A Brief History of Ogden Valley

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Compiled by Shanna Francis

In 1976, lifetime Valley resident Laverna Burnett Newey published her landmark book Remember My Valley, which recounts the history of this bucolic Valley from 1825 to 1976. She references in the first paragraph the “shimmering man-made lake” that forms a mirror for the surrounding mountains with its three far-reaching arms the collect the run-off water from the North Fork, Middle Fork, and South Fork rivers.

She then notes how the one-acre zoning in this high mountain valley—later upzoned to three acres—had restricted development, whereby “the citizenry has enjoyed spaciousness for so long, they resent any encroachment on their privacy.”

Newey then remarks on some of the good neighbors of Huntsville: The Catholic Monastery that housed the Trappist monks for nearly a century; a prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President David O. McKay; and Congressman Gunn McKay.

“When one comes to the valley mouth of Ogden Canyon at Pine View Dam, he takes Highway 162 across the dam and north to the communities of Eden and Liberty. The new road clings to the west hills and follows the contour of their slopes as it skirts Pine View Lake. In about seven minutes one is in Eden. Its green and yellow fields in the summer, its dazzling whiteness in the winter, or the brilliant colors of the hills in the autumn, makes the trip in any season worthwhile. No wonder, as the story goes, David Jenkins, who surveyed the town in 1863, said, ‘It is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen. We shall call it Eden after the famous Biblical site.’

“Eden is a quiet… town in the center of the valley. There is no evidence of hustle or bustle. The families in the town live in contentment and peace.”

Regarding Liberty, Newey wrote, Snow comes early to its mountains and leaves late in the spring. When other towns begin to dry in August, Liberty, with its cool mountain streams, is still verdant green interspersed with yellow grainfields. In winter it is wrapped in snow.”

Newey concludes, “None of the Valley’s citizens are excessively rich, nor are any of them excessively poor. They belong to the average, hard-working, middle-income status or group of most Americans.”

Ogden Valley had its beginning as part of a glacier about 25,000 years ago. As it receded and melt, the clear frigid water became part of mammoth Lake Bonneville, which covered an area as far north as present-day Franklin, Idaho and as far south as Pine Valley Mountain in Washington County, Utah—approximately 145 miles wide, 364 miles long, and 1,050 feet deep. It slowly receded from this high-mountain vale through the opening we know as Ogden Canyon, leaving behind a fertile, verdant valley that, back in its early days, was blanketed with wildflowers in the spring and lush native grasses rising higher than a horse in the summer. The valley was home to coyote, wolf, deer, bobcat, mountain lions, fox, three kinds of bear (grizzly, black, and the little brown bear), beaver, rabbits, and other small mammals.

Newey adds, “High on the mountain slopes of the valley, where vegetation is thick, the slowly melting snows formed underground springs which seeped through the most natural and efficient purification plant in the world. This purification consisted of straining the water through alternating layers of varying density of soil, crushed rocks, and pure fine sand at the base of the valley. The water then settled in the underground refrigerator covered by a hard pan of clay which was laid down by Lake Bonneville. Only when the clay was penetrated by earthquake or the tools of man, would water rush forth as a pure artesian well.

“The Indians may well have been the first to discover the valley. Reports by early explorers and trappers substantiate this as they followed the well-worn Indian and animal trails.” Here, during the summer months, they lived and hunted in preparation for each long winter that was sure to follow the mildness of summer and fall. It was with the approaching winter that they would move west- and southward out into the warmer, lower valleys on the other side of the Wasatch Mountains. “When the artic winters set in, they trekked south to warmer climes.

“It wasn’t until 1825 that the first white man recorded the valley’s splendor, and the privacy of its Elysian fields [that were] subsequently invaded.”

How apropos that Newey, who knew this valley in its early days, would refer to it as Homer’s Elysian fields—beautiful meadows where the favored of Zeus were thought to enjoy perfect happiness of the ultimate paradise a hero could achieve… a Greek heaven.

Melba and Ren Colvin of Eden wrote in their Valley history, “The pioneers of 1856 used the Ogden Valley as a perfect herding ground, corralled naturally by the mountains, with grass and water all summer—a perfect setting except for a few Indian raids and the heavy winters at this elevation of almost 5,000 feet. The cattle were taken into the valley in the spring and returned to the lower valleys in the fall. It took only a few herders in this natural corral. Nathaniel Leavitt, Alvin West, and Alfred Borum were the herders in the first year (1856). Erastus Bingham had a herd in the valley in 1857. Thomas Abbot had his cattle where Huntsville is located. Isaac and David McKay and Jefferson Hunt had cattle there by 1860….

“During this period when Ogden Valley was used as a summer herding ground, the herders built a few log cabins for their use. The first of these houses was erected in 1857 by Erastus Bingham and Joseph Hardy on a spring near the Middle Fork of the Ogden River. The first permanent settlers arrived in Eden in 1859, coming via North Ogden Pass, since the road had not been completed through Ogden Canyon….”

The Colvins also note, “Shortly after Eden and Liberty’s first settlers arrived, their larger neighboring town to the south [Huntsville] began growing rapidly under the leadership of Jefferson Hunt, whose entrance into the valley came in the late summer of 1860, just as Ogden Canyon was almost finished.”

Fast forward over 150 years later, and Ogden Valley, is still a place that instills a sense of peace and serenity for its residents, as well as its visitors. It is this valley’s beauty and strong sense of place that attracted its first residents, folded securely within its enveloping mountains, and that have kept and sustained their many descendants.