Spring City lies in the northern half of Sanpete Valley, about
seventeen miles north of Manti, the Sanpete county seat. U.
S. 89, the principal route through the valley, bypasses the
town one mile to the west. Spring City is tucked beneath
the Wasatch Plateau, which rises dramatically on the eastern
perimeter of the town. A line of low-lying limestone hills
to the south and west effectively cut the town off from the larger valley.
Spring City is one of eleven existing settlements located
in the upper Sanpete Valley of central Utah. Each of these
settlements figures in the overall colonization of the area by
members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(Mormons) in the years after 1849. Mormon town planning
in the Sanpete Valley closely followed an agricultural village
system advocated by the LDS church leadership. By this design,
dwellings were clustered together in town, which in
turn were surrounded by individual farm holdings. Such a
village living arrangement strengthened church authority,
fostered communitarian activity, and facilitated the defense
of the population against Native American attack. Villages
were plotted into five-acre blocks, with each family generally
receiving a quarter-block allotment. On the town site,
the Sanpete farm family erected a dwelling house, a barn, a
granary, and other necessary outbuildings. While all eleven
communities in the upper Sanpete Valley are products of
this system of farm planning, Spring City best represents
the original nineteenth and early twentieth century character
of the settlements.
The town of Spring City is a National Register Historic District.
The historical and architectural significance of Spring
City lies in two areas: 1. The town graphically documents
the techniques of Mormon town planning in Utah: and 2.
Architecture in Spring City is remarkably well preserved
with an abundance of religious buildings, homes, and small
commercial establishments that predate World War I.
In keeping with the religious nature of the town, Spring City
is dominated by a large LDS meetinghouse. This elegant
stone structure of oolitic limestone was built between
1902-1911, and replaced an earlier building. In the 1970’s, a
wing built of the same stone was added to the north end. This
sympathetic addition matches the character of Provo architect
Richard C. Watkins’ 1900 design. Other buildings in the
district related to the role of the L. D. S. Church include the
Bishop’s Storehouse, the Relief Society Granary,
and Orson Hyde’s office. Orson Hyde, LDS Apostle,
resided here. Homes of other LDS church leaders include
the James A. Allred house, the John Frantzen
House, the Lauritz Larsen House the James T. S.
Allred cabin and the Reid H. Allred House .
Outside these few buildings with strong religious links, and
a small commercial area on Main Street, Spring City is predominantly
residential. While there are newer residences
and manufactured homes, the ambiance of the town remains
strongly that of a rural farm village. Town lots retain a high
percentage of their original out buildings such as barns, granaries,
summer kitchens, root cellars, and chicken coops.
Fields at the city’s edges continue to be planted with crops,
and it is still possible to see large flocks of sheep being driven
along the pring City streets. More recently large contemporary
residences have been built north and south of the
town on some of these original farm fields.
Architecturally, the town is overwhelmingly vernacular in
character. House types from the 1865-1890 period comprise
over one third of the extant total, and range from one room
cabins to two story hall and parlor and cross-wing houses.
Oolitic limestone and adobe are the most common building
materials, although brick, frame, and log are also in
evidence. Nearly all of the barns and granaries follow traditional
Mormon building patterns. The origins of the old
design reflect the overall diversity of the settlement population.
Yankees and Southerners brought familiar house plans
from their eastern homes, and Danes (a sizable percentage of
the founding population) brought Scandinavian house types
such as the parstuga, or pair house, having three contiguous
rooms on one level. In general, vernacular styles
predominate and generate much of the nineteenth and early
twentieth Century quality of the town.
Pattern book styles of the 1880-1910 period make up about
another third of the town’s architecture. Economic prosperity
during the later 19th century years enabled Spring City
residents to emulate architectural fashions found in population
centers like Salt Lake City and Provo. Carpenter-builder
designs were made available in Sanpete Valley through architectural
pattern books. As a result, hip roofs gradually
replaced the simple gable roof, pyramid cottages with projecting
gables became extremely popular, and several successful
entrepreneurs created elegant monuments to their
own prosperity. The John Baxter, Sr. house, the Emil
Erickson house, the William Osborne house, the
“King” Pedersen house and the Jacob Johnson house are picturesque renderings of the pattern book style.
Early twentieth century builder’s manuals also introduced
the bungalow to Spring City. While a number of bungalows
can be found within the town limits, these buildings make
up only about one-tenth of the housing stock.
Landscape features also enhance the historic village feeling
of the town. The town is isolated from the main valley by
two low-lying hills, known as the “stone quarry hills,” on the
west. Streets are generally tree-lined and yards are maintained.
Town lots contain orchards and vegetable gardens.
The rich cream-colored, oolitic limestone used in the town’s
buildings blends in particularly well with the cultivated landscape.
The adobe, brick, and frame buildings are in harmony
with the general setting. Natural features of importance
are two creeks, which run through town. Canal Creek cuts
through the extreme southeast corner of the town, and Oak
Creek runs in a northwesterly course. One of the springs
that gave the town its name can be seen north of the service
station, although it is piped from the center of Main Street.
