In the spring of 1857 William Wines (W.W.) Phelps made a trip from Salt Lake City to survey the Weber River area about six miles north of the Kamas Prairie ranch of Thomas Rhoads. He found the area of “tolerable fair appearance for grain and meadow land,” located an area for a fort and farmland, and called it Fort Peoa. 

Deseret News, May 20th 1857

These “forts” were villages patterned after Joseph Smith’s City of Zion, planned communities with a central residential area and farms and farm buildings on the land beyond. A leader was generally chosen by church authorities to head each settlement, and other settlers were selected for the skills they could offer the new community. Small settlements were frequently forts with log cabins arranged in a protective square. 

Sketch of Joseph Smith’s Plat of Zion

With the thirty people he brought with him, Phelps cut logs, sowed grain and planted potatoes, but due to the threat of Johnson’s Army advancing through Echo Canyon, they did not remain. At the direction of Brigham Young, William Milliner lived in the settlement through the summers of 1858 and 1859, burning charcoal, cutting hay and staking out the foundation for a future cabin.

The first nineteen settler families were sent by Brigham Young in 1860. These comprised all of the original 1857 party with the exception of the Shippens and John Barnum. Echoes of Yesterday lists some of these settlers as “Gibbons, Orrin Lee, Adrian Miles, David Rideout, Lou Huffaker. Jacob M. Truman, Henry and William Boyce, Maria Barnum, Robert Slater, Austin Green, John Neel, Charlie Shippens, Abraham Marchant, George Spencer, Edmund Walker. Ola Pearson, William Milliner, John Maxwell and his brothers and sisters.” Mountain Memories adds  “Mr Erickson.” 

Jacob Mica Truman built the first cabin – outside the fort – but the other settlers built the fort by arranging log houses side-by-side around an open area, straddling a creek for water. The creek has been called Fort Creek ever since. Outside the fort, each settler received a strip of about 12 acres to farm, running roughly east-west towards the West Hills.  Most of the settlers built cabins the first year and then left for the winter, returning in spring 1861. 

Sketch map of Fort Peoa from The Marchant of Peoa

Homes were built of logs plastered with mud or manure, and roofed with thatch or clay topped with earth, and were far from watertight. Edmund Walker records in his journal: “Snowing and raining all night. The rain was pouring in every house in Peoa. O, the wet in the house, not a dry pot in the house.”

Life centered on the day’s work and church activities. The women’s Relief Society, young people’s groups, and worship services met each week. Ward schools were held each winter.

David Oliver Rideout was one of the original settlers who came with W.W. Phelps, and he returned in 1860 to serve as the first presiding elder. He was at heart a prospector, however, so he did not remain in Peoa. Abraham Marchant replaced him as presiding elder and became the first bishop of Peoa in 1861. 

Edmund Walker was Peoa’s first teacher, arriving in 1861. School was held in the home of David Rideout until a dedicated schoolhouse could be built. Anna Maria (Auntie Rye) Truman Barnum was the first female teacher. 

Many of the later settlers came from Scandinavia, leading to the area where they lived being known as “Woodenshoe” or “Denmark”. Ola Pearson served as the presiding elder for the Scandinavian community. 

In August 1863, a band of about four hundred Ute warriors began making raids against the new settlements in the Valley. It was not uncommon for Black Hawk and his braves to ride into Rhoads Valley to drive off the settlers’ cattle and horses or to demand food. Edmund Walker wrote: “We have been visited by bands of Indians. The Bishop gave them a beef, one sheep and fifty pounds of flour then they left. Today we had another lot of Indians come. Some of Chief Tabby’s band wants beef, sheep and flour.” 

As a result, on May 2nd 1865, Church authorities warned the people of Summit and Wasatch counties to “put yourselves and your animals in such a condition that the Indians will be deprived of all opportunity of taking life and stealing stock.

In March 1866 families from Peoa and Kamas began to build a fort in an area about a mile south of Fort Creek called Sage Bottoms, which they named Sage Bottom Fort. Houses from Fort Creek were moved from their original locations and placed so close together that “it was difficult for a man to walk between” them. A well was dug and the Peoa meetinghouse and school (built in 1864) was moved to the center of the fort. A road between Kamas and Peoa passed east of the fort close to the foot of the hill. Sage Bottom Fort was completed in June 1866. Peoa settlers lived on one side of the fort and those from Kamas lived on the other side. Catherine Maxwell, daughter of Elizabeth McAustin and Arrtur Maxwell, was the first child born in the fort on February 14th 1867. 

Fort Sage Bottom is today marked by a large bolder with a plaque. A depression in the earth is thought to be the remnants of the old well.

Plaque commemorating Fort Sage Bottom

After the Indian troubles had subsided the occupants of the fort returned to their homes. The homes were moved back to Peoa and the meetinghouse was dismantled once more and rebuilt. By 1869 the Deseret News was able to report: 

Deseret News December 15th 1869