Southern Utah News Articles
Heaton family filming documentary
What do Alton, Utah, and Moccasin, Arizona, have in common? Besides the fact that they are both small towns full of hard working, friendly people, the thing they have in common is a man by the name of Jonathan Heaton.
Jonathan Heaton and his brothers received the Moccasin ranch at the dissolution of the United Order in Orderville in 1885. Out of those Heaton brothers, Jonathan had the largest number of sons to help with the hard work of farming, maintaining fields and orchards, and running large herds of cattle and sheep on the Arizona Strip, and so eventually the property fell to him and his family.
In 1900, Jonathan purchased the Seegmiller Ranch in upper Kanab from the family of Daniel Seegmiller, following Seegmiller’s murder in a water dispute. Renaming it “The Wild Rose,” he moved part of his large family there. Always doing what he could to keep his growing family nearby, he purchased some land a few miles away from “The Wild Rose,” surveyed it into blocks, and sold or gave lots to family members and others, who voted to call the new community “Alton,” because of its high elevation.
About five years ago, a group of Jonathan’s descendants decided it was time to honor this ancestor who was a remarkable leader, community planner and family man, and wanted to do something unusual. A book about his life was agreed upon, and a Jonathan Heaton Family Reunion was set for July 23, 24 and 25, 2015.
Then, someone threw in the idea of a documentary to describe who he was, and tell the stories of some of the interesting, unusual and amazing things Jonathan did in his lifetime. To make this film even more unique, it was to be written, directed, produced, acted and filmed by Heaton family members. The idea snowballed, and over 100 of Jonathan’s descendants came to Moccasin a few weeks ago. The filming began by one of Jonathan’s great-great-grandsons Malcolm Judd, film producer and son of Marcie and Brent Judd of Alton.
Jonathan’s Moccasin home, “The Big House,” has been restored and is maintained by the family of Bill Schmutz, who married Georgia Lou Heaton, a granddaughter of Jonathan’s. The Big House is in the U.S. Registry of Historical Homes. To film in the very rooms Jonathan and his family lived was, as one family member put it, “a goose bump experience.”
Some real geese became actors as “picking the geese” was filmed to demonstrate how the Heatons were able to have feather pillows and feather beds (no geese were harmed in the filming). Some of the Heaton cowboys reenacted a cattle roundup, and breaking of the wild mustangs once found in abundance on the Arizona Strip. Bottling peaches on an old woodburning kitchen stove was performed to commemorate the hundreds of bushels of delicious peaches bottled from Moccasin orchards annually, and of course, the day was concluded with a watermelon feast on the lawn of the Big House. In those days, Moccasin produced the biggest and best watermelons in the area. Further filming will include other locations in Orderville and Alton. The documentary will premier on Saturday, July 25 in Kanab.
Anyone interested in following the progress of the Jonathan Heaton Documentary, the book “Remembering Our Heritage – a Biography of Jonathan Heaton.” or for reunion information, log onto jonathanheaton.org, and join the facebook group Jonathan Heaton Descendants, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.