Millard Canyon, Utah — not named for Millard Fillmore

January 14, 2013

Winter view of Millard Canyon, Canyonlands NP, Utah

Caption from the NPS crew at Canyonlands National Park: View from the Maze: Millard Canyon’s winter mood. We are looking north. Note how the heat from the east to southeast facing cliffs has melted the snow below – even in this ultra-frigid time. Taking a break under a southeast facing cliff is a good way to warm up while on a Canyonlands hike. (GC) (via Facebook)

In a state where they once named the proposed state capital “Fillmore,” and the county in which that town sat, “Millard,” to try to curry favor with President Millard Fillmore for the state’s petition to gain statehood, one might logically think that a spectacular desert canyon not far away called Millard Canyon might also be named in honor of our 13th president.

LocMap Canyonlands National Park

Location map, Canyonlands National Park, image from Wikipedia

Not so, in this case.  According to John W. van Cott’s Utah Place Names (University of Utah Press, 1990):

MILLARD CANYON (Garfield County) originates at French Springs southeast of Hans Flat. The canyon drains north northeast into the Green River at Queen Anne Bottom. According to Baker, “They learned later that they had misunderstood this name; instead of honoring a president, it was named for an undistinguished `Miller’ who did nothing more than leave this small, mistaken mark on the map” (Baker, Pearl. Robbers Roost Recollections. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1976, p. 33). The name was even misspelled Millard.

Millard Fillmore is off the hook on this one.

Garfield County, Utah, was named after President James Garfield.

So, who was this “Miller” guy?

(Post inspired by image from the Canyonlands NP Facebook site; temperature at the time of the photo was near 0°F.)

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