He Was an Outsider in Utah but Not for Long

Lyndia Carter
History Blazer, February 1996

Mathew William Dalton was a busy man in the fall of 1850. A newcomer to Ogden, he hurried to find work and get a house and shop built before winter set in. The settlers had been kind, loaning him tools and a team and wagon. They had even helped him “raise” the house. Young and single, he was excited when the other young people asked permission to have a dance and party in his new cabin to celebrate. On the evening of the dance, lively youths filled his cabin. But Dalton’s anticipation soon turned to disappointment when he was told he could not participate. He was informed at the dance “that the Mormons or Church members did not dance with any person not a member of their faith. Although I furnished the ‘hall’ I could only be a ‘looker on,’ at the happy function of ‘dancing in’ my new house!” But Dalton was a good sport and accepted the fact that people had a right to do what they thought best. In his words, he “acquiesced with their ‘peculiar’ custom.” He enjoyed watching the people dance on his bare dirt floor and marveled at their ability to be happy and full of zest regardless of their humble conditions. He continued: “So on that night, and a bitter cold night it was, I kept up the fires in the house, did the ‘good offices’, and acted as janitor.”

Dalton’s experience was typical of how many of the gold seekers who passed through Utah in 1849 and the early 1850s were treated. Quite a large number of men going to the gold fields had to spend a winter in Utah, because it was too late to continue on to California. Twenty-two-year-old Dalton had left Wisconsin in the spring of 1850. In Racine he had been a carpenter who built homes and furniture, but he had caught the contagious gold fever. Not having an outfit, he traded his labor for food and transportation west. One duty was to do the hunting for the wagon train with which he traveled. When the company reached Fort Hall, they were told by Captain Grant that the Indians were bad on the California Trail that year and that they should detour to Oregon. Dalton, however, decided to travel with a Major Singer to Salt Lake City. As they moved south, the land was completely empty of any settlements. By the time they reached the area that would someday hold Brigham City, Singer’s oxen needed to rest. The impatient Dalton left Singer and set out on his own. About two miles south of where Willard is now located, Dalton ran into a lone gold seeker pushing a wheelbarrow to California. The loner shared his food, and they camped together that night.

The next day, September 5, 1850, Mathew arrived at the little village of Ogden. By then he had decided he would have to spend the winter among the Mormon settlers and began searching for work. David Moore paid him $2 a day plus board to cut and haul wood from the Weber River bottoms because lumber was much in demand for homes. Using his carpentry skills, Dalton made a bedstead for Moore and launched his furniture-making career in Ogden. With winter quickly approaching, his outdoor labor was not needed; he then decided to build a shop and make household furniture which was desperately needed. During the time he was building his shop, Philip Garner allowed him to use his team, wagon, cabins, and axe to get lumber. He lived with the John Garners who treated him as a family member. He was beginning to fit into the community.

But as he soon found out at the dance, there was still the barrier of religion. Though he had not been able to dance at the party, he had had a very good time watching the young ladies and discovered a reason for wanting to stay in Ogden. Rozilla Whitaker, one of those present had especially attracted his notice. She, likewise, was impressed by the young outsider.

The day after the dance, Dalton commenced his work in earnest. He purchased tools and a lathe in Salt Lake City, cut wood in the river bottoms, and gathered rushes for caning chair bottoms. He did very well in the furniture business and even had to hire people, including Rozilla’s father and brother, to keep up with the demand for furniture. He took a load of furniture to Salt Lake City, selling some to Brigham Young and other prominent people. Dalton was becoming prosperous.

As Dalton lived in the Ogden community, he grew more impressed with the people and their religion. He was fitting in. By early December 1850 he had accepted their religious faith; he was no longer an outsider. His attraction to Rozilla had developed into a friendship and then blossomed into marriage by mid-December. It was now time for another party in Dalton’s log house-shop. A merry crowd of over 100 guests gathered for a wedding dinner, including all the best things available to eat, even imported apple cider that had crossed the plains. In the evening it was time for the second dance in the Dalton cabin. To be sure, Mathew was not a “looker on” this time around but a full and lively participant. He was now “one of the people,” according to his biographer Fred J. Holton.

Some gold seekers who “wintered-over” found a place in the early communities of Utah, as did Dalton. But many more left Utah and continued to California as soon as the weather permitted in the spring. Among those who stayed, many aided the early development of Utah by the contributions they made economically and socially. Dalton went on to become a prominent citizen of Ogden and later Willard. He and some of the other gold rushers found all the gold they really wanted right here in Utah.

Sources: Mathew W. Dalton, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah, MS 5289 folder 1; Fred J. Holton, Mathew William Dalton (Brigham City, 1917, edited and retyped in 1982 by Cleone Dalley and Barbara Hubbard in Logan, copy in Brigham Young University Special Collections, Provo; Bertha Dalton Smith, Mathew William Dalton, 1829–1918: A Biography (n.p., n.d.), edited and retyped by Clavel B. Raty, r. p., 1983).