DAVID VAN WAGENEN
David Van Wagenen was born July 18, 1836 at Pompton, New Jersey. His
father was John Halma Van Wagener and his mother was Eliza Smith. He had one sister, Mary,
who married a man named Alfred Newell. She died in Utah at the age of 21, not long after
their marriage. Davids mother died when David was only seven, and he was raised by
his stepmother, Clarissa Tappen. After his fathers second marriage they accepted the
Gospel in New Jersey, and moved with the Church to Nauvoo. They passed through all the
early persecutions and hardships.
Afterwards, the family emigrated to Utah, crossing the plains with ox teams in the year of 1852. John Halma had sent all the family belongings with the ship "Brooklyn" and the Samuel Brannan Company. Through some mismanagement his property was lost and they were never able to get anything out of it. They settled in Provo where David assisted his father in building the first grist mill in Provo, called the Tanner mills. David continued to work as a miller until he moved from Provo to Provo River Valley (Heber Valley). He passed through the early hardships with the early settlers of Provo, subsisting on suckers for meat, and ground cherries and wild segos for their fruit and vegetables. Luckily, being a miller, he was among the first to benefit from the flour.
On March 25, 1857, under those stringent conditions he married Julia Ann Provost, whom he had known in New Jersey. She was a beautiful young lady with black hair and black eyes, and two years his senior. She was the daughter of Luke Provost and Julia Ann Wheeler. They started housekeeping being very limited in their household effects and food supply, but Julia, in addition to keeping house, helped gather the ground cherries and dig the segos.
David was an accomplished violinist, and with his violin playing at many dances and with his occupation at the mill, they succeeded in making a livelihood while in Provo. He took an active part in the band, playing both the violin and the clarinet. He was at one time considered to be the best violinist in the State of Utah.
Their first child, Eliza, was born December 18, 1857, in Provo in a small log house adjoining the present home of Jasper Bird. This house, which his father had built in the early fifties, is located on 5th West and 4th North. The fancywork on the cornice of the house and the roof is about the same as when the house was constructed.
In spite of the stringent times and hard circumstances, they decided to take more obligations, thinking that a son might be some good to them. A son, David, Jr., was born to them November 20, 1859, at the same house. Noting the rapid increase in the family, they decided to take up their abode on the frontiers where opportunities were greater. They moved to Heber Valley, where they were among the first settlers.
There was an unsettled interest in his mothers estate, so it became necessary for him to go to New Jersey to have it settled. He and his family had to journey as far as Iowa with ox teams, a distance of about 1500 miles each way.
While they were in Iowa another son, John, (named after his grandfather) was born on February 13, 1862. They journeyed back after the estate was settled to Heber, where he changed his name from Van Wagenor to Van Wagenen, as he found it recorded on all the Eastern Church records as such.
Arriving from back east in the fall of 1863, he assisted his father in building the first grist mill in Provo River Valley. It was located at the lower of two settlements on the Snake Creek, which is about a mile and a half south of where the town of Midway now stands.
Because the Indians located on the Uinta Reservation were causing them a lot of trouble, the two settlements on Snake Creek decided to move together. They moved midway between the settlements and called the town "Midway." There was a lot of limestone rock in this location, which was made by the hot water that overflowed the land. It was selected by the snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas as an ideal place to raise their young. Even with all these natural enemies, the people of Midway considered the Indians their greatest trouble. Coming in from the Uintah Reservation, they would try to beg everything from the settlers. They would drive off the cattle and horses and take them back to the reservation. In some instances, the Indians were followed and the stock was brought back at the peril of the lives of those that followed them.
As the settlers started to spread out over the country, they ran into quite a bit of trouble with the rattlesnakes. Inasmuch as the snakes were plentiful, and Salt Lake City would pay a dollar an ounce for snake oil, David and his friend Bill Wood took to snake hunting. They reportedly captured 200 snakes in one day. There was also quite a bit of money in other natural resources of Midway. The bark from the trees was found to be very useful in the tanning of leather. In later years the rock was burned into lime and used for building houses. This lime was generally considered the best in Utah, and it was shipped as far as Park City to be used for building and fluing.
David Van Wagenen was also quite a cabinet maker, making bedsteads, cupboards, tables and chairs. These were not sold on the installment plan, but were traded for anything the people had to trade. With his tiny lath mill he supplied people with lathing from all over the county. His son David had this to say about his carpenter work:
"The bedsteads were not quite as fancy as they are now, but for durability and strength they had no equal. I think there are some still in use. With the little turning lathe he used, many a bedstead, stand, table, lounge, and chair was turned out. No springs in those days. Instead, straw beds, feather beds, and quilts. We didnt have carpets, either, although there was carding and wool spinning."
At Midway, David Van Wagenen was a merchant, selectman, Justice of the Peace, and the Postmaster for 35 years. He was the doctor for Midway and other parts of the county, for which he never took a penny. He also superintended the building of the tithing office, and he organized the Midway Co-op, a store, and operated it for several years.
When the ward in Midway was first organized in 1877 he was chosen the first Bishop, and he served in that capacity for 17 years. He was released as Bishop in 1895 and moved back to Provo at that time. He died 11 years later, on September 13, 1906. He raised ten children to maturity, one of whom is still living.
Next Page Contents