Historical Society Makes trip to site of first Emery County post office
|The first mail order house.|
The Emery County Historical Society made a trek to Wilsonville recently. Bert Oman, president, led the procession from the Museum of the San Rafael, through Castle Dale, and on to the site where the first post office was located in Emery County.
Jorgensen Brothers Ranch, as the site is now known, is located five miles southeast of Castle Dale. Ray Jorgensen, owner of the ranch, began relating the story. In 1878, Sylvester Wilson, and several of his brothers, passed through the small valley on their way to Moab. As they proceeded to Moab, the road was flooded and they were forced to turn back.
Sylvester decided that the small valley, later known as Wilsonville, would be a great place to live, so he stayed. Shortly after he came to the area, he decided that he would apply to have a post office. During that process, he was notified that the town had to have a name, so he called it Wilsonville. During those years, there were about 10 families living in the area. Along with the Wilson's, the Biddlecomes, the Higbys, the Calls, the Larsens, the Aikens and the Hambicks, lived in Wilsonville.
The mail was brought in on horseback from Ouray, Colo., and from Wilsonville it was distributed to the surrounding towns. When the mail arrived at the post office, it was sorted and the portion of mail bound for Castle Dale was placed in the crotch of a huge tree. The residents in Castle Dale would take turns walking the distance to Wilsonville to retrieve the mail for the families in Castle Dale.
|Overlooking Wilsonville, farm land where the Jorgensen family now farms.|
Before Wilsonville came into existence, the Spanish Trail ran through the property. On the far end of the fields under cultivation, is the original location of the trail. There is a legend that says during the years that gold was being transported out of California to Denver to be shipped back East, that some of the gold was waylaid in the San Rafael. The legend says that the men in charge of shipping the gold were attacked by local Indians, and the men hid the gold, and ran from their attackers.
Some years later, one of the men who had been in that group of survivors, told his nephew about the location of the gold. He then promptly died, leaving the nephew with a vague idea of where to find the gold. In 1895, the nephew came to Wilsonville to begin his search.
The nephew received lodging at one of the residents homes, and began telling the family of the tale his uncle had related to him. Two of the family's sons decided to help him look. No one knows if the gold was ever found, but since that time every rock in the San Rafael has been turned over and nothing has been found.
In 1895, Sam and John Aiken, came to Wilsonville to settle and raise horses. The brothers raised and trained horses for the government and had a big spread. In the early 1900s, they needed a permanent home, so they followed the current trend of mail order, and ordered a home from Montgomery Ward. The mail order cabin still stands today.
|Ray Jorgensen relates the history of Wilsonville.|
In Wilsonville's hey day, there were numerous families living there, but other than the post office, there were no other businesses. They did hold many dances which people from all around the area attended. They also boasted a very popular midwife. Mary Biddlecome, who traveled as far as Ferron to deliver babies, lived in Wilsonville and many of Emery County present residents can say that she delivered their grandmas and grandpas.
Supplies and freight were brought into the valley with a team and horses from the railhead in Price. The Wilsons stayed and ranched in Wilsonville for 12 years. Following their time there, the brothers and their families, pulled up stakes and moved to St. Anthony, Idaho. They left behind several unmarked graves in which their babies remain.
Jorgensen said that his father began farming the area in 1940, and then in 1956, he and his brothers began Jorgensen Brothers Ranch. They ran about 2,400 head of sheep and also had a small herd of cows. They have since sold off the sheep herd and expanded the cattle operation.
The original post office building is still standing, although not at it's original location. Jorgensen's grandfather moved the building to facilitate planting the fields. Carolyn Jorgensen said that the families of all the brothers spend many enjoyable hours at the ranch. "We go there for Easter, and every chance we get. Ray comes out at daylight everyday, and enjoys the farm all day," said Carolyn.