Murray City, originally known as South Cottonwood, lies eight miles south of Salt Lake City between Big and Little Cottonwood Creeks. It is named for Eli Murray, territorial governor from 1880 to 1886. Although first settled in 1849, Murray was not incorporated until 1902. Its central valley location and plentiful water have allowed Murray to evolve from an agricultural to industrial to suburban community.
Murray was settled as part of the initial expansion south of Salt Lake City. Early residents in the area divided the grasslands south of Salt Lake into homesteads or parcels where they raised cattle and cereal grains. Most of the cattle provided dairy products, while wheat, corn, and some rye were grown to feed the family and animals.
Construction of the Woodhill Brothers' smelter in 1869 initiated Murray's industrial history. Murray produced the first silver bars smelted in Utah in 1870. The smelters continued to dominate the local economy until the close of the ASARCO lead smelter in 1950. Business and commercial enterprise prospered along with the smelter industry. Murray was praised as a shining example of cooperation between business, industry, and government early in the twentieth century; it was hailed for its own water plant, lighting system, smelter, canning factory, flour mills, and brickyards.
Murray's industry was hard hit by the 1930s depression. The smelters began to close in 1931, and major industry had all but vanished by 1940. Murray was quick to take advantage of various federal projects to compensate for this economic loss. The city actively sought federal money to refurbish its twenty-two-acre park and buildings and to purchase an additional twelve acres of fairgrounds. By 1939 Murray was the site of the annual Salt Lake County Fair.
Even though the smelters, brickyards, and flour mills that fueled Murray's industrial economy either closed or moved between 1930 and 1950, its central location makes Murray an ideal bedroom community and area of small businesses and service industries. The present population (31,282 in 1990) is employed in office, service, and industrial jobs throughout Salt Lake Valley. From 1950 to the present, Murray's population has continued to expand and prosper.
See: Murray City Corporation, History of Murray City (1976); Raymond R. Rasmussen, History of Murray, State of Utah (1936).
David L. Schirer