Forest Dell willows
From Forest Dell Looking North to Star Valley


General Information - About Smoot and Star Valley

This webpage is your gateway to fun and interesting information about Smoot, its history, people and local resources.
Keep checking back to this webpage, as there is a lot more to come, with interesting stories and photos!

The Smoot, Wyoming area can only be found on detailed maps, as it is properly a community area comprising the South End of Star Valley. Our beautiful Star Valley (so called because it has been called "the Star of All Valleys" for more than a hundred years*) lies nestled at over 6,000 feet on the Western side of the Wyoming Range of the Rockies, running for about 50 miles along the middle Wyoming-Idaho border. Most maps do show the town of Afton (pop. about 2,000), a few miles north on US 89.

Star Valley, Wyoming and the Smoot area itself were largely settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1870-1900 period. Long before that time, and still continuing for many years thereafter, the Valley was used by the local Native tribes as a hunting and resting ground. From the 1840's until late in that century, many pioneer wagon trains took the "Lander Trail Cutoff", a favorite pioneer wagon route to the Northwest. The Cutoff came over the mountains from the Southeast into the Valley here and went up the middle of it for several miles. Wagon tracks are still visible.
When enough pioneers settled in the very South End of the valley for it to be given a name, it was called Forest Dell. That name is still in use by local residents for the last few miles of the valley before the Salt River Pass, which marks the southern end of the valley.

Forest Dell willows
Looking North to Smoot, Star Valley, Wyoming

Soon after, settlers gathered around the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon and its creek, just a few miles North. This second settlement was originally named Cottonwood, then called Belview prior to 1900. Shortly after that time, the famous early-1900's Mormon U.S. Senator, Reed Smoot, came to speak at the chapel there. He so impressed the members that they voted to rename their community after him. Since then, the whole South End area of about 40 square miles has come to be called Smoot. Up to the present day, the community's only "legal" definition, if it can be called that, has been the boundary description of the Smoot Ward of the LDS Church.

As there has been no local government, and the original settlers and their descendants were and are largely Mormon, the Smoot Ward's Bishop was often thought of by many folks as the de-facto "Mayor". Those ward boundaries have always been rather fluid, as the centers of mass of the various Star Valley communities shift with growth. Many people who thought they lived on the edges of the more northerly Ward of Osmond, or Fairview to the West, have gone to Church one Sunday to find themselves newly defined as "Smootians" or vice versa, as time went on. There are about 600 live Smootians presently in captivity, not all of them LDS these days, with many more former Smootians planted throughout the world. Regardless of present beliefs or dwelling place, nearly all Smootians seem to think of themselves as members of one big, happy and mutually supportive (if rather rowdy at times) family.

This is still predominantly a farming or ranching area, with former emphasis on dairy. Now, there are many tons of good hay grown, with more horses than dairy cows around here! There used to be various family businesses in Forest Dell and Smoot, including logging, a creamery, gas station, etc. (More on that later.) In more recent times, the growing town of Afton a few miles to the North along US 89, and other factors, have helped take those businesses away. For some years now, the only commercial vestige has been the Smoot General Store and Post Office, more commonly known as Walton's Store. The same family has run that business in the same location for over a hundred years. We expect that as the Valley population continues to grow, a log-cabin motel and conference center, along with other businesses, will soon appear. The still rather unspoiled Smoot area offers many recreational opportunities and choice access to expansive National Forest lands. As much of it borders US 89 (the highway North to Yellowstone, Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons), that growth is sadly inevitable.

As this website evolves, we look forward to featuring vignettes of the Smoot area and some of our most beloved residents.

Again, if you have any ideas or preferences on what would be useful or fun to see, either here or on the weather website, give us a call (in phonebook) or send e mail to us -- genetroy silverstar com (please fill in the @ and dot yourself).

* Two stories of how Star Valley got its name: One is given by local historians, the other could be true too! (Local folks: Please check your family journals from the time and let us know what they say.)

Story 1:
In August 1880, LDS Apostles Moses Thatcher and Charles C. Rich visited the Valley to organize the Saints who had settled there. During their visit, a vote was held to give it a new name. The Valley had previously been called Salt River Valley for the Snake River tributary that runs through its length. In 1878, the Valley had been blessed and dedicated to the Lord as a gathering place for the pioneer Saints. Elder Thatcher noted that now it was agreed to be called Star Valley because it truly was the Star of all Valleys! (Source: Allene Heiner, Star Valley Historical Society)
Story 2:
Another local version recounts that:
"The name Star Valley comes from Starvation (Starve)Valley, a name the area gained during bitter winters in the late 1880s. Many cattle were lost in the severe winter of 1889. There were over 40 inches of snow in two days and nights in March." (source: HunkyDory)

Editor: There is no doubt about the severe winters then and the plight of the often unprepared settlers. So it is likely that some early folks rather cynically corrupted the name to "Starve" for a while!

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  © Copyright 2007 Gene Troy. All rights reserved.

Webpage updated April 1, 2007