Mendon’s Willie rock home is an icon of pioneer times

The James G. Willie rock house, located at 97 N. 100 W. in Mendon is the home of a leader of a handcart company who took some 500 pioneers through the brutal winter of 1857.

The James G. Willie rock house, located at 97 N. 100 W. in Mendon, stands as a reminder of the pioneer heritage that exists in Cache Valley.

A rock at the front door of the James G. Willie rock house, located at 97 N. 100 W. in Mendon is a reminder of some 3,000 pioneers that walked or pulled hand carts from Iowa City, Iowa to Salt Lake City.

The home, restored by his great-great grandson and Mendon resident Paul Willie, takes visitors back to the great undertaking of the pioneers. Some 70,000 people traveled nearly 4,000 miles from Europe, then another 1,300 miles from Iowa City, Iowa to Salt Lake City over a span on 23 years, prior to the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

James joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 22, after emigrating from England.  He came to Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and returned to England as a missionary in 1852.

After his missionary service in England, Willie was asked to lead a handcart company of 500 people with 120 handcarts and 6 wagons across the country, with others who were escaping religious persecution.

There were ten handcart companies from 1856 to 1860,  nearly 3,000 pioneers walked and pulled a handcart across rugged terrain to get to the intermountain area.

His was one of two groups caught in snow and freezing temperatures in Wyoming in October,1856.  Of the original Willie company, 67 died along the way.

After surviving the trek across the continent, Willie moved from Salt Lake City to Cache Valley, where he helped settle Mendon in 1859.  Mendon is located on the west side of Cache Valley.

The headstone of James G. Willie stands in the Mendon Cemetery as a reminder of pioneer times in Cache Valley.

The Mormon Historic Sites Foundation said Willie served as the mayor, postmaster, and ran the co-operative store.

While living in Mendon, his wife Elizabeth Ann, served as the first Relief Society President, and their home, which they lived in for more than 40 years, was constructed around 1865. When he died the whole town paid their respects at the funeral.

The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The rock hose will be open during Mendon’s Pioneer Days, Saturday July 20.

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  • Alan Parrish July 24, 2019 at 5:32 am Reply

    Thanks for the Willey Handcart Story, perfect for today, July 24, 2019. My Great Grandfather Joel Parrish was one of the Martin Handcart Company Rescuers. His pioneer home is at the end of Parrish Lane in Centerville and he was to Centerville what Brother Willey was to Mendon. We dearly love Cache Valley, home to Marcia and me???‍?

  • Byron N Whitney July 25, 2019 at 8:51 pm Reply

    My Father was born and raised in this home. I lived in the home for the first nine years of my life. So happy to see it restored!

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