Park Valley History


PARK VALLEY

Park Valley lies in the northwestern corner of Utah, 100 miles from Brigham City.  The elevation varies from 10,045 feet on the mountains to 5,600 feet in the valley, dropping to 4,200 feet on the old transcontinental railroad to the south.  It is a secluded valley, nearly surrounded by mountains on the edge of the Great Basin.  The valley did not have any permanent settlements of Indians but was frequented by tribes of Shoshone Indians during the spring, summer and fall months of the year.  Tribes passed through going to the Grouse Creek Mountains on the west to gather pine nuts.  Later, explorers and trappers followed the mountain streams.

The first settlers belonged to the L.D.S. Church, coming from other Mormon settlements in Utah and converts from various parts of the world came to the valley to raise sheep and cattle.  The area was covered with grass, but drought and hard winters, and even perhaps overgrazing caused the grass to die.  It was replaced with sweet sage, shadscale, horse and deer brush, greasewood, Russian Thistle, and cedar trees, except near the mountain streams and natural stream made irrigation possible.

The first permanent settler was William P. (Cotton) Thomas who thought that the valley was a beautiful place, resembling the park land of his native country, Wales.  He therefore named the place Park Valley.  Other settlers soon followed, bringing livestock and household belongings to settle along the mountain streams.  They planted orchards and gardens as well as grain.  They also ate pine nuts, fish, and game birds.  They made friends with the Indians who passed through or came to hunt.  These were a resourceful people, following the same pattern as that of other towns in the west.

About 1910, a land boom started.  This, along with the Homestead Act, brought hundreds of people to dry farm, but they were disappointed.  There was just not enough rainfall to make dry farming successful.  The opening of the Century Mine also added to the economy of the valley, providing many men with work as well as a close market for vegetables, eggs, meat, and fruit from the farms and ranches.  After the dry farmers left and the mine closed, the people who had water available for their ranches continued to live and progress.  Trapping was another means of living to some in the valley.  Early homes were built of logs brought down from the canyons.

The early people did not settle close together as was the case in most other settlements in Utah, but they settled wherever there was a good spring of water and good pasture lands. Game was plentiful in the valley and higher hills.  Western Jack rabbit and Cotton tail were plentiful.  The settlers realized the immense potential for raising sheep and cattle, and the small herds expanded rapidly until there were many thousands of sheep and also many calle.  It was truly a stockman's paradise.  Water was abundant from the canyon streams and grasses of all kinds once stretched int he vast meadows where sagebrush and cedars now grow.

Church meetings were held in the home of Thomas Dunn in 1871.  The schoolhouse was a log building erected in 1878 and was used for meetings, school and social purposes until 1888 when a new meeting and schoolhouse was built.  The first church meetings were held alternately at the nearby community of Rosette and then at Park Valley until 1910 when the Rosette Ward was organized.  Rosette and Park Valley were wards in the Box Elder Stake until 1915 when they were transferred from the Box Elder Stake to become part of the Curlew Stake with headquarters at Holbrook, Idaho.  In 1941 Rosette and Park Valley wards were combined into one ward called Park Valley and a new chapel was built.  It was dedicated in 1954.

Next in importance to the raising of livestock is farming.  Thousands of fertile acres of land need only additional water.  Wells were drilled to supplement this water, and in recent years many more acres of irrigated land have been put to use because of the deep wells, reservoirs, sprinkling irrigation, pipelines and improved water practices through irrigation companies.  Much has been done in the Park Valley area in recent years to encourage ranchers to conserve and improve natural resources.  Many acres of cedars have been chained and removed, and grass is growing in their place.  Vast acreage has been seeded into crested wheat grass and other forage grasses which give improved grazing.  Grazing is being controlled and better use of rangeland realized. Water systems have been improved and water conserved.