purchase some of this water, but found that it was so expensive that they could not pay for it.   The cost to them was $80.00 a share. After using it about two years the purchasers were dissatisfied, and a meeting was called with the Provo water officials to consider turning it back.   Some had purchased 10 shares and some 20 to 30 shares, but Jacob Beck had purchased 100 shares for his 240 acres.   But they could not make enough extra on the farms to pay for the water and they were in danger of losing their property in order to purchase the water for it.  After considerable discussion trying to persuade them to keep the water Mr. Murdock stated that the company had more water to sell at $60.00 per share which would be later in the season water.

Mr. Beck said he would buy 100 more shares making this a total of 200 shares or a $14,000 obligation.  Some stated that they couldn’t pay for it, but Mr. Beck said, “I am not concerned as much about the cost as I am in need of water for this bench,  I want to change the color of my farm.”  This characterized the life of Jacob Beck as he never stopped for the cost on any thing it was felt he really needed it.   This water proved a great benefit for the people of Highland.

There is a humorous side to this water situation too.  In the year 1933 Mr. Murdock died and that happend to be the year of the most serious drought that the bench has ever known and the story is told that Mr. Murdock charged so much for the water and he didn’t get his money so when he died he took the water to heaven with him.

All of the farms looked better with the addition of this water and the tension and worry of late water was relieved.  Jacob Beck at one time had one of the most beautiful farms in the state of Utah.  Students from the Utah State Agricultural college at Logan were brought to visit his farm.  

Again in 1930 the Government began the planning of the Deer Creek reservoir in Provo Canyon and O.C. Day, Harry Jerling and Stephen F. Beck spent many hours talking to the people of the bench trying to get them to subscribe to this water.   Many meetings were held and many problems of getting this water to the people of Highland.  After contacting the people of Highland subscribed for 5000 acre-feet and after all these many years Highland had chance to grow to be a profitable farming district.  It is with gratitude and thanks to those wonderful hard-working pioneers who first seen the possibilities of the fertile lands of Highland.  The citizens of Highland should erect a monument to the memory of these early settlers. 

There were about fifteen families of the first settlers of Highland consisting about fifty members.  In 1877 they began the long struggle of trying to build a community on the bench.   In thirty-five years at the organization of the ward the membership of 200 members was recorded.  Some of them only staying maybe a year or two and sometimes not longer than a year before becoming discouraged and moving to other places.

They have been wonderful people and have all done some good while living in the community.  Those that remained from the first were the most diligent and perhaps the most stubborn, refusing to give into discouragement and the elements.  Since 1913 after many years of water problems and finally acquiring more water and with the outside labor provided at the Steel Plant and the easy access to the work in Salt Lake Valley and the many Mink farmers who have located in Highland the community is beginning to grow and it is a wonderful place to live. 

First and early settlers fo Highland Bench:

John Poole                          Edward Winn                    Charles T. Greenland

George Y. Myers                Edwin Sawyer                   William Sharp

Brigham Whiting               Richey Harkness               Louis Strasburg

William Whiting                 Samuel A. Eastman          William Warren

John Marvin                       Robert Jones                      Silas Jensen

Abraham Martin               Heber Priest (Preece)       Fred Peterson

Jacob Beck                         George Webb                    Clarence Burgess

Peter Beck                         John Hegan                        Alfred Powell (Toll gate keeper)

Stephen Moyle                 Lewis Cherrington            Robert Booth

Hyrum Healey                  Hyrum Harmon                 Tom Warren

Jens Nielson                     William Van Noy                William Shipley

George Munns                 John Van Steeter               Jefferson Vance

William Loveridge            Mr. Jex                                Tobe Woods

James Brown                    Billy Walker                        Peter Adamson

James C. Orr (teacher)    David Adamson                 Tom Adamson

Boise Wells                       Tom Warren                       Agrippa Cooper

Source: HIGHLAND HISTORY: A compilation by Charles T Greenland II for the Highland Historical Society


Highland Historical Society Home Page
Highland Historical Society Mission Statement
Highland History Chapters (compiled by: Charles T Greenland II):

  1. Highland History
  2. The 1st Highland LDS Ward
  3. History of Highland by Cora Beck Adamson
  4. Highland Residents Poem by Cora Beck Adamson
  5. Ecclesiastical History by Cora Beck Adamson
  6. Record and History of the Highland Sunday School by Ruby B. Day
  7. Highland Oldsters by O.C. Day 1959
  8. Highland Ward History by Beth Roundy Day Hyde 1954
  9. Early Recollections of Highland by Della Miller Hatch
  10. Beloved Highland by Jean Day Perkins 2005
  11. History of the Highland Church by Eva Buhler Turner 1991
  12. Water
  13. Mining
  14. The Highland School
  15. Electricity Comes to Highland
  16. Peas and Peaviners in Highland
  17. Famous Feature
  18. The People

Highland Family Histories
1958 Highland Aerial Map 
1958 Highland Homes and Families (table with addresses)
Homesteaders' Map
Highland Censuses (and LDS Ward Membership List)
Link to: David T. Durfey 1992 Master's Thesis - Aberrant Mormon Settlers: The Homesteaders of Highland, Utah