History of San Juan County Utah

“Saga of San Juan,” originally published in 1957, is a history of San Juan County Utah, compiled by the San Juan County Daughters of Utah Pioneers. The book provides a comprehensive look at the county’s origins and development. It spans from prehistoric times to the year 1957, offering insights into the diverse communities and challenges faced by early residents of this unique region.

The work began as a collaborative effort between several local chapters of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and took ten years to reach completion. Structured to illuminate the earliest pioneers’ lives, beliefs, and stories, “Saga of San Juan” is a testament to the community’s determination to preserve its heritage. Without claiming literary grandeur, the authors sought to present a factual account, drawing extensively on national, state, county, and church records, alongside personal letters, newspaper archives, and diaries to compensate for the silent voices of original settlers who have since passed or relocated, taking their narratives with them.

The book acknowledges significant contributions from various scholars and historians, including Dr. George H. Hansen’s insights into the geology and geography of San Juan County and William E. Palmer’s expertise on the Old Spanish Trail and historical expeditions. From the geological uniqueness of the region, through the lens of early explorers and prehistoric inhabitants, to the trials and triumphs of pioneers and the development of modern communities, the narrative is both broad and detailed.

Spanning topics such as the arduous journeys of Mormon explorers, the confrontation and coexistence with native tribes, the evolution of agriculture, mining, and the emergence of recreational and scenic attractions, “Saga of San Juan” provides a richly layered account of the region’s evolution. It celebrates not just the milestones of development but also the everyday struggles and achievements of its people, reflecting a profound connection to the land and an unwavering spirit of community.

Please Note: The authors acknowledge that due to the passage of time, some historical figures or events might not be fully represented in the text.

This copy of the original book has been reproduced by offset. Photographs consequently are not of original quality.

Saga of San Juan

Table of Contents

Geography and Geology of San Juan County
San Juan becomes a political unit — Unusual geological structure.

The Old Spanish Trail
Passed through the county — Evidence of early travel before the Dominguez Escalante westward trip in 1776 — Later explorers.

Prehistoric People
Widespread ruins throughout the county — Prehistoric inhabitants, basket makers and cliff dwellers.

Nomadic Indians and White Explorers
First whites known to set foot on San Juan soil, Spanish explorers from Old Mexico five centuries ago — Later U. S. Expeditions — Home of Utes and Navajos — Navajos harass the whites entering their land — Navajos subjected and imprisoned by Kit Carson troops — Navajos returned to their homes.

The Mormon Exploring Party
Called by Mormon Church Leaders to find the most direct route from Iron County to southeastern Utah — Crossed through Arizona by way of Lee’s Ferry, leaving behind two families at Fort Montezuma, returned home by a northern route.

The Long Trek
The main body left for San Juan October 4, 1879 — Indecision ran rampant when the Colorado River 2,000-foot chasm was reached.

Through the Hole
Two months to chisel a road down the sheer cliffs walls — Wagons crossed to the east side of river the last of January — Reached Bluff April 6, 1880, too weary to go on.

Bluff — The San Juan Outpost
The people become discouraged — To those who would stay, the church authorities promise a double blessing — Community prospers and becomes the nucleus for other county towns — Population diminishes when settlers move to Verdure, Monticello and Blanding.

Blue Mountain Vanguard
Cowboys came first to the Blues — Verdure and Monticello settled by the Mormon Church Blue Mountain Mission Colony — Cowboys and Indians resent its coming — Soldiers from Fort Lewis prevented bloodshed.

First Year In Monticello
North Fork water rights taken from settlers by Carlisle Company.

A Decade of Slow Growth
Deterring factors . . . cowboy raids, water shortage, and the unsettled Indian Reservation Question.

Monticello After 1900
A spirit of expansion — Telephone, water and lights installed — Town incorporated — Church and school buildings completed — Uranium boom in 1950.

Water On White Mesa
Work on canal commences — Town of Grayson starts with six families the first year.

A Community Grows
Old Mexico refugees arrive — Work begins on Blue Mountain Tunnel — Town name changed to Blanding.

White Mesa Dream Realized
Telephones, water, and lights installed — Town incorporated — Building expansion — Blue Mountain tunnel completed — Uranium and oil booms.

La Sal
Oldest community in San Juan County — First settled by cattle ranchers — Grew into a small community — Today one of Utah’s
finest ranches.


Poverty Flat and Indian Creek

Out East Homesteading
Out East Homesteading begins — Late era of pioneering in the county — Thousands of acres homesteaded east and north of Monticello at Boulder, Lockerby, Horsehead, Ginger Hill, Cedar Point, ‘Urado, Ucola, Summit Point, Torb — Eastland only Out East town.

Indian Reservation
San Juan County’s unsettled status determined.

Indian Tales


Cowboy and Indian Fights
1881 Fight — 1884 Fight — Old Posey makes his last stand.




Roads and Transportation

Mines—Gold, Silver, Copper
Gold rush on the San Juan River and on the Blue Mountains — Copper mined on the La Sal and near Big Indian.

Uranium and Oil
San Juan County’s first oil gusher in 1908 — The rich Aneth Field today — The Mi-Vida, Happy Jack and other uranium mines developed.

Agriculture — Cattle and Sheep
Early farms and the livestock business — The place it holds in today’s economy.

Recreational Areas
Unlimited recreational potential — The Glen Canyon Dam.

Scenic Attractions
Wide variety — Natural Bridges, Goosenecks, Monument Valley, Dead Horse Point, etc.


Adams, Allan, Allen, Austin, Bailey, Baker, Ball, Barnes, Barton, Bayles, Black, Box, Bronson, Brown, Bullock, Bussey, Butler, Butt, Carroll, Christensen, Cunningham, Dalley, Dalton, Davis, Decker, Foy, Ginger, Gower, Gregory, Guymon, Halls, Hammond, Harris, Harrison, Haskell, Hite, Hobbs, Holyoak, Honaker, Hurst, Hyde, Johnson, Jones, Kartchner, Lake, Lyman, Marl, Maxwell, McGregor, Mortensen, Navajo, Nielson, Oliver, Palmer, Perkins, Peterson, Ray, Redd, Rivera, Rogers, Rogerson, Scorup, Shumway, Smith, Snow, Sorenson, Steiner, Stevens, Taylor, Thompson, Urie, Wallace, Walton, Wilson, Wood, and Young.


Perkins, Cornelia Adams, Saga of San Juan, San Juan, Utah : San Juan County Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1957.



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