The history of Mound Fort is perhaps the most interesting of any school in Ogden. Its history and progress have closely paralleled the progress of the entire community.
l854: The history goes back to the settlement of the district. In 1854, as a means of protection from hostile aggression, the settlers began construction of a fort.
It enclosed the district from the present 12th Street to about 9th Street, and from the west side of what is now Washington Boulevard to the west face of what was known as "the Mound." The west slope of the mound was very steep. It was cut down to present a precipitous face about ten feet high, that even an Indian couldnʼt climb. To strengthen the west side still further, a breastwork, perhaps three feet high, was erected along the top of the mound. From behind that fortification, a rifleman could observe the surrounding country; and in case of an Indian attack he would be in an advantageous position.(1) Growing on the west of the mound today are a row of willow trees which sprang up from the original willow breastwork.
On the other three sides of the fort a mud wall was erected. This wall was eight feet high, three feet wide at the base, and sixteen inches wide at the top. In building it, two forms were set up for the sides. Men shoveled dirt into the forms and a man tamped the dirt with a maul. As the wall rose, additional planks were added until the required height was attained. As fast as one section of the wall was built, the forms were moved along to form the next section. Sometimes water was hauled and the dirt was moistened while it was being tamped. This resulted in a very solid, compact wall of dried mud, which withstood the action of the elements for years.(2)
Ernest Shaw remembers the remainders of the wall during the early part of the twentieth century. He used to walk along the top of the remainder of the wall along 12th Street to go to school up on Washington Blvd. The wall was right next to the road on the north side. There was bush growing out of it, because willows had been mixed with the mud when it was made.
A spring in the center of the fort furnished water for culinary purposes.(3) The mound had once been an old Indian burial ground.(4) (Mr. J.A. Way remembers in the l930‘s when the boys from Mound Fort School on Washington Boulevard used to go down to the mound and play during their lunch hour. One day they returned to school with human bones they had unearthed on the mound.)
When the inhabitants of the fort were sufficiently settled to begin thinking of schooling, the students met in log homes inside the fort. The first class had only three students: Julia Shaw, Melissa McGarry and Anne Folker. There were four homes used as schools during these early years--the Shaw home, Kemp’s home,
Terrill's Home and a small cabin below the mound near Ninth Street.
These log homes were small one-room buildings. A huge fireplace served both for light and heat. The rude equipment of benches was made of slabs sawed from the outside of house logs. Auger holes were bored in them and sticks fitted in for legs. There were no backs to rest against. No desks were necessary as the pupils used slates for their writing. Books were scarce. The students brought whatever books were available at home. Most of the early seekers of knowledge learned to read by using their Bibles.
From 1854 to 1862 those who attended school studied under these trying conditions. It must have been the fine spirit of the pioneer teachers rather than any attractive aspect of the school itself that encouraged the students to learn during this period.(5)
The first teacher in Mound Fort was Ellen McGarry. Others who taught there were Miss Judkings, Francis Porter, Mrs. Chamberlain, and William Barker.(6) Parents, teachers and students must have looked forward to better schools and a larger school building during these early years.
1862: When the larger building did come, the site was changed to Twelfth and Washington, since by that time the need for the protection of a fort had passed and the Indians were no longer a threat. The year was 1862. The structure was a one room rock building built by Mr. Dayle. The carpenter work was done by Mr. Whittaker and the seats were made by David Moore. In later years desks and blackboards were obtained.
The major subjects taught were: arithmetic, reading, geography, spelling, grammar, and writing. Elective subjects and extra-curricular activities were unknown. The teachers who taught in the rock school house were: William Barker, Mr. Crowley, who taught writing, I. L. Clark, John L. Wilson, Charlotte Chase Hix, Ellen Moore, Vincy R. Stone, Mr. Cope, Mr. Alexander, Orson P. Badger, and Mrs. Rolf.(7)
Before this rock schoolhouse became a part of Ogden City Schools, the pupils paid tuition. Often these fees were paid in produce brought to school in wheelbarrows. Many of the parents took the teachers as boarders, paying for their childrenʼs education in that manner. Money was scarce, and anything the instructor could use was acceptable in lieu of tuition. (8)
The old rock school was also used for church services and for recreational activities.
1878: On the evening of December 12, 1878, a meeting was held in the rock
schoolhouse. A fierce mountain wind was blowing outside. After the meeting either the fire was left burning or the stovepipe collapsed, the roof shingles were kindled and a disastrous fire resulted. Every timber in the school building was destroyed, the plastering fell down, nothing was left but the bare rock walls. The school had originally cost $1,500. It must now be rebuilt.
The fire brigade had responded to the call but were unable to obtain a supply of water to fight the blaze. The sparks were carried by the canyon wind into the air and westward over the fields. They fell on the haystacks belonging to Simon Barker and in a short time his hay, straw, stables, and fence were destroyed. What was known as the best barn in Weber County, belonging to Ambrose Shaw, was burned along with his haystacks and out buildings. (9)
During the rebuilding of the framework of the rock structure, a four-room frame building provided additional room.
1891: In 1891, the rock building was torn down and a brick building was erected in its place. The frame addition, which had been built after the fire, was moved to Gibson Avenue and Seventeenth Street where it was used as a school until 1910, and thereafter was used as a private home.
The four-room brick structure build in 1891 was heated by a stove in each room. A row of poplar trees was planted around the school grounds and a picket fence was built.(10) this brick structure remained in use, with other rooms being added around it, until the entire building was wrecked in 1976.
The 1891 building had an entrance on the northwest corner, which was shaped like a horseshoe. Later, as the schoolʼs population increased, five more rooms were added and the entrance was moved to the west front, where it remained until it was wrecked.(11)
The school was in need of a few articles made from wood and being unable to secure them, Miss Peirce, who became principal in 1909, gathered together a few tools and organized a class in shop work for the boys. To her belongs the credit for beginning the teaching of shop in Ogden City Schools.
A few years later another four rooms were built and the furnace was installed.(12)
Approximately 1919: A new junior high school was built to the south of the existing grade school. It contained twelve rooms and was named North Junior High, much to the consternation of old-timers who wanted it called Mound Fort Junior High.(13)
Approximately 1924: Another twelve rooms were added and a lawn planted.(14)
1931: The school became known as the Mound Fort Elementary and Mound Fort Junior High School.(15)
1933-34: The school was enlarged by the addition of a new gymnasium, and auditorium, and a modernly equipped industrial arts building, and six classrooms. W. P. A. did the remodeling work. It was probably at this time that the Junior High School and the Elementary School switched buildings. The Junior High now being conducted in the north building.(16) (The words “North Junior High” on the south building above the front entrance remained there until they were filled in with cement in 1960, however.)
Approximately 1948: The two separate building were joined together by the addition of the middle section for offices. It had only been a corridor before this time.(17)
Late 1940ʼs and early 1950ʼs: All the children born during the war were flooding into the schools. The elementary section of Mound Fort had 4 or 5 sections of each grade. The elementary filled all the classrooms on the south side plus four homes that were purchased by the school board, plus the church on 13th Street. One year the elementary enrolment was 1,175 students with another 1,000 in the Junior High section.
1968-69: This was the last year elementary classes were held in the building. In June 1969 Mound Fort closed its doors forever to elementary students.
1975: Junior High students began their school year in the beautiful new facility at 1396 Liberty Avenue.
Winter 1975-76: The old Mound Fort at 12th Street and Washington Blvd. was razed. All buildings were removed by wrecking, the materials were hauled away, and now there is a vacant lot.
The tradition of Mound Fort will be carried on, however, in the beautiful new school. The school was a vast and fine alumni who revere the ʻred and whiteʼ. Many leaders of our community received much of their education at Mound Fort. Students now attending the school are also being trained to become good citizens and leaders in society.
Compiled by Mary Lou Sorensen Media Specialist
(1) Milton R. Hunter, Beneath Ben Lomond’s Peak (Salt Lake City: Publisher's
Press, l966), p. 85. Utah Historical Records Survey W.P.A., A History of Ogden (Ogden: Ogden City Commission, l940), p. 25.
(2) "Mound Fort's Early History," The Standard Newspaper, (1919).
(3)Milton R. Hunter, p. 85.
(4)Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Marker #343, located on top of the mound.
(5)“A Brief History of Our School,” Northern Light Yearbook, (1930).
(6)Milton R. Hinter, p. 85.
(7)“A Brief History of Our School,” Northern Light Yearbook, (1930).
(8)History of Mound Fort written by the schoolʼs faculty in 1950.
(9)”Flying Fire,” The Daily Ogden Junction, (Dec. 13, 1878).
(10)“A Brief History of Our School,” Northern Light Yearbook, (1930).
(13)”Mound Fortʼs Early History,” The Standard Newspaper, (1919).
(14)“A Brief History of Our School,” Northern Light Yearbook, (1930).
(15)Title Page of Northern Light (1931)
(16)Ogden City Schools Buildings and Grounds Information, Feb. 1, 1963.
Mound Fort is a safe environment where all stakeholders take ownership and accountability for academic achievement, personal success, and school pride.