This history includes excerpts from the Dayton History, and a BYU Master’s Thesis by Lorine S. Goodwin entitled “Concepts in American Local History:  Community in Winder, Idaho, 1981.  Excerpts from this thesis are footnoted with the chapter and page number cited.  

Franklin Meadows/Fair Meadows Years

            As early as 1861, the settlers in Franklin, Idaho [ first permanent settlement] followed the supply of marsh grass to harvest for over-wintering their cattle.  This brought them [north] to the area west of Bear River and east of Dayton.  An early Dayton history calls this area Fair Meadows, then Bridgeport, then The Riverbottom.  The Riverdale Ward history states that this lush green meadow that extended from the Bear River Massacre area south to Franklin, made the valley an ideal pastureland.  Cattle were trailed to Fair Meadows to graze from as far away as Egypt [area east of Preston] and Hyde Park, Utah.

             Most of the settlers who came to the area before 1890 were temporary.  A few cattlemen built herd cabins along the river, but none of them stayed. Residents of temporary outposts at Bridgeport, Battle Creek, and Dunnville arrived and left with the enterprises which employed them.  Settlers occupied Bridgeport, the earliest of these outposts, from 1862 to 1879.  Bridgeport grew up around the Nathan Packer ferry to accommodate freight wagons traveling from Utah to the gold fields in Montana. In 1865 five families lived at the location and nine more joined them the next year. In 1870, following the construction of a toll bridge at the site, the population fell to six families.[1]

             The first permanent settlers, mostly second-generation Mormon families with strong loyalties to ecclesiastical authority and to extended family groups, came from established Cache Valley communities in Utah and Idaho:  Hyde Park, Lewiston, Fairview, Weston, Franklin, and Preston.  They came for a variety of reasons, all more related to individual gain than to the establishment of permanent homes … or to building a Mormon “Zion.” [2]

              George M. Mendenhall came in 1866.   George built his log home by the stage station which was on Deep Creek and had a ferry crossing.  The Mendenhalls belonged then to the Franklin LDS Ward.

               In 1865, the people who were living in Fair Meadows with their families or parts of families were William Davis, Robert Holmes, Thomas Mendenhall, Jr., Joseph Nelson and Nathan Packer.  By 1866, these families were joined by David Carge, George Freestone, James Frew, Christian Lynn, George Mendenhall, Orson Shipley, George Wheeler, James Young and Mrs. Elvira Wheeler and her family.  Of the fifteen families that settled in Bridgeport, only the six below filed on homesteads:

​             George Freestone                      June 20, 1880
             Thomas Mendenhall, Jr          June 30, 1880

             George M. Mendenhall             September 19, 1881. 
             James Frew                                   February 1, 1882 and March 9, 1889
             Orson Shipley                              July 15, 1886
             Nathan T. Packer                         March 29, 1890

​            These early residents lived in dugouts or crude log cabins with dirt floors and sod roofs in much the same fashion as people in outposts throughout the valley. A branch of the Mormon Church held services on a more or less regular schedule, but a formal school did not open.  The settlers clustered their cabins together near the ferry, they worked closely together, and some of them were related, all pointing to a tightly knit and interdependent population. However, workers probably left after short terms of employment at the ferry to find better opportunities elsewhere. [3]

             Mobility in northern Cache Valley was extremely high at this time. Occupation of the area was only beginning, and people were not sure where they wanted to settle or which occupation they wished to pursue.[4]

             Not mentioned in the Dayton History was John Winn.  Early in 1877, after herding cattle along Bear River for ten years, he filed a homestead claim at the Oxford Land Office and built a modest home near a small spring at the mouth of Battle Creek.  He was fifty-three years old and had three families and two wives, Elizabeth and Eliza A., and sixteen children, from three to twenty years of age, living at the same residence at Battle Creek.  John was illiterate, but some of his older sons could read.  Elizabeth, Eliza and the younger children could both read and write.  Some of the children attended school within the year.

             The land they settled was poorly suited to agriculture.  Only small plots of alfalfa and grain could be planted between the swamps, but along the sun-exposed northern banks of the river valley, the settlement was protected from winds which swept over the tablelands above.  With help from a trickle of spring water, plantings of berries, melons, and vegetables supplemented a living derived from cattle.

