Willard History
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Willard History


Willard, the southernmost community in Box Elder County along U.S. 89, is nestled beneath majestic Willard Peak in the mountains to the east.  Seven Miles north is Brigham City, and Ogden is thirteen miles to the south.  To the west are salt flats and the fresh water Willard Bay, created in 1964.  Exceptionally beautiful are the sunsets reflecting off the water from the Bay, seen from Willard.  A trip to Willard Peak is rewarded with a breathtaking view of the valley below.  Willard had its beginning in 1851, when several companies of settlers were sent out from Salt Lake City.  Nineteen people located on the North Willow Creek, seven miles south of where Brigham would soon be.  Two years later, the settlement was moved to a better site, two miles farther south, and the name North Willow Creek was given to the new settlement.  A fort wall was built to protect them from the threat of Indian attacks.  In the fall of 1851, North Willow Creek was surveyed by Henry G. Sherwood assisted by Cyril Call.  In 1859, it was renamed Willard in honor of Willard Richards, a recently deceased Apostle of the Mormon Church, and counselor to Brigham Young.  Willard received her charter as a city in 1870.  The townsite encompasses seven square miles, being three and a half miles long and two miles wide.

Willard's first settlers were mostly of Welsh, English, Scottish and Dutch decent.  Most were farmers, but some were merchants, carpenters, blacksmiths and school teachers.  Willard's inhabitants included an abundance of musicians.  Willard has always been noted for its music, claiming Evan Stephens, Mormon Tabernacle Choir Director, and Robert J. Bird, hymn writer, among its "native sons".  Shadrack Jones was an especially gifted stone mason, and Willard's rock homes reflect his handiwork.  Over thirty pioneer rock homes are still standing, many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.  A brickyard and the first grist mill in Box Elder County, as well as a number of molasses mills, provided for the first citizens' basic needs.  Electric power came to Willard in the early 1900's with completion of Willard's own powerhouse.  A water system was completed in 1912, utilizing water from Willard canyon.  Willard was a station on the main line of the Utah-Idaho central railroad.  The community had a canning factory, a money order post office, general stores, and an estimated population of 800.  It was a city of the third class.  Its population in the 1950 census was 1,298.

Historically, the economy of Willard centered on agriculture, with fruit crops being the major product.  Colorful roadside fruit stands grace Highway 89 as it winds through the area.  Buyers travel far to purchase the best fruit in the west along northern Utah's "fruit way".  Agriculture is now a secondary source of income.  Some businesses are located in Willard, but most people seek employment nearby.  Hill Air Force Base, the Internal Revenue Service, Thiokol Corporation and Morton International are within commuting distance and employ many citizens.  Interstate Highway I-15, running north and south bordering the town on the west, provides two convenient accesses and relieves much of the "through" traffic on Highway 89 which splits the town.  The rural atmosphere and proximity to these facilities make Willard an ideal place to live and raise a family.

Predominantly L.D.S., the three Willard Wards are housed in a new meeting house built in 1973.  Willard and Perry now comprise a stake of their own, the Willard Stake having been created November 25, 1984.  The new Willard Elementary School built in 1986, is of modern energy-efficient design, and is one level, better serving the needs of children and faculty.  At that time, the old school was demolished.  Its west wing, built in 1964, was left intact to serve as Willard’s City Hall.  It houses the police, courts, and offices.  A modern post office was built in 1990.  A large fire station was built in 1992, to house the volunteer fire department.

Willard is located on an alluvial fan exposed as Lake Bonneville receded and, as such, is an ideal spot for gravel pits--a constant concern to the town.  The sheer rock cliffs that rise so majestically east of Willard have, on several occasions, contributed to floods in the valley.  The situation has been addressed by the Willard City/Box Elder County Drainage and Flood Control District, which installed reservoirs and pipelines, helping greatly to reduce the flood problem.  Young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps built the dike and spillway in the 1930's to alleviate some causes of flood, including terracing Willard basin upper canyon.  With those measures, past concerns have been alleviated.  Willard claims the oldest continuous 4th of July celebration in Utah; beginning with a Fireman's Ball the night before, races and booths that day, and ending with fireworks in the Willow Creek Park east of town.  Willard Bay State Park, located west of I-15, is a major recreational area for boating and camping.  Year-round fishing and close proximity to the population of the Wasatch Front makes it one of the most popular of Utah's State Parks.  Between January and October, 1992, 269,232 people used its facilities.