Washakie, Utah

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Washakie, Utah
Ghost town
LDS chapel located at Washakie
LDS chapel located at Washakie
Washakie is located in Utah
Washakie is located in the US
Coordinates: 41°56′38″N 112°13′1″W / 41.94389°N 112.21694°W / 41.94389; -112.21694Coordinates: 41°56′38″N 112°13′1″W / 41.94389°N 112.21694°W / 41.94389; -112.21694
Country United States
State Utah
County Box Elder
Established 1880
Abandoned 1970s
Named for Washakie
Elevation[1] 4,380 ft (1,340 m)
Time zone Mountain (MST) (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6)
84331 ZIP Code
Area code(s) 435
GNIS feature ID 1447016[1]

Washakie is a ghost town in far northern Box Elder County, Utah, United States.[1] Lying some 3 miles (4.8 km) southeast of Portage, it was established in 1880 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) for the settlement of the Northwestern Shoshone. The Washakie Indian Farm was home to the main body of this Native American band through most of the 20th century. By the mid-1970s, Washakie's residents were gone and the property sold to a private ranching operation. Today the tribal reservation consists of a small tract containing the Washakie cemetery, and the tribe is seeking to acquire more of the surrounding land. The old LDS chapel in Washakie is now on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Washakie site is located in the southern part of the narrow Malad Valley, near the Idaho border. It is about 35 miles (56 km) north of Brigham City.[2] To the east lie the Malad River, Interstate 15, and the Clarkston Mountains section of Caribou National Forest. To the west are the desolate West Hills. Just to the north sits the small town of Portage, and to the south is the Nucor steel bar mill, west of Plymouth.


The Bear River Massacre of 1863 left only some 1250 Northwestern Shoshone alive.[3] After the 1867 establishment of Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho, most moved to the reservation. Two small bands led by the chiefs Sanpitch and Sagwitch stayed in northern Utah. After a few years of attempting to continue their traditional nomadic lifeways, Sagwitch's people converted to Mormonism in 1873 and expressed a desire to learn sedentary agriculture. In 1874, George Washington Hill, the missionary who had baptized the Northwestern Shoshone, started a farm for them near Franklin, Idaho. At the end of the year, LDS Church leaders decided to close this farm and find a better location the next year.[4]:84–102

Over the next five years, two more Indian farms were established in Utah on the Bear River, first on the outskirts of Bear River City, then at a place called Lemuel's Garden, in the area of present-day Collinston.[5] Both farms made progress, but water was often insufficient for irrigation, and the missionaries assigned to help Hill train the new farmers were frequently absent. Harvests could not support the farm residents, let alone the frequent visitors from Fort Hall. Each winter the missionaries would return to their families, and most of the Shoshone would return to the Promontory Mountains and their other traditional winter grounds in search of food.

In 1880, leaders of the LDS Church purchased a 1,700-acre (690 ha) farm south of Portage[6] from the Brigham City Cooperative, along with the unfinished Samaria Canal. The canal was to supply irrigation water from Samaria Lake in Idaho, since the Malad River was too alkaline for watering crops.[4]:105 The church began encouraging the Shoshone to move to the new location, which was named after Chief Washakie.[7]

From 1903 to 1929 Washakie fielded a baseball team which competed with white teams in northern Utah and southern Idaho, and received considerable local attention from both white and Indian press outlets.[8]


  1. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Washakie, Utah
  2. ^ Arrington, Leonard J.; Bitton, Davis (1992). The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-252-06236-0. 
  3. ^ Brinkerhoff, Kerry; Roper, Roger (Jan 1998). "National Register of Historic Places Nomination: Washakie LDS Ward Chapel" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 27 Jan 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Christensen, Scott R. (Dec 1999). Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822–1887. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press. ISBN 978-0-87421-270-9. 
  5. ^ Madsen, Brigham D. (1980). The Northern Shoshoni. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press. pp. 95–106. ISBN 978-0-87004-266-9. 
  6. ^ Huchel, Frederick M. (Jan 1999). A History of Box Elder County. Utah Centennial County History Series. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society. p. 82. ISBN 0-913738-16-6. Retrieved 16 Jul 2012. 
  7. ^ Van Cott, John W. (1990). Utah Place Names. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. pp. 390–391. ISBN 0-87480-345-4. 
  8. ^ Kreitzer, Matthew E (Mar 2006). "Diamonds, Ovals, and Rings: Northwestern Shoshone Sports at the Washakie Colony of Northern Utah, 1903-1929". International Journal of the History of Sport. 23 (2): 232–246. doi:10.1080/09523360500478265. ISSN 0952-3367.  abstract link

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