Randolph celebrates sesquicentennial

The Wilford Woodruff home is one of the several stops on a tour in Randolph, Utah. After many festivities were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the self-guided tour was held from the end of June until today, Friday, July 24. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

RANDOLPH, Utah — On March 14, 1870, a group of pioneers arrived in the Bear River Valley and made camp on a knoll just south of where the town of Randolph, Utah, now lies. The group had been sent by the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah to start a settlement in that valley. They quickly established a settlement there, planted crops, staked out claims and mapped out the location of the town. They gave the town the name of Randolph in honor of Randolph H. Stewart, the leader of the founding group.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Randolph, a group of local residents organized a self-guided tour of historic homes, the Randolph Tabernacle, a rare bridge over the Bear River, the “nail jail” and the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Relic Hall. The tour began on Friday, June 26, and will continue until July 24. A  pamphlet funded by a grant from the Utah Humanities Council outlines the tour and can be obtained at the historic Wilford Woodruff house, the Rich County Courthouse, the Sinclair Station and The Trough café in Randolph, Woodruff Country Store, Dee’s Service Station in Laketown and the Bear Lake Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau in Garden City, Utah. The Randolph DUP Relic Hall and the “nail jail” are open for tours from 2-5 p.m. on Fridays. Interested parties can call (435) 881-0960 or (435) 713-1426 for more information.

Maydi Eastman, whose family has ranched in the Randolph area for four generations, acted as guide for the Herald on a tour of several of the historic buildings. Her daughter Kennedy and son Phoenix also accompanied the tour.

“Our committee had lots of games and a main program scheduled that we had to cancel due to the virus so we decided to adapt and make the tour a self-guided one. I worked on the historical part of the celebration. I got lots of family history off our Facebook page (150 Years of Celebrating Randolph, Utah). I love history,” Maydi said.

The first stop on the tour was the Wilford Woodruff house. Wilford Woodruff, one of the earliest presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, built the house in the 1870s for Sarah Brown, one of his plural wives, while he was an apostle for the church. Woodruff had been instructed by church leaders to aid in the settlement of Randolph. Since Woodruff was an apostle for the Church, he spent most of his time traveling between Salt Lake City and the Bear River Valley. His wife Sarah and their five children at the time lived in the house, rarely seeing Wilford due to his church work. In 1876, Sarah left Randolph and lived the remainder of her life with her daughter in Smithfield, Utah.

Due to Wilford Woodruff’s active involvement in the agriculture and economic development of the area, the town of Woodruff was named after him, as were other sites in the region.

Judy Jackson, volunteer greeter at the Woodruff house, shares her extensive knowledge of the history of the house and its founder with visitors. She is a lifetime resident of Rich County and encourages those who visit to purchase the small book, “The Tale of Our Town: Randolph, Utah,” compiled by the Randolph Sesquicentennial Committee.

According to Eastman, Beth Sanos and Melanie Lym were the first to begin to organize the celebration. The committee was comprised of six other residents who were each involved in a different aspect of preparing for the 150th Anniversary. Committee members and their duties include: Debra Kennedy — Pioneer games; Heidi Weston — chair; Jon Lee — photos; Maydi Eastman and Lisa Duskin-Goede — walking tour; Texie Johnson — games; and Beth Sanos — booklet and program. Eastman said the walking tour couldn’t have happened without the contribution from Lisa Duskin-Goede with the Bear River Heritage Center.

The Historic Building Tour Guide provides a map and interpretive section of each historic site on the tour. The information includes when and who built the structure and interesting facts about the architectural styles. The architecture spans the vernacular, which incorporates available materials and native building traditions to Victorian influences, to houses made of bricks from local clay as well as log buildings.

One of the most interesting buildings is the historic Randolph jail, which is said to have been built in 1883 with eight tons of heavy nails hammered closely together, so that no prisoner could cut or burn their way out. According to the pamphlet information, the walls were made strong by stacking 2x6 lengths of lumber, each layer nailed to the one below, much like a granary was built. With an added layer of wood siding and hundreds of nails, this would have made the walls nearly bulletproof. The building has a hipped roof, two small barred windows, and heavy wooden doors reinforced with cast iron. The jail was in use until 1940, when it was purchased by a local family and eventually donated and moved to the current site next to the DUP Relic Hall.

The Daughters of Utah Pioneers Relic Hall was originally a storehouse for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s welfare program. The rustic style building was completed by volunteers (1936) who harvested logs from local canyons. It is said that women worked to peel the logs. When the Church no longer needed the building, it was moved to the current site and is now used as a museum and meeting place for the local chapter of the DUP.

“When the census was taken in 1880, the population was 446 people, and today the population is 486. We have maintained about the same number throughout the years, except when the oil boom happened, we had a lot more people living here temporarily. Most of the current residents have a long history of family here. A fun fact about Randolph is there are more mother cows than people — 55,000 mother cows in the valley,” Eastman said with a smile.

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