Mormon pioneers, early Salt Lake City maps and an infamous gunfighter.
Occasionally I publish a blog post about my Dudley family history and this is one of them. Birds are my usual subject but once in a while I publish family history posts for several reasons – to keep my family informed of the familial history I’ve uncovered that we share, to make it available to researchers on the internet and, more than anything, because it fascinates me to the point of addiction.
When I first started covering my family history I expected that very few of my regular readers would have any interest in it but I’ve been surprised by the positive response from many that have absolutely no connection to any Dudleys. It turns out that lots of folks like family history for its own sake, especially when interesting characters and/or real history are involved, and I have more than my share of both.
So, if you’re interested or there’s a chance you might be, read on. If not, I’ll see you next time.
Oliver Hunt Dudley was my great, great grandfather. An early convert to Mormonism, he followed Brigham Young and many other faithful followers to what would become Utah, arriving in 1850, three years after Brigham and the first Mormons arrived.
You’ve seen this photo before.
This is a photo of my personal copy of a plat map of Salt Lake City from the early 1850’s. The actual map is roughly 24″ x 30″, so at this small size this online version is pretty much useless, but I wanted readers to see the entire thing. You’ll see more detail in a minute.
I’ve outlined the actual map of the city blocks and city lots in blue. Most of the rest of it is a key for helping to identify who owned which city lots. Grandpa Oliver owned the lot I’ve marked with a small red X. There’s a section at top center that explains the brief history of the map and how it was laid out.
For those familiar with SLC, this map goes only as far south as 9th South. Past there it was still wilderness in the early 1850’s, or nearly so.
I’m including this crop of the map so that you can see that Oliver’s lot, circled in red, was on the northeast corner of South Temple and 2nd East and how close he lived to Temple Square.
An even larger crop makes Oliver’s name readable and makes it even more obvious that he only lived two blocks from Temple Square.
Blocks were 10 acres and originally each block was divided up into eight 1.25 acre lots. City lots were distributed equitably amongst the people as “inheritances”, with more lots given to those male members with multiple wives and larger families (many Mormons were polygamists).
You may have noticed that Heber C. Kimball was given a lot of lots. Well, that ol’ boy had 43 wives, 65 children and at least 300 grandchildren so that explains it. When Heber died in 1868 he was worth in excess of $100,000 (over $2 million today).
When this map was drawn, Oliver only had one wife (he married one more “Celestial Wife” a few years later”) and he didn’t arrive in SLC until 1850, so his lot was a smaller divided lot, .42 acres in size.
This is a small portion of another plat map of SLC from the Library of Congress that was drawn up about 15 years later, in 1870. I like the style of this map because each individual building was drawn/painted fairly accurately. I’ve used a red line to enclose Temple Square on the left and Oliver’s home on the right. By this time Oliver had moved 60 miles north to Brigham City but his house was still there.
Yesterday morning I made it a point to drive to downtown SLC and photograph Oliver’s lot as it appears today. When I took the photo below I was standing where the tiny blue dot is directly east of Oliver’s house.
I already knew that there was a Big O Tire store on Oliver’s lot but I wanted a photo of it.
In 1969 my brand new wife and I lived in an apartment only a couple of blocks from this location and I drove her to and from work before and after I attended classes at the U of U (we only had one vehicle). Her workplace was only one block from here so I drove right by Oliver’s lot twice each work day and didn’t even know it. I didn’t know where Oliver’s lot was until fairly recently.
Hell, back in 1969 I didn’t know squat about Oliver. I didn’t even know his name until about 2005.
OK, back to an even larger crop of the Library of Congress map. I’ve circled Oliver’s house, lot and probably his outhouse in red but what about that house across and down the street from Oliver that I’ve circled in blue?
That house belonged to the notorious gunfighter Porter Rockwell (full name Orrin Porter Rockwell), aka the “Destroying Angel of Mormondom”. Rockwell served as a bodyguard and personal friend of Joseph Smith and, in later years, Brigham Young.
This from Wikipedia:
“Rockwell killed many men as a gunfighter, a religious enforcer, and Deputy United States Marshal. According to legend, Rockwell told a crowd listening to United States vice president Schuyler Colfax in 1869, “I never killed anyone who didn’t need killing”, a quote used by actor John Wayne in a movie decades later.”
This is one of the books I own about Porter Rockwell with a photo of him on the cover. Scary looking dude. I’ve been fascinated by Rockwell for years so I was delighted to learn that Grandpa Oliver lived only a stone’s throw from his house.
But if Oliver had ever thrown that stone, given Rockwell’s gunslinger reputation I might not be here today.
- Some readers may be interested in exploring the Pioneer Map of Great Salt Lake City and/or the Library of Congress map in greater detail. If so, here’s the links.
- Joseph Smith once told Porter Rockwell the following: “I prophesy, in the name of the Lord, you—Orrin Porter Rockwell—so long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair, and no bullet or blade can harm thee.” The promise echoes one given by an angel to the parents of the biblical Samson. Rockwell only cut his hair once. After hearing of a balding widow with typhoid fever, he offered his famous long hair to make a wig. The recipient of the hair was Agnes Coolbrith Smith Pickett, widow of Joseph Smith’s brother, Don Carlos.
Autor Ron Dudley