Morgan County

County Profile

Founded in 1862, Morgan County is located in the northeast region of the state. It encompasses an area of 603 square miles with a population of approximately 12,124 (U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates Program, V2019). Morgan City is the county seat.

A Brief History of Morgan County*

Located in a high valley of the Wasatch Mountains, Morgan County is divided by the Weber River. The many streams that feed into the Weber made the valley attractive to fur trappers in the 1820s and to prehistoric Plains Indians and historic Shoshone and Ute Indians. In 1825, near present Mountain Green, trappers of the British Hudson's Bay Company under Peter Skene Ogden and competing American trappers came dangerously close to fighting, but Ogden kept the situation from becoming a major international incident.

The city of Morgan was settled in 1855, and the county was created in 1862. During the Utah War (1857-58), settlers in Milton supplied feed for the horses of Mormon troops stationed in canyon passes watching for Johnston's Army. Lot Smith of Stoddard blocked Echo Canyon, buried U.S. Army supply trains, and stampeded government horses and cattle. Despite such incidents, the "war" was settled peacefully.

Morgan has a larger percentage of privately owned land than any other county in Utah. Much of it is used for stock raising, especially beef and dairy cattle and sheep, and for hay and other field crops. Lumber was a major industry during 1860-75 in Hardscrabble Canyon. Thousands of railroad ties were furnished to build the Union Pacific Railroad line, and charcoal was shipped to Bingham for use in smelting. During the building of the UP Railroad in 1868, a number of businesses opened in Morgan City and it became the county's trade center. Some say it was the only incorporated city on the UP line between Ogden and Omaha, Nebraska.

In 1904 Morgan Canning Company was founded to can peas. The business grew and a second factory was built in Smithfield, Cache County. The company was sold to the California Packing Corporation in 1928. The manufacturing of Portland cement is a major local industry. This important industrial product has been produced at the Devil's Slide plant for more than 80 years. In addition to limestone -- the main ingredient in cement — silver, lead, copper, coal, iron, sulphur, and mica have been found in Morgan, but most mining has been on a small scale. Agriculture, manufacturing, and trade do not provide enough jobs for residents, and in recent years more than half of those employed — the largest percentage in any county -- have worked outside Morgan, mostly in the greater Ogden area.

The county has benefited from the Weber Basin Reclamation Project. Beginning in 1952, federal funds were used to construct dams and power plants. The Lost Creek and East Canyon reservoirs are popular recreation sites.

*Used by permission. Beehive History 14: Utah Counties. 1988. Utah State Historical Society, 300 Rio Grande, Salt Lake City, UT 84101-1182.