Area: 5,614 square miles; population: 36,485 (in 1990);
county seat: Brigham City; origin
of county name: named for the many box elder trees growing there; principal
cities/towns: Brigham City (15,644), Tremonton (4,264),
Garland (1,637), Willard (1,298), Perry (1,211),
Honeyville (1,112), Bear River City (700),
Clarkston (645), Corinne (639); economy: agriculture,
aerospace/defense; points of interest:
Willard Bay, Crystal Hot Springs,
Brigham City Museum and Gallery, Golden Spike National
Historic Site, Box Elder LDS Tabernacle in Brigham City, Willard Historic District,
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
Located in the upper northwest corner of the state of Utah, Box Elder County is part
of the Great Basin region and embraces a large land area extending from
the west spur of the Wasatch Mountains to the Idaho border and westward
to Nevada. It includes portions of the Great Salt Lake and the
Great Salt Lake Desert. On the east are the lower course and deltas of the
Bear River, the Malad River Valley, and the Promontory Mountains. Diverse
in topography, the county contains rich farmlands as well as extensive
marshlands at the mouth of the Bear River.
Prehistoric big-game hunters seeking mammoths, camels, and bison roamed the area as early
as 12,000 years ago, as did Indians of the later Plains Culture.
Danger Cave, Promontory Caves,
Hogup Cave, and Shallow Shelter are among the important archaeological sites found in Box Elder County.
During the 1820s and 1830s fur trappers, including Peter Skene Ogden and
R. Walker, explored the eastern and northern parts of the county. Permanent
white settlement began in 1851 when a group of Mormons took up land
in North Willow Creek (Willard). Brigham City was settled that year.
Because the land was already inhabited by Shoshoni Indians, livestock
raids and violent clashes between Indians and settlers were common until
Territorial Governor James Duane Doty
negotiated the Treaty of Box Elder on 30 July 1863 in Brigham City.
In 1856 the territorial legislature created Box Elder County from part of
Weber County. Its boundaries were redefined in 1880 when the legislature divided the water
and islands of the Great Salt Lake among Salt Lake,
Davis, Weber, Tooele,
and Box Elder counties.
The most significant event in Box Elder County history took place on 10 May 1869 at Promontory
when the driving of the Golden Spike joined the Central Pacific and
the Union Pacific railroads to complete the transcontinental line. Corinne,
a feisty, non-Mormon boomtown, became the freight transfer point for
goods shipped to Idaho and Montana. In July 1870 Corinne residents spurred
the founding of the Liberal party to oppose the Mormons' People's party.
Agriculture has always played an important role in the economy of Box Elder County.
Some 43 percent of the county's land is used for agricultural purposes.
Besides the standard crops of hay, grain, and alfalfa, beginning in
1901 sugar beets were also raised, and kept two sugar factories, one
in Garland and the other in Brigham City, operating for many years.
Abundant fruit orchards and garden crops continue to contribute to the
local economy. Since 1957, when Thiokol Chemical (now
Morton-Thiokol) began its Brigham City operation, defense and aerospace have dominated
the local economy and presently employ some 5,000 people. Morton-Thiokol
Minuteman missile and the
space shuttle booster rockets.