Spring City was settled as part of the colonization of the Great
Basin, planned and directed by members of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1850, Brigham Young,
LDS church president, and his counselor Heber C. Kimball,
toured the Sanpete Valley and identified a good place to
locate a city (Manti), as well as several other sites within
the valley. Church leaders envisioned a line of settlements
stretching the length of the Sanpete Valley to ensure the effective
control of the area. Defensive measures were necessary
in the valley due to the presence of a Native American
population capable of resisting the intrusion of the Mormon
colonizers. Though part of the larger plan for the settlement
of the valley, the selection of Spring City’s location was
largely James Allred’s decision.
Allred, born in 1784 in North Carolina, was an early convert;
he and his large family followed the Church through its many
persecutions. Arriving in Utah in the fall of 1851, he was
advised by Brigham Young to move to Sanpete and “select a
place for settlement where he could locate with his numerous
posterity and kindred and preside over them.” (Hunter,
1940) On March 22, 1852, Allred and others explored the
area along Canal Creek (southeast part of town). Four days
later he returned with several of his sons and together with
a number of men began settling the town. The first house, a
log cabin, was situated on the southern edge of town on the
east side of Main Street, near 500 South. During the summer
of 1852, two adobe houses were constructed near the
original log house, and the other near the spring. Also that
summer, one of James Allred’s sons, James T. S. Allred,
completed the first survey of the area. A tract of about 100
acres was divided into five-acre blocks. Some crops were
planted and about 12 families spent the winter of 1852 in
“Canal” or the “Allred Settlement.”
In July of 1853, open warfare broke out between the Mormon
settlers and the Native American population. Pleasant
Creek (now Mount Pleasant) was raided in mid-July, and residents
fled to the Allred settlement for safety. People from
both towns created a fort-like structure by dragging their log
cabins together and filling in the gaps between the houses
with rock walls. The first “fort” was completed on July 28th,
and stood on the block now containing the L. D. S. chapel.
Native American attacks, resulting in considerable loss of
livestock and horses, drove the defenders from the Allred
settlement back to Manti on July 31st. An attempt to re-settle
was made during the fall of 1853, with a large influx of
Danish immigrants, but the town was still outnumbered by
local tribes. The town was vacated, settlers going to Manti
for a few months. Many of these hardy folks became the
founders of Ephraim in the spring of 1854.
With Brigham Young’s approval, William Black, James T. Ellis,
and the Allreds re-established the settlement in 1859.
Albert Petty, county surveyor, accompanied them, laying off
a town site and 640 acres of farmland around it, making five
and ten acre lots available for distribution. A log meeting
house was erected; this building housed a variety of activities
until an adobe meeting house was erected in 1863-64.
The community continued to attract many Danish immigrant
converts, and the north end of town became known as
“Little Denmark”. These Scandinavians made valuable contributions
by their skills as tradesmen, bakers, blacksmiths,
shoemakers, masons, etc. By 1860 the population of Spring
Town was 243. Trouble with Native Americans continued
until treaties were signed in 1869. Townspeople, with life
more secure, turned full attention to agriculture, stock raising,
lumbering, wool growing, and mercantile efforts. Spring
City was incorporated in 1870. The coming of the railroad in
1890 made exporting and importing of products and goods much more available.
In town plan and in the distribution of farmland, Spring City,
(like other communities in the valley) adheres to a “farm village”
system advocated by LDS church leaders. According
to the village scheme, houses, barns, vegetable gardens,
and orchards would be contained within the boundaries of
the village. The large town lots, just over an acre, accommodated
these buildings, domestic activity, and encouraged
self-sufficiency. Farmland lay outside the village, with farmers
commuting daily to their outlying fields. This activity
In Utah the basis of this farm village is the Mormon prophet
Joseph Smith’s “plat for the city of Zion.” Smith’s “plat” basically
called for a gridiron block arrangement, blocks divided
into lots, center blocks reserved for church buildings, wide
streets, houses of brick or stone, and the town surrounded
by fields. While some scholars have disputed the claim that
Smith’s “plat” influenced town planning in Utah, it appears
the LDS planners in Utah realized the “general principles”
of the “plat of the city of Zion” even if their interpretations
were never literal. While non-Mormon western ranchers
chose the isolated farmstead, the Saints opted for the controlled
atmosphere of the nucleated village. If mining boomtowns
grew in a haphazard fashion, the Mormon village was
nurtured to maturity by the application of specific planning
rules. Spring City is historically significant as an outstanding
example of this “village” settlement type. However,
there were exceptions. The Charles Crawforth house and
farm (#16A) is such an exception to the village pattern of
Spring City. Vernacular domestic architecture predominates
with a large number of houses and outbuildings constructed
of oolitic limestone. As in any contemporary town non-contributory
buildings do exist, but these do not distract from
the obvious historical nature of Spring City.