Mantua, Utah

When I was little, we lived in Mantua, Utah. We moved down from Logan when Mom married my step-father Carroll Place in 1961, and lived there until we moved to Las Vegas in January 1965. I don’t think my parents sold the house there until 1969 or 1970; sometime after we moved to Grand Junction, anyway. 

We were talking about Mantua a few weeks ago. Mom mentioned that we lived there during its centennial. I have a lot of memories of Mantua, but I don’t think I remember that. She said there was a parade of sorts, with wooden oxen fixed to the front of cars to represent the pioneer wagons. Actually, I do remember that but I didn’t connect it with the town’s centennial.

Mom also told a story I’ve heard so many times. The centennial commission recommended that everyone paint their houses white, to make it look like a quaint and quiet New England village. But, Mom and Daddy put turquoise siding on the house, and there was a lot of fuss about it. The only church in town was the Mormon church. We had been going there. They threatened to excommunicate Daddy because of his defiance, then they found out we weren’t Mormon.

I always thought the commission that recommended white houses was the Utah centennial commission, which would have been 1947. (Honestly though, I’ve been saying sesquicentennial for years. but we weren’t in Mantua for the sesquicentennial of anything, so it makes no sense.) And because I thought it was recommendation made some 14 or 15 years before we even moved there, the whole thing seemed like a rather pointless dispute.

When we were re-hashing the story this time, Mom corrected me. It was the Mantua centennial, not the Utah centennial (1947), and not the Utah sesquicentennial (1997).

So, I had to look it up. Mantua was founded in 1863. (I didn’t know that.) Its centennial would have been 1963, which is smack in the middle of when we lived there, and would also be about right for the parade I remember. The whole story comes rushing together for me.

It was just now, tonight, that I realized this dispute about the color of the house probably led to my parents joining the Lutheran church in Brigham City. I remember Mom coming in to talk to me in bed one night. On Tuesdays, the bus left us all off at church so all the kids could go to Primary. Now, Evonne and I were supposed to just come home. The Mormons had the only church in Mantua. We started going to Holy Cross Lutheran Church on the eastern edge of Brigham City. In other words, the closest non-Mormon church. I was baptized there in June 1964, with Mom and my sisters. Daddy was Episcopalian, but the rest of us weren’t anything yet. Mom would have been taking inquirer classes for several months, so the timing is exactly right,

If that’s what happened, it’s ironic. We were probably all on our way to becoming Mormon and integrating into the community until someone decided to get pissy about house color.

History of Mantua

Mantua was settled in 1863 by 12 Danish families. Even before I started looking, I knew they would be the families who were our neighbors — the Jepsens and Jensens on either side of us, the Johnsons at the north end of town, and others.

In the old days, Mantua was called Little Valley, Flax Ville, Geneva, Hunsaker Valley, Little Copenhagen, and Box Elder Valley. The town is 5 miles north of Brigham City, on the west side of U.S. 89 coming down from Logan. Main Street in Mantua runs north – south. Mantua Reservoir is on one side of the street, houses on the other.

Our House

If you turn off U.S. 89 on to 500 North toward Mantua, the Mormon church is on the right side of the intersection with Main Street, then the Jepsens lived on the left side of the intersection, across from the church. We lived next to (north of) the Jepsens. When we lived there the address was something like Box 424. On Google maps it looks like it would now be about 525 N. Main.

Daddy had just bought the house, and was building a garage when he married Mom. It was originally a little 4-room house, with the back bedroom divided to create a bathroom sometime back when they still had claw foot tubs. It had a columned porch across the front that was the main entrance. Then, there was an addition along the back side of the house. Even though it was an enclosed and heated room, we called it the “back porch” (It’s a Utah thing). And there was a little addition to the back porch that we called the “little back porch.” The little back porch was the back entrance and mud room. From there, you went into the back porch, which was the laundry room, as well as my bedroom, From there you went into the kitchen. My parents remodeled the kitchen, finishing the new kitchen cabinets the same day we left for Las Vegas.

The house sat on 3 acres. As I remember it, Highway 89 was our back property line. That would have been true for all the houses along Main Street. Besides the new garage, we had a barn and attached tool shed, two cows, and a zillion cats. People from Brigham City were always dropping off unwanted pets up on Highway 89 and Mom was always adopting them while she looked for new homes.

I started school right after we moved to Mantua. We were bused to Mountain View Elementary in Brigham City. There had been a school in Mantua itself. We sometimes went down to play in the playground there, but it had closed, I think, just the year before I started, so say 1960.

Two summers when we lived there, Daddy joined the volunteer fire crews fighting fires on the hills around Mantua. One was in the hills on the other side of 89, and the other was in the hills south of town.

I drove through Mantua probably about 1980 or 1981. The house was still there but almost hidden behind all the trees. Mom was always planting trees. Now (2019), looking at Google Street View, it looks like the garage has been connected to the house, the front porch torn off or substantially remodeled, and a big new addition on the north side. All the trees are gone.

I have many more memories of Mantua. I hope I will find time to write more about them someday.

More Information

  • Chasing Blue Sky, “Mantua “Little Valley” – Mantua, UT,” Waymarking.com, February 20, 2013, accessed October 22, 2019 https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMGDZN_Mantua_Little_Valley_Mantua_UT
  • Josie Manwill, Brigham Young University, “Mantua’s Danish Heritage,” Intermountain Histories, accessed September 30, 2021, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/444 (love the church picture at the top of this page; such a familiar childhood memory)
  • Town of Mantua, “Mantua History,” August 29, 2014, accessed October 22, 2019, http://www.townofmantua.com/4952.html

Edited July 10, 2020 to remove dead link; Sept. 30, 2021 to add link.

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