Franklin Wheeler Young was a Mormon pioneer leader who walked across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 at age 8. He served a mission to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) when he was just 17 years old. Then, at age 20, he became the youngest Bishop in LDS Church history. Young subsequently settled over a dozen towns from Idaho to southern Utah.
One of these settlements was the Junction, which later became Fruita (now in Capitol Reef National Park). At the Junction, Young pecked his initials into a boulder near his home and orchard. This 30,000 pound boulder wandered from Fruita in 1958 and found its way to California in 1978. The wandering boulder remained in place until amateur archaeologist and historian Ronald Bodtcher rediscovered it in 2010 and named it the Wandering Boulder of Capitol Reef.
The initials on the back side of the Capitol Reef Wandering Boulder have only recently been documented and presented to the public, first on the Wandering Boulder website and now, on the Franklin Wheeler Young website. The initials FWY (FUUY with underlined double U's) and LHY are clearly legible, along with the year 1885. The initials EAY are faint. A cross is also visible.
The pioneer initials FWY on the boulder led Bodtcher to a previously unpublished manuscript autobiography of Franklin Wheeler Young. With this manuscript, other documents, photographs and other material, Bodtcher uncovered and reported the true history of the founding of the Junction and the life story of Franklin Wheeler Young. Bodtcher has published the Young manuscript for the first time. You can read a summary of Young's interesting and inspiring life below.
"Wandering Boulder" from Junction (Fruita) with initials of Franklin Wheeler Young (FWY), his son Lorenzo Howe Young (LHY) and daughter Elizabeth Aretta Young (EAY), along with writings in Young's own hand. Source: Ronald Bodtcher & Franklin Wheeler Young Journal
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were violently expelled from their homes in Missouri during the late 1830's by government-sanctioned mobs. One of these persecuted members was Lorenzo Dow Young, brother of Brigham Young. Brother Lorenzo's son, Franklin Wheeler Young, was born in 1839, shortly after his family was threatened with death and driven from their farm. After finding refuge in Illinois for a time, the Saints were again attacked and driven from their homes. Franklin's family lived in the Winter Quarters Fifth Ward until the great journey West. In 1847, at the age of eight, Franklin helped drive his father's cattle and sheep across the plains to the Great Salt Lake Valley, where his father baptized him a member of the Church in City Creek.
Young Franklin's father dug one of the first water ditches in the Salt Lake Valley, built one of the first houses and planted an orchard of 40,000 apple and 10,000 peach, pear and plum trees from seeds, along with a vineyard from twenty cuttings of Mission grapevines that he acquired from a cousin who marched West with the Mormon Battalion to the San Bernardino Valley in California. Franklin was present at the Salt Lake Temple groundbreaking in 1853 (and the dedication 40 years later). These experiences were an important part of Franklin's life and helped prepare him for a lifetime of pioneering and missionary work.
Franklin Wheeler Young served a mission to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) when he was only 17, earning passage to the Islands driving cattle from Salt Lake to San Francisco and harvesting crops while waiting for his ship to sail. During the 5-month voyage to the Islands, Franklin taught himself the Hawaiian Language. When difficulties with the Federal Government caused Brigham Young to call all missionaries home, Franklin earned his return fare by cooking aboard ship.
At age 20, Franklin served as the "Boy Bishop" of Payson, with his Uncle Brigham as Counselor. He is still the youngest Bishop in the history of the LDS Church. Subsequently, he was called to the Dixie Mission in "Cotton Country" and served as Bishop of Grafton, near present-day Zion National Park. He also helped settle St. George and the surrounding area. In November 1862, he (along with Jacob Hamblin and Isaac Riddle) established a ferry on the Colorado River at a place now known as Pearce's Ferry.
Pioneering Idaho and Northern Utah
His next 20 years were filled with hard work settling towns, running businesses and serving in the Church. Franklin Wheeler Young was called by President Brigham Young to help settle the Bear Lake Valley in 1864, where he was elected County Recorder and was appointed County Clerk. He surveyed the first irrigation canal in the area now called St. Charles, Idaho and joined other settlers in digging the canal. Young worked for a number of businesses, including Hampton's Hotel, which he left because they attempted to have him sell liquor. In Cache Valley, he partnered with an engineer (William White) to operate a steam saw mill which produced a quarter million feet of lumber in just one summer.
He attended business school in Salt Lake City and received a diploma in accounting, thus becoming a certificated accountant 15 years before the founding of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Afterward, he worked in the accounting department of ZCMI (Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution), "America's First Department Store." Young subsequently ran 100 head of cattle to a new settlement on the Sevier River that he named Leamington, after which he taught school for a time.
