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Holladay Journal

Early Holladay settlers were mostly Southerners

Jul 01, 2022 08:52AM ● By Sona Schmidt Harris

By Sona Schmidt-Harris | [email protected]

Though it is believed that Jedediah Smith was the first white man to lay eyes on what today is known as Salt Lake County, it was primarily Southerners who were the first whites to settle in Holladay.

A group of early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints converts, many of them from Monroe County, Mississippi and Alabama were organized into The Mississippi Company, which later made its way to Utah. The company consisted of 24 men some of whom brought their families with them. The original captain of the group was William Crosby. Robert Crow of Perry County, Illinois and John D. Holladay, Sr. from Marion County, Alabama were his counselors.  Later, Holladay, Sr. became captain. The company made its way along The Oregon Trail to Utah.

Though most of the early Holladay settlers were from The Mississippi Company, some were from the Mormon Battalion and a few from the Nauvoo Group.

The Mississippi Company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 29, 1847, just a few days after the first group of pioneers. The company first stayed in Salt Lake and then were later asked to settle the Holladay area, which later became known as “Holladay’s Settlement” or “Holladay’s Burgh” even though the church branch was actually called “Big Cottonwood.”

John D. Holladay, Sr. was born March 10, 1798, in Camden, South Carolina. He later moved to Alabama where he ran a large and profitable plantation. Upon his conversion to the church, he freed his enslaved people and sold his plantation. When he emigrated to Utah, six of his 10 children came with him along with some of his former enslaved people.

Holladay, generally known as “Jack,” gave his son, John D. Holladay, Jr. “a wagon, two oxen, a cabin, stew pot, frying pan, two knives, forks and tin plates, one iron spoon, a bedstead and some food” for a wedding present. This was considered a treasure trove to those living in the American West.

Unfortunately, there is no known photograph of John D. Holladay, Sr.

In addition to what they farmed, the early Holladay settlers supplemented their diet with trout, venison, small game, sego lily bulbs, native watercress and other greens.   

The average price for an acre of land in Holladay in 1855 is thought to have been around $4.50 per acre.

In 1851, major changes took place and John D. Holladay, Sr. and his son John Holladay, Jr. along with several other former Southern cotton farmers migrated to California and settled in San Bernardino. They were asked to settle there by church leadership. John Holladay, Sr. later returned to Utah, but did not resettle in Holladay’s Burgh. Instead, he settled for good in Santaquin, Utah where he died on December 31, 1862.

All information for this article was gleaned from the book, “Holladay-Cottonwood Places and Faces” edited by Stephen L. Carr. The book may be purchased from the Holladay Historical Commission on the City of Holladay website.