Lewiston, Utah, is located in the geographic center of Cache Valley, twenty miles northwest of Logan and ten miles south of Preston, Idaho. The town occupies a triangularly shaped land area of approximately 24 square miles, with a base along the Utah-Idaho state boundary in the north, and extends southward between the Bear River on the west and the Cub River on the east to a point where the two streams join in the south. The area is almost entirely flat and contains some of the most productive agricultural land in the state.
Lewiston has always been an agricultural community. The dairying and livestock industries are predominant, and most crops are grown to support them. Some acreage is devoted to supplying vegetables to canneries in the area, but wheat, barley, and alfalfa are the major crops produced. Sugar beets, an important crop for many years, declined in importance after the town's sugar factory closed in 1972. Many residents supplement their farm incomes by working in local factories or through other non-farm occupations.
Although settled initially by Mormons, Lewiston did not follow the pattern of settlement that characterized most of the older towns in Cache Valley. Instead of a small area divided into city blocks, farms were widely dispersed. Roads did develop in a grid pattern, each encompassing about one square mile, along which the farms were located. A small central business district and a more concentrated residential area evolved at the center of this system of roads.
Settlement began in 1870, despite opposition from residents of older communities to the east. The Lewiston area had been used as pasture land by farmers from those towns for many years, and they resented having the land taken over by squatters. Land in Lewiston was among the first claimed under the new federal Homestead Act. Following the establishment of a land office in Salt Lake City in 1869, four men filed claims. Everett C. Van Orden, who had been an early settler in Franklin, Idaho, interested his brother Peter and two other Kaysville residents, Robert Wall and John M. Bernhisel, in coming to Lewiston. The point at which their original four quarter-sections met became the center of town. Within a few years, most of the rest of land had been occupied.
Initially nicknamed "poverty flats" by early residents because of the difficulty of establishing productive farms, the town was soon named Lewiston to honor William H. Lewis, the first LDS bishop appointed to administer the new Lewiston branch in 1873. The name "Cub Hill" was assigned to the first post office in order to avoid confusion with another town in Utah, but this name was only used for a short time.
A small business district grew around the original center of town, and a number of small retail businesses have existed there since the first store opened in 1875. These have included a cooperative mercantile institution, several dry goods stores, and blacksmith shops in the early period; and a succession of dry goods and clothing stores, food markets, taverns, cafes, and service stations in more recent years. In addition, Lewiston once supported a furniture store, a lumber yard, and an electrical supply company; it currently also supports a bank and a drug store.
Early community buildings, schools, and churches were established initially in the center of town. From 1884 until it burned in 1929, the Lewiston opera house served both as church and as community recreation center. As Lewiston grew, the school and other churches were built away from the center of town, and a separate community building and recreational facilities were built.
The location of a sugar factory in Lewiston in 1904, later operated by the Amalgamated Sugar Company, presaged many changes in the community. Anticipating an upsurge in growth, Lewiston incorporated as a town in 1904 and reincorporated as a city in 1921. Municipal improvements followed in rapid succession: a concession for telephone lines in 1904; improvements of a city cemetery that same year; an electric franchise in 1905; a city water system in 1913; a railroad line built by the Logan Transit Company in 1915; and the paving of sidewalks in the business center in 1916, with an expansion in 1924. The 1930s saw another spate of city improvements. These included curbs and gutters in the central area, a sewer system, a new community complex, a new school building, a community grandstand and recreation park, and a public library.
Rapid growth did not materialize, however; Lewiston's population had actually declined by the 1910 census. Still, until the 1980s Lewiston was always one of the larger towns in Cache Valley. Starting from a population of 525 in 1880, Lewiston grew gradually until 1910. Another period of growth peaked in 1950. A second period of decline was reversed by 1980 and the population has increased modestly since that time. It was listed at 1,532 in the 1990 census.
Lewiston has always been and continues to be a predominately LDS community. The ward created in 1877 was later divided into new wards in the outlying areas--the second ward was organized in 1907 and a third in 1909. A fourth ward was created in 1953 by dividing the old first ward; the second and third wards were consolidated in 1971.
See: John Milton Bernhisel, History of Lewiston (ca. 1951).
Steven R. Wood