Settling Rabbit Valley
Expansion and settlement were priorities for Brigham Young, who declared that Latter-day Saints would settle, or at least explore, "every hole and corner" of the State of Deseret. Beginning just after his Uncle Brigham's death in 1877, Franklin initiated a two-decade-long effort in pioneering and developing several communities along the life-sustaining Fremont River in what was known as "Rabbit Valley" and other communities in the areas beyond. For a time, he was acting Bishop of the Fremont Ward, which embraced the whole of Rabbit Valley and included several places in which he was a pioneer settler. These villages included Fremont, Loa, East Loa (Lyman), Teasdale, Junction (Fruita) and Blue Valley (Giles). Young acquired Federal Land Patents to 400 acres of land in the valley between Loa and Lyman. He donated some of his land to create the Lyman cemetery, where the first grave was that of one of his sons, David Sabin Young, who died June 2, 1878. He also found time to build a log school house near his place, despite being very busy tending some 1,400 head of sheep with the assistance of a hired man, Charles Youngberg.
Road Building in the Reef
In an 1880 letter published by the Deseret News, Franklin Wheeler Young reported that the settlers in Rabbit Valley were excited by news of copper deposits 30 miles below the valley on the Fremont River. In 1882, after legislative action, Young was one of five men who scouted and surveyed possible roads through the Waterpocket Fold to join the settlements in Rabbit Valley with other settlements further East along the Fremont River. While exploring the area, Young camped at the junction of Sand Creek (now Sulphur Creek) and the Fremont River. Young's survey was followed up in 1883 by Bishop George Brinkerhoff, who led a group of pioneers (including Elijah Cutler Behunin) in making a road from Rabbit Valley, down the Fremont River, through Capitol Gorge and down towards the San Juan country. In a letter published by the Latter-day Saints' Millenial Star (newspaper), Young reported that the road opened up "a new and very good country for settlement."
Founding the Junction
Franklin Wheeler Young's campsite at the junction of Sand Creek and the Fremont River soon became the site of his new home. In the Summer of 1884, Franklin traveled to Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin to research the genealogy of the Young family. While in Sesquahanna (formerly Harmony) Pennsylvania, he visited the Joseph Smith home with its large "ever-bearing" apple tree, planted by the Prophet himself, that produced "blossoms, little apples and ripe ones, all of the same kind, on the tree at the same time."
Upon his return to Rabbit Valley, he went down the Fremont River to his former campsite, where he cleared some land and made the first water ditch at the place he dubbed "the Junction." This ditch was not a reclaimed pre-Columbian digging as imagined by some; rather, it was dug by the Mormon Pioneer Franklin Wheeler Young, as he had done many times before at other locations that he settled. In the Spring of 1885, Young sold his holdings in Rabbit Valley and returned to the Junction, where he planted the first orchard of apple, peach and other trees, and the first grapevines at that place, just as his father had done with him when they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley with the first Pioneer Companies.
Junction (Fruita) Township 1896, showing the location of Franklin Wheeler Young's house (yellow), orchard (green) and irrigation ditch (blue). Source: NPS
On Johnson Mesa, located above and between the orchard and ditch, Franklin Young found the Wandering Boulder of Capitol Reef. Without disturbing the ancient Fremont markings, he and his children made their own markings on a blank side of the boulder. The markings FUUY (note the underlined double U's) are the initials FWY, signifying Franklin Wheeler Young. The initials LHY were also pecked into the boulder, signifying Lorenzo Howe Young, Franklin's son. Lorenzo also carved his initials into the rock cliffs above the Holt Orchard. The year 1885 was pecked into the boulder beneath these two sets of initials. According to Franklin Young's journal, this is the year that he planted the first orchard and built the first house at the Junction. The faintly scratched initials EAY were put there by a daughter, Elizabeth Aretta Young. Another son, LeRoy Wheeler Young, carved his initials into the rocks above what is known as the Krueger Orchard. The date that he carved beneath his initials (March 3, 1885) can be considered Founder's Day for the Junction (Fruita).
Young built a sawed lumber house and moved one of his families to the Junction. But they would not stay for long, due to persecutions suffered under anti-polygamy and anti-cohabitation laws. In January, 1886, Franklin and his wife Nancy traveled from the Junction to Salt Lake City by wagon to rescue their pregnant daughter Persis (second wife of Levi Richards) from raiding deputies, who deemed it illegal for more than one man and one woman to live in the same house. The return trip to the Junction over deep snow and through a blizzard was hard on the unborn child, who was named Franklin Wheeler Richards, and he died a month after he was born on June 4, 1886. Persis was childless for the rest of her life. However, upon returning to Salt Lake City, she studied nursing with Dr. Ellis R. Shipp, becoming one of Utah's first midwives and caring for children born under Plural Marriage who were moved soon after birth to avoid seizure as evidence by U.S. Deputies. Young sold his house, irrigation ditch and orchard at the Junction and bought a place in Teasdale, where he moved both of his families while he went on "the Underground" to elude Federal Marshals.
