HUNTSVILLE TOWN HISTORY – FOUNDING
Huntsville is one of three small communities comprising what is known as “Ogden Valley,” and is the only incorporated town of the three; the other two communities are Eden and Liberty. Huntsville is located twelve miles east of Ogden City up Ogden Canyon. Its elevation is just under 5,000 feet; the 2010 census showed a population of 717 in the town itself.
In 1825 Peter Skene Ogden came from the Bear Lake region and camped and trapped in the area. The distinction of being the first white man to set foot in the valley after Utah was settled belongs to Thomas Abbott of Farmington, Utah. He came in 1848 with several companions by way of Weber Canyon and passed on up South Fork and over to the Bear Lake country on a trip of exploration ordered by Brigham Young. The men returned the same way.
In 1854, under the leadership of David Moore and Charles F. Middleton of Ogden, others were sent into the valley by Brigham Young to search for a route to Fort Bridger. They traversed North Ogden Pass with pack animals and one supply wagon, which had to be lowered down by ropes. After exploring the valley, they continued up the South Fork of the Ogden River and returned by the divide into Weber Valley.
In August 1849 Captain Howard Stansbury of the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers passed through Ogden Valley, coming by way of South Fork Canyon. He was impressed with the beauty of the area. In September 1856, cattle were brought into Ogden Valley. Also after three years of hacking away at the brush and timber, Isaac Goodall completed a narrow toll road through Ogden Canyon in November 1860.
In the fall of 1860 seven families went into the valley to cut hay with the view of making a permanent settlement. The settlers consisted of Jefferson Hunt (for whom the town is named), two of his sons, Joseph and Hyrum, Joseph Wood, Charles Wood and his mother, Nathan Coffin and his mother Abigail, Edward Rishton, James Earl, and their families. Others soon followed; however, they found the upper part of the valley occupied by Little Soldier and other Shoshone Indians who soon began to steal stock and otherwise harass the whites. In order to avoid trouble, the settlers followed the advice of Brigham Young to “feed rather than fight the Indians.” In order to maintain peace, the whites paid the Indians an annual tax of beeves, flour, and vegetables.
The first settlement was established in 1860 by a hillside spring and by a grove of cottonwood trees near the South Fork River, afterward known as “Hawkin’s Grove.” There were seven crude log houses with dirt roofs, all facing an inner courtyard. The first crops of oats, barley, and hay were planted in the spring of 1861, and a fine harvest followed. The women cultivated vegetable gardens near the cabins.
During the summer, many new settlers moved into the valley. The land was surveyed and a new town, called “Huntsville,” was located on the bench. It was laid out in nine blocks, six acres to a block, each block divided into eight lots. An irrigation company was organized and tapped the South Fork River, bringing water to the bench land. Soren L. Peterson and Peter C. Geertsen, immigrants from Denmark in 1864, also served as missionaries there and encouraged many Danish converts to settle in Huntsville.
Huntsville was incorporated in 1903. The first mayor was L.M. Nelson. A city hall was built, as was an electric lighting system, extending from the dam in Ogden Canyon to the city. Nelson’s home is still standing and is on the Utah Historical Register. (At one time it was a restaurant known as the “Valley House.”) Some six years later, however, on 18 December 1909, the city was dis-incorporated.
In 1923 Huntsville presented a petition to the county commissioners requesting the privilege of again incorporating, and it was granted on 10 March 1924. The main purpose in again incorporating was to secure an up-to-date water system through a bond issue. On 3 December 1924 the water system was officially completed with a celebration in honor of the event. Huntsville was the second community in Weber County to incorporate, Ogden being the first.
The predominant religion in Huntsville is LDS, but many people of different faiths are moving into the valley. South of Huntsville there is a new Catholic church, St. Florence; east of town there is a Catholic Trappist monastery, Abbey of Our Lady of the Trinity.
In the early 1990s Huntsville had a U.S. post office, a convenience store, a sandwich store, a dentist, a psychiatrist, a factory, a beauty parlor, a gift store, and the oldest tavern in the state of Utah–the “Shooting Star.” Huntsville also has a history department, which was begun in 1965 and is funded mainly by donations and entirely manned by volunteers. It focuses on information on the valley communities and Ogden Canyon.
While farming and dairying were the main occupations in years past, today the majority of the populace works outside of town in Ogden or in nearby federal installations. Ogden Valley is in the heart of a recreational area with nearby Pineview Reservoir used for fishing, boating, and water skiing; three ski areas also are located close by: Snowbasin, Nordic Valley, and Powder Mountain.
Huntsville had the first free public school in the state of Utah, and the first schoolteacher in the state–Mary Jane Dilworth Hammond–(who taught first in Salt Lake City) is buried in the local cemetery. During World War II, the area had more men enlist in the services per capita than any other place in the United States. President David O. McKay of the LDS Church was raised here and his family home is a tourist attraction. Tours are conducted during the summer months, and the home is on the Utah Historical Register.
In the wintertime, an area in the town square is flooded for ice skating. Delicious vegetables and fruit are raised in the summer despite the short growing season.
Huntsville was the location of the first elementary school located here for Ogden Valley. In 2009 a new Elementary was built in Eden ; a junior high Snowcrest is located in the Eden. High school students are bused down Ogden Canyon to Pleasant View to Weber High School.
Huntsville won the “Tidy Town” award in 1992 in the state of Utah. Plans were being finalized in 1993 for a Weber County branch library to be built in Huntsville. That same year, final restoration was done on the first log cabin built in Huntsville, in 1861. The cabin was donated by former congressman Gunn McKay and his wife, Donna, and was built by Robert Frederick Aldous. Also in 1993, work was begun to convert Huntsville’s old fire station into a small museum.
Erma H. Wilson and Stanley F. Wangsgaard
*Interesting Side Note: Huntsville was dis-incorporated in 1909 because the City was bankrupt. Also interesting is the fact that originally Huntsville was incorporated as a City, but was reincorporated as a Town in 1924. The differentiation is based on population.