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SPRING CITY

By Allen Roberts
After the establishment in 1849 of Sanpete County's first town, Manti, Mormon colonists under James Allred founded the Allred Settlement of Springtown along Canal Creek in early 1852. Sanpete's second oldest settlement was quickly bolstered by the addition of about forty Danish families, giving it yet another name, Little Denmark. Following Walkara (Walker) War skirmishes of 1853, a fort was built and settlers from nearby Fort Hambleton (later Mount Pleasant) moved in for protection. As hostilities intensified, however, the village was entirely abandoned and its occupants moved to Manti.

In January 1854 the fort and all of its dwellings were burned by Native Americans. After founding Fort Ephraim the next month, the Allred, Blain, and Larsen families as well as several other original founders of Spring City returned to reclaim the area and create a permanent town. Still, difficulties with local Indians continued and the colony was again temporarily abandoned in 1866. Following the resolution of Indian troubles in 1867, Spring City grew gradually but steadily, reaching a population of 850 in 1880 and a peak size of about 1,230 in 1900--roughly twice its present size.

Like other Sanpete Valley communities, Spring City has always depended primarily on agriculture and animal raising for its economic base. After the seven-by-ten-block townsite had been laid out, land was distributed, cooperative irrigation ditches were dug, a common stock herd was created, and farming commenced in earnest. The town's earliest commercial enterprise was a cooperative store, initially operating out of a home. It purchased grain and farm produce, and sold general merchandise and farm equipment. Many residents engaged in stock raising, wool growing, and lumbering. Upon the arrival of the Rio Grande Western Railroad, Spring City's economic fortunes prospered. It exported its local products, including native oolite stone, which was shipped to larger northern cities for use in the construction of fine buildings.

Predominantly a Mormon community throughout its existence, Spring City also has been home to Presbyterians, Methodists, and other denominations at various times. As the town grew, its residents built meetinghouses, schools, an amusement hall, a small group of business buildings along Main Street, and more than 200 residences in both Scandinavian and various American architectural styles.

If, as has been claimed, Sanpete County possesses Utah's greatest treasury of architecturally significant buildings from the pioneer and early twentieth century eras, then Spring City is its crown jewel. The town's wealth of impressive structures is due to its talented early designers and builders, as well as to the fact that the population decreased in every decade from 1900 to 1970, reducing the need to destroy older structures. Spring City's remarkable LDS meetinghouse, or tabernacle, and city hall--both limestone edifices--and its spectacular Victorian elementary school and bishop's storehouse--both of brick--are among its most important public buildings. The unique Greek Revival "endowment house," Schofield store, Orson Hyde house, Behunin, Monson, Johnson, and Ericksen residences--all of fine masonry construction--also are outstanding. In addition, Spring City possesses a good collection of early log, adobe, and frame structures, including several "urban" barns and other agricultural and livestock outbuildings--many of which sit within a few hundred feet of Main Street.

Spring City's twentieth-century history has followed the socioeconomic patterns established earlier; its relatively pristine visual environment has resulted in the town being listing as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places. In the nineteenth century the key road through the county, now U.S. Highway 89, bypassed Spring City a mile west of town. This economic disadvantage has been partly compensated for by the lack of newer structures replacing historic sites. As a result, since the mid-1970s, many architectural gems have been restored, both by local residents and by interested newcomers. Some of the vacant buildings have been converted to new commercial, cultural, or residential uses, in part accounting for the city's population growth in each decade since 1970. Accommodating economic and social growth while retaining its historical character will be a continuing challenge for Spring City as it approaches the twenty-first century.