In 1905, by an act of Congress, the unallotted land of the Ute Indian reservation was opened to homesteading. Several thousand hopeful twentieth-century pioneers congregated in Provo and Grand Junction with the hope of successfully drawing lots for a homestead in a fertile region of the soon-to-be-opened lands. Throughout the fall and winter of 1905-06 the settlers came to the Uinta Basin. The town of Roosevelt was founded in early 1906 when Ed Harmston turned his homestead claim into a townsite and laid out plots. His wife named the prospective town in honor of the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Within a short time a store, a post office, and the Dry Gulch Irrigation Company were in business in the new town. In 1907, the Harmstons donated two acres of ground for the town's citizens to built a school. The first class had about fifteen pupils, who had to provide books from their homes. Roosevelt soon became the economic center for the area, eclipsing Myton and Duchesne.
Roosevelt is situated on U.S. Highway 40 in the northeast corner of the state, south of the Uinta Mountains, at an elevation of 5,250 feet. The town was incorporated at a mass meeting of forty-four citizens on 21 February 1913. From 1906 to 1914 Roosevelt was in Wasatch County, but in 1914 Duchesne County was formed from part of Wasatch County, and, as the largest town in the county, Roosevelt anticipated becoming the county seat. However, when the total county-wide vote came in, the seat went to Duchesne. Roosevelt is today home to approximately 3,500 people but serves as the business center for several times that number from the many small towns and farming areas that surround the town. Roosevelt has become the region's educational center with Union High School, Uintah Basin Area Technology Center, and Utah State University's Uintah Basin Education Center all located there. Roosevelt is also home of the only hospital in the county, Duchesne County Hospital. The economy of Roosevelt is based on agriculture and the oil industry. Pennzoil Refinery is the largest single employer in the city.
The UBIC (Uintah Basin Industrial Convention) is Roosevelt's annual celebration. What started in the early part of the century as a yearly display of the latest in farming and industrial technology has developed into a yearly gala complete with parade, talent show, concerts, and dances.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the dominant religious denomination in Roosevelt, with two stakes centered in town; but the community also boasts Roman Catholic, Christian Assembly of God, Baptist, Jehovah's Witness, and other smaller denomination congregations. Located near the Uintah/Ouray Indian Reservation headquarters of Fort Duchesne, Roosevelt is a multicultural and polyethnic community, with Caucasians and Native Americans being the most numerous.
John D. Barton