Mormon Row Historic District: A Once Vibrant Community

“A ranch to the Moulton’s is more that just lands and buildings; it’s the husband, wife, and family all getting together in the field helping each other.”

-Clark Moulton, Mormon Row Homesteader, circa 1930s


John & Bartha Moulton Barn, Circa 1910s
John & Bartha Moulton Barn, Circa 1910s


As early as our American Revolutionary War, the distribution of Government lands had created a challenging issue related to land measurement and pricing.  Early methods of stepping off property plots from geographical landmarks resulted in arbitrary overlapping claims and chaotic border disputes.  The Land Ordinance of 1785 finally implemented a standard system of Federal Land Surveys that eased border conflicts by using astronomical starting points and dividing land into measurements of townships, sections, square miles, and acres.  When in 1862, the Homestead Act was passed and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, a U.S. Citizen could file claim to 160 acres of surveyed government land and after 5 years, by living on the land, improving it with a 12 by 14 foot dwelling, and growing crops, they could file a patent (deed of itle) and the property was theirs.


Thomas Murphy Homestead, Circa 1920s
Thomas Murphy Homestead, Circa 1920s


Originally known as the town of Grovont, the Mormon Row settlement did not occur until the 1890s.  The promise of land eventually drew homesteaders into Jackson Hole.  Lush sagebrush, natural fields of timothy, and the Gros Ventre River indicated a healthy soil and water supply to entice the first Mormon families to the area with hopes of beginning a new life.  With the construction of homes, ranches, churches, and schools, a true vibrant community began to blossom.  Settlers began with traditional Lodgepole Pine log homes providing basic shelter from the harsh Jackson Hole weather and evolved, with increased prosperity, into more modern houses. Barn raising was a community event. Elders and young men from various families supplied the construction ingenuity and strength while women and children provided the communal meals and picnics.  Mormon Row dispersed in the mid 1900s and only a handful of buildings remain standing today. 


Thomas Alma & Lucille Moulton Homestead, Circa 1910s
Thomas Alma & Lucille Moulton Homestead, Circa 1910s


What remains today is a remarkable look back in time: a time when log built ranches and barns dotted the landscape at the foot of Blacktail Butte, a time when barn raising was a community event, and a time when barns and homes were to the family what Church was to the community. Visiting Mormon Row provides a glimpse of early homesteading life and quiet contemplation of barn raisings, cattle drives, church services, long schooldays, skating on ice covered irrigation ditches, sledding down snow covered Blacktail Butte, berry-picking expeditions to Taggart Lake, and splashing in a nearby swimming hole filling hot summer days.


John & Bartha Moulton Residence, Circa 1910s
John & Bartha Moulton Residence, Circa 1910s


A visit to Mormon row is well worth the time.  Some of these original homestead buildings are over a hundred years old and are naturally weathering .  Enjoy them from a distance and respect the culturally historic value of the site.  Oh, by the way, an early morning photography safari may produce award winning images.

Sources: , A Place Called Jackson Hole – John Daugherty, Jackson Hole Historical Society, Grand Teton Association

Posted from Don’s Corner. Photography by Don Wells.


5 Replies to “Mormon Row Historic District: A Once Vibrant Community”

  1. We just returned from the Jackson Lake Lodge and had a wonderful experience! I have not been through the Tetons since I was a kid 25 years ago. What a wonderful and relaxed environment for me to spend with my wife and two children. Thanks for the wonderful memories!

    1. On behalf of all our team, we are glad to hear you had a wonderful time in Grand Teton National Park this summer. Thank you for choosing to stay with us. Next time, we hope you make it back in less than 25 years!

  2. Thanks for the wonderful article!! My husband and I return to Mormon Row every few years. It is one of our favorite places to photograph. There is an aura of peace and tranquility that seems to surround one there. There was also a serious chill while waiting for sunrise to bathe the barns in golden light. Our photos were equally as nice when we returned later in the much sunnier afternoon. It is a place we will always return. Our thanks to the Moulton family, the many Jackson Hole and surrounding area supporters who chose to restore the barns and obtained the National Park Services permission after much lobbying to began the task. Because of these caring persons we are able to continue to enjoy the barns. My cowboy hat off to them!

  3. This is where my mother was born and raised. She lived in the pink house after they moved from the original log cabin. However the ownership of the barns is incorrect. Grampa John’s Barn is listed as Thomas Alma’s.

  4. Paul, Thank you for correcting the ownership. I noticed it, too. The National Parks brochure correctly lists the barn’s ownership. I am starting a website in the further. Including some of the photos we have taken along w/ information I have gathered over the years. The drive and determination of those who settled Mormon Row amazes me, your grandmother included. I am thankful to be treading the same path as the Mormon Row homesteaders!

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