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Wrathall Involvement in the History of Grantsville
The Founding and Development of Grantsville, Utah 1850 -1950(479 pages) by Alma A.
Gardiner. The excerpts proceed in approximate chronological order.
James Wrathall (1828 -1896) was one of the early settlers at Willow Creek, later Grantsville.
The Willow Creek settlement was founded in the fall of 1850 near the site of an old herd shelter used by cattle drivers in 1848. James Wrathall was related by marriage to both Harrison Severe and James McBride, the first settlers, who built a
16 foot square log cabin caulked with mud and willow branches near the creek. They tried to stay through the winter of
1850/1, but were unsuccessful due to attacks by Indians on livestock
forays to the area, which they called "Twenty Wells". The two moved their families east to a fortified settlement at Pine Creek. They moved back to Willow Creek
in the spring of1851.
According to Tullidge's histories II(1889) by Edward Tullidge, in the winter of 1851/52, six men with their families arrived at the Willow Creek settlement from Great
Salt Lake City, including Thomas Watson, James Wrathall, James Davenport, Perry
Durfey and Mr. Davis.
By 1852 the settlement was said to be prospering, with about 30 settlers and 45
Indians. The townsite was surveyed in 1852, and Major George D. Grant was sent
from the Nauvoo Legion with a company of 45 men to aid in the defense of the
settlement against the depredations of the Indians (Shoshone Diggers, Gosh-Utes, Utahs). The settlers built their log
cabins close to each other and facing the same direction, and added a stockade in
1852. They desired more settlers for safety's sake, to outnumber the Indians in case they became
unfriendly, so volunteers were raised in the Great Salt Lake City tabernacle. The
original settler James McBride wrote that in 1853, twenty three more families
settled in Grantsville, including James Wrathall, who may have travelled away from Willow Creek in 1852.
Creek was named after Grant in 1853. Paying heed to Brigham Young's advice that any settlement not forted up would not succeed, a fortification was begun
in 1853, which comprised 4 mud/rock walls 3 feet thick, 12 feet tall, 30 rods long, aligned north-to-south with a
gate in each wall, and chinks in the walls
for shooting muzzle-loading rifles. The settlers built sections in proportion to the amount of space each occupied. They built their log cabins near the walls, and the center of the fort was reserved for public buildings, including the old Adobe Meeting Hall.
The settlers experienced hardship, plagues of grasshoppers, drought and starvation in the years from 1854 to 1860. James Wrathall married his first wife Mary Leishman just prior to the start of the Utah war of 1857, when General
Johnston's U. S. Army forces threatened the area, then called Deseret. According to "A History of Grantsville" (Tooele Transcript, Feb. 2 1923)", volunteers were exhorted to go to Echo Canyon to the east to harass the U. S. Army. The Grantsville contingent of
about 35 volunteers included Aaron Sevam, James Wrathall, James Gurney, Jno.
Clark, Charles Parker, James Worthington, B. F. Barrus, Thomas P. Watson, Matthew
Bell, Alma Hale, Wilford Hudson, Thomas Clark and Samuel Worthington. They walked or rode the 35-40 miles to Salt Lake City in less than 48
hours, leaving only 10 men to defend Grantsville against the Army and Indians. Later in the year, most of the citizens moved south to
Spring Creek (Payson) to avoid capture. They set up a tent city inside their circle of wagons, and soon returned to Grantsville after their government signed a treaty with the U. S.
The Willow Creek area was initially settled in 1850/1 due to the presence of
adequate water and grass to support crops, cattle and sheep. The Grantsville branch
of the Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society was established in 1860. Efforts
were made to improve the breed of stock in Grantsville by James Wrathall and
William C Rydalch. According to an article in The Salt Lake Herald, Jan. 6, 1885:
Both of these men emigrated from England, and were
practically penniless when they arrived in Grantsville in the early 1850's. Mr.
Rydalch arrived in the settlement with two cattle and two sheep dogs. Mr.
Wrathall had but one steer. Through strict economy, good business methods and
continued industry, these men became the wealthiest men in the county. Mr.
Wrathall, while raising some cattle, was principally interested in sheep and
became the most successful wool grower in the county.
Ox teams were sent east to Missouri to pick up more settlers from 1861 - 1868.
The City of Grantsville was incorporated in 1867. The city was divided into 3 wards in 1868, and
Alderman James Wrathall was placed under the direction of the second ward.
