Friday, January 10, 2014

From Magpie to Skull Crack Canyon: Ogden Valley Area Place Names

                           The top of Wheeler Canyon.                    Photo by Whitney Arave.

By Lynn Arave

"PLACE names in some respect are like historic moments. They are windows through which we can see the history of an area,” the late William W. Terry, an Ogden-area historian, wrote in his book, “Weber County is Worth Knowing.”
Here is a list, not intended to be comprehensive, of selected place name origins in the Ogden Valley section of Weber County. (More name origins in Northern Utah will be explored in future articles):
Causey Creek/Dam: Named for Thomas Causey, an early settler, who operated a saw mill there. (The dam was built from 1962-1966.)
Chicken Creek: This moniker is derived from all the wild chickens, who roamed this area in Liberty’s early days.
Dairy Ridge: So called by a rancher who had dairy cattle roaming in the Monte Cristo area.
Dog Pen Ridge: Called after the pens of dogs kept there by area sheepherders.
Dry Bread Hollow/Dry Bread Ponds: Levi Wheeler built an early road in the Monte Cristo area, but he and his crew ran out of provisions and only had dry bread to eat until the project was completed. The ponds were originally called Elk Ponds, since so many elk watered there.
Eden: So named by Washington Jenkins, a government surveyor, who thought the area was beautiful and that the town deserved the Biblical name of Eden. (North Fork Town was its prior name.)
James Peak: Titled for James Davenport, who cut timber in the area for the railroad.
Lightning Ridge: So named after a bolt of lightning struck some trees there during a storm.
Magpie Campground, Creek, Canyon and Flat: Named for Bryon Fifield, who was nicknamed “Magpie” and was one of the first Ogden Valley settlers to enter the South Fork area, searching for wood. There is also a nearby Magpie Canyon and that was perhaps the first reference to Magpie in the area, as the campground came afterward.

     Today's Pineview Dam. The old Pineview Hotel was located in that area.
                                                                            Photo by Whitney Arave.

Pineview Reservoir: Named by Eudora Decker Wilcox, who operated the historic Pineview Hotel, campground, cottages and way station with her husband, Moroni Edward Wilcox. This hotel, a rival of the Hermitage, was located at the edge of Wheeler Creek in upper Ogden Canyon and disappeared when the Dam was built.
Shanghai Creek/Canyon: Named after the historic pioneer bridge of the same name that at one time crossed the Ogden River at the west end of Ogden Valley. This area is now under Pineview water.
However, where did the Shanghai name itself came from?
"The Shanghai Bridge, situated a little east of where Wheeler's Creek emptied into the river, was long and narrow, standing about fifteen feet above the water. It had no railings on the sides and was approached by a curve in the road which made it an extremely dangerous place especially on a dark night." 
The bridge was also known for having loose boards at times.  --This is a historical excerpt from the history of Martha Ann Bronson (found on:
She lived in Eden from the 1850s ,until her death in 1926.
One can then surmise the bridge earned its name perhaps from pictures seen of other risky, narrow bridges in the Shanghai area of China and this early bridge was reminiscent of them.
The first reference to Shanghai Bridge was May 19, 1881 in the Ogden Standard-Examiner, where it stated that the new bridge, just opened, has a "high name." Apparently, area residents built the bridge on their own, after losing patience with the  government.
Skull Crack Canyon: Received its unusual title after James Slater and Marinus Johansen were hunting in what would become the Causey Dam area. Johansen hit one of his unruly mules with his gun barrel and cracked its skull.
Snowbasin: The area was originally named Wheeler Basin for Levi and Simon Wheeler who operated a saw mill there. The Ogden Chamber sponsored a “Name Wheeler Basin” contest in the summer of 1940 to herald the coming ski resort. Geneveve Woods (Mrs. C.N. Woods) won the contest with her Snowbasin name submission, officially announced on Aug. 2, 1940.
Trigger Gulch: No gun connection here. The name came from a shingle mill in the area that had a trigger used to move a large blade up and down that cut pines into shingles.

 The South Fork of the Ogden River is a popular tubing area today, thanks to Causey Reservoir and its control of the runoff water.

Wheat Grass: The title simply came from all the tall, wild grass that used to grow in the Causey Dam area.
Wheeler Creek/Wheeler Basin: Their name came from Levi Wheeler, an early settler who operated a saw mill where Pineview Dam is now.
Wolf Creek: No definite answer here. Either it was named for a large gray wolf who roamed the area in pioneer times, or it was for a man named “Wolfe.”

-Ant Hill Flat: On the dirt road from the top of South Fork to Hardware Ranch. Its nickname is "Piss Ant Flat," but that's an unofficial name that has never been on any maps I've seen. Presumably, a lot of ant hills were found in that area.

SOURCES: Ogden Standard-Examiner, June 6, 1918 and also June 29, 1975; “Utah Place Names,” by John W. Van Cott.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner, Jan. 10, 2014.)

-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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