Thursday, October 10, 2013

Davis County Boasts at Least 10 Utah Superlatives

                              Davis County Conference Center in Layton.
By Lynn Arave

DAVIS County is one of Utah’s oldest and most populated counties.  It was named after a pioneer leader, Daniel C. Davis and the county was first established as a territory in 1850. The territorial legislature officially created Davis County in 1852 and designated Farmington as its county seat, sitting midway between boundaries at the Weber River on the north end and the mouth of the Jordan River on the south.
Today, more than 250,000 residents in 15 cities, plus various unincorporated areas, call the county their home.
Davis County also boasts a number of superlatives and firsts for the State of Utah – and even some of national prominence.
  Here are 10 such important facts and accomplishments:
-Smallest county of the 29 counties in Utah: Davis County comprises a narrow strip of land only 223 square miles in size, but has the third largest county in population. (Davis County also comprises about 329 square miles of the Great Salt Lake.)

                             A portion of the Fielding Garr Ranch today.

-First permanent house in Utah: The adobe ranch house Fielding Garr built on the southwest end of Antelope Island was the very first permanent residence ever to be built in Utah. It is also the longest continuously-occupied house in the state, seamlessly sheltering a variety of owners of the ranch from 1848, until it was purchased by the State of Utah in 1981.

-The first reservoir in Utah: Elias Adams started backing up the waters of the north fork of Holmes Creek, in today’s Layton City, in 1852, to lengthen the irrigation season. The earthen dam was enlarged in 1863, but washed out in 1864. Adams then reinforced his dam and others imitated his work on other streams.

-Oldest operating amusement park west of the Mississippi: Any way you figure it, Lagoon was the first amusement park west of the Mississippi River. Having started up in 1886, it also be ranked as America’s second-oldest amusement Park (behind Dorey Park, Penn.), if you discount Lagoon having moved inland in 1896.
-Boasts the only surviving pioneer era “lake park”: Lagoon, established in 1886, is the only remaining operational park of eight total resorts established along the shores of the Great Salt Lake in the 19th Century. Although Lagoon moved inland in 1896, it is the only such historic resort left open today.
-Oldest summer “group parties” in Utah: Lagoon was hosting “Stake Lagoon Days,” as well as Catholic Day and many other special annual group visit days, starting by or before the year 1905.
-Utah’s single largest teenage employer: Lagoon Park annually hires about 2,500 seasonal employees, most of them teenagers.

                                  Lagoon's old swimming pool.                                         -From Lagoon's archives.

-Utah’s largest civil rights crusader: It was in the late 1950s and into the early 1960s that Lagoon’s Management excelled at civil rights. “Liberty and Justice for All. How Lagoon came to be at the cutting edge of Civil Rights in Utah” was the title of a 2005 research article, by Kristen Rogers, in “Currents," a quarterly publication of the Utah Division of State History. It was Bob Freed, part-Lagoon owner, in particular, who crusaded for civil rights - especially for Black families. Prior to the 1960s, Blacks were not permitted to swim in the Lagoon pool, like most of that day in America. Blacks could not dance either at Lagoon, or most other public places. Lagoon just started letting blacks swim, dance or do everything other races could. No one complained and Lagoon’s bold example lessened race barriers at other places in Utah.

-One of the nation’s highest hanggliding takeoff points you can drive to: In the Francis Peak area, there’s a 5,000-foot vertical drop for gliders, from about a 9,500-foot elevation. Hanggliding enthusiasts can drive the “Scenic Backway” dirt road, some 12 miles to various launch points. Very popular from the 1970s to 1990s, the restricted airspace in the area then prohibited hanggliding for more than a decade. Now airspace changes from the Salt Lake International Airport have opened it up again.

-Two of the state’s oldest roads: Highway 89 through Davis County and the Bluff Road on the county’s west side were among the earliest paths in Utah, also used by Native Americans. Highway 89 (also known as “Mountain Road”) was also a popular Indian trail from north of Farmington to Weber Canyon and used by emigrants and settlers. The Bluff Road, also known as “Emigrant Road,” was used by California-bound Emigrants as early as the fall of 1848 and later Forty-niners.

SOURCES: "A History of Davis County," By Glen m. Leonard and

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:  

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