Joe's Dugout

Joe's Dugout was the third Pony Express station heading west along the trail out of Salt Lake City. It was located approximately eight miles west of the City of Lehi.

There are differing stories as to how this location was established. One is that a certain Mr. Joseph Dorton opened a butcher shop in the old Co-op store in Lehi in April, 1858. When the Pony Express was heard to be coming through the area Mr. Dorton sought permission to build stables to house some ponies used along the route near the location of the station. Despite warnings from friends and family of the danger from hostile Indians he went ahead with his plans. He built a two-room brick house for the family and a log barn for the ponies. He also made a dugout for an Indian boy who he hired to feed, water and curry the ponies.

In connection with this business Joseph operated a small grocery store and his wife, Martha, made cakes, pies and bread to sell to the soldiers stationed at Camp Floyd 8 miles to the West. Sometimes there was an exchange of buffalo robes for these delicacies.

Water was hauled from nearby Utah Lake and sold for 25 cents a bucket.

After there was no further need for the ponies and Camp Floyd was abandoned, Joseph moved his family back to Lehi.

Other information describes Joe's Dugout as a lonely place where two Mormon men were called on a mission to station themselves there to keep watch and pass information to Salt Lake City concerning the goings on of Johnston's army which was stationed at Camp Floyd. This was purportedly at the request of Porter Rockwell who was stationed at Camp Floyd as a Deputy United States Marshall.

The two young men began digging a well which is reported to have been six feet across and very deep. This location then was used as a stop for the Pony Express.

Information provided by Jack Rhodes, April 2000.

Sir Richard Burton passed this way in October 1860 while he was visiting Salt Lake City. He reported in part:

"About half way between the Brewery and the Camp is a station held by a Shropshire Mormon, whose only name as far as I could discover was Joe Dug-out, so called from the style of his habitation. He had married a young woman, who deterred him from giving her a sister -- every Oriental language has a word to express what in English is rudely translated 'a rival wife' -- by threatening to have his eats cut off by the 'horfficers.' Joe, however, seemed quite resigned to the pains and penalties of monogomy, and what more to our purpose, had a good brew of porter and Lager-bier."

Joseph A. Dorton

jdorton Born: June 5, 1821, Stockport, Cheshire, England
Died: November 5, 1898

Soon after Johnston’s Army located west of Fairfield in 1858, establishing Camp Floyd, Joseph Dorton, who was then living in the fort of Lehi, conceived the idea of building a stage coach station near a famous hole in the ground known as Dorton’s Well as it was on the main traveled road going through to California.

Dorton was the son of John Dorton and Catherine Carl Dorton. He came to Utah in 1855 and was the first butcher in Lehi. He made to trips back to pilot two more immigration grant trains to Utah. He married Martha Layton in 1858, and was the father of twelve children.

Making known his plans to Bishop David Evans, Dorton was warned of the danger of being killed by Indians or outlaws in such an isolated place. Dorton, however, was of an adventurous disposition and chafed under the restraint of living cooped up in a fort.

Going to Salt Lake City he secured the contract to build a mail and stage coach station on the road to Camp Floyd, near the divide between Utah Valley and Cedar Valley. In 1858, on this spot of ground he commenced the erection of a number of buildings. He built a rock house for himself and family, a large barn in which to stable the stage coach horses and a dugout for the use of travelers. This latter room, which was about 20 feet wide by 30 feet long, was partly in the ground and partly out, hence called a “dugout” which in time, became the name of the station. This name also applied to the owner who being a butcher by trade was referred to as “Joe Butcher” and “Joe Dugout” quite as often as by his proper name.

Dorton, with his family, lived here about four years, moving back to Lehi after the soldiers abandoned Camp Floyd in 1862. He had many stirring experiences with drunken soldiers, outlaws, and Indians. As a rule he was on very friendly terms with the Indians who often came to him for advice and help.

One of the serious handicaps of this location was the problem of procuring water for man and beast. During his entire stay at this place the water used for all purposes was hauled from the Jordan river in common wooden barrels and ox team. Dorton decided to attempt to secure water by digging a well. He hired Isaac Chilton and James T. Powell who dug a hole to a depth of 354 feet, but found no water. This hole is all that is left to mark the site of Dugout Station.

Information provided by Drue Dorton, July 2003, from material compiled by Joseph E. Dorton of Lehi.

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