History of Antelope Island

Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, covering 28,022 acres. It is home to bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, upland game birds, and waterfowl.

In 1841, Osborne Russell, a trapper, made an entry in his journal referring to the presence of antelope and buffalo on the island. John C. Fremont and Kit Carson visited Antelope Island in 1845. They killed several antelope on the island thus giving Antelope Island its name.

Freemont recorded: “There is at this southern end of the lake a large peninsular island which the Indians informed me could at this low stage of the water be reached on horseback. Accordingly … I took with me (Kit) Carson and a few men and rode across the shallows. On the island we found grass and water and several bands of antelope. Some of these were killed, and in memory of the grateful supply of food they furnished, I gave their name to the island.”

The first white man to live on the island was an old mountaineer called “Daddy Stump.”

Fielding Garr established permanent residency on the island in 1848. He not only tended his own herds, but those of other stockmen as well. In 1849 Brigham Young asked Garr to manage the Mormon Church’s Tithing Herd, which was kept on the island until 1871. During this time the Church also invested thousands of dollars in valuable stallions and brood mares which were turned loose on the island. At times there were nearly 1,000 wild horses roaming the island.

Fielding Garr began construction of a ranch house in 1848. Garr was a skilled mason and fashioned the sun-dried adobe bricks used to build the home out of materials found on the island. The ranch house is distinctive for two reasons; it is the oldest continually inhabited anglo-built home in the state of Utah (from 1848 to 1981 when the island became a state park); and second, it is the oldest anglo-built house in Utah still on its original foundation. (The Fielding Garr Ranch is opened to the public on select weekends from March until October. Check with the Park for dates.)

In 1856 Brigham Young visited the island. “The time was pleasantly spent in driving over the Island and in visiting places of interest-bathing, boating and inspecting their horses and sheep. Old Daddy Stump’s mountain home was visited. They drove their carriage as near to it as possible and walked the remainder of the way. Everything was found just as the old man had left it. It was located at the head of a small, open canyon against a steep mountain. The house was made of cedar posts set upright and covered with a dirt roof. Close to it was a good spring of water…. The party returned to the church ranch that evening and drove home the next day. Fielding Garr died in 1855, and a year or two later Briant Stringham took charge of the stock.”

During the 1870′s several private homesteads were established, with George and Alice Frary staying the longest. Communication with the mainland was accomplished by means of sagebrush fires lighted on the west face of Ensign Peak. Two such fires meant that George was to “bring over a load of cattle.” On a frightful night in 1897 George’s wife Alice developed appendicitis. Leaving her and their six small children, he went to the mainland in search of a doctor. It was nearly 24 hours before he could find a willing doctor and negotiate the return trip. But he was too late; his wife was dead Alice requested to be buried on her island home, and a marker stands to commemorate her grave site.

In 1875, the Church was anxious to get the wild horses off the island and contracted with a company to remove them.

In the 1890′s, John E Dooley owned land on Antelope Island. He bought buffalo from William Glasmann, rancher and Ogden newspaper publisher, and on February 15, 1893, twelve head of bison were transported to Antelope Island. John Dooly and George Frary loaded the bison into a small sailboat and nearly capsized as they sailed to the island.

An old-timer recalled: “they used to raid the home ranch for eats. They wasn’t content to eat range grass, he says. Instead, they’d walk into a nice potato plantation about ready for harvest and kick up the tubers with their hooves. Couple o’hundred bushel a night would be wiped out when they was going good. To stop this, [the ranch forman] loaded up a shotgun with good, heavy buckshot and lets ‘em have a few doses. That was about the only way to sting them enough to make them travel.”

By 1900, the small herd had multiplied to over 100 head. An attempt was made to domesticate the animals by mixing the calves with Hereford calves, and some of the buffalo calves were raised on the bottle as were some of the range cattle.

In the 1930′s, Antelope Island was the largest private sheep sheering operation west of the Mississippi. Recognizing the recreation potential of the island, the north 2,000 acres were acquired by the state in 1969. In 1981 the state purchased most of the rest of the island thus preserving it as a state park for all the people to enjoy.





Kate Carter, Our Pioneer Heritage
Annie C. Carr, East of Antelope Island