Picture: Settlement Canyon Today

As a child and a young man, one of my favorite stories about my Great, Great Grandfather, Cyrus Tolman was his part in keeping a promise to Brigham Young.  This story comes mostly from the book Cyrus Tolman, Father, Frontiersman, Pioneer, written by Loraine Tolman Pace.

About a year after a long and arduous trip across the plains from Nauvoo and arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Cyrus and his young wife and two young children (Cyrus Ammon and Julia Ann) along with several others were called by Brigham Young to settle the Tooele area.

DUP Marker 1_2015_Plaque_for website (1)These first settlers went to Tooele Valley with a view of finding homes and establishing a permanent settlement. After exploring the lower part of the canyons for springs and trees, they decided to settle on a small stream just south of the present city of Tooele.  Cyrus and others were sent into this area to make a survey and to determine what could be raised. Their report to Brigham Young was that sheep and cattle would do well and that timber was available.

Cyrus built the first log cabin in Tooele.   He plowed the first seven acres of land and planted winter wheat.  Indians, wolves, and rattlesnakes were plentiful in the Tooele Valley and added to the hardships and terror of the families.   The little cabin of Cyrus and Alice was built like a dugout with the back end leaning against the hillside. The roof was sod and blended with the hill behind. At one time a cow was grazing on the side of the hill and walked out onto their roof. It fell through the back end of the house. Another time a rattlesnake was found hanging from the ceiling of their home.

Dugout Home

The first cabin of Cyrus and Alice likely looked something like this.

Based on the earlier report of Cyrus and the exploration party, Brigham Young sent an exploring party into the canyon to locate saw and shingle timber. The explorers returned to Brigham Young with a discouraging report. They apparently found no shingle timber.

Shortly after this time Cyrus was in Salt Lake and talked to President Young.  President Young told Cyrus of the report of the explorers.  Cyrus laughed at the story and said there was both saw and shingle timber in the canyons, and right there a bargain was made to have a load of this kind of timber delivered to Salt Lake City. A few days later Cyrus fulfilled the contract to the satisfaction of Brigham. Apparently, Cyrus’s early experience in forestry in Maine was of great help to himself and to others and in this case to Brigham Young.  

Cyrus and his brothers obtained timber from Settlement Canyon, Middle Canyon and Pine Canyon and ran a very successful Mill. Thus, began the first industry of Tooele County.  “At the next meeting of the Provincial Council of the State of Deseret, November 24, 1849, Ezra T. Benson. Anson Call, Josiah Call and Judson Tolman were granted rights to saw the building timber in Settlement Canyon, Middle Canyon and Pine Canyon.”

It is regrettable that we do not have in Cyrus’ own words some of his training and experiences in Maine and Iowa and of the later exploring and settling that he did in Utah and Idaho. He was about 17 when his family left Maine. He was 28 when he crossed the plains and 29 when he entered Tooele. He must have felt a great deal of personal pride in being able to make good on his promise to Brigham Young to bring saw and shingle timber out of Tooele.  I honor him and his “can do” attitude and his unflagging energy for exploration and adventure and his solid faithfulness to the Church and his Savior Jesus Christ.

Visit FamilySearch to learn more about Cyrus Tolman and other ancestors. Visit the Thomas Tolman Family Organization to find out how you can get more involved in family history.  

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