The next time you are fishing in the Browns Park area on the Green River, you ought to pay a visit to the Bureau of Land Management's John Jarvie Historical Site. The site brings the Wild West to life and tells the tragic story of the Jarvie family.
The BLM's Ray Tate offers this description of the site, as printed in the BLM's Utah Spectrum newsletter:
The Jarvie Place was settled by Scotchman John Jarvie and his new bride Nellie, in 1880. Mr. Jarvie was an entrepreneur and set immediately to construct a store/trading post which he soon had operational. Not long after his arrival, he acquired the Post Office and the river ferry, both of which had been operated by the late "Doc" Parson. As the only store within a 70-mile radius, the Jarvie Place became the hub of social and economic activities in Browns Park.
The Jarvies were some of the park's most-loved residents. John was a generous soul and often entertained stranded visitors with dinner and lodging. He was an accomplished musician and played both the organ and concertina and he and Nellie, who reportedly "sang like a bird," were much in demand at local weddings, dances and other social events.
The Jarvies had four children, all boys, born two years apart. Sadly Nellie died when the youngest was only eight years old. Despite many offers of help from park residents to help, John raised the boys alone, even making some of their clothes.
Mr. Jarvie was not just a businessman, but was also a scholar, athlete, gourmet cook, phrenologist (he loved to read the "bumps" on folks' heads), and a self-taught blacksmith. He was an avid reader, reading everything he could get his hands on, including newspapers and periodicals passing through his post office, whether they were addressed to him or not! When Browns Park residents wanted to know what was going on in the world, Jarvie was their prime information source.
Jarvie was somewhat of a prospector and invested heavily in some gold mines which did not pan out. Until his death, he was still paying back his investment loans. His speculation in gold and silver activities gave rise to rumors that Jarvie had a great deal of money which was kept in his safe.
On Tuesday, June 6, 1909, two drifters, one of whom had done some temporary work for Jarvie the year prior, came to his store at dinner time. Jarvie set a place for his "guests," but the food was never eaten. The two thugs forced Jarvie to open the safe, which contained only one one-hundred dollar bill and a pearl-handled revolver. Jarvie broke free of his assailants and ran, but was killed by two bullets to his back. The drifters put Jarvie's body in a boat and set it adrift on the Green River. It was not found until several days later.
The murderers, though known by name, were never apprehended. Probably no death in Browns Park had such a depressing and lasting effect on its residents. Young Jimmy Jarvie set out to avenge his father's murderers and tracked them relentlessly. He found them in an Idaho town, but by night the thugs attacked young Jimmy and threw him out of a second-story window. He landed on his head and died instantly.
In a visit to the Jarvie site, one can see historic structures and learn about such characters as Tom Horn, hired gun, Ann Bassett, queen of the cattle rustlers, and hear fascinating tales of frequent park visitors Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Four graves exist on the Jarvie site and one can visit the grave of "bad guy" Jesse Ewing and that of one of his victims.
If the lore, excitement, mystique, and intrigue of the Old West excites you at all, the John Jarvie Historical Site is a must. Visitors do not go away disappointed.
The site can be reached from Vernal by following Highway 191 north to the Clay Basin Road, then east on that road, following the signs.
Copyright Dave Webb, 2005