Thursday, June 28, 2018

Cheese, Raisins, Cattle and Cowboys.

San Juan County Road 228 aka South Cottonwood Road, there is a main reason why I specifically wanted to come to this area; my dentist, Dr. Brian Goodwine of San Juan Dental in Monticello (part of the Utah Navajo Health System, Inc).  He is the great grandson of Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr., active in the development of the San Juan Mission in Mexico.  While at my 6 month checkup, Dr. Goodwine asked if I'd ever been to the Cheese and Raisins Hills; "The what?" I asked, and "Where are they?"  He told me the story of Lemuel who had cattle up on those hills; one day his ranch hands asked him if he would like to share their lunch of cheese and raisins with them.  "All you boys ever eat is cheese and raisins, cheese and raisins"; and that is how the hills in the area became so named.  I was able to also verify this story through the book, Utah's Canyon Country Place Names by Steve Allen, as told by Albert R. Lyman.  On the Internet, someone's vacation blog, didn't note the name down though, was a second story on how the hills were named.  There were several mines in the area; the miners often had cheese and raisins in their lunches.  Since the mines were not started till around the early 1930s, the first version of the story is closer to the truth.  A photo of Lemuel and his wives, Eliza and Lucy, and their story can be found in the book, They Came to Grayson put out by the Ridgeway Art Gallery in Blanding.

Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr with wives, Eliza and Lucy

Talking about mining, the ruins of the old Cottonwood Millsite is along this county road which got me to thinking about typical miners’ meals which got me thinking about Cornish Pasties.  Oh my, isn’t that a nice run-on sentence; but that story will be for another article as I’m concentrating on cheese and raisins right now.

Raisins are simply dried grapes, which would stand up well during the long journeys the pioneers traveled to win over the Wild West.  Cheese, however, now where did they get cheese from and how did it keep without refrigeration?  Time to research cattle within San Juan County and I certainly did find a moo-full of information! 

Briefly, when the Hole in the Rockers came to Bluff, they did have cattle along for the trek.  Dunham aka Short Horn which were great milkers, but also provided meat to the settlers.  However, there had already been established, within San Juan County, cattle companies from Colorado and Texas; competition for grazing land became an issue.  Excuse me while I digress a little more; eventually Peters of Peters Hill fame sold his cattle; Howard Carlisle, a British patriot, eventually sold his cattle.  The remaining cattle company was the LC, which remained in the Blanding area…. poor ranch cook Harry Hopkins, may he in rest in peace.  Digging around, I was able to find out that Peters and Carlisle began a new cattle company in Kansas City, MO.  While Peters, whose given name was Quincy, became the company’s accountant; Howard Carlisle got in huge trouble selling stolen cattle. 

Where did I get my information on Peters and Carlisle after they left San Juan County?  Scholars Archive of BYU: The Cattle Industry of San Juan County, Utah, 1875 – 1900 by Franklin D. Day, and United States. Courts; Circuit Court of Appeals, volume 47.

Emma Smith 1884 
Now back to cheese and raisins, and were they only eaten separately, or did those resilient pioneer women combine them into a recipe?   Emma Smith, wife of prophet Joseph Smith baked up biscuits nicknamed “politicians” due to their being so light and full of hot air.  I didn’t make this up; the story appears in Good Things to Eat From Old Nauvoo by Theo E. Boyd.  These biscuits were normally used to make strawberry shortcake, but other variations were: cherry, peaches, warm applesauce, raisins plus cinnamon and honey, chopped dates and nuts, or grated or cubed cheese with raisins.  There you go, cheese and raisins in biscuits; but you can use this combination in scones as well and it is delicious!

Hope you enjoyed my convoluted journey through San Juan County pioneer history, and here is Emma Smith’s Biscuit recipe.

(Good Things to Eat From Old Nauvoo by Theo E. Boyd)


2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk


Sift dry ingredients. Add shortening and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add buttermilk and mix lightly.

Turn out on floured board.  Pat out to 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick.  Cut, sprinkle with sugar and place on well-greased pan and bake at 425 degrees until golden brown.

Mary Cokenour

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