            John Winn later moved back to Richfield, Utah, leaving some of his married children at Battle Creek.[5]

​Bridgeport Years
            The Bridgeport settlement was located three miles east of Dayton on the west side of Bear River starting where Deep Creek empties into the river.  As permanent families began to build homes and establish farms there, the name of the settlement was designated as Bridgeport.  Bridgeport continued south of Deep Creek to the George Mendenhall home (on Highway 36, where Taylor Cox lives), the James Frew home (also on Highway 36, now Carlene Frew’s), and east to Thomas Mendenhall’s (Eldon Bingham and Craig Campbell).

            Mrs. Elvira Wheeler, a very skillful nurse who looked after the sick and also served as a mid-wife, was a very great help to the people.

             A Latter-Day Saint ward was organized there with George Washburn acting as presiding elder.  The meetings and social gatherings as well as day school sessions were held in the homes of the people.

              Little is known of how long the fifteen families stayed in their meadow-land huts, dugouts and homes.  History shows that the Frews and Mendenhalls were the two families that have endured all trials and good times for many decades in the meadows of Bridgeport.

             George Griffeth came in 1907, followed by Leo and Florence Seamons, Dariel and LouAnn Seamons, and Vaughn and Larene Griffeth).

The Packer Bridge and Ferry
             Nathan Packer, along with the Robert Holmes, Joseph Nelson and William Davis families, moved to Bridgeport soon after the Battle of Bear River and the Indian troubles had quieted down.

             To get across the valley going east or west, one had to cross the Bear River.  Nathan Packer and William Davis located a ferry boat south of the Bear River Massacre site which was used for the purpose of taking people, teams, wagons and freight across the river.  Oneida County granted a license on April 12, 1869 to Packer and Davis to operate a ferry on the Bear River at Bridgeport. [A DUP monument marks the spot today.]

             The ferry conducted a lively business. An estimated three or-four-thousand tons of freight crossed the river annually during the first few years and increased when gold strikes spread from Montana into the Snake River Valley and the Caribou Mountains of Idaho. [6]

              Later Nathan Packer built a bridge close to the ferry.  This was no small undertaking, but Nathan knew what he was doing.  The bridge was built on logs which were driven into the river bed by a huge home-made pile driver.  He built a huge frame, 30 or 40 feet high, and a large log hammer was raised up by a team of horses and then tripped, thus gradually driving the log into the river bed.  This shows the ingenuity of Nathan Packer as a millwright.  The bridge was then built on these pilings.

               In 1869, when Packer finished the bridge to replace his ferry, everyone rejoiced.  The bridge made crossing the Bear River much easier and faster.  It is not impossible to imagine how thankful the people were with the erection of the first bridge.  No doubt “Old Gentleman Bassett” felt a real thrill, as he was the first man with a team to drive over it.   Oneida County records show that on July 6, 1875, a license was issued to the Packer Bridge Company allowing them to charge a toll.

              However, this wonderful bridge had trouble every spring during run-off and high water time and was washed out a time or two.  After one such wash-out, Nathan created a circle of many wires, dug them down into the river bed as far as possible and filled them with rocks to create the pilings and for the support of his bridge.   The bumpy road bed of the first bridge was probably made of home-made boards from sawyer’s work in the mountains.

             May Belle Pike’s history states that “In 1875, every bridge on the river washed out.  The only East-West ferry was then in Smithfield, Utah.  Fording at a low spot in the river was again the only way to Preston.

             After the railroad reached Battle Creek in 1878 and most of the freight moved by rail, Bridgeport became a ghost town.  When the bridge washed out a few years later, all that remained was a few deserted cabins, portions of the bridge abutments, and a road which led to the river and disappeared onto the flats on the other side.[7]

The Stage Stop
              In 1869, a mail and overland stage station opened at Bridgeport, two or more coaches stopped each week, horses were changed on the coach, and meals were served.  With such an active traffic across the ferry, the residents came into contact with a wide variety of personalities and ideas.[8]

             The company of Gilmore and Sallsburg ran a four-horse stagecoach through to Oxford before the railroad came in 1877.   A station for the Overland Stage and the mail route were also located at Bridgeport in the area of Dariel and Lou Ann Seamon’s home by Squaw Springs (the abandoned Hot Springs).   A change of horses for the coaches was made at this station.  Nelson Sill was the first stage driver for Overland in 1866.  On July 1, 1864 Ben Halliday started stage service from Salt Lake City to Montana and on August 8, 1864 he began a tri-weekly stage from Salt Lake City to the Dalles in Oregon.  Both stage lines went through Bridgeport.

