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Erastus Bingham (1798-1882)

Erastus Bingham’s last cabin was located at 317 W 2nd Street, Ogden Utah in the 1850s.  He was born in Vermont in 1798, and after joining the Mormon Church at age 34 he moved to Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and finally to Great Salt Lake Valley. In the Holladay district he and his sons had a farm and a grazing permit in what is now known as Bingham Canyon where his sons, Sanford and Thomas, discovered copper ore while watching over the cattle.  This canyon now contains the largest open pit copper mine in the world.


In 1850 the Bingham family moved to Weber Valley and they settled on West 2nd Street in the spring of 1851. Bishop Erastus Bingham and Erastus Bingham Jr. filed claim for 120 acres on the south side of 2nd Street, and Sanford Bingham filed a 20-acre claim on the north side. Erastus was 53 years old.  His other sons, Thomas, Willard, Edwin, and Brigham, and a son-in-law, Isaac Newton Goodale, all farmed here for different lengths of time.

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Site of Erastus Bingham cabin at 317 W 2nd Street. Forty acres still remain of the Bingham Farm.

Erastus began plans to extend the Barker Ditch to 2nd Street.  This ditch was completed in 1851 by the work of many people under the direction of Isaac Newton Goodale. Today it is called the Lynne Ditch.


Part of the year West 2nd Street was filled with Native Americans.  Hundreds of Native Americans lived here compared to a small number of white pioneers.  The corn patch where Chief Terrikee was killed in 1850 was located two miles north.


In the 1850s the cattle and herds of the settlers in Weber Valley and all over Utah Territory were denuding the land of the magnificent grasses, plants, and seeds that the Shoshone gathered for food. Seeds of the grass cover were stored for winter use and were essential for their existence.  To survive, the hungry Indians killed cattle, stole garden produce, and burned fences as they felt it was their right to do so since the settlers were intruding on the ancient land their ancestors. The Mormons urged the Natives to become farmers, but the Natives resisted the suggestion and demanded tributes for the destruction of their food and land.


In July 1853, as the Indians were troublesome and there were still hard feelings about the death of Chief Terrikee, Brigham Young commanded settlers in Weber Valley to “fort up” as a precaution against possible Indian attacks. Bishop Erastus Bingham organized Bingham Fort, straddling West 2nd Street for four blocks in the area where the Bingham family had settled. Today the stretch of the fort extends roughly from Wall Avenue to Century Drive. The west wall of the fort crossed 2nd Street on today’s cobblestone crosswalk just west of Century Drive.

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The west wall of Bingham Fort crossed 2nd Street on the cobblestone cross-walk. The Daughters of Utah Pioneers dedicated this monument to Bingham Fort in 2005.

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Bingham Fort boundaries and Lynne Ditch on today’s roadways.

In August 1853 one-hundred-fifty Shoshone and Bannock warriors swept into Willard (Willow Creek) whooping, yelling and singing their war song. They turned their horses loose on grain, corn and potato fields and harvested some of the crop. David Moore reported that “the Shoshone are bitter against us and say this is their ground and they intend to have it”. In spite of threats, a battle against whites did not materialize as Little Soldier was a wise peacekeeper.

At first, the Bingham Fort residents were nervous and kept their guns close by, but the relations with the local Shoshone remained friendly and tensions relaxed. Little Soldier's bands were admitted into the fort and sometimes camped there in the open space in the middle.  Food was scarce for all, but the settlers shared what they had. After considerable debate and concerns on both sides, the Shoshone moved into Bingham Fort in the winter of 1854-55 and shared the work and food of the settlers.


The walls of the fort went up slowly; some white families failed to put up their assigned portion of the walls, and the east gate was not put in place until 1856. There did not appear to be an urgent need for the security of fort walls. No wars were ever fought here; it turned out to be a fort of peace with the Indians and a gathering of white persons into a small town.


Brigham Young visited Bingham Fort in 1856 and didn’t like the size of the town that was developing there.  He urged the people to move to Ogden and build up a city in that location.


Erastus and his wife Lucinda Gates took up a house in Ogden but retained partial ownership of a ninety-acre farm on W 2nd Street.  Erastus took two more wives in polygamy and served in civic and religious positions until 1868 when he was released at age 70 on account of his health.

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Erastus Bingham granary as pictured in 2005 at 317 W 2nd Street; National Register of Historic Places.

Erastus and Lucinda retired back to their farm on West 2nd Street and built a granary near their cabin with burnt bricks from the Sam Gates brickyard.  The size of the granary is 20×16 feet.  The cabin Erastus lived in was 24×16 feet.  Since the granary has two levels it actually had more floor space than his cabin which indicates that Erastus supervised an affluent and busy farm.  The community was now called Lynne, and there were about twenty farmhouses on W 2nd Street from Wall Ave to 1200 West.   The Lynne Ward history recorded that the 1870s was a prosperous decade for farms and orchards.  It was also a decade of political, religious, and social conflict between the gentile newcomers and the Mormons, and the key issue of conflict was polygamy.


Erastus’ third wife Emma Nye Wilson lived on the farm for a short time.  Lucinda died in 1874, and Erastus’ second wife, Mehitable Sawyer Hall, lived on the farm and served as the neighborhood midwife.  Erastus died in the log cabin in May 1882 at age 84.  He had served humbly and effectively in both religious and civic positions.  He was the father of eleven children and had numerous grandchildren.


 NOTE: The year Erastus died was coincidently the same year that the Edmunds Act was passed in the congress of the United States.  Also known as the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882, it is a United States federal statute, signed into law on March 23, 1882 by President Chester A. Arthur, declaring polygamy a felony in federal territories.  In years to come some of Erastus Bingham's friends would be convicted of illegal co-habitation and be required to pay heavy fines ranging from $200 to $300 and to serve time in prison. 

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Erastus Bingham cabin now stands in Lagoon, Pioneer Village, Farmington, Utah.

 

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