One of the fascinating named places in Emery County whose history has been carrying on but constantly changing since 1882, is Quitchupah, pronounced Quit-chum-pah by many of us. It is located in a long narrow valley about four miles southwest of Emery.
Quitchupah is an Indian word (Piute?) meaning "Bad Water. It is not clear why or which water was meant as bad because Quitchupah Creek seemed good and seems to be continued to be used at least for irrigation purposes.
The history written by Arminta Hewitt for the book "Emery County - 1880-1980" is very interesting. John C. and Teressa Duncan were the first settlers on Quitchupah Creek. "They didn't have any neighbors, but the Pony Express rider came through from Price to Salina and would stay overnight at their place. The Duncans later moved to Ferron, but the house is still standing on the Petty Ranch."
By the late 1880s, because of the Homestead Act, there were 13 families living in Quitchupah. They could each settle up to 120 acres. Some of the family names after the Duncans were Christiansen, Foote, Allred, Beebe, Albrechtsen, Olsen, Larsen, Abelin, Anderson and Walker.
They hauled lumber from Wayne County for a schoolhouse which was the center of all activities; dances, parties, quilting bees, birthdays, and in the fall, corn husking parties.
These families were mostly self sufficient, built log cabins and corrals of the abundant pinion pine and quaking aspen trees that grew on the mountains to the west. They planted cottonwood and fruit trees, made sheds and outbuildings, raised their own meat, vegetables and eggs, and grew wheat for flour. The women made soap, corded the wool from their sheep, spun yarn, knitted stockings, sweaters, and comforters.
They would trade their surpluses at the stores in Emery for sugar, salt, and dry goods. Spinning wheels were made by Fredrick Julius Christiansen.
An excerpt from the recently published book of Emery Town states that James Walker, a sheepman, homesteaded what is now called Walker Flats.
The young men who worked for Walker also had the job of chasing wild horses out of the fields which would come in from the east desert and the mountains.
"The Ireland Cattle Company owned the south part of the Quitchupah and several sections between there and the Oak Spring ranch. Some people in those early days feathered their nest, so to speak, with the Ireland cattle. The cattle were on the range the year around and many of the calves were never branded until someone else put their brand on them. Mr. Ireland hired Hans Jensen, Neils Hansen, Severine Albrechtsen, and Joe Miller to break up the land on the Quitchupah Ranch and farm it for the Ireland Cattle Company."
The Quitchupah Creek was a small stream that could be crossed almost anyplace. To water the farms, the men of each family worked hard to make a dam west of the Charles Foote place, collected the water, put in headgates, and distributed it to the various farms. "It was hard work, but life was good." There were many beautiful, green farms.
However, in the summer of 1912, a terrible storm struck the area causing rushing water a mile wide in some places roaring down the canyon bringing boulders, trees, and debris with it that ripped out the dam, threatened some homes, and washed out many sheds and outbuildings. This flash flood created a deep wash leaving some homes on the very edge in many places.
The settlers worked to rebuild the dam, but unsuccessfully.
They filed on and brought water from the Emery Canal, they even built a huge wooden flume, but that too, solved the problem for only a time. Eventually, the settlers became discouraged and some moved to Emery and others left the area to try to make a living elsewhere.
Since that time there have been many others who have bought, sold, or worked this Quitchupah land. At present the Castle Valley Ranch owns much of the property in the area.
There has been talk of building a road through the canyon to shorten a coal hauling route.
This would be a costly endeavor not only in dollars but in the loss of some of the timeless history written on the rocks by long ago Native American residents. The history of Quitchupah goes back thousands of years and is certainly one of the colorful and interesting places in Emery County worth exploring whether by foot or on the pages of history.