Utah History Encyclopedia


By LaRayne B. Christensen, Wilma J. Hall, Ruth H. Maughan
Nestled at the base of the Wellsville Mountain, a topographic curiosity because of its narrow base and unusual height, lies Wellsville - Cache County's oldest permanent settlement. It occupies the southwest corner of Cache Valley.

On 15 September 1856, the families of Peter, John, and William H. Maughan, Zial Riggs, and Francis W. Gunnell, and two single men, George W. Bryan and O.D. Thompson, entered Cache Valley. There were twenty-five in the group, the oldest being forty-five and the youngest six weeks. They drove to a stream where they made their encampment; they called their settlement Maughan's Fort. Wagon boxes were taken off, and the women prepared homes in them. The men explored the valley and began to cut and stack the meadow hay for their livestock.

Eleven days after their arrival, snow blanketed the ground to the depth of a man's ankle. During this storm, Mary Ann Weston Maughan gave birth to a baby daughter, Elizabeth, the first white child born to permanent settlers in Cache Valley. An abundance of water coupled with its favorable location helped the settlement flourish. There was soon a grist mill, saw mill, brickyard, dairies, co-op, tannery, granaries, ice house, slaughter house, and lush crops growing in the fertile soil.

Settlers continued to come to Maughan's Fort after the evacuation caused by the threat of Johnston's Army. Those who stayed at the fort were mostly of English, Scottish, or Welch descent with a few Irish among them. Someone could be found skilled at almost any vocation needed. Apostles Orson Hyde and Ezra T. Benson visited the Fort on 13 November 1859 to appoint William H. Maughan as bishop of the Wellsville Ward, a position he held for over forty years. At this time they changed the town's name from Maughan's Fort to Wellsville in honor of Daniel H. Wells, second counselor to President Brigham Young.

Peter Maughan was selected by the legislature on 8 January 1857 as the first probate judge of Cache County, having jurisdiction over estates, guardianship, divorce cases, and authority to enter lands in trust; however, he had no authority in criminal cases. Judge Maughan organized Cache County and chose to fix the site of the county seat at Maughan's Fort (Wellsville) where all business was conducted until 5 March 1860, at which time the county seat was moved to Logan. At that time the census showed Wellsville with 574 people and Logan with 533.

In 1857 Wellsville became School District No. 8, and a combination school and church building was erected with Francis W. Gunnell the first teacher. In 1881 a Presbyterian day school was opened and functioned until 1907 in an exceedingly strong Mormon town. Through the years, local schools have included elementary and junior high levels, and a Wellsville High School was in existence until 1915. At the present time, junior and senior high students are transported to other communities.

In 1860 the Bankheads, southern converts to Mormonism, brought their slaves, who remained until 1896. Wellsville was the only community in the Valley were blacks lived and worked their land.

Wellsville was surveyed in 1863 by James H. Martineau, who put into effect what was a Mormon community concept: four-square orientation with the points of the compass with the streets meeting at right angles. The land was divided into ten-acre blocks, each divided into eight lots of 1.25 acres. As bishop, William H. Maughan had de facto powers in civil affairs. As early as 1861 a justice of the peace, marshal, road supervisor, and town clerk were serving; but it was not until 19 January 1866 that Wellsville was incorporated as a city with a full slate of municipal officers with William H. Maughan as mayor.

This predominantly Mormon community built a beautiful Gothic Revival-style tabernacle between 1902 and 1908. It was built by volunteer labor with local building materials and has stood in the town square as a sentinel and been the center of activity for both church and community for almost one hundred years. There are now five LDS Wards housed in three buildings, and the Wellsville Stake was organized 17 June 1979. There has been an organized choir since early settlement, and each ward still supports a choir that provides music for meetings, special programs, and Founders' Day.

The business district is now smaller than it was several decades ago, but we still support a grocery store, gas station, garages, beauty salons, post office, welding shop, hardware store, dentist, cafe and other businesses. A firehouse was built in 1965, and we have a very efficient Volunteer Fire Department. First Responders have been "on call" since 1983.

Music, sports, and clubs for men, women, and children are all heavily supported and enjoyed. With the annexation of Mt. Sterling and Green's Corner, the 1990 census showed Wellsville with 2,206 citizens and the city is experiencing continual growth.

The chief industries now, as in earlier days, are associated with the soil. There are several fine dairy herds and beef production operation. Many residents are employed outside of the community but return each night proud and happy to be back in Wellsville where a rural atmosphere still flourishes in Our Home Town.

See: LaRayne B. Christensen, Wilma J. Hall, and Ruth H. Maughn, Windows of Wellsville: 1856-1984, (1985).