Peoa to celebrate 150 years |

Peoa to celebrate 150 years

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

The small, unincorporated town of Peoa, which was founded in 1860, celebrates its sesquicentennial today in Woodenshoe Park.

Peoa resident Bradley Marchant, 63, said the area hasn’t changed much in the past 150 years.

"That is one of the nice things about Peoa," Marchant said in a telephone interview.

The area was settled under the watchful eye of Mormon leader Brigham Young, Marchant explained.

"The first pioneers came in 1860. They built a fort and they built it by arranging their cabins fairly close together," he said.

The settlers built the fort near where State Road 32 intersects today with Woodenshoe Road.

"That was where they lived for the first few years," Marchant said. "They were out in the wilderness, away from anybody else and they didn’t know about the Indians and so forth."

The celebration of Peoa’s colorful past begins at Woodenshoe Park today at 4 p.m. with music, food, square dancing and games.

"We’re going to have a lot of historical displays out there," Marchant said.

A party of explorers led by W.W. Phelps staked out the Peoa area in 1857.

"Brigham Young sent [Phelps] out here to find some areas to settle," Marchant said.

While exploring Phelps found a log with the word "Peoha" carved into the wood.

"The name Peoa was originally spelled P-e-o-h-a," Marchant said. "They don’t know the meaning of the name but they changed it and dropped the h out. So you’ve got a four-letter word with three vowels."

There are many theories about the meaning of the name, he added.

"Some said it meant to marry. Others said it was a grassy meadow area," Marchant said. "We don’t know for sure so we let everybody make up their own mind on that."

Peoa resident Irene Ruf moved to the South Summit town about 30 years ago.

"Everyone who lives here has a soft spot in their heart for the place," Ruf said. "I identify with the history of Peoa."

She looks forward to reminiscing with neighbors at Saturday’s sesquicentennial celebration.

"I hope there are a lot of them," Ruf said.

Peoa residents are no longer as reliant on farming and mink ranching as they once were.

"Those who make their living in agriculture have really declined," she added.

Today the rural town is a bedroom community for professionals who commute each workday to Park City or Salt Lake.

"In the beginning, Peoa was not a great place to make a living," Ruf said. "But it was too far to commute to Salt Lake with a horse and buggy."

Throughout the years the population of the town has fluctuated. Members of the Marchant family helped settle the community and have lived in Peoa ever since.

"The house I live in is my grandpa’s house, where my dad was born," Marchant said. "We have a lot of pride in our heritage. You look at the list of original settlers and it’s the Maxwells and the Marchants. Some of these people, their descendents have been here for the whole 150 years."

But welcoming newcomers at Saturday’s celebration is more important than ever, he stressed.

"What happens is, a lot of the old timers when they die, their kids don’t live here and the kids sell the property to some outsiders who move in," Marchant said. "We’ve made a big effort in getting fliers out to every house in Peoa, paying particular attention to the people who have moved into the area to bring them out, so that they hopefully will make some connection to the heritage of the area."

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