A Brief History of Morgan County

Named in honor of Jedediah Morgan Grant, Morgan County consists of six hundred ten square miles (610) that are nestled within the Wasatch Mountains. The 8,357 (2009) inhabitants enjoy the almost mile high elevation which affords cool nights in the hot summer. The main entrance to Morgan County is through Weber Canyon which opens on both the east and northwest sides of the county. The Weber River flows from the east to the northwest through this canyon. Morgan provides thirteen tributary creeks that add to the flow of the river as it leads its way to the Great Salt Lake.

Two dams, East Canyon and Lost Creek, are situated within Morgan's boundaries. These provide both irrigation and culinary water for the lower counties. Summer recreation is also provided at the designated State Parks surrounding the East Canyon and Lost Creek Reservoirs.

Prior to 1855 wandering tribes of Indians inhabited Weber Valley, later named Morgan County. Long before permanent settlements were made fur traders and trappers visited this region. History records prior to 1826 three or four hundred trappers had a famous rendezvous on the Weber River, but in that year they split into various groups and left the valley. The valley belonged to Mexico until the conclusion of the war between the United States and Mexico. In 1848 Morgan was included in the land ceded to the United States in the treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo.

Thomas J. Thurston of Centerville, Davis County, was the first man to recognize and evaluate the possibilities of settling Weber Valley. In 1852, he and his two sons were cutting logs in the mountains east of Centerville. Upon reaching the summit they looked down upon the beautiful valley. The little well watered and wooded valley was in strong contrast with the hot, dry and almost barren Salt Lake Valley. Thurston felt that he must explore it, and finally persuaded two of his friends, William Porter and J. B. Nobel, to go with him. They camped in the valley for three days. It looked like paradise to them, with plenty of fish and game. The only great obstacle was the inaccessibility of the valley which was surrounded by mountains. There was only one narrow canyon entrance through which the Weber River flowed. The river had cut gorges at each end of the canyon forming natural barriers to the area.

Thomas Thurston would not give up his dream to settle the lush valley. He talked of it constantly with his friends. Finally, in 1855 he was successful in persuading Charles S. Peterson, two of his sons and a son-in-law, Roswell Stevens, to attempt making an entry route through lower Weber Canyon. With the most primitive tools consisting of shovels, picks, crowbars, and small plows they found the going exceedingly rough. Their small company of men was strengthened by the arrival of several others, including three men with teams sent by Jedediah Morgan Grant.

At last they were successful in completing a crude, though passable road into the valley. Peterson and Stevens settled at Weber City (later to be named Peterson), while Thurston chose to settle further south at the future town site of Littleton. Other settlers, eager to make homes in this promising green valley soon followed these early residents. It wasn't long before fifteen new settlements were formed in what is now Morgan County.

In January 1862 the Ninth Utah Territorial Legislature, which convened in Salt Lake City, passed an act creating the county of Morgan and located the county seat at Weber City (Peterson). For a brief two-year period before 1866-1868 Littleton, a settlement just south of Milton, was designated the county seat. Littleton was named in honor of one of it's residents, Colonel Jesse C. Little. In 1868 the county seat was changed to Morgan City and before long plans were made to build a courthouse. Construction of the building started in 1874 and the public building was completed in 1883.

The early government of the county was conducted by a probate court until 1896 when the Territory of Utah was admitted into the Union as the State of Utah. The Constitution of the State of Utah, approved January 1, 1896, provided the general government of the county be a board of three county commissioners, one of who was to be chairman. This form of government has continued until 1999.

A major event to effect Morgan was in 1868-69 when the Union Pacific Railroad track was laid through the east-west length of the valley, following the Weber River. This event literally put Morgan on the map. Constructing the railroad through Weber Canyon helped establish a more navigable and safe road which eventually became a major route and "Gateway to the West."
Education has always played an important role in Morgan. In 1908 the ten school districts in the county consolidated into one school district with several precincts. In 1936 Morgan school district founded the first consolidated school system in the state and received national recognition. At that time the local community schools were discontinued and all students were bussed to the buildings located in Morgan City. In the same general three-block location there is an elementary, middle, and high school. There is also a elememtary school in Mountain Green these four schools accommodate 2,338 students (2009).

From the early settlers to the present day, Morgan was considered an agricultural community, with much of the acreage used for farming. However, due to economics there are few who farm as a sole source of income; many have other jobs outside of the valley. As it becomes more difficult for a farmer to operate at a profit much of the land is being sold for residential development.

Morgan is the home of several mink ranches and two major companies, Browning Arms and Holcim, Inc.

Linda H. Smith, County Historian
MORGAN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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© 2007 Morgan County Historical Society