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Pioneer’s painting provides only visual of the Lehi City Fort



Lara M. Bangerter | Lehi Historical Society

Lehi artist James Taylor Harwood was the only person to capture an image of the crumbling Lehi City Fort in his painting, “Lehi City Fort, Farmer’s Paradise Lehi.” His renditions of the old fort are the only known representations of the long-gone structure. 

It is believed that Harwood’s father told him he should paint the fort before there was nothing left. Harwood likely faced south on 200 S. somewhere between Center St. and 200 W. to paint the piece. In the background, the train and Utah Lake have been brought closer into view than they are. Harwood completed the painting before he left to study in Paris in 1888.

The painting of the fort is part of the Lehi High School Art Collection. It can be viewed at the Lehi Historical Society Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 5 p.m., at 99 W. Main St. STE 100.

Construction of the first Lehi fort began in 1853. Amid fears of attacks by area Native Americans, Brigham Young, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, instructed the Saints to “fort up” in the October General Conference. In the end, 60 cabins were aligned end-to-end to create a fort.

In 1854, Young advised that a larger, more formidable fort should be built. Using a pocket compass and a carpenter’s square, David Evans, bishop of the Lehi Saints, expanded the area of the original log fort by encompassing it within a new fort of 16 blocks with 128 lots. Each block was 20 rods, or 330 square feet, and was intersected by streets six rods, or 99 feet, wide. 

The fort wall, constructed of adobe, ran from 100 N. to 300 S. and Center St. to 400 W. To this day, Lehi is one of few Utah towns still laid out according to the original fort plans. 

The 7,425 feet of wall required for the fort was 12 feet high in some sections, with a bottom thickness of six feet tapering upward to three feet. Portholes for shooting were eight feet from the ground and a rod apart. 


To live in the fort, the man of the house had to commit to building 66 feet of wall or pay the equivalent of 60 bushels of wheat, or $60. Though the entire wall was ultimately raised to 8 feet high, Tunis Rappley was the only man to complete his four rods to their full height of 12 feet.

In the early 1860s, the importance of living within the fort diminished and the city spread beyond its walls.

Information for this story comes from Lehi: Portraits of a Utah Town by Lehi historian Richard Van Wagoner. For more information, see the Lehi Historical Society’s online library at or visit the historical society Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. at 99 W. Main St. STE 100.

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