Cities of Bancroft & Chesterfield

 

 

BANCROFT & CHESTERFIELD

Main street in Bancroft - Click to enlargeAs you come into Gem Valley on the Fish Creek Summit, which is located between Lava Hot Springs and Soda Springs on Highway 30, you will see the most beautiful view of Gem Valley,  At the east base of the Fish Creek Summit,  by the flashing yellow light, you can turn and go north five miles and reach the town of Bancroft.  It is a very pleasant community with very friendly residents.  The town was originally called Squaw Creek and was an outgrowth of a water station built by the railroad on Squaw Creek in 1882.  The name of the town was changed to Bancroft in 1892, after W.H. Bancroft, the first vice-president and general manager of the Oregon Short Line Railroad.  A map was recorded and the town was officially named Bancroft on July 23, 1898.

This proud community has several remarkable traditions.  The most prominent one is its annual celebration on July 24th of each year.  This is in commemoration of the Utah Pioneers reaching the Salt Lake Valley on this date.  This date also falls each year the day after the official establishment of Bancroft.  This celebration has many activities including a melodrama, dutch-oven dinners, chuck wagon breakfasts, kids games, a craft fair, a program that recalls the early settlers and their habits and concerns, dances for the youth, a parade and the historic amateur rodeo (one of the longest running in the state).  The festivities are enjoyed by the entire valley including residents of the other cities that are located in the county.  It is also a time when everyone that was raised here likes to return and renew acquaintances and reminisce. 

Many from other areas have become a part of the tradition and travel annually to enjoy the hospitality and fun.  Other traditions of the area include an annual children's Easter egg hunt the Saturday before Easter and the Christmas lighting of the town square the last Monday of November.  Included with this are team drawn hay rides and a free chili supper at dark.

Many people who visit the community stay awhile and even plant some roots of their own.  Often, the reason they stay is the friendly school environment.  The school is the key hub of the community and the people rally around and enjoy supporting the many academic and cultural activities promoted by the school.  The school is very proud of its academic and extra curricular (including several state championships) achievements.  There are also several youth summer recreational leagues to enjoy.  The area has an agricultural base and many successful farmers teach the offspring of the community the value of honest hard work.  Chem-Lime has located in the community with a lime kiln and has indicated their industrial site will continue to expand.

This area is also known state wide for its fantastic hunting and fishing.  There are many who travel, even from out of state, to hunt and fish here.  The deer and elk can be seen nearby on the foothills that surround the town.  Grouse, pheasant, ducks and geese are also plentiful.  Fishing is popular, with the Chesterfield Reservoir being the best known spot.  Varieties in the Chesterfield include cutthroat trout, brown trout, chinook and coho salmon.  Ice fishing, a very popular winter recreational activity, is also permitted.  Information about fishing on the Chesterfield is located on the Internet at various sites.  Other outstanding fishing areas include Toponce Creek, the Portneuf River, Bear River and 24 Mile Reservoir.

Old Chesterfield Townsite - Click to enlargeChesterfield is a historical site of wide spread fame that is a must see attraction.Once a busy and vibrant community, it is located on the Oregon Trail between Soda Springs and the Old Fort Hall about 11 miles north of Bancroft.  It was originally settled as a community trade center for the early pioneers as they traveled along this trail.  It was a busy spot and many stopped there for supplies as they trekked onto Fort Hall.  Original wagon ruts are still visible a few miles east of the townsite.

Great effort has been put forth to preserve this nineteenth-century village.  It makes a significant contribution to the western culture of this area both for the current and future generations.   Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the village has been a ghost town for a number of years.  Its history encompasses many facets of the old west including the fur trade era, military exploration, the Oregon Trail and the Mormon expansion, all as they were 100 years ago.

A foundation has been organized to preserve and restore the village.  There are 27 buildings and ruins on the townsite, seven of which are currently undergoing restoration and are available for tours.  On Memorial Day each year, there is a celebration that includes food, an auction, a bazaar, a special program and an evening country dance, with live local western music.  The site is open to the public during the summer and visitors arrive from every area of the nation and world to feel the pioneer history.

The North Gem School District at Bancroft has received several Americorps grants to use its students to assist in the restoration of the valuable and exciting landmarks.  The school district and the Chesterfield Foundation unitedly are busy restoring the three room school built about 1920.  This building is currently used as a community center and will become a museum and educational center.  

Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum - Click to enlargeAlso under restoration is the store that hosted a lively trade with farmers, stockmen, Indians from Fort Hall and the sportsmen.  The pioneer meeting house now serves as the museum and relic hall.  It is maintained by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and was built between 1887 and 1892.  There are many other projects of restoration going on continually at the townsite.  Plans are in place for horse drawn wagon tours at the site, beginning  the summer of 1997. 

Yes, for pure pleasure, entertainment, relaxation, sports, history and culture, the north end of Gem Valley offers a very unique and fantastic variety.  A stop in this area is a must for everyone that wants to get fully acquainted with this beautiful valley. 

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