Morgan City is the only incorporated city in Morgan County. The settlements of North Morgan and South Morgan were combined and incorporated in 1868 with William Eddington elected mayor. Morgan was named in honor of Jedediah Morgan Grant, an LDS Church leader, who helped to construct a road to the area through Weber Canyon.
Morgan City is located on both the east and west sides of the Weber River and is in about the middle of the county. The river forms the dividing line between north and south Morgan. Interstate I-84 is a major east-west highway that passes through the north Morgan section. The elevation is 5,080 feet, which provides a short growing season and cool nights in the summer. The city's boundaries contain 1,366 acres of land, which were primarily used for agriculture in the early years of settlement.
North Morgan was settled in about the year 1861 and was originally called Mount Joy. Some of its first settlers were John Heath, Wyman Parker, Daniel Williams, and William George. The first settlers of South Morgan arrived in 1860 and were Richard Fry, Richard Norwood, and Daniel Bull.
In 1868-69 when the transcontinental railroad was being constructed it was a definite advantage for the residents of Morgan to be located along the main route. At that time Morgan City was credited with being the only incorporated city on the railroad line between Omaha and Ogden. The railroad not only provided jobs to area residents but also changed the entire economic history of the area. Residents were able to obtain more of the necessities and comforts of life, while the railroad also opened up markets for the goods produced locally.
One of the first community efforts was the construction of a sophisticated canal and ditch system to convey water from the river to their dwellings and crops. Although originally constructed with crude implements, the system was well engineered and is still in use at the present date.
The original business district was located in south Morgan. However, with the coming of the railroad, local businessmen could see the advantage of being located close to the railroad freight and passenger stations so they moved their establishments north to the west side of the tracks. All of the businesses were located on the same side of the street and formed a long string of buildings. The area remained the main business district for both the city and county for many years; but it is now fragmented and a shadow of what it used to be. With the passing of time and the need for more space, many businesses have relocated in other parts of the city.
In 1874 construction was begun on a courthouse in the city, which also served as the county seat. This building served both the city and county until 1959 when the City and County Memorial Building was constructed.
In 1890 there were 333 people residing in the city's boundaries. By 1911 the city had been given the classification of a third-class town, with 756 inhabitants. It is now identified as a third-class city, with 2,023 inhabitants (1990 census).
In 1903 the First National Bank of Morgan was organized and opened its doors for business. This bank continues to serve the citizens of Morgan. Through the years many businesses have located in Morgan. In 1904 the Morgan Canning Company was incorporated. The canning industry boosted the agriculture economy of the area, as peas and cabbage were grown locally to be processed and canned for distribution throughout the country. The company was sold to Utah Packing Company in 1930 and again changed in 1935 to California Packing Corporation. It closed its doors in 1956.
Morgan City had its own soft drink bottling company, known as Morgan Bottling Works. It operated from 1920 until 1934 and at one time distributed its products as far as Evanston, Wyoming. A ZCMI store and J.C. Penney store also were at one time located along Commercial Street.
For years, beginning in the 1930s, many local residents were part of the Utah Poultry Producers Co-op Association and shipped thousands of eggs on a regular basis.
In 1936 a PWA (Public Works Administration) project was undertaken in the city with the construction of the elementary school building. This provided a modern and adequate facility to accommodate all the students from the eight different two- and three-room schools located throughout the county. Morgan was honored for being the first consolidated school system in the state. In 1977 Morgan City again became the home of a new concept in education. A middle school system was implemented for grades five through eight.
Currently Morgan City has one major grocery store, a bank, a drug store, several convenience stores and service stations, two wood companies, several eateries, two car dealerships (one of which is the oldest continuous family-owned dealership in the state), two hardware stores, and other businesses that provide needed services to the citizens. Morgan City Corporation owns and operates its own power, water and sewer systems.
Located along the banks of the Weber River is Riverside Park. It is an attractive, spacious park providing picnic facilities, a baseball diamond, and a theatrical pavilion.
Many of Morgan's citizens work outside the county, but agriculture continues to be of major importance to Morgan City. At one time, it had thirteen mink ranches and several dairy farms located within its boundaries. The LDS Church continues to be the city's dominant religion. No other religious denomination has erected a church building in the city.
See: The Morgan County News, Pioneering Morgan County (1947); The Fine Arts Study Group, Mountains Conquered (1959); and Morgan County Historical Society, Morgan County School Buildings (1989).
Linda H. Smith