Thursday, October 16, 2014

From ‘Disappointment Island’ to Fremont Island

                                The famous Kit Carson cross on Fremont Island.


FREMONT Island almost became a “Buffalo Park,” several decades before Antelope Island even received its first herd of transplanted bison.
“The ‘Buffalo’ Island. That is what Fremont Island is likely to become. A government appropriation anticipated. An important feature which will be a great addition to Ogden’s many attractions,” was a lengthy May 9, 1890 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
C.J. “Buffalo” Jones wanted to create a buffalo preserve on the island and supposedly had a promise of $30,000 in aid from the federal government to get his project started.
In addition, Jones had talked with the Rio Grande Railroad about the possibility of building a track from its main line, across the Great Salt Lake, to Fremont Island. (This was many years before the Lucin Cutoff was constructed across the GSL.)
Of course, Jones’ plan didn’t happen, but his was one of many dreams for the western Weber County Isle.
The Davis County Clipper reported on Oct. 20, 1899, that there was a plan to develop Fremont Island into a sanitarium. That didn’t happen either. Neither did a proposed dyke ever connect Antelope and Fremont islands as part of a fresh water reservoir plan, first envisioned in 1910.
The first recorded white men to visit Fremont were explorers John C. Fremont and Kit Carson, who visited it on Sept. 9, 1843. Fremont called it "Disappointment Island," for its desert nature and lack of game. Carson was so bored there he chiseled a cross in a rock at the island’s highest point.
Albert Carrington and other Mormon pioneers first visited Fremont on April 22, 1848 and labeled it "Castle Island," for the palace-like rock formation on its north end, where the cross was carved.
By 1859, the Henry Miller family decided it was a perfect place for grazing animals and it was then nicknamed "Miller's Island" until the Fremont name took over permanently
Jean Baptiste, a notorious Salt Lake City cemetery worker/grave robber, was banished by Brigham Young to Fremont Island in the early spring of 1862. He later disappeared and was never found.
In 1886, Uriah J. Wenner, a Salt Lake City judge, bought the island and moved there with his wife, Kate, and several children for five years to hopefully improve his health problems with the salty, fresh air.
                                  The Wenner gravesite on the south end of Fremont Island.

But, Mr. Wenner died there on Sept. 19, 1891 and the family soon moved away.
“Island home is left by owner … Cozy little cottage abandoned on island,” was an Aug. 17, 1906 story in the Salt Lake Tribune about the deserted Wenner home.
Jump ahead in time almost 40 years, to March of 1944 and an Associated Press story told of a “phantom coyote,” who was still unable to be killed or captured on Fremont Island.
This "phantom" coyote, believed to have reached the island a few weeks earlier aboard one of the rare icebergs that sometimes float the Great Salt Lake in late winter, had already killed at least eight sheep there.
                  A trio of hunters with the dead "Phantom Coyote" in 1944.

It required four hunting parties and dozens of hunters on the Island to finally vanquish the critter. Wounded after more than 200 rounds were fired at it on April 2, 1944, the animal was swimming toward Promontory Point and had to be apprehended by boat.
Leap ahead yet another 15 or so years and the State of Utah was looking to create a new state park on either Antelope or Fremont Island. Antelope was chosen and eventually accessed with a newly built causeway.
Fremont Island’s owners then, the Richards Family, who also owned Granite Furniture, still had hopes the state might make their island Utah’s “Alcatraz.” That never happened either.
The island was leased in part over the years to sheepherders and brine shrimpers.
By 1997, the Richards Family felt no long-term use for the island had been found and tried unsuccessfully to sell it for $3 million. "2,943 acres. Lots of history on this island. Great rec. property in green belt," was what the for sale ad highlighted.
By the early 21st Century, Hooper City included Fremont Island in its official boundaries.
Fremont Island, the third-largest isle in the Great Salt Lake, is still privately owned today and various private horse, wildlife and hunting preserve ideas have been experimented with for the Island.
(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Oct. 16-17, 2014.)
MORE Fremont Island and Great Salt Lake information:


-Blanche H. Wenner buried her mother’s ashes on Fremont in June of 1943.

-Charles Stoddard of Hooper built the fence around the Fremont gravesite. He used rocks from the old Wenner house to create the memorial with the plaques on.

-Large icebergs reported on GSL in March of 1942.

-From St. Examiner March 13, 1956, Southern Pacific had signed a $49 million contract to replace the wooden trestle of the Lucin Cutoff with rockfill/dirt causeway, 12 miles long and to start in 1960.  High maintence costs and redecking being needed for millions as the reason for the change; plus no fear of fire.

-Only 1 tree on Fremont Island in 1940s.

-Ranchers called Castle rock “Haystack Rock.”

-The first trip of the Lakemobile to Fremont Island was in 1934.

-Phantom Coyote killed 6 or more sheep on Fremont Island. Took 20 hunters and 3 trips to kill it it. Finally Orville Harris of Ogden wounded it and it plunged into the lake. The hunters had to jump into a motor boat to pursue it and kill it. It had lived in the rocky areas of the island. Hunters went by lakemobile, horseback across the sandbar to hunt the critter.


-On Fremont, Stoddard had as many as 700 sheep.

-Stoddard also bought a L.C.V.P. war surplus landing craft to use to reach Fremont from Promontory Point too.

-Stoddard was nicknamed “Utah’s Flying Shepherd” by Western Livestock Journal, because of airlifting in supplies food to his sheep. He would drop a 200-pound load of corn-bean pellets from his plane daily for 2 months to bring 800 sheep through a critical period.

-He also lost horses in the lake’s quicksand:  “To stand there powerless and watch those helpless horses disappear into the quicksand. After that I used a boat,” Stoddard once said.

-Arrowheads, platters, plates and a tablet with strange writing wee all found by Earl Stoddard, cousin to Charles Stoddard, on Fremont Island.

-In 1960, the grass on Fremont gave out and Stoddard had to fly food in 120 straight days by plane.

-By 1961, the lake had dropped so low that 100 lambs waded out in the lake  waters and were lost. Soon after a windstorm at the Ogden airport destroyed his airplane, tethered there.

-Another time a lightning storm caught Fremont Island on fire and he had to move his sheep to Carrington Island for a season.

-In one of the “Phantom coyote hunting photos, 1844 to 1944 is painted on rock above and below the Fremont cross.

-May 4, 1956, fire damages Lucin Cutoff trestle and closed it for several hundred feet. Charles Stoddard’s barge was used by firemen to spray water on the smoldering trestle.

-Feb. 27, 1969. High winds damaged the causeway tp Antelope Island and cut a breach 200 feet wide 3-4 feet deep

 (All this information from Jewell Kenley’s scrapbook of Stoddard, a relative of hers.)

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