By Karri Dell Hays
Located: 61 Hwy 189
Today, the small town of Wanship may only be known as the home of the tastiest fried chicken in Summit County but it was once a crucial hub for travelers going to and from Coalville to Park City and Salt Lake City.
1859 marks the year the first settlers built their log homes along the banks of the intersection of the Weber River and Silver Creek, the stream that flowed down the canyon where Interstate 80 now runs. Stephen Nixon, his daughter and a young man named Henry Roper trekked up from Provo through Three Mile Canyon and into the Weber Valley that summer and chose the well-suited location for their future mountain lifestyle. The area offered abundant water, wildlife and flat, fertile ground boasting numerous indigenous edible plants. It is no wonder there were many hostile encounters with the local Ute Indian tribes who came to live in the valley for most of the summer.
Two years later several other families had joined Nixon. They used oxen to till the land and haul logs from the mountains to make their homes in the beautiful valley. It came as quite a shock that year when over 300 Indian natives arrived and set up camp nearby. 1861 was the year that could have marked the survival or complete demise of the small pioneer town. With so many people living off the land, food was running in short supply. One of the natives, later called Chief Wanship, a tall, dark, thin Ute who wore a long buffalo robe over his shoulder, gathered around his waist in folds like a Scotsman and speaking the native tongue of the Snake Tribe showed considerable compassion to the slowly starving group of settlers.
Wanship taught the people how best to live off the land, find game, live and trade among the natives. The relationship was of such importance to the people that they named their town after him. The people of Wanship grew rye, barley, wheat and alfalfa. They also harvested garden vegetables during the short summer seasons and created a town that nearly became the county’s seat.
The Pendleton farm is located in the center of town and was originally owned by the Reynolds family. The Reynolds owned two of the town’s four stores and Henry Reynolds was the town’s postmaster. Reynolds and his wife, Mary were very active in the beginnings of the well established local Mormon church. Mary was the first president of their Relief Society, an organization that proved to be of considerable importance during the First World War. When the farmers would harvest the grain from the fields, the women of this group would follow them and pick up every kernel that fell to the ground, this was called ‘gleaning’. The excess grain was hauled down to Salt Lake City where it was stored for future use. The U.S. Government bought much of this grain when the country was in dire need.
It is also interesting to note the work that most, if not all of the pioneer women endured during this time. It is written that the job of the women of Wanship was to clothe and feed her entire family. This involved carding, spinning, dyeing and weaving of the wool. The fabric was sewn into suits, overcoats, shirts and dresses for everyone in her house including herself. Straw hats were made of oat straw, soaked in water and woven into several different styles of the day. The women also acted as the nurses, midwives and ‘layers of the dead’.
Music was of particular importance to the community and it was Reynolds who, with the help of a few others, played for numerous dances that took place on a weekly basis. Later, Joshua and Jessie Pendleton moved to town and also played traditional music for the increasing number of dances and celebrations.
The Pendletons were blacksmiths. One of their sons, Joshua, was born on the plains while his parents Benjamin and Lavina were walking by a handcart company to Utah with the first Mormon settlers. Joshua lived in Salt Lake City and after marrying Delpha Stewart they moved to Wanship around 1876. Together they had thirteen children. Originally they lived in a small log house next to the Reynolds family. In 1890 the opportunity came to buy the somewhat larger, one bedroom stone house from the Reynolds. The house had dirt floors and Delpha was adamant that they be converted to wood. Soon they had expanded their business and belongings to include the log barn, coal house, chicken coop, pig pen, outhouse, well and a blacksmith shop. A descendent, Dale Pendleton, writes “there was a lot of love, hard work and music experienced in this old house. Nearly everyone played an instrument.”
Wanship became a totally self sufficient town and even offered The Overland Stage Coach a pit stop that was located in front of the Pendleton residence. A tea-room was constructed and it is said that Mark Twain visited there three times during his journeys across the newly discovered west.
Bill and Millie Pendleton lived in the home through the 1970’s without a bathroom or running water. The wood stove used for heating and cooking was portable and in the summer was moved outside under the cottonwood trees so that the house would stay cool. Water was transported into the house by way of a hose from a nearby spring into a large tin tub that was then carried into the house.
In 1985 the Pendleton house changed hands to yet another Utah native. Dale Nelson, a well known Park City landlord, an investor of historic structures and a familiar face on the television and movie screens. Nelson purchased the property with the intention of preserving it and owns several other historical landmarks in Summit County Nelson is a not only a collector of stories but also numerous other historic artifacts that are prominently displayed outside the old Pendleton homestead.
Nelson says that many of the Pendleton descendents visit the old family home each year and he has hosted two family reunions on the property.
In the summer they carried the stove outside so that it wouldn’t heat up the house. Under the Cottonwood trees.