Early Settlers


Camp near the head of Cache Valley, Cache County, Utah<br />

This photograph of a geological survey camp set up in Cache Valley (1871) gives an idea of how the valley—and the area now called Providence—might have looked prior to the arrival of agriculture and irrigation.


Before the arrival of white settlers, Cache Valley was occupied by the Shoshone. The Shoshone were hunter-gatherers who seasonally moved their settlements to find the best resources. Although they had no year-round, permanent residence in the vicinity of Providence, during almost every season of the year bands of Shoshone had reason to camp in Cache Valley.  “Greens, roots and wild strawberries” were available in the spring, seeds in the summer, and nuts and berries in the fall.[8]  Year-round they might find bison (until their extinction), elk, deer, and fish.[9]  Because the Shoshone did not rely on agriculture and because their mobile lifestyle allowed them to select campsites near freshwater sources, irrigation was not necessary.[10]  Consequently, the Providence area did not have irrigation ditches or canals until the arrival of white settlers.

Sketch of settlement of Providence Utah

A rough sketch by historian and irrigation company director Doran Baker, showing the early settlement of Providence. The fort and accompanying buildings are set along roads allowing easier access to the waters of Spring Creek.


In April of 1859, the first white settlers to arrive in the Providence area naturally set up camp near a water source, just as the Shoshone would do. These settlers chose a perennial stream called Spring Creek (the source of the stream being a large spring).[11]  The settlement originally took its name from the stream but in the autumn of 1859 two visiting Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints renamed the village Providence.[12]  Around twenty houses were built that fall—twenty households requiring water.[13]  Initially, “modest diversion ditches” brought the waters of Spring Creek closer to homes for livestock, farming, and “family use.”[14]

[8] Scott R. Christensen, Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887 (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1999), 3-5.
[9] Christensen, 4.
[10] Mae Parry, "The Northwestern Shoshone" in History Of Utah's American Indians, edited by Forrest S. Cuch, by David Begay David, Dennis Defa, Clifford Duncan, Ronald Holt, Nancy Maryboy, Robert S. McPherson, Gary Tom, and Mary Jane Yazzie, 25-72 (Salt Lake City: University Press of Colorado, 2000), accessed July 30, 2021, doi:10.2307/j.ctt46nwms.5, p. 27.
[11] Doran J. Baker, Providence, Utah (Providence, UT: The Author, 1971), 1; Kariya et al. 17 (Table 3); Joel E. Ricks and Everett L. Cooley, eds., The History of a Valley (Logan, UT: Cache Valley Centennial Commission, 1956), 39.
[12] “Organization of the Cache Valley Settlements,” Deseret News, November 30, 1859, p. 5, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6pc3wvm/2589926
[13] Baker, Providence, 3. 
[14] Joel E. Ricks and Everett L. Cooley, eds., The History of a Valley (Logan, UT: Cache Valley Centennial Commission, 1956), 148.