Big Rock Candy Mountain
Area: 1,976 square miles; population: 15,431 (1990); county
seat: Richfield; origin of county name: after the Sevier River,
from the Spanish Rio Severo; principal cities/towns: Richfield (5,593),
Salina (1,943), Monroe (1,472); economy: livestock, manufacturing,
trade; points of interest: Fremont State Park in Clear Creek Canyon,
Fish Lake, Big Rock Candy Mountain, Elsinore White Rock School.
Sevier County is located in the high plateau country of central Utah. Most
of the towns lie near the Sevier River in a fertile valley bordered on the
west by the Pahvant Range and on the east by the Wasatch and Fish Lake plateaus.
National forests cover almost half of the county. The area is seismically
active, and a number of earthquakes have centered in the southern part of
the county on the Sevier Fault.
Many prehistoric Indian sites have been found. Sudden Shelter, an Archaic
site on Ivie Creek, contains the oldest time record in Utah east of the
Wasatch--B.C. 5080 to A.D. 1900. Fremont and Sevier Culture sites continue
to be found, especially during construction projects. Fremont State Park
preserves a recently uncovered Fremont Culture prehistoric village.
Travelers on the old Spanish Trail and mountain man Jedediah S. Smith were
among those who crossed the county before white settlement. The Southern
Exploring Company under Mormon Church apostle Parley P. Pratt visited the
area during the winter of 1849-50, and George W. Bean explored the Sevier
Valley in 1863. Early in 1864 ten men settled in the Richfield area, and
several other towns were founded in the next few years. However, violent
confrontations with the Ute Indians during the Black Hawk War (1865-68)
forced the abandonment of all the Sevier settlements in April 1867. Attempts
to resettle did not succeed until 1870.
The area settlement thereafter grew rapidly. Richfield, with eight families
and twelve men in 1871, had 753 people by 1874 and was on its way to becoming
a major regional commercial center and, eventually, the provider of hospital,
airport, and other services for a large area. Many of the county's early
settlers were Scandinavians, who brought distinctive building styles and
cultural practices with them.
The Deseret Telegraph extended its line from Gunnison to Monroe in 1872,
providing a vital communications link for the area's larger cities. The
Denver and Rio Grande Railroad reached Salina in 1891 and Richfield in 1896,
improving the marketing of Sevier County agricultural products. The building
of Interstate 70 in the 1980s linked the county to the national freeway
Sheep and cattle remain important to the local economy, as do also dairy
products, field crops, and, in recent years, turkey raising. Trade and manufacturing--including
food processing and building product manufacturing--have contributed to
the county's growth as well. Sevier County is the state's leading producer
of gypsum, a mineral used in building products such as plaster and plasterboard,
which is produced at plants in Sigurd. The county has coal mines and natural
gas reserves in the northeast and major geothermal resources that could
be tapped for energy production.
A significant impact to the county came in the 1980s with the completion
of Interstate 70 through the county, skirting the cities of Richfield and
Salina. Construction of the interstate highway uncovered a large Fremont
Indian village in Clear Creek Canyon. This led to the establishment of the
Fremont State Park, which opened in 1987.
The county is served by three high schools located in Salina, Richfield,
and Monroe. The population of the county has shown a continued increase
since 1970 when the population was at 10,976 to 1990 when it had climbed
Miriam B. Murphy