              In 1874, the Atkinson brothers, Jim and Fred, got the contract to carry mail once a week from Franklin to Soda Springs, Idaho.    They forded the Bear River by Riverdale or in bad weather, they went south of Winder and used the Packer Toll Bridge to cross. The winter of 1875-76 was known as “the hard winter”.  During this time, it took them a week to make the trip with the snow measuring five feet deep.

The George Mendenhall Family Tragedy
By Ann G. Hansen
              In 1870, the George Mendenhalls moved south to where Five-Mile Creek joins Bear River and built another log cabin, later a two story home, at the foot of a little hill.  They had a family of six and were happy among relatives and friends.  They lived a typical frontier life plowing, reaping, and spinning.  (This home and farm was owned by Cornell and Garnet Stanger in the 1860s, then in 2010 by Taylor and Ila Cox.)

             One spring at the end of March, diphtheria broke out and the Mendenhalls were stricken.

            “George,” called a neighbor from a safe distance outside the house.  George appeared at the door, and the neighbor continued, “How many are down with diphtheria today?”

            George answered in a melancholy tone, “Two of my children are very sick.  We were up all night with Valerie and now Leslie has taken a turn for the worse.”

            “Is there anything we can bring you?” called the neighbor.

            “Yes, the wood is getting low, burning fires night and day, and we will need a gallon of kerosene before night.”

            The neighbor, backing away a step each time she spoke, called, “I’ll bring it.”

            In later afternoon, a sister put a package of food over the fence and was almost out of hearing distance before she dared call the family.

            “Valerie and Leslie are worse,” George called back as he took the bread and dried apples into the house.

            The word spread to Dayton, a little town three miles west, that the Mendenhall children were dying.  This was more than the kind heart of Aunt Sarah Phillips could stand.  Aunt Sarah was a widow with a large family, but she was blessed with a divine touch of healing and never refused to help anyone who needed her. 

             “Lizzie,” she said to her daughter, “the Mendenhall children are dying.  I feel I must go there.   I know the Lord will spare me from this disease and from bringing it home to my children.  Will you take care of things while I am gone?”

            “Yes, Mother,” replied the faithful Lizzie.  “And I’ll pray for you and the Mendenhalls.”

             Aunt Sarah alighted from a wagon in front of the Mendenhall home and was greeted with tears of joy and relief.  She tied on her white waist apron and set to work, swabbing the swollen throats with drops of turpentine and trying to get the two little ones to swallow oil and sugar.  Dark-haired Leslie, just five years old, grew limper and bluer each hour.  What could they do?  After a final choking spell, he lay lifeless in his mother’s arms.  There was no time for tears.  They turned to Valerie and worked tirelessly, but it was no use.  In a few hours, seven-year-old Valerie also passed away.

            Aunt Sarah bathed the little bodies and laid them on some rough boards beside an open window.  Someone brought a sack of snow which they packed in bottles and put around the bodies to keep them cool until burial.

            When neighbor--Cal Boyce--heard of the double tragedy he said, “It hain’t right for a father to have to nail a coffin lid on his own children.  I am going in and help them.”

            The willow trees along the river were budding, and the hills were growing freshly bright with June grass, but there was no spring for the Mendenhalls.  Three-year-old Leroy fell victim to the disease.  Friends again brought wood, kerosene, and food.  They tried to cheer George and Celeste Ann. 

           “Surely God would not ask more of you,” they said.

             But on March 27, Leroy died and was buried beside his brother and sister.  Two weeks later, George’s wagon again rolled slowly up to the graveyard hill.  This time he and Brother Boyce dug a grave for nine-year-old George.  This left the Mendenhalls with only Elvira and a babe-in-arms. 

             Despite this crushing experience, these pioneers had no time for bitterness.  There was work to do.  Sustained by their religious belief that death is not the end, they were able to go on.

