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Sevier County

Sevier County

Quick facts
Cool facts
What is the land like?
A bit of prehistory
Some bits of history
A little about the economy

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Quick facts

Area: 1,976 square miles
Population
County seat: Richfield
Where it got its name: after the Sevier River, from the Spanish Rio Severo
Main cities and towns: Richfield, Salina, Monroe Economy: livestock, manufacturing, trade
Interesting places: Fremont State Park in Clear Creek Canyon, Fish Lake, Big Rock Candy Mountain, Elsinore White Rock School, Ralph Ramsey home in Richfield.

Cool facts

What is the land like?

landscape

Rainbow Hills on the east side of the Sevier Valley near Glenwood. Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr.

Sevier County lies in the High Plateau country of central Utah. Most of the towns lie near the Sevier River in an arid valley, which has been made fertile through irrigation. 

Mountain ranges border the valley: the Pahvant Range and Tushars on the west and Wasatch and Fish Lake plateaus on the east. National forests cover almost half of the land. The beautiful Fish Lake, high in the Fishlake Plateau, is the source of the Fremont River.

The Sevier River flows through the county, and has been a source both of life-giving water and of destructive floods.

Much of the rocky landscape comes from volcanic action. And the earth is still moving: four major faults in the county have slipped and caused lots of earthquakes.

A bit of prehistory

rock art mountain sheep

Petroglyphs at Fremont Indian State Park. Photo by Utah~Dave AA71Z on Flickr.

Many prehistoric Indian sites have been found in the county.

The earliest people, Paleo-Indians, were followed by the Desert Archaic culture. Sudden Shelter, an Archaic site on Ivie Creek, contains one of the longest cultural time records in Utah east of the Wasatch—from 7,080 to 90 years ago.

People continue to find Fremont culture sites, especially during construction projects. During the building of the I-70 freeway, crews uncovered a very large Fremont village in Clear Creek Canyon. Fremont State Park preserves artifacts from the village.

historic photo

Some Paiutes at Koosharem in 1905. In the front row are Sarah or Peawitch, Henry (the little boy), Dora or Thimba, Chief Walker, his wife Dora, and their little boy Alma.

Southern Paiutes lived in the area when the first non-native people came through. Peaceful, with no guns or horses as their cousins the Utes had, the Paiutes suffered when bands of Utes stole women and children to trade as slaves.

Some bits of history

Explorers and first settlers

Travelers on the Old Spanish Trail and mountain man Jedediah S. Smith were among those who crossed the county before white settlement. The Mormon Parley P. Pratt Exploring Expedition came through during the winter of 1849-50, and George W. Bean explored the Sevier Valley in 1863.

Early in 1864 some men from Sanpete came to the Richfield area to live, drawn by the soil, water, and forest. A few months later, 30 families, “called” by the Mormon church to move, joined them. In 1865, 100 more families came. They founded towns and built a  schoolhouse.

The loss of their land and food sources frightened and angered the American Indians, and the violence of the Black Hawk War swept through Sevier County. Settlers and Indians killed each other. Finally, in 1867, the Mormon leaders counseled the settlers to leave the valley.

Later settlers

historic photo

The Elsinore Hotel, run by Jens and Inger Jensen. Here their daughter Minnie is flirting with a traveling salesman.

White settlers didn’t begin to return until 1870, after Black Hawk and most of his fighters had surrendered.

Many of the county's early settlers were Scandinavians who brought distinctive building styles and cultural practices with them.

Development

The area grew rapidly. Richfield, with eight families and 12 men in 1871, had 753 people by 1874 and was on its way to eventually becoming a major regional commercial center and, eventually, the provider of hospital, airport, and other services for a large area.

When the Deseret Telegraph extended its line from Gunnison to Monroe in 1872, it provided a vital communications link between Sevier County and the rest of the territory.

people and steam engine

Richfield citizens come out to meet the first train through town in 1896.

The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad reached Salina in 1891 and Richfield in 1896. The railroad helped Sevier’s farmers transport and sell their products more easily. The next major leap in transportation came with the building of Interstate 70 in the 1980s. Now Sevier was linked with the national freeway system.

German POWs

During World War II, Sevier County had the unique experience of hosting 250 German prisoners of war in a POW camp in Salina. The prisoners had been sent to help sugar beets and do other farming work.

One tragic night as the Germans slept in their tents, the American guard opened fire with a machine gun, raking the tents and killing nine prisoners. 

A little about the economy

horse, wagon, man

Gypsum mining. The Jumbo Plaster Co. hired Stephen Moss to drill holes by hand, fill them with dynamite powder, light the fuse, then RUN. After the blast he broke the rock with a sledgehammer and hauled it by horse wagon.

Today, sheep and cattle remain important to the local economy, as do dairy products, field crops and, in recent years, turkey raising.

Trade and manufacturing--including food processing, clothing, and building products--contribute to the county as well. Sevier is the state's leading producer of gypsum—and a factory in Sigurd uses this mineral to produce plaster and plasterboard for buildings.

The county also has coal mines and natural gas reserves in the northeast. Its major geothermal resources could be tapped for energy production.