davis history


For those who may be unfamiliar with the County, we offer a brief introduction. Davis County is Utah's smallest county in land area. It is a narrow strip of land only 223 square miles but is the third largest county in population. An estimated 248,000 residents live in the County's fifteen communities. Frequented by Shoshone Indians during historic times, the area was among the first settled by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847. The lush lake-bottom pastures, fertile soils of the bench lands, and streams flowing out of the high Wasatch Mountains on the east attracted early settlers, who established small farms and close-knit communities. These early settlers established schools, built homes and churches, and created productive farms and shops.

Named after the early pioneer leader, Daniel C. Davis, the County was established as a territory in 1850. The territorial legislature created Davis County in 1852 and designated its County seat at Farmington, midway between boundaries at the Weber River on the north and the mouth of the Jordan River on the south. Westward, the County includes a portion of the Great Salt Lake and its largest island, on which Antelope Island State Park is now located.

During its first half-century, Davis County grew slowly. It supported a hardy pioneer people engaged in irrigation agriculture and raising livestock. The Utah Central Railroad (now the Union Pacific) crossed the County from Ogden on the north to Salt Lake City on the south in 1870 and offered welcome transportation links to bring in manufactured products. This was the beginning of a transition in the County's history that led to mechanized agriculture and a surge of commerce, banking, and local business, along with improved roads, new water systems, and the electrification of homes and businesses.

After the turn of the century, the County's 8,000 residents joined in a chorus of boosterism that encouraged growth, but by 1940 the population was barely 16,000. The small family farms and local businesses could support no greater increase. Consequently, many of the younger generation left for new settlements in northern Utah and nearby Idaho and Wyoming.

As the age of the automobile and interurban railways created greater mobility, many County citizens looked to Ogden and Salt Lake City for employment and cultural enrichment. Market gardens, dairy farms, beef cattle, orchards, and fields of grain and sugar beets continued to sustain local farmers. World War II then introduced a new way of life in Davis County. The establishment of Hill Air Force Base in northern Davis County and other defense installations nearby created a surge of civilian employment. Hill AFB quickly became and remains one of the state's largest employers.

Diversification brought rapid post-war growth. The County doubled in population between 1940 and 1950, and doubled again in the next decade. Between 1960 and 1980, the population more than doubled again, from 65,000 to 147,000. By 1990 the population had reached 188,000 and the 2000 census recorded 238,994. Being the fastest growing of the four major urban communities along the Wasatch Front, Davis County is projected to build out with a population near 390,000 by the year 2030.

Accompanying this growth has been a diversification of population and a new prosperity. Davis County now enjoys a wide mix of people representing many ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. The County has moved from its traditional agricultural dependency to an interlocking network of suburban communities around a core of original towns with closeness in proximity to downtown Salt Lake City. The communications age has tied Davis County to the world. Its citizens today are part of an economic and social pattern that reaches far beyond the County's tiny geographical limits.

Today, many nationally known commercial, industrial, recreational, and service companies provide diversified employment opportunities for residents of Northern Utah. The Freeport Center is the largest distribution center in the State of Utah with more than seven million square feet of covered storage and five million square feet of open storage occupied by more than 70 renowned companies employing some 7,000 employees.

Davis County is ready for new businesses and development.  The transformation from rural to residential to office/retail has happened.  Utah’s major educational institutions have a presence in Davis County.  Our youth have access to the best state-of-the-art educational opportunities and they create a qualified work force for incoming businesses.

We have come a long way since 1847 and we are ready to connect with you!

Western Shoshone

Davis County is bounded by Weber County on the north and Salt Lake County on the south, by the beautiful Wasatch Mountains on the east and Great Salt Lake (which covers 365 square miles of the county) on the west. 

Although Davis County consists of about 630 square miles, it has the smallest land area of the 29 counties, since only 223 square miles is actually usable land. Antelope Island adds another 42 square miles to the land area. The remainder is part of the Great Salt Lake.

The county was one of the first regions to be settled in both the territory and state of Utah, and was among the first to be organized as a county on October 5, 1850. Davis County is named for Captain Daniel C. Davis of the Mormon Battalion, a pioneer leader and early settler in the area. 

The Indians were the first people in Davis County. The Indian tribes that came here were the Paiute, Ute, and Shoshone. These Indians were nomadic and came to the area in search of food. The Indians called this area "Neutral". That meant that they would not fight to control the land.

Jedediah S. Smith was one of the first men to set foot in Davis County. He led a party of trappers in August, 1826 through the Bountiful area. Jim Bridger was the first explorer to discover the Great Salt Lake. Later, in 1845, Captain John C. Fremont visited Antelope Island. Captain Fremont is said to be the one responsible for naming the Island after the herds of antelope he saw grazing there. His second and third expedition to this area took him into Bountiful. Kit Carson, a mountain man, later joined his party as a guide. 

The Indians, trappers, and explorers were temporary visitors who only stayed a while. The Mormon pioneers were permanent settlers who stayed to work the land and build cities. The first Mormon pioneer to view what was to become Davis County was Orson Pratt. Peregrine Sessions brought his family into the area in 1847. They set up a campsite in Bountiful. Other families soon came into the area settling in Bountiful, Centerville, and Woods Cross.

Jedediah S. Smith

Famous People

There have been a number of notable people in Utah who have come from Davis County. Charles R. Mabey was Utah's fifth governor. He was born October 4, 1877 in Bountiful. Utah's seventh governor Henry Blood was born in Kaysville on October 1, 1872. Calvin Rampton was Utah's eleventh governor. He was born in Bountiful on November 6, 1913. LeConte Stewart was a famous landscape artist that lived in Kaysville. George Dibble was a famous abstract artist who was born in West Layton. Hod Sanders began Clover Club Foods Company in Kaysville.‚Äč

LaConte Stewart

Many women have contributed to the growth and development of Davis County. Some of the early mid-wives were Emma Sargent Nichols, Mary Ann Presdee Phillips, Sarah A. Crockett Layton, Mary Elliott Webster, and Mrs. John Firth. Ruby Price was the first Black school teacher in Layton, and in Utah. Mary Bonnemort Bowring was an editor for the Weekly Reflex (now the Clipper newspaper). Lucille Reading was editor of the LDS children's magazine, The Children's Friend.

Agricultural and Industrial Development

Mormon pioneers and other early settlers used Davis County for animal grazing and access to the Great Salt Lake. As Brigham Young sent settlers into the area, they discovered the rich soil and ideal climate. Crops were soon planted. Davis County became known as "The Garden Spot of Utah". Many main crops were produced: sugar beets, tomatoes, alfalfa, grain, corn, potatoes, onions and extensive fruit orchards of peaches, pears, cherries, and apricots. Through the years, dairy farming has also been important in Davis County.

Many commercial and industrial companies are located in Davis County including numerous nationally-known manufacturers. The Freeport Center (created during World War II) is the largest distribution center in the United States. Warehouses provide over nine million square feet of covered storage with an additional five million square feet of open storage space. (See also tab on Business and Industry) 

Davis County is also home to Hill Air Force Base. The Base is a vital, economic component of the community. Concern for the possible closing of the base in 2005 is a key political issue to address. The proposed storage of nuclear waste on Goshute Indian tribal lands in the west desert severely compromises Hill's test and training fly zone. It is important to the Base that this fly zone is kept clear.

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