             The family was blessed with other children.  Times grew more prosperous.  Hunger and want were driven out, but then in 1902, diphtheria struck again.  There were doctors now, but two more Mendenhall girls succumbed.  Zella and was taken first, and in six more days Elsie followed her.  Diphtheria had taken a toll of six from the Mendenhall family.

             Looking south from their front window, the family could always view the little headstones on the hill. 

             Names of those buried in the Mendenhall Cemetery  (located on the hill south of the canal on Highway 36; the cemetery is surrounded by a chain link fence, no public access).

From west to east:
Row 1: Stillborn son of Effie M. Wager between 1902-1914 (headstone)
               Stillborn son of Effie M. Wager between 1902-1914 (headstone)                                                      

               Known only to god (one is a headstone and one a footstone)
               Wagon train child (Child died as parents were passing through, the                                                  

               Mendenhalls offered to bury the child in their cemetery; (headstone)
Row 2: (head and foot stones)
               Thomas Mendenhall; born 10 Mar 1806, died 2 Sept. 1888
               Lucinda Mecham Mendenhall; born 9 May, 1885, died 11 Feb. 1906)
               Elsie Mecham Mendenhall; born 9 June, 1887, died 12 Dec. 1902
               Zella Mecham Mendenhall; born 21 Sept. 1891, died 6 Dec. 1902
Row 3:  (head and foot stones)
               George Madison Mendenhall; born 1 Jan. 1870; died 10 Apr. 1879

               Valeria Jane and Thomas Leslie Mendenhall
               Valeria Jane Mendenhall born 24 Dec. 1872

               Thomas Leslie Mendenhall born 24 Sept. 1874, both died 27 Mar. 1879
               Moses Leroy Mendenhall born 1876, died 27 Mar. 1879

               Estus Clinton Mendenhall born 8 Jan 1880, died 9 Apr 1882
Row 4:
               Elmer Mecham Mendenhall; born 3 Aug. 1889, died and buried in France, 13 Nov. 1918 Pvt Co B 342nd MG BN
               Father  George Madison Mendenhall; born 29 Sept. 1836, died 1 May 1917
               Mother Celestia Ann Mecham Mendenhall; born 12 Sept. 18, 48; died 11 Mar. 1909

 The Route to Preston from Dayton, Clifton and Oxford
             Drive by horse and buggy to the small hill that goes down to Deep Creek, east of Dayton.  Follow the little mountain in a southeasterly direction, down over the sand hills to Battle Creek and cross Bear River on the old railroad bridge, built to carry the old narrow-gauge train, turn south and travel up the hill to Preston.

The Riverbottom Years  
             As the Bridgeport LDS Branch faded away, the area evolved into what is now called The River Bottom.  The homes north of State Highway 36 became part of the Dayton Ward.  Those south of the road joined Weston Ward.

             Descendants of James Frew still run their ranch on the meadow grass gained by James Frew’s homesteads of 1882 and 1889.  The Frew family gave the ground for the present Highway 36 to the State of Idaho.

            The Bear River Bridge on Highway 36 was built about 1890.  It seems to be the first two-way bridge erected at that time.  The road wound back and forth up the hill toward Preston with many curves.  The old golf course entry on the east side of the river was directly right of this bridge.  The rock gateway posts can be seen still in 2010.

            In about 1952, the old bridge failed because of a Gray Hound bus wreck.  About 400 yards to the left, a new bridge and a much straighter road was built up the hill.  During the construction time, all traffic from the west side of the county was routed down to the Deep Creek Bridge and north to Highway 91, or alternately to the Weston Bridge.

 River Crossings on the Riverbottom
as told by Newell Hart’s Mother
            In about 1900, I rode from Clifton to Preston with our neighbor’s daughter, Ethel Bybee.  She was about 19 and I would have been 14.  It was an open-top buggy drawn by two work horses.  Ethel’s brother, Lester, had failed to water the horses before hitching them to the buggy.  In those days we drove to Preston by a different route than what they do now.  It was summer and the river level was low, so we did not take the railroad bridge.  We forded the river.  The horses were so thirsty they would not cross the stream till they had a drink.  At the crossing the water was very shallow.  Being hitched to the buggy they could not reach the water, so they went up the stream where the water was about two feet deep.  They sank to their knees into quicksand.  

