Friday, October 18, 2013

Mormon Battalion gold 'bought' much of the Ogden area

      Ogden, as viewed through all the microwave apparatus, atop Mount Ogden Peak.

By Lynn Arave

IS the Ogden, Utah area worth $1,950, or about 103 ounces of 


Dutch colonists are often said to have purchased all of Manhattan 

Island, New York in 1626 from the local Indians for trinkets and 

cloth, worth only about 1.5 pounds of silver, or perhaps just $24.

Jump forward in time from that event, some 221 years, to the Utah 

Territory, in 1847, to a somewhat similar event in history.

Today's Ogden was the only place in the territory already settled 

by whites when the Mormon Pioneers arrived in July of 1847.

Mountain man Miles Goodyear and his family had built a fort (today's Fort Buenaventura) and cabins in what is present-day West Ogden in 1845-46, before the Mormon pioneers arrived.
James Brown, a Captain in the Mormon Battalion, under the direction of Brigham Young, used Mexican or Spanish gold coins, worth about $1,950 -- earned from service in the Mormon Battalion -- to purchase much of today's Ogden area.

                                         Captain James Brown

That price included: a fort, about 210 square miles, 75 cattle, 75 goats, 12 sheep, six horses (and a "$10 cat," according to some sources) from Goodyear on November, 24, 1847.
(Where Goodyear got that many cattle is another story ...)
Based on prices per Troy ounce of gold for that era (at least in the weight of gold), that purchase price might have equaled about 8 1/2 pounds (103 ounces) of gold paid by the Mormon Pioneers.
In today's current gold values, what the pioneers paid in gold could now be worth almost $136,500. (In today's dollar values, that $1,950 is only worth about $47,500, though).
This gold was Brown's own money, not only earned for his service in the Mormon Battalion, but also from some of his business enterprises in California. 
(Despite "owning" all of the Ogden area land, Brown never charged any settler for homesteading land there.)

             The historic Miles Goodyear cabin today, at 2104 Lincoln Avenue, Ogden.

Goodyear's deed (claimed with an alleged grant from the Mexican government) described the boundaries as:
"Commencing at the mouth of Weber Canyon and following the base of the mountains north to the hot springs; thence west to the Salt Lake; thence south along the shore to a point opposite Weber Canyon; thence east to the beginning."
By that geography lesson, the purchase likely stretched from Weber Canyon to Ogden Canyon (today's 12th Street) and to the Great Salt Lake in between.
(There is a hot springs near the Box Elder-Weber County line, but that’s northwest and so the purchase boundaries were more likely referring to the hot springs at the mouth of Ogden Canyon.)

    Much of the Ogden area as viewed from Ben Lomond Peak.        Photo by Liz Arave Hafen.

 So, the area included not just most of today's Ogden City, but also some of West Weber and West Warren, all of West Haven, Hooper, Roy, South Ogden, Riverdale, Washington Terrace and Uintah.
Also included would have been some of Davis County -- parts of South Weber, Sunset, Clinton, West Point and Hill Air Force Base.
Of course Goodyear almost certainly had no true deed to the property, or even a land grant from Mexico.
"So far as the land was concerned he had sold Captain Brown a wooden nutmeg!" is how the book "Beneath Ben Lomond's Peak" summarized the land transaction.
Goodyear was seemingly more than a capable mountain man, he was apparently a shrewd salesman and entrepreneur too.
This was the only such land purchase made anywhere by the Mormon Pioneers -- call it a payment for privacy.
As Goodyear moved out and took his family to Benicia, Calif., only some scattered Native Americans were left in the area. Goodyear’s  former home first became known as Brown's Fort, or Brown's Settlement. Soon "Brownsville" took hold as the name and held for several years.
The city was named for Peter Skene Ogden on Feb. 6, 1851, when it was incorporated.
Peter Skene Ogden was the brigade leader of the Hudson Bay Fur Company, who were in the Ogden Valley in the 1830s(but ironically who never set foot on the front side of the Wasatch Mountains into today's Ogden City.
(Can you imagine if Brownsville had become the name of today's Ogden?)
By 1860, Ogden had a population of 1,463 people, but was primarily a farming community.
Ogden really took off in 1869, with the establishment of the transcontinental railroad. Soon, Ogden became "Junction City," near where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads met.
Eventually, the equivalent of today's chamber of commerce adopted the motto: "you can't get anywhere without coming to Ogden!"
That was true as all passengers and shipments by train in the Mountain West went through Ogden.
Weber County today boasts more than 237,000 residents and the portions of Davis County in the Goodyear purchase have many thousands more. So, the $1,950 "purchase," more than 165 years ago -- legally necessary or not -- certainly appears to have been a great investment of sorts.

SOURCES:;, "Beneath Ben Lomond Peak" book, by Daughters of Utah Pioneers; "The Utah Story" book, by Milton R. Hunter; "Weber County is Worth Knowing," by William W. Terry.

--Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard Examiner on Dec. 6, 2013.

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:  

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