Utah History Encyclopedia


By Edward A. Geary
Huntington is a town in northwestern Emery County near the mouth of a long canyon that cuts diagonally into the Wasatch Plateau. Huntington Creek was probably named for William, Oliver, and Dimick Huntington, brothers who led exploring parties into the region during the 1850s. The first settlers of European extraction in the area were four stockmen, Leander Lemmon, James McHadden, Bill Gentry, and Alfred Starr, who brought their herds to Huntington Creek in 1875. Of this group, only Lemmon became a permanent resident.

In the fall of 1877, in response to the same "call" from the LDS Church that brought settlers to the other creeks in Castle Valley, a small group from Fairview, Sanpete County, under the leadership of Elias Cox, established a dugout colony on the banks of Huntington Creek and began digging irrigation canals. The colony grew from 126 in 1880 to 738 in 1890 and 1,293 in 1910. A majority of the early settlers came from Sanpete Valley, which by the late 1870s had outgrown its irrigable land, and many belonged to three or four interrelated kinship groups, making for an abundance of cousins in the community.

In 1880 a mile-square townsite was surveyed on the Prickly Pear Flat, a bench south and west of the creek. The first structure erected on the new townsite was a 40-foot by 60-foot log meetinghouse, which was completed in time for an all-night New Year's Eve party on 31 December 1880. Most of the townsite was without water until the completion of the Huntington Canal in 1882. Settlers drew town lots and built homes in town as they proved up on their homesteads. The first homes, some of which were still occupied until recent years, were typically of sawed log or plank construction or of adobe sheathed with