The Grantsville Woolen Factory was built in 1868, 12 miles east of town, and was powered by a dam on nearby Adobe Rock creek. James Wrathall was
the manager and superintendent. Completion of the stone and timber structure in 1869 was celebrated
by the Grantsville and Tooele brass bands. The factory operated successfully for a year,
but the dam, having been built on quicksand, gave way during a visit by Church
officials and destroyed the timbers and machinery, although it left the stone
James Wrathall, one of three aldermen, acted as judge for electing city officials
in 1869. The Grantsville Co-operative Mercantile and Manufacturing Society was formed in
1869. James Wrathall was elected as a director. Shares were offered at $25 each.
It became the chief shopping center, having bought the firm of Hale Brothers. A new co-op building was constructed 1881. Around this time, James Wrathall enrolled in Grantsville School of the prophets.
The city's brass band was created in 1869, and James Wrathall seconded a motion to dissolve the Martial
band in 1877, according to The Minutes of the Grantsville City council.
An indistinct photo of the City Council of 1877 shows James Wrathall
recognizable as the third from the right. The dissolution of the City band led to a new independent band
conducted by Captain James Ratcliffe, and the new band included James L. Wrathall (first son of James Wrathall's
first wife Mary Leishman), who was disciplined for insubordination in 1879 and who resigned in 1880.
Water rights squabbles were continuous. The two main waterways supplying Grantsville were north and south
Willow Creeks, and rights were owned by various people. In 1877, the feasibility of forming an independent irrigation
company was investigated by a committee of three, including James Wrathall.
James L. Wrathall loaned the city $1,487.60 to pay for city hall construction in
1880. They were unable to pay him back, so he received the deed to the hall in
1882, and assumed full ownership of the Hall in 1884, when it became known as
the Social Hall. In 1899 it passed into the hands of the Ward bishopric, and was
rented by the city after that.
Due to crowded conditions in the school
house in 1884, Trustees of the City School District wanted to assess a property tax to purchase the City Hall
building from James L. Wrathall for $2,000, but the majority of residents felt 2% was too high
an assessment. The proposition passed later in the year, and
school commenced in the City Hall building in 1885.
Dances were regular events since the 1850's. Norma Anderson Wrathall (wife of James L. Wrathall's
third son Maurice [Morris] Young Wrathall) wrote in The Early Settlement of Grantsville
about the dances and how the Church authorities regulated them. One of the annual events of Grantsville was called the "Old Folks Sociable".
Flora Wrathall (James Wrathall's second wife) and Edward Hunter (James L. Wrathall's father-in-law) were listed in
the 3rd annual Old Folks Sociable, held in 1886.
Church leaders desired to create an Academy in 1887 to supplement the regular
school. James Wrathall, described as one of the city's most philanthropic
citizens, who many times had unselfishly supported the Church and community in a
variety of undertakings, purchased land at Main and Center streets, donated it to
the Academy, and also gave $2,500 towards the building (from "A
Biography of James Wrathall", The Tooele Transcript, Sept. 21, 1923). The
cornerstone held a tin box with a manuscript of the building's origins, signed by
James Wrathall as a director of the Grantsville Educational Association. (The building was razed and the box recovered in 1956). The Academy was
dedicated in 1892. James Wrathall was a member of the building committee since
1887, and an article in The Deseret News (Aug. 30, 1892) stated that, at the
dedication, James Wrathall said this house has not been built particularly for the
benefit of the aged, but to help the young, who he hoped would appreciate it.
James Wrathall voted for the formation of the North Willow Irrigation company in
1890. This was one of the two companies which required transfer of water rights to the
company from the original settlers who held them. Paul E. Wrathall (the second son of James L. Wrathall's first wife Penninah Hunter) later served
on the North Willow board of directors.
In 1890, James Wrathall presented a petition asking the council to grant him a
right of way to lay water pipes in Grantsville for domestic use.
His plan was to pipe water from canyons west of Grantsville, but the city placed
so many restrictions that it became an inadvisable project in view of future
prospects for the town. (From "A Biography of James Wrathall" Grantsville
Observer , 1923.)
Mayor James R. Williams' account of the planning and construction of Grantsville
city's culinary water system mentioned the following:
"For many years there has been talk of a water system
for Grantsville, and at one time, one was proposed by Mr. James Wrathall. He
proposed to put it in himself and charge for the water, but the people did not
support the idea and nothing came of it."
James L. Wrathall was bishop of Grantsville ward from 1890-1906, and his father-in-law Edward
Hunter was the first bishop of the ward (1877-1888).
After battles against liquor in the 1880s, an open saloon/pool hall became a
controversy in 1890. Bishop James L. Wrathall, alderman, moved that the license
not be granted, but the city council voted 4 to 2 in favor. James L. Wrathall moved to
greatly increase the license fees, which was also not passed.
Then Bishop James L. Wrathall met with church members to encourage them to keep
anyone from patronizing the saloon, which went out of business as a result.
The first major Grantsville fire was in 1892, burning the barn, granary, corral and hay of
Bishop James L. Wrathall, for a loss of $2,500. Clyde Wrathall's (second son of
James Wrathall's second wife Flora Ann Sabin) general store was burned in 1921,
involving a loss of $60,000. Firefighting apparatus was not
purchased until 1926, so the only means of fighting fires was volunteers at
bucket brigades, and ditches that might have supplied water were often dry.
Bishop James L. Wrathall presided over the dedication of the Women's Relief
Society building in 1896, and he appointed a committee in 1896 to investigate the
building of an Opera house (from the Grantsville Ward Board of Directors
Minutes). Apparently, James L. Wrathall was one of a group of 4
who signed for a $5,000 loan to pay for the Opera house. The
due date was August 1904, and James L. Wrathall acted to arrange some kind of
entertainment to help raise money, so it was decided that a fair would be held. Myrtle Wrathall (first daughter of James L. Wrathall's
first wife Penninah Hunter, and wife of a son of the original settler James McBride) was elected Queen of the Fair, at one nickel per vote.
Percy Wrathall (first son of James Wrathall's second wife Flora Ann Sabin)
volunteered for the Spanish American war in 1898.
James L. Wrathall's father-in-law Edward Hunter built one of the first brick
houses in Grantsville, and Bishop James L. Wrathall built one what was called an outstanding example. An article in the Tooele Transcript (Nov. 25, 1898) mentioned the following:
Bishop Wrathall's fine home is nearly completed, all of the latest modern
design, and shows the skill and fine mechanical labor of C. Z. Schaffer, the
The Church held dedications of private homes, including that of James L. Wrathall in
1899. Bishop James L. Wrathall's home was the first in Grantsville to have electric lights installed, in 1905.
Councilor J. L. Wrathall was empowered to investigated in 1910 securing a hearse for
the Cemetery committee.
James L. Wrathall was involved in the division of the Grantsville ward in 1914.
In an effort to direct the Lincoln Highway (routes 40 and 50) through Grantsville, in
1914 James L. Wrathall presented a gift of $2,464.28 towards construction of a
road between Timpy and Wendover, and the Grantsville city council appropriated $2,000 to pay for the
part of the road from Wendover to Grantsville.
Ida Wrathall (Clyde Wrathall's wife) assisted Mayor Burmester in preparing the homecoming
celebration for returning soldiers in 1919.
Drainage of farmland began in the 1920's. Swampy areas in the eastern part of
Grantsville were drained by Paul E. Wrathall in 1922 with a ditch-digging machine
purchased from the County for $500. The work involved laying drain tile in main and side ditches.
Mrs. Carrie Wrathall (wife of Paul E. Wrathall)
was secretary of the first Parents and Teachers Association in 1924.
A special election was called in 1925 for a tax measure to pay for a new high school building. James L. Wrathall, member of the Tooele
County School Board, chaired a meeting to discuss the election,
which passed the tax levy for a $150,000 bond measure. There was dissension over
the location of the building, and James L. Wrathall voted for a location on Grantsville's west side,
but the building was postponed. The school board made a
decision, seconded by James L. Wrathall, to ask the office of the State Superintendent of Schools to
decide the matter, which settled on the west side of town. The
school was built in 1927, and dedicated in 1928. James L. Wrathall gave the
benediction, and Paul E. Wrathall performed a vocal duet with Mrs. Ernest
The economy of Grantsville was geared towards production of sheep and cattle for
Eastern markets. Paul E. Wrathall was a prominent cattle shipper in the 1920's.
The Boy's Hampshire Sheep club was formed in 1926 to encourage interest in animal
husbandry. James L. Wrathall was an advisor to the club, which held the first stock
show in the county. Paul E. Wrathall was also a prominent dairyman.
The Grantsville chapter of Lions Club started in 1928; Paul E. Wrathall was a director. This service club
sponsored clean-up campaigns, erected a flag pole, supplied milk to needy children and raised funds for the new high school building. One of the
charter members was J. Leslie Wrathall (the first son of James L. Wrathall's first wife Penninah Hunter).
Paul E. Wrathall performed a vocal solo at Grantsville Seminary during ceremonies in 1928 for the first
graduating class, and he was mayor of Grantsville for the years 1928-9.
Paul E. Wrathall was first counselor of the Grantsville First ward bishopric from1941-2 and bishop of the First ward from 1942-4. He was also the building chairman for the First ward
in 1943. Paul E. Wrathall became first president of the Grantsville Stake when it was formed in 1944; he and
his wife Carrie served on several related boards and societies.
During the Grantsville centennial celebration in 1950, President Clark presented Stake
president Paul E. Wrathall with the deed and key to the restored Adobe School
House, which dated back to the Adobe Meeting House, the largest structure of the original Grantsville fortification of 1853-4.