Rock Meetinghouse in Farmington
When the Utah Territorial Legislature created Davis County in 1852,
it placed the county seat at North Cottonwood and renamed it Farmington.
The small Mormon farming community gradually adopted its new name and helped
build Utah's first courthouse in 1854-55, a two-story adobe building that
for its first dozen years served both government and religious purposes.
Centrally located between Salt Lake City and Ogden, and thus at Davis County's
midpoint, Farmington remained an agricultural town for its first half century,
then joined in the effort to develop a commercial base. Eventually, Farmington
settled in as a residential community tied economically to the metropolitan
areas to the north and south.
Known for a time as the City of Roses, Farmington battled flash floods in
the 1920s and 1930s and again in 1984, and now prides itself as a city using
rocks as a distinguishing architectural element in its major buildings.
Two pioneer landmarks built of fieldstone in the 1860s--the Latter-day Saints'
meetinghouse and Franklin D. Richards's grist mill--and a dozen pioneer
rock homes helped establish that image.
Farmington began when Mormon herder Hector C. Haight wintered cattle in
its grassy lowlands in 1847-48. Five other families soon joined him to found
a community at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains near a stream they named
North Cottonwood. On the narrow benchlands overlooking the Great Salt Lake,
settlers laid out a formal town to serve the area's four hundred people,
built a log school and several mills, and in 1854-55 partially surrounded
the town with a mud wall. After the Utah War, settlers spread out along
the road to the north and south and created a "string town" differing
in shape from most planned Mormon villages.
For most of its first century, Farmington lived up to its name as an agricultural
community. Its farmers specialized in raising alfalfa, grain, and livestock,
including dairy herds. Millers, blacksmiths, and other craftsmen sustained
the rural lifestyle. In the early twentieth century, orchardists grew cherries,
peaches, apricots, and apples. Sugar beets processed in Layton became a
popular cash crop for a time.
Latter-day Saint bishops managed most community affairs during the community's
first forty years, including recreation, irrigation systems, roads and bridges,
silk production, and cooperative herds, stores, and tanneries. A rock meetinghouse
built in 1862-64 is one of Utah's oldest still in use. In that building
in 1878 Aurelia Spencer Rogers organized the first Primary organization
for children of the LDS Church .
Transportation routes influenced Farmington at several times in its history.
In territorial days, several inns became favorite stopping places for local
and long-distance travelers. In 1870 the Utah Central Railroad came through
Farmington; a century later Interstate 15 closely paralleled the railroad's
route. Even more influential was the Bamberger interurban; shoppers rode
the Bamberger south to Salt Lake and students rode it north to Davis High
School in Kaysville. When Simon Bamberger developed Lagoon resort at Farmington
in 1896, he created what expanded to become Utah's largest amusement park
and the city's largest source of tax revenue. The private Oakridge Golf
Course brought another recreational facility to the community in the late
Beginning in the 1880s, the LDS Church-managed economy gave way to private
businesses and government employment. Farmers formally incorporated to oversee
irrigation. Businessmen launched Davis County Bank, new grocery stores,
a drug store, and Miller Floral, famous for its greenhouse roses. Utah State
Agricultural College (now Utah State University) established an experimental
farm in Farmington. A Victorian brick court house supplanted the original
building in 1890, and was expanded and remodeled in 1932 and again in 1958.
The county jail, library, fairgrounds, and school district are also established
in Farmington. Despite the construction influenced by the county government,
Farmington's downtown business district remained compact. Residents resisted
commercial growth there, but in the late 1980s a suburban commercial center
blossomed along Highway 89 in the north part of town.
It was during the first commercial boom that Farmington was incorporated,
on 15 December 1892, with 1,180 residents. City government promoted the
construction of better streets, replaced private wells with a culinary water
system, encouraged electrification, and eventually installed a city-wide
sewer system. With support from civic clubs, Farmington developed a city
park in the mid-1950s and added others later. In July 1978 the Farmington
Area Pressurized Irrigation District began serving homeowners and the few
By 1990 the city had grown to a population approaching ten thousand, a quadrupling
over twenty years, the result of numerous new subdivisions. New residents
applauded the small-town, rural atmosphere of Farmington, its tree-lined
downtown area--still mostly residential--and its friendly people. By 1992
the city boasted three elementary schools and a junior high. Ten meetinghouses
served twenty-five Latter-day Saint congregations, while members of other
religious groups traveled to nearby communities for worship. Pinched between
the mountains and the lake on a narrow strip of usable land, Farmington
faced defined geographical limits to any future growth, perhaps assuring
its small-town atmosphere will remain for the foreseeable future.
See: Margaret Steed Hess, My Farmington: A History of Farmington, 1847-1976
Glen M. Leonard