            In late September, 1902, 13-year-old Rehea Lowe and I drove over to Clifton to visit my parents (the A. D. Hendersons) at the ranch south of Clifton.  I had been working in Preston.  I drove Old Nig, hitched to the one-seated black-topped buggy.  It was much farther to go by the railroad bridge, or by the regular fording place.  I saw a cut-off where Battle Creek farmers crossed the river in low water season, so I tried it.  When we got over half way across we ran into very deep water.  That is when we had a buggy full of water and we had to stand up in the seat.  We got our feet wet, too.

            It was about a year later, 1903, that we had such a terrible siege of typhoid fever.  Dr. Cutler was nearly worked to death that summer and fall, there were so many cases of typhoid all over the valley.  It had been a very hot, dry summer.  Dr. Cutler traveled with team and buggy.  He drove beautiful high-spirited horses, traveled very fast for those days, and had to keep a very tight rein on his team.  I think he knew all the river fords by heart and knew how to reach anybody’s place.  He took care of everybody, a most remarkable man.

 The Hot Springs
             The 40 acres surrounding the hot springs on the Riverbottom first belonged to Mack Winn, then Will Winn and Cal Foss.  Clarence Chadwick and A. W. Hart had the piece where the steam is rising at the bend of the river.  As real estate partners, Chadwick and Hart built a resort there in 1904.  Not long afterward they leased it out to a couple of guys, and they turned it into a saloon and dance hall, catering to the canal crews.  The owners were outraged at this development, but they couldn’t do much about it.

            Joseph Winn’s son remembers when he went there with his dad for a 24th of July celebration.  The Hot Springs were on the west side of the river and the celebration on the east in the big open field.  They had a little foot bridge to cross back and forth, a swinging bridge.  Joseph Winn was deputized by Clint Mecham to keep watch that day.  There were drunks everywhere.  Winn took a whole white-top buggy load up to the jail—five guys.

            Winn’s son nearly got trampled to death.  There were two men that got in a big fight.  This fight started over the girls playing baseball.  The one man arranged it.  The Clifton girls came there, all dressed up in their bloomers to play, and then the other team didn’t show up. The Clifton girls demanded an explanation of the guy who arranged it all, and not liking his answer they grabbed onto the fellow and took him out in the river and dunked him.  They were mad.  They had him begging for mercy. 

              Then two men—a Petterborg and another man—got into a fight about it.  It was some fight!  They were both fighting for the same side but didn’t know it.  Winn’s son was peeking through the legs of the men that surrounded the fighters, trying to watch what was going on.  His dad came up and grabbed him by the nape of the neck and said, “Get out of there; they’ll trample you to death!”

            The Hot Springs and the big field was some celebration place.  You could go swim or else go out on the field.  For celebrations they had bowers where they’d sell drinks.  There was a big race track for horse racing.  They used that track for years.  They also had a baseball diamond and lots of teams came to play.

 Squaw Springs-Del Rio Swimming Resort – 1920-1940
By Aileen Hansen Blaisdell
             A man by the name of Bish Norman owned the hot springs when I rode my horse down to work during the summers of 1937-39.  Bish worked in Preston five days each week, so I worked Monday through Friday at hot springs. Bish would take over on Saturday and we were closed Sunday. 

            The pool was really very lovely.  The clean warm water from the hot pools flowed in and out every day.  The pH stayed normal, so no expensive chemicals had to be added.  On weekends the whole pool was drained and refilled.  There were dressing rooms on each side of the pool, and showers to use before entering the water.  The rule to shower first was really enforced, since many workers from around the area would come in to clean up after a hard day’s work.  The pool had a nice roof and was closed in.

            Green grass and tables for eating surrounded the area.  We sold drinks and candy bars.  A swim cost 25 cents for adults, and 15 cents for children to swim as long as they wished.  Special prices were made for families and groups.  Swimmers were in and out of the pool all day.  People would come from Newton to Oxford to enjoy festivities.

            My job included cleaning the only bathroom and hosing down the place every morning.  Once each week I cleaned around the edge of the water in the pool.  I watered the grass, and would go clean the little place where Bish lived, which was connected to the pool.  Many Sundays Bish came to the J. H. Hansen residence for dinner.  We tried in vain to convert him to Mormonism.

