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.