Draper is rich in pioneer heritage and colorful character. In the fall of 1849, Ebenezer Brown, the son of Scottish immigrants, brought his cattle to graze the tall grass fed by mountain streams in the unsettled area known as South Willow Creek. The following spring, Ebenezer brought his wife Phoebe and their large family. Together they raised and fattened cattle to sell to immigrants heading to the gold fields of California.
Ebenezer was known as a prosperous, kind and generous man who often gave of his energy and substance for the benefit of the needy. Phoebe, the town’s first lady, greeted each new family and helped them adjust to their new home.
That same year the Browns invited Phoebe’s brother, William Draper III, his wife Elizabeth, a midwife/doctor, and their seven children to join in farming the area. Aunt Betsy, as Elizabeth was known, is remembered not only for her good deeds but also for the locomotive-like visage she presented as she walked through town, pioneer poke bonnet (the cow catcher) on her head and clay pipe (the smokestack) in her mouth.
The area grew rapidly and by the end of 1852, 20 families called South Willow Creek home. In 1854, the first post office was established with Phoebe Brown tending the office. The town was named Draperville in honor of William Draper III, who was also the first presiding elder of the small Mormon congregation in town.
Trouble with the natives broke out in 1854, and Ebenezer donated land at approximately 12650 South 900 East as a fort site. There the settlers lived, mostly at night, during the winters of 1855 and 1856. Thick walls were begun but never completed as the feared hostilities did not become a reality. The beautiful Draper Historical Park now graces the site of the old fort, and features statues of early pioneers.
Porter Rockwell, pioneer personality and bodyguard to Mormon prophet Brigham Young, was a frequent visitor to Draperville. A friend of Draper pioneer and Indian scout Joshua Terry, Rockwell occasionally found it necessary to seek protection from his enemies in the fields behind the home of blacksmith Lauritz Smith.
A child of Lauritz recounted the experience of taking a pot of stew to the pasture, leaving it, and then returning for the empty pot on a regular basis, not knowing why or who it was for. Brigham Young had dined at the home of Lauritz and, after complementing “Sister” Smith on her fine cooking, commissioned her to provide food for Rockwell whenever he was in the area.
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