            On designated Saturdays, many of the local farmers would meet up the river from the pool to scald animals they had killed for food.  That always brought the sight-seers, and swimmers.

            Bish Norman disappeared, never to be seen in these parts again.  The pool never survived after that.

 Green House – 1940-1950
           Lorin Van Orden and Alma Kemp used this warm water area for a green house.  Dariel Seamons remembers when he and his sister NaDeen, worked there helping to transplant small seedlings.  Lorin lived in a dug-out at first, but later brought in a box car from the railroad.

 Slaughter House - 1950-1960
            Claire Phillips tells of a slaughter-house about a block north of the pool.  Pigs were killed and then scalded in the hot water to remove the bristles.  Many chickens were also dressed out there.  Vaughn Griffeth ran this until it closed down.

 Riverview Sanitarium
by Newell Hart
             That’s what the old Del Rio Hot Springs was called.  Del Rio?  That’s the Field of Fantastic ruins two miles west and a mile north of Preston, where hot sulpur springs flow into Bear River.  It’s a block down the road from Vaughn Griffeth’s farm.  (He uses the hot water to clean his milking equipment).  The ancient leftovers include brown crumbling cement, water-soaked wood, weeds, old farm machinery, a lean-to to a lean-to leaning against a lean-to all made of weathered slabs, an old freight car once used as a live-in cabin, brown – stained earth where steaming water trickles to the river, and where Shoshonis used to worship and warm themselves.

            In the deep end of the old pool is a hot, muddy bog of water; wood and wire and maybe an old wheel or pipe are wallowing snugly in the esthetic mess.  There are cement walls, chutes, diggings, and steam all over the place—both sides of the road.  Something about a hot springs lulls even sensible persons into foolish dreams.

            Carl Frew said, “I remember as a small kid taking in a big 24th of July celebration down there.  This was across the river from the Hot Springs.  Oh, they had a heckuva big time!  The whole field was filled up with people and stands—there was a lot of covered bowers, green boughs put over poles to make it cool—and that’s where they sold eats and ice cream.  There were two bowers where they sold beer.  This was in 1906.”

            The field he referred to was the resort’s race track and the rounding banks are still slightly visible from the west side of the river.  The Sanitarium, or Del Rio, had been operated by the Wood brothers (about 1915), and in later years by R. C. Swenson.  In the off-season people with the Seven Year Itch could slip down there and soak away their curse, for free and in privacy.

 Russian Olive Trees
            The Russian olive trees are spreading like morning glory.  They were planted to provide berries and cover for the pheasants.  It’s the starlings that gobble the berries and spread the seeds.  The old golf course is a regular grove of Russian olives, also other sections above and below. 

The Frew Cemetery
            The Frew Family Cemetery is located on the next little knoll just to the east of the Mendenhall Cemetery.  It has only seven graves and is part of the original Frew Ranch.  Each person buried here has been a member of the family or extended family as were the two infants.  A chain link fence surrounds the graves marking their location as there are no headstones with the exception of Ellen W. Frew’s.  Iris were planted and the graves cleaned on a yearly basis.  Those buried in the cemetery are:

​                                            George Woodward                 died in 1878 (grandmother’s sister’s baby)
                                            Baby Maxie                                died in 1905 (one of the aunt’s children)
                                            Blenda Frew                              died Feb. 18, 1907 (birth Aug. 6, 1901)
                                            James Leo Frew                      died Nov. 4, 1910 (birth Feb. 23, 1881)
                                            James Frew                               died June 12, 1912 (birth May 30, 1847)
                                            Ellen Woodward Frew           died April 17, 1930 (birth June 7, 1858)
                                            Carl Frew                                    died Nov. 1983 (birth May 25, 1893)

[1] Chapter V, p. 83-84                 [2] Chapter V, p. 83                                [3] Chapter V, p. 84                                 [4] Ibid.                                           [5] Information about John Winn comes from Chapter V., pp. 94-95

[6] Chapter V, p. 84                       [7] Chapter V, p. 85                                [8] Ibid.

also known as
Fair Meadows and The Riverbottom