In 1888, after Federal authorities began harassing his wives and children, Young surrendered himself for trial but was not convicted of polygamy, as his marriages were legal under Federal law at the time they were performed. However, because he refused the Judge's suggestion that he abandon his second wife and children, Franklin Wheeler Young was convicted of cohabitation and sentenced to six months in prison and fined $300 plus $75 court costs (about $12,000 in today's dollars). He received a Presidential Pardon after serving six months but the paperwork was delayed, and he was not released until after his fines were paid a month later. [NOTE: In 2013, a Federal District Court ruled that Utah's cohabitation law was an unconstitutional violation of the First (Freedom of Religion) and Fourteenth (Due Process) Amendments to the Constitution.]
During 1892 and 1893, under contract with James E. Talmage (the Mormon scientist, and later an Apostle), Young and his sons LeRoy and Lorenzo mined 33 tons of selenite (gypsum), in what is now the South Draw area of Pleasant Creek in Capitol Reef National Park. It was a homecoming of sorts.
The men hauled load after load of selenite crystals north through the desert, then followed the road built after Young's 1882 survey to the place where they had made a home from 1884 to 1886. After resting at the Junction, they proceeded through Rabbit Valley, where they previously helped establish four settlements, and on to the town of Salina in the Sevier Valley, a place with which Young had become familiar during his extensive travels throughout Utah. From Salina, the crystals were transported to the Deseret (Utah) Museum in Salt Lake City, not far from where Franklin and his father Lorenzo had dug a ditch, built a house and planted fruit orchards with the first Pioneer settlers. Five-foot long, hundred pound samples of these crystals, from one of the world's largest geodes, were sent to the principal museums throughout the U.S. and Europe, resulting in world fame for Talmage and the Deseret Museum.
When the Wayne Stake of the LDS Church was organized in 1893, Franklin W. Young was ordained the Senior High Counselor, President of the Home Missionaries and President of the High Priests Quorum. That same year, he was present at the dedication of the Temple in Salt Lake City. In 1895, Franklin Wheeler Young was ordained a Patriarch in the Salt Lake Temple by Apostles Lorenzo Snow and Francis M. Lyman. Young returned to Salt Lake City from Fremont in 1897 for the Utah Pioneer Jubilee and was honored as one of the original pioneer settlers of the Valley.
Return to Eden
In 1898, Young was living a few miles down the road from the Junction in a settlement called Giles (Blue Valley). There he was trying to interest others in settling there also. Apparently, he was on friendly terms with a Mr. Johnson, who allowed him to camp at the Junction while passing through. Young published an article in the Deseret News and, referring to the Junction, wrote "This little nook in the rocks might very properly be termed the Eden of Wayne county." That being the case, Franklin Wheeler Young would be the Adam of Wayne County.
That year, in search of a warmer climate because of his declining health, Young tried to return to his old home at the Junction on a permanent basis. The new owner of the property was the Mr. Johnson mentioned above: Nels (aka Niels or Neils) Johnson, who is often mistakenly identified as the first permanent settler of the Junction and the first farmer of its fruit trees and grape vines. National Park Service publications indicate that Johnson settled Fruita in 1880. However, the 1880 U.S. Census for the Fremont Precinct has no record of him there.
Franklin Young offered to buy back his homestead in 1898, the year after Nels Johnson obtained title to the property, but Johnson demanded a price increase of 30 percent, even though little had been done in a dozen years to expand the orchard that Young himself planted, and he "would not submit to it." Instead, Young moved to Orangeville in Emery County, where he bought a 40-acre farm and enjoyed raising apple trees and serving as the Stake Patriarch.
Later arrivals to the Junction marveled at the irrigation system and speculated that it was created by PaleoIndians and that the house was built and the fruit trees and grapevines were planted by a Swedish bachelor and drover. None of this is true. Even the National Park Service research reports and publications, which claim that homestead affidavits filed by Johnson in 1897 indicate that he built the house in 1886 and planted grapevines and fruit trees, are inaccurate. All of it--the house, the irrigation system, the grapevines, the orchard of apple, peach and other trees, were organized, created and developed by Franklin Wheeler Young.
Franklin Wheeler Young was...
Franklin Wheeler Young (seated at center) and family about 1883. Source: Young Family Members
Franklin Wheeler Young retired at age 69 and lived the last two years of his life with his daughters in Provo, Utah, where he died January 22, 1911, a month shy of his 72nd birthday. His death certificate indicates the cause of death was "general debility." In other words, he was worn out from long, hard years of service to his family, his Church and his country.