Springville Art Gallery
Located in Utah Valley, Utah County, Springville is about midway between
the north and south borders of the county to the east of Utah Lake at approximately
4,500 feet in elevation, at the foot of the Wasatch Range.
One of the most important features of the Springville location is Hobble
Creek, a stream draining the modest watershed of Hobble Creek Canyon. Springs
from both forks of the canyon feed the creek above what is now the Hobble
Creek Golf Course, but irrigation keeps Hobble Creek from flowing perennially.
These springs and others north of town give Springville its name, although
it was first called Hobble Creek.
Native Americans of the Ute tribe occupied land in the well-watered valley.
They hunted and fished, but left no written record of their lifeways. The
first such record of these people is in journal entries of the Dominguez-Escalante
expedition, which left Santa Fe for Monterey in July 1776. The Spanish fathers
leading the expedition were delighted to find many Utes living around Lake
Timpanogotsis (Utah), and felt the Indians, including those living on Hobble
Creek, might be subject to their missionary efforts.
Aaron Johnson led settlers to Springville in 1850. Mormon settlers displaced
Native Americans and relegated them to an "Indian Farm," located
on poor ground, unfit for farming, at the mouth of the Spanish Fork River
near the Utah Lake. Mormon settlers developed subsistence farming for fewer
families than was hoped, due to lack of water. Some Springville farmers
turned to hauling freight from California twice a year. Following the Civil
War in 1865, other farmers turned to raising cattle and sheep. Completion
of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 made rail shipment of stock to
market possible, so stockmen used more intensive grazing practices. The
railroad also helped make mining products profitable, and many mines started
to be developed. Beginning in 1878, Springville merchant Milan Packard built
a railroad to bring coal from Scofield to Utah Valley. The Rio Grande Railroad
bought out the line in 1882.
Like the Native Americans before them, Springville stockmen lived in the
valley during the winter and grazed their animals in the mountains in summer.
Valley precipitation is generally low, six to twelve inches per year. Above
6,000 feet elevation, precipitation in the mountains is 20 inches to 30
inches annually. Most of the water comes in the form of winter snow. Stockmen
over-used grazing resources. The stock consumed most of the grass from the
hillsides, leaving surfaces unprotected from summer cloudbursts and spring
runoff. The resulting floods and mud flows nearly caused abandonment of
some rural communities.
The results of land abuse prompted community leaders to call for federal
help for their problems. In 1902 Albert Potter from the U.S. Department
of Agriculture surveyed the mountains. His report, coupled with pleas from
community leaders, brought in the recently created U.S. Forest Service to
manage area forest resources, including grasslands above Springville.
During the stockraisers' struggle with grassland use, area farmers were
looking for ways to find more water for irrigation. They also invited the
federal government in by applying the recently passed Newlands Act (1902).
The new law loaned federal money to local groups to develop water projects
in arid or semi-arid regions of the country. The Strawberry Project was
the result of farmers in Utah Valley trying to use the Strawberry River
to irrigate their land. Springville's "Union Bench" was a beneficiary
of the project, and led to formation of Mapleton City out of Springville
benchland. Springville farmers grew sugar beets as a cash crop. Local companies
built a system of factories to process sugar that sold nationwide. Fruit
farms expanded at the demand of national canning companies like Del Monte.
Following World War I, L.F. Rains established a steel plant north of Springville
to take advantage of his coal interests in Carbon County. He formed the
Columbia Steel Corporation at Ironton in 1922 to make pig iron. He negotiated
with J.W. McWane to use iron to make cast-iron pipe in facilities adjacent
to the Ironton plant. He also invited Republic Creosoting Company to establish
a plant to use coal tar, a by-product of the coking operation at Ironton.
This industrial complex employed Springville men.
In 1921 the U.S. government passed a law to assist states with highway construction.
Several companies from Springville organized to take advantage of the opportunity.
Springville families including the Clydes, Strongs, Sumsions, Reynolds,
Whitings, Thorns, and Mendenhalls benefited until the Great Depression eliminated
federal money. In 1936 construction of roads and other public works was
part of the recovery plan and Springville contractors again were active
participants. Springville was said to have had more contractors than any
other town of its size in America.
During World War II, Springville's young men and women served in military
efforts, and its contractors built many defense installations. Following
the war, Springville developed water from springs in Bartholomew Canyon
and installed two new electric generators to improve the power supply.
During the 1960s, the Utah Department of Transportation was busy with construction
of the Interstate freeway system. These roads took traffic out of the towns
and increased the speed and safety of automobile travel. The new freeways
also made possible travel for work from Springville to many places in the
county and beyond. Springville became a bedroom community for industries
such as Geneva Steel, for Brigham Young University, and for an array of
businesses in Salt Lake City.
Springville is noted around the state for its art museum, and it also has
a business district. However, removing traffic from the city also removed
it from the Springville business district. The net result has been a reduction
of retail business activity in Springville. Nevertheless, Springville's
population has grown steadily since the 1920s, reaching 13,950 in 1990.
Springville's largest employers include Stouffer Foods Corporation, with
over 500 employees, and Valtek, which has more than 400 employees. There
are five elementary schools and one junior high school, one middle school,
and one high school in Springville. Most of the community are LDS and attend
twenty-nine wards in four stakes. The Presbyterian Church has been active
in the community since its establishment in 1880.
Jay M. Haymond