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THIS WEEK IN CHURCH HISTORY: Settlement Evolves Into Payson Ward
Oct. 20, 1850 - Under watchful Indian eyes, three covered wagons jogged into Nebeker Grove on Peteetnet Creek and made their final stop. The log fort known as Payson had been established three years when the brethren of the settlement mustered on the duty square inside the enclosure one hot July evening. Arrapeen and his braves were in the area. They had helped themselves to a cow or two and had been belligerent in all of their contacts with the settlers. The men had been standing constant guard to prevent a surprise attack. One of the brethren had traded 40 acres of land for an old musket, such was the concern over the situation. The military leader, Capt. Charles B. Hancock, was giving out the assignments for the night's guard duty. "Merlin Plumb will take the first watch and Alexander Keele the second on the south side," he ordered. "Merlin, how about changing with me ?" Alexander asked. Plumb agreed, little realizing that his life depended on the switch. Keele went to the south side of the fort and began his watch. Plumb trudged home to get some sleep. At about that time, an Indian knocked on the door of the James McClellan cabin, one of several built outside the fort which had become far too small to accommodate all the settlers coming into the area. Sarah, one of the children, let the visitor in. Mrs. McClellan nervously fixed a meal for the stranger. He was friendly and seemed appreciative. He cleaned up the food and left, much to the relief of the McClellans. A few minutes later, they heard a shot nearby. A shadowy figure wrapped in a blanket ran from the direction of the fort out into the fields to the south. Armed men ran to the point from which the shot had come. They found Alexander Keel lying on the ground. Dead. Everyone crowded into the fort to spend the night. Messengers sped north to warn Spanish Fork. Next day, reinforcements came down to help the Payson settlers. For several months, the Payson people lived uneasily while they enlarged the fort and started surrounding it with a mud wall. Lurking Indians continued to worry the whites until the chief, old Peteetneet, was forced to come to terms. He not only made peace, but lived for a considerable period in a cabin built for him inside the fort. The settlement originally had been called Peteetneet after the chief. Brigham Young himself had advised James Pace, and others to move there in 1850. George A. Smith came through in December following the establishment. At a meeting in Pace's cabin a branch of the Church was organized with James Pace as president. The unit was named Pacen Branch in honor of Pres. Pace. Later the spelling was changed to Payson. By March of 1851, the branch had grown sufficiently to be made a ward. President Young officiated at the meeting at which Benjamin Cross was sustained as the first bishop. By October 1851, there were over 400 in the ward. Payson Ward survived the Walker Indian War of 1853-54. It graduated from a log meetinghouse to an adobe structure. A fine new meetinghouse was dedicated in 1872 by Elder Wilford Woodruff. This building, known as the Payson Tabernacle, served the community well until it was destroyed by fire in 1904. In its place the handsome brick Nebo Stake Tabernacle was erected on the ground where the old fort stood. The one small branch now has grown into nine vigorous wards in an area long known for its fertile farms. - Arnold Irvine WEEK ENDING OCTOBER 23, 1965