Grantsville is the second largest city in Tooele County and is noteworthy for both the number and excellence of its horses and cattle, which at one time were important means of bringing much wealth into the city. Large tracts of desert land still provide grazing in the winter for livestock, and majestic homes are still standing from the earlier period of prosperity.
Located thirty-three miles southwest of Salt Lake City in Tooele Valley, Grantsville is bordered on the south by South Mountain, which divides Rush Valley from Tooele Valley; it is bordered on the west by the Stansbury Range, and to the north by Stansbury Island, both named for Captain Howard Stansbury, an early government surveyor. Across the valley floor east lies the Oquirrh Mountains.
A popular grazing area for the herds of Salt Lake Valley stockmen, including Brigham Young, in 1848 the ground on which Grantsville now stands was occupied by a herd house. Thomas Ricks and Ira Willis were in charge at Twenty Wells; but when more permanent dwellings were built by the families of James McBride and Harrison Severe in October 1850, the site was named Willow Creek. Finally, the name was changed to Grantsville in honor of George D. Grant, leader of a military force sent to control hostile Native Americans.
The city's wide main street is bordered by tall, lovely trees; but her rural lanes once lined with Lombardy poplars are dying out now that the once-filled irrigation ditches have been replaced by sprinkling systems. The climate is mild; a very deep accumulation of snow is prevented because of its proximity to the Great Salt Lake. The average summer high temperature is in the 80s; the average summer low is in the 50s; the average winter high is in the 40s; and the average winter low is in the 20s. The average water year rainfall is 11 inches of precipitation.
Incorporated 12 January 1867, the city by 1910 had a population of only 1,000; but by 1990 the figures indicated 4,480; and by 1992, 5,500. From 19.13 square miles at incorporation, the city has decreased in area to 15.63 square miles because of a request by residents in the northern part of the city for de-annexation. A city culinary water system became operational in February of 1940, using mountain water from North Willow Canyon. That pipeline is no longer in use, however; water is provided by three deep wells. A sewer system for the city was not operational until December 1971. An earth-filled dam with a storage capacity of 3,370 acre-feet of water was completed by the Grantsville Irrigation Company in 1985.
When the desert section of the Lincoln Highway was planned for construction from Granite Mountain west to Ibapah, Utah, and then to Ely, Nevada, but was then abandoned for a northern crossing (Salt Lake City to Wendover), Grantsville officially became part of that Lincoln Highway section. The road was open for travel in 1925. Grantsville's business district along that highway (U-138) recently consisted of a drugstore, a bank, a dental and medical clinic, a credit union, a hardware and grocery store, and five gas stations. Two parks are located in the town and a memorial museum contains artifacts from the Donner Party. Stock showgrounds are owned by the county, and campgrounds are found in nearby South Willow Canyon. A senior citizens' center was completed in 1984. An earlier venture by Grantsville businessmen was the investment in 1869 in a woolen mill ten miles east of the city, near present-day Stansbury Park.
The construction of the Tooele Ordnance Depot in 1943 brought employment to the area and also a population increase; consequently, a new high school was built, which became a focal point for school and public events. The school was burned, but was rebuilt in 1984; a middle school was built in 1982.
Methodists established a free mission school in 1884 and a Baptist church was completed in March 1985; however, the dominant Mormon Church has two local stakes and nine wards. A traditional social event each year, called "The Old Folks' Sociable" celebrates Grantsville's heritage.
Newspapers that have serviced the community are the Grantsville Reflex, News, Observer, and Gazette. The local news is now reported by the Tooele Transcript.
See: Alma A. Gardiner, The Founding and Development of Grantsville, Utah 1850-1950 (1984); Ward J. Roylance, Utah: A Guide to the State (1982); Amy Miller and Orrin Miller, eds., History of Tooele County, Vol. II (1990).
Ouida N. Blanthorn