Deadman Road, Wayne County, Utah

Deadman Road

Adus F. Dorsey II 

Long before the 1940’s when sheepherder and stone mason Lorenzo Larsen of Glenwood, Utah started stacking stones for his manmade monuments that fill the hills above the Glenwood dug way and on the grassy slopes that overlook Fish Lake, and eight devastating long years before 1892, when Wayne County, Utah was nothing more than a twinkle in the eye of a state legislator the Honorable Willis E. Robinson, there was another sheepherder, a man named Olaf C. Christensen. 

      According to family records, Ole C. Larsen had immigrated to Utah from Denmark, eventually arriving in Utah on 29 September 1862. Among Danish friends, Ole and his young wife, Christine Olsen, first settled in Springtown (now Spring City), then moved to Ephriam a year later. Having no team or wagon with which to farm, Ole offered his services as a carpenter to anyone willing to hire him, times were tough but the young Larsen family persevered. On 10 October 1863, Emelia gave birth to a twelve-pound baby boy; Emelia died two days later, on 20 October the baby died in Ole’s arms.

Ole having been counseled by Orson Hyde that he had both duty and privilege to take another wife, and “the sooner the better.” “You may go on this way feeling sorry, but as soon as you take upon yourself other obligations your mind will be more at ease and be for your blessing. This is the will of the Lord for you and you must obey.” Ole admitted in his journal that the “lecture did not agree with my feelings very well …. My thoughts were more to die than to live.” The reluctant widower was not drawn to the “frolic and gaiety” of most of the young women he encountered; however, one filly did catch his eye, Anna Maria Pedersen. “She looked rather puny, if not sickly . . . but the humble appearance and quiet demeanor of the young lady suited me better at that time,”…Ole confided in his journal. Without ever speaking to Anna Maria, Ole went to Anna’s home and asked her parents if they would object to his asking their daughter to marry him. Anna’s, aging folks, were quite willing, and Ole then went directly to find Anna Maria and promptly proposed. Puny Anna accepted, and Ole and Anna married on 23 December 1863.

Several other families including Ole and Anna had left Sanpete in late December, staking claims on Salina Creek and farther south near springs on the west side of the Sevier River. “After a long drive and a hard struggle we finally reached a large valley in a circular shape surrounded by high mountains, with the river flowing down through the center. This valley we called Circle Valley. Here we camped by the river and went on an exploration trip in different directions. We found the hills abounded in cedar wood and fence posts easily reached with a good supply of timber growing in the mountains for building and fencing. We also found a place where we could very easily tap the Sevier River with a reasonable amount of work.” Ole wrote in his journal. Olaf C. Christensen would later be credited with the founding of Circleville. 

About six miles west of Loa, at about mile marker 45 on Highway 24, and off to your right if you are headed west, there is a dirt road short cut to Fish Lake. For folks from Wayne County, many have driven passed it for years, some know the name of the road but many don’t. 

For the old timers headed to Fish Lake and the casual traveler looking for a place to pee, Deadman Road is always a welcome sight. How Deadman Road got its name is one of those tales that always gets told by Grand Pa, late at night while sitting around a glowing campfire when there isn’t anything else better to do. 

As most that live in Rabbit Valley can attest, winter weather on Fish Lake Mountain can be brutal, some times deadly. In an 1884 Deseret Newspaper article, buried on about page 10, next to a ZCMI ad for bloomers, Justice of the Peace John T. Lazenby wrote: 

Body Found – We have received the following; Loa Fremont, Piute County, Utah June 14th1884. Editor Deseret News:

Word was brought here today by Mr. Burr, mail carrier, that Mr. Ole C. Larsen, out herding sheep, had found a dead body of a man. I at once summoned a jury and proceeded to the shepherd, who then accompanied us to the place, which we found to be on the side of a rocky hill about half a mile from the road at the lower south end of Slag Flat near Fish Lake. We suppose the body to be that of a trapper, as steel traps were found with him, he was about 25 or 30 years old, 5 feet 6 inches high, had brown and sandy whiskers and was dressed in a suit of black or dark cloth, with a pair yellow and brown check over-pants. 

He was in bed, with his clothes on. His feet being tied up in sacking and had one old gray blanket, one yellow pattern quilt, both sides alike, a piece of wagon cover, a saddle, no bridle, a rope eaten by mice, a pair of buckskin leggings trimmed with pink and yellow beads, two shirts and a blue silk kerchief, boots, two black hats, some cartridge casings, but no shooter, a sharpening rock, but no knife, a camp outfit of frying pan, square oven pan and a small powder can for a kettle. In his coat was found a map of Utah, a pocket book containing five photographs of young men, taken in Berlin, Prussia, two cards of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Tuck, but nothing to lead to his identity. 

It was supposed he had lost his way and been frozen to death. A man was seen the early part of March, going out leading a horse and walking. The body was very much decayed, and it was all we could do to bury him near where he was found. We held an inquest, when the following verdict was given: That the deceased came to his death from exposure to the cold. Signed William R. Taylor, Jedediah Taylor, and John Richardson, all of Fremont.

Yours truly; John T. Lazenby, Justice of the Peace. 

References; Family records, Ole C. Larsen, Deseret News Article provided by Steve Taylor, Fremont, Utah 

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