Collinston History
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Collinston History


The community of Collinston is one of the oldest in Box Elder County whose center has been located in several places and its history closely linked to the development of transportation and industry in northern Utah.  Approximately five miles downstream from the mouth of the canyon where the Bear River enters the Bear River Valley is located the historical fjord where Indians, trappers, early explorers and wagons crossed the river.  The deep, wide and swift river resulted in several deaths each year, and in 1853 a ferry was built as a safer means of moving emigrants and freighters across the river.  In 1859 a bridge was constructed just south of the ferry crossing.  A small log building with a thatched roof built near the bridge became a stopping place for travelers.

The first permanent settlers to the area came in 1860.  In 1864, Overland Mail and Stage Company made its first run from Salt Lake into Montana and Idaho.  In 1866, another bridge was built on the original piers of the first bridge and the Stage Coach Hotel was erected south of the bridge, serving as the first stop main center for the overland mail.

Between 1871 and 1874 the Utah Northern Railroad was constructed to pass north of Brigham City, through Deweyville, over the Mendon Divide and into Logan and Franklin, Idaho.  Hampton Station was built northeast of present-day Collinston.  According to tradition, local citizens changed the name of their community to Collinston to honor Collins Fulmer, a favorite conductor on the Utah Northern Railroad.  With the building of the railroad, the importance of the stage coach transportation began to diminish.  Hampton's crossing at the river remained, but now activity centered around the railroad east of the river.  By 1887, because it was difficult to pull the steep narrow gauge-trains through the deep snow during harsh winters, a decision was made to change the train route about one-half mile to the west.  When the railroad route east over the Wellsville Mountains was abandoned, so was the town of Collinston at that location.  However, this second location of Collinston did not survive long.  The new location was a poor choice because the train had to make a stop at Collinston at a point when it should speed up to make a climb through the canyon.  About 1892, it was decided to change the location of the station further down the tracks to the present townsite, and Collinston now became an important shipping center for points to the north and west, as Hampton's Crossing had been for the stage lines.  Many businesses appeared as the community prospered.  In 1904 Collinston reached its peak as hogs and cattle were shipped from the stockyards located by the tracks and wheat, beets, and other farm products were shipped from the town to outside markets.  In 1905, the Malad Branch of the Oregon Shortline was built on the west side of the valley.  This dealt a great blow to Collinston, and the importance of the town as a shipping center began to wane.  Collinston began to wither as nearby Tremonton started to bloom.  Since that time, Collinston has become smaller and smaller.

For over 100 years the post office was an important institution in Collinston, at one time distributing all the mail for the northern part of Box Elder County.  The post office closed in 1982 when a rural route was set up from Brigham City.  Collinston had been maintained almost entirely by freighting until 1900 when farming began to come into prominence.  Between 1889 and 1907 the East Hammond Canal was built to irrigate the Bear River Valley, and the area became a rich farming district.  Around 1900 a one-room schoolhouse was built and then a two-room grade school.  In 1962 the school closed and the children were sent to Fielding where they now attend.  High School students attend Bear River High, although for a period of time before the enlargement, some youth from Collinston attended Box Elder High via streetcar.  The electric streetcar was built in 1914, coming from Ogden to Preston, Idaho.  In 1916 electricity finally lit the homes and telephone arrived.  Residents of the community get their drinking water from springs or wells that they own themselves.  Irrigation water comes from the East Hammond Canal.

Many of the settlers in the area were members of the L.D.S. Church.  Much of the social life and church activity was centered around Collinston Hall which was built and used for a business. The L.D.S. Church bought the hall in about 1927 and it was used extensively until the completion of the recreation hall at the Beaver Dam Ward in Beaver Dam.  In 1932-33 plans were made for a state road through Collinston area.  It was built west of the county road through about 200 acres of prime farm ground, straight through the town of Collinston.

Collinston is not the metropolis it used to be.  Most of the old buildings have been taken down or destroyed by fire.  The old school house has been remodeled to serve as a private residence.  It is interesting to note that the first business (the old Hampton) established in the area of Collinston is again being run as a business.  Collinston has a population of about 100 people.  Most of those who now live in the area no longer farm entirely for a living.  Employment is found at Thiokol, La-Z-Boy, NuCor and various other places around the valley.  However, many new homes are being built by people who have come to work in the Tremonton-Garland area or in Cache Valley--but want to raise their families in the rural atmosphere of the Collinston Community.