Spanish Fork, Utah County, is located about sixty miles south of Salt Lake City, and is built upon three distinct alluvial fans formed by the Spanish Fork River. It received its name from the fact that Catholic Fathers Dominguez and Escalante entered Utah Valley along the Spanish Fork River in September 1776 on their exploratory journey.
Enoch Reece took up about four hundred acres of land in the Spanish Fork River bottoms area in 1850 and was the first man to locate a home there. He was soon followed by other settlers, including John Holt, John H. Reed, and William Pace.
During the fall of 1854, a fort, called Fort Saint Luke, was built on the present site of Spanish Fork. This was occupied by nineteen families from the settlement of Palmyra, about three miles west. The fort was built as protection from the Indians. In 1855 the territorial legislature granted the city of Spanish Fork a charter and boundaries were established. After Palmyra was abandoned in 1856 and its citizens, numbering about four hundred, moved to Spanish Fork, the charter was amended to also include that area.
As a result of the United States Army coming into the Salt Lake Valley in 1858, Spanish Fork became the temporary home of about four hundred families who had fled from their homes in northern settlements. Many of the refugees remained in Spanish Fork. The first commercial industry, a sawmill, was established in 1858 and was owned by Archibald Gardner. He also built the first flour mill, which began operation in 1859. The Spanish Fork Foundry, established in 1884, turned out great quantities of iron and brass castings. While the principal industry of Spanish Fork has always been agriculture, the city has also become a primary livestock center. The canning industry was also important; in 1925, the Utah Packing Corporation established a factory and began to contract with local farmers for the growing of peas, beans, and tomatoes.
As the population increased and more land was brought under cultivation, the waters of Spanish Fork River became inadequate to supply irrigation needs. After lengthy negotiations and contracts with the federal government, Spanish Fork secured the delivery of water from the newly completed Strawberry Reservoir. Water was first received through the tunnel on 27 June 1915.
Teleflex Defense Systems is currently Spanish Fork's largest private employer with over 200 employees. Seven other businesses employ one hundred or more workers: Longview Fibre Company, Natures Sunshine Products, Trojan Corporation, Valley Asphalt, Inc., Shopko, K Mart, and Mountain Country Foods.
Although Spanish Fork is predominantly Mormon, the Presbyterian Church established a church and mission day school in 1882. The school functioned until the state school system was inaugurated in the early part of the twentieth century. Today there are three elementary schools, one intermediate, and one high school. An Icelandic Lutheran Church was also built on the east bench of Spanish Fork and served a congregation for many years. There is also the Faith Baptist Church, as well as twenty-six LDS wards in four stakes. The population of Spanish Fork was 11,272 in 1990, well over a one hundred percent increase from the 5,230 residents in 1950.
See: Elisha Warner, The History of Spanish Fork (1930).
Doris F. Salmon