Filed Under Settlers

The American Fork Wall

The American Fork Wall was a wood and earthen structure meant to encompass the entirety of the American Fork settlement (then known as Lake City) for protection.

When the Mormon pioneers migrated to the Great Basin to construct new settlements in July 1847, they initially settled in the Salt Lake Valley. As the population grew, the need for new settlements beyond the valley arose. This led to the establishment of Lake City, now known as American Fork. Settlers faced a reality of few supplies, harsh weather, and uncertainty amid an exposed position in Ute territory. 

General Daniel H. Wells and the Deseret Militia took the offensive about the Timpanogos Utes on March 5, 1849, killing several dozen Utes in the Battle Creek Massacre near present-day Pleasant Grove. Afterward, Wells ordered the American Fork villagers to construct a twelve-foot-tall wall surrounding the town for protection. He and other leaders feared reprisal for their hasty and violent actions against their native neighbors. Leaders like Wells were far more concerned with the need for a wall than were American Fork settlers, evidenced by the reality that they never truly finished building the wall according to its planned specifications.

To divide the labor, each family was required to build the portion of the wall connected to their plot of land. This resulted in the construction taking a longer than planned, and each section differed in dimension and construction. The city code references a tax levied on any citizen that did not nor could not complete their portion of the wall, but no record has been found documenting this bylaw’s implementation.

Eventually, in 1855, a significant enough portion of the wall was completed that it could be described as encompassing the town; however, it never reached the height of twelve feet as originally ordered. At that time 85 Latter-day Saint families lived within the fort walls. The Utes exercised tremendous restraint towards their new neighbors and never attacked the settlement before, during, nor after the wall’s construction. Whether the wall served as a reasonable deterrent to such threats or was an unnecessary product of exaggerated concerns cannot be confirmed. Today all physical remnants of the wall have been lost to time with the exception of a number of stones found in William S. Robinson park in downtown American Fork. A small plaque affixed to the base of a statue in the same park offers information about the wall.

Images

Plaque indicating the Fort Wall This Plaque is located on the western edge of William S. Robinson park and marks the location of a small pile of rocks that were once used in the construction of the Fort Wall. Currently, these are the only known physical remnants of the original wall. Source: Contributed by Collin Carroll, September 27, 2020, in William S. Robinson Park. Creator: Collin Carroll
Historical reference to the Fort Wall This Plaque is located on the eastern edge of William S. Robinson park and gives a brief history of the Fort Wall at American Fork. It was erected by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1961. Source: Contributed by Collin Carroll, September 27, 2020, in William S. Robinson Park. Creator: Collin Carroll
Adamson Cabin While not in its original location, the Adamson Cabin represents the types of homes that were common during the construction of the Fort Wall. Source: Contributed by Collin Carroll, September 27, 2020, in William S. Robinson Park. Creator: Collin Carroll
Map of the Old Fort of American Fork This map was drawn by Joseph B. Forbes, an original settler of American Fork. The dark line represents the Fort Wall that encompassed the town. The small buildings located around the perimeter mark the dwellings of certain families. Source:

Shelley, George F. Early History of American Fork: With Some History of a Later Day. American Fork, UT: American Fork City, 1993, 25.

Creator: Joseph B. Forbes

Location

A monument to and a few remnants of the American Fork wall can be found here in William S. Robinson Park.

Metadata

Collin Carroll, Brigham Young University, “The American Fork Wall,” Intermountain Histories, accessed September 28, 2023, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/467.