THINGS FROM LONG AGO: The Prehistory of Pleasant View, Utah

BY MARK E. STUART,
UTAH STATEWIDE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Pleasant View, Utah has always been a beautiful place to live, with its magnificent views of Weber Valley and the Great Salt Lake to the south and southwest and the rugged back drop of Ben Lomond Peak. Did you know the Pleasant View area has been occupied for ca. 10,000 years? In many areas of Pleasant View City, things from long ago occasionally come to light.

The main attraction to the Pleasant View area was not only its beautiful views but the fact that a major travel corridor passed through the area. The main trail from the Bear Lake and Cache Valley passed south over Liberty/Avon Divide to Ogden Valley, then over North Ogden, entering Weber Valley on what is called Long Bench. Long Bench is a relatively flat gravel and sand beach remnant of the huge Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, which covered much of the Eastern Great Basin during the Ice Age ca. 14,000 years ago. This trail extended from Rice Creek Spring in what is now North Ogden, west to Frog Rock above Weber High School. From Frog Rock, it traveled west to Hunts Rock and then to Rocky Point on the west end of Pleasant View. At the base of Rocky Point was Utah Hot Springs, which was a major attraction for Native Americans with its healing medical waters.

From Utah Hot Springs, the main trail branched into three. One trail went south, skirting the wetlands that flowed south from springs at the base of Long Bench to the junctions of the Weber and Ogden Rivers at modern Ogden City. Another trail headed west towards the extensive marshes of Bear River Bay of the Great Salt Lake, which was a major food source for Native Americans. The other trail headed north, approximately following modern US 89 to the large Willard sites and then to the prized obsidian sources near Malad, Idaho.

The first Native American group to pass through Pleasant View were called Paleo Indians (10,000 to 7600 B.C.). These people were using atlatls (spear throwers) and darts tipped with lanceolate-shaped projectile points to hunt large game and were foraging for wild plants. The evidence for Paleo Indians in Pleasant View is scant, consisting of a couple of dart projectile points and a distinctive Paleo Indian tool know as a crescent. These people were highly nomadic and were probably following wild game who were the first creators of the trails across Long Bench.

As the huge freshwater lake began to shrink into the Great Salt Lake of today, the climate also changed to the present conditions we now know. Native Americans changed their lifeways to adapt to the changing conditions. Much of the larger game animals had disappeared, so smaller game such as rabbits and ground squirrels were hunted. The use of wild plants, roots, and seeds for food became common and were collected in baskets, then processed with hand stones called manos on flat stones called metates. Still nomadic, these people wandered about from resource patch to resource patch seeking food. These people are known as archaic (7600 BC to 200 AD). This way of life persisted in the Great Salt Lake region for thousands of years. Long Bench, with its well-watered sandy soil, would have been an ideal habitat for Indian Rice Grass, Great Basin Rye Grass, Sego Lilies, Prickly Pear Cactus, and other wild plants. Evidence of Archaic peoples in Pleasant View are commonly found in the presence of oval one-hand grinding stones and large corner- and side-notched dart points. Also marking their presence was a large boulder on Rocky Point, which was covered with pecked petroglyphs distinctive of Archaic style. This beautiful rock art panel has disappeared, and its present whereabouts is unknown.

It is believed that the Numic-speaking Shoshoni moved into the Great Salt Lake area ca. 1300 AD from the southern Great Basin. Some scholars believe the Shoshoni may have helped push the Fremont/Promontory out of the area by outcompeting them for local food resources. Whatever happened, the Shoshoni were the Native Americans in the area when the first Anglo Europeans arrived in the 1820’s.

Two bands of Shoshoni were the residents of the Pleasant View area. The first were known as the Cummumbahs or Weber Utes, under the leadership of Little Soldier, and the second was the Promontory Band under Sagahwitz. Eastern Shoshoni, lead by Washakie from the Great River/Wind River region of Wyoming, were also frequent visitors to the area. At first, the Shoshoni were much like the earlier Archaic peoples, being nomadic hunters and gathers and living a Great Basin lifestyle. Walking and using dogs for transportation, these people wandered the area in the quest for food. After 1680 AD, the Pueblo Revolt, which drove the Spanish out of New Mexico, suddenly released hundreds of horses into Native American hands. The Comanche, close relatives of the Shoshoni, were some of the first to adopt the horse and soon passed horses to their northern cousins. With the horse, the Shoshoni evolved from a walking Great Basin lifestyle to a mounted big game Plains Indian lifestyle. One of the draw backs to acquiring the horse, though, was the coming of Anglo European disease, such as smallpox, whooping cough, and others, for which Native Americans had no immunity. It is believed that 80 to 90 percent of Native Americans in the area died years before they saw their first White men. The Native Americans and the first Pleasant View pioneers met when they settled the area where the remnants of a once more numerous people resided.

Many pioneer stories have been told of interactions with Native Americans passing through the Pleasant View area down the Long Bench trail. Much evidence of their presence has been located with the finding of small, side-notched arrowheads and grinding stones in the area. Gradually, the local Shoshone were pushed off their land by growing pioneer settlements. Unfortunately, many of these people were massacred in the winter of 1863 by US soldiers at the Battle of the Bear River near Franklin, Idaho. Many of the survivors of this massacre eventually joined the LDS Church and settled at Washakie in Malad Valley. These people were faithful members and were instrumental in building the Logan Temple in Cache Valley, donating many hours of labor and their resources to its construction. The descendants of these people still live in the Pleasant View/Ogden area and contribute much to our present-day way of life.

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