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TREMONTON

By Kleon Kerr
Tremonton is located in the Bear River Valley, just west of the Bear River, along Interstate 15, and about seven miles south of the confluence of the Malad and Bear rivers. Its elevation is 4,322 feet above sea level and about 120 feet above the mean level of the Great Salt Lake, which lies some fifteen miles south and west of the city. Tremonton is the second largest city in Box Elder County; it had a population in the 1930s of some 1,400 and an estimated population in 1992 of 4,264.

The area was inhabited by the Fremont and later the Shoshoni Indians before the coming of the first white settlers in the late nineteenth century. Though the townsite was first settled in 1888, the town itself owes its existence to the "second colonization" of Utah around the turn of the twentieth century. John Petty took up a homestead of 160 acres in the area in the year 1888. His farm covered the present south half of town.

Toward the opening of the new century, land agents, including V.S. Peet, the immigration agent for the Union Pacific Railroad Company, went east to induce more people to settle in the Bear River Valley. As a result, a number of families from Nebraska came to the area and bought farms during the years following 1898. Fred Nihart came from Cairo, Nebraska, in the spring of 1899, settling on the northeast quarter of the present townsite. According to his own statement, he came because of a desire to farm irrigated land.

After the Bear River had been tapped and the local canal system built, water began to flow over the thirsty soil. In 1892 possibilities for Bear River Valley began to look promising for many new settlers. Fred Nihart reported that others came from Nebraska and also from Tremont, Illinois, in 1899.

A German colony came from Tremont, Illinois, in the spring of 1900 and settled on or near the Salt Creek. They soon built nice homes and improved their farms. The townsite of Tremonton was laid out early in the spring of 1903 by John Shuman, Fred Nihart, and John Petty on part of their farms. They chose the site because of its location on the Malad branch of the Oregon Short Line railroad and because it was centrally located on the crossroads in the Bear River Valley.

C. C. Wilson of Bear River City purchased the first lot and built a building which he used as office and sales room for his hardware business. His lumber was piled at the side of the office in the sagebrush. He opened his door for business on 14 April 1903.

Petty, Shuman, and Nihart began erecting buildings to attract business to the new townsite. Shuman opened a meat market and distributed mail from the market. Felix Zesigar opened a barber shop, and a Mr. Stohl moved his saloon from Corinne. Nihart opened an office and started a weekly newspaper, the Tremont Times, which he had printed in Logan but which was distributed from the new townsite which, at the request of the German colony, had been named "Tremont."

Following the first business boom and for a year thereafter, businessmen were attracted to the town from all parts of the county. Their businesses included Meldrum's blacksmith shop, Sherman's general merchandise store, Cook's drug store, Mrs. Cook's millinery store, Mrs. John Shuman's boarding house, Proctor Hotel, Goss Livery Stable, Stohl Furniture Store, Thomas Waldron's general merchandise store, Fishburn and Son's general merchandise store, Consolidated Wagon and Machine Company, Mr. Zimmerman's saloon, Wyatt Brothers' meat market, and the Kent Hotel. Very few homes were built during the first year; most of the families lived in the rear rooms of their places of business.

The town's name of Tremont was of short duration. Within three or four years, the name was so frequently confused with Fremont, Utah, that postal authorities requested a name change for the newer town. By simply adding two letters to Tremont, the town became Tremonton and the identity problem was solved.

A town organization was effected on 6 January 1906, with J.A. Fishburn as president, and J.C. Gates, D.C. Roush, S.B. Watland, and E.M. Wyatt members of the board, with George Shuman, clerk. They at once began to make improvements. Land for a city park was purchased from John Shuman for $50.00. In 1909 the old board sidewalks were replaced by cement walks; in 1910 a $6,000 bond was issued and a water system installed using water from the local canals; in 1911 Utah Power and Light Company installed an electric light system.

On 29 March 1912 the Tremonton Commercial Club was organized with Aquilla N. Fishburn as president, Charles McClure as vice-president, Harry L. Gephart secretary, and S.N. Cole treasurer. The club voted to organize a hotel commission. David Holmgren was chairman of the commission, which at once began the erection of the Midland Hotel. The contractors soon learned that the underground water was too near the surface to make the building of foundations and basements either safe or possible. Therefore, Matthew Baer organized a drainage company in July 1913, and by November of that year a sewer and drainage system had been extended to the greater portion of the town.

From the summer of 1912 to the close of 1914 Tremonton experienced a building boom. Coles Bank, the Shield Hotel block, Waldron and Harris Mercantile Building, and the Midland Hotel were all built. On 6 May 1918 Tremonton was incorporated as a city of the third class with Charles McClure as mayor; J.A. King, David Holmgren, W.H. Stone, and H.T. Woodward, city councilmen; Louis Brenkman, clerk; and W.E. Getz, treasurer. That same year, the city voted a $50,000 bond and installed a new water system using water from the Johnson Spring located just east of Point Lookout. By 1925 the population of Tremonton numbered 1,000.

The founding of Tremonton differed in many respects from the settlement of a vast majority of its sister communities in the valley. Most of the families pushing north and west to establish homes in the region were Mormon; but the first people of Tremonton and vicinity were non-Mormon. They were people who brought with them a variety of religious beliefs from their former homes. They also were an industrious, progressive, and sincere people who, regardless of differences in belief, were willing to cooperate with their neighbors. These qualities were evident when they constructed the first Union schoolhouse to educate all their children. They further united (hence the name "Union") by sharing that building on Sunday, when several denominations used it during the course of the day for their services.

Tremonton is a modern city. From 1906, when it was first incorporated as a town, to 1918, when it was designated a third-class city, to the present, growth has been steady. Educational, recreational, civic, health, medical, and religious services and facilities have been updated and expanded with the steady growth of the city. Economically, the city is a central shopping place for the Bear River Valley. In 1992, 267 businesses were operating with official city licenses.

Employment opportunities also have expanded with the Thiokol plant located twenty-six miles to the west. Nucor Steel is located fourteen miles to the north. La-Z-Boy Chair Company operates within the city limits. Tremonton church groups include LDS, Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic.

See: Reuben D. Law, History of Tremonton (1928); Lydia Walker Forsgren, History of Box Elder County (1937); Phyllis Christensen, A Glorious Fifty Years, 1928-1978 (1978); and Kleon Kerr, Those Who Have Served, Town of Tremonton, 1906-1917, City of Tremonton, 1918-1992 (1992).