PIONEERS OF 1847
THOMAS P. CLOWARD
BENJAMIN F. STEWART
Lyman Curtis, 13th Ten
LYMAN CURTIS (13th Ten)
was born in New Salem, Massachusetts, on January 21, 1812,
the oldest son of Nahum and Millicent Waite Curtis. He was baptized
into the Mormon Church on March 13, 1833, at Milford, Michigan, and the
following year married Charlotte Alvord.
At Salt Creek, Missouri, he became a member of Zions Camp. Anti-Mormon
mobs drove them to Illinois and then to Winter Quarters, Iowa, where he
was chosen to be a hunter and scout in the first company of pioneers to
explore and settle the west.
He owned a good gun and was considered a fine hunter, supplying wild
game for table use enroute to the west.
Traveling in a wagon with Levi Jackman, he and his companions rode
ahead of the main company and entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake
on July 22, 1847. That evening Curtis built a huge sagebrush fire that
could be seen by others still camped in the canyon. The next day he went
back and helped others over the rough road to the site of their future
home. This first company explored the valley and selected the site
between the two forks of the City Creek as the best place to build a
In August of the same year Curtis and others started back to Winter
Quarters for provisions and to bring out their families. They walked and
carried their guns. A single horse carried their bedding and supplies
that included only six pounds of flour per man.
One night when they were sleeping on the plains they awoke to find
their horse was stolen. A light snow had fallen and they followed the
tracks to an Indian camp. After consultation with the chief, the horse
In 1850 Curtis returned to Utah, bringing his family with him. His
ninth child was born enroute. After a year in Salt Lake City, Brigham
Young sent him to the Santa Clara Mission. There he supervised
construction of a canal from the Little Muddy River (now Moapa in
southern Nevada), and also helped build a canal out of the Santa Clara
River to the vicinity below St. George.
After five years, the family went back to Utah County and settled at
Pond Town, three miles east of Payson. Curtis studied the Spanish Fork
River and stated that a canal could be taken from it. He calculated that
with water, 2000 acres of land between Spanish Fork and Payson could be
irrigated. The people near the river were especially opposed to such a
project, and at first he could get no one interested in working on the
project. His brothers helped him through several months, then others,
seeing the feasibility of the plan, came to his aid. They worked until
it was completed.
A prophecy given by Joseph Smith, "You shall bring out water unto dry
land", had been fulfilled. His son, Dr. A. L. Curtis of Payson, was to
add to this work.
Before he died (August 3, 1887) at Salem the people honored him by
changing the name of Pond Town to Salem, after the place of his birth,
From Lyman Curtis, One of the Nine Horsemen, written by his son,
Dr. A. L. Curtis, in an attempt to
prove that Lyman Curtis entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on
July 22, 1847, ahead of the main party of pioneers.
Also from Life is a Fulfilling by Olive Kimball B. Mitchell,
and an article by Rhea C. Hone published (1947) in the Payson Chronicle
quoting Nellie C. Kapple and Elizabeth C. Gale.
by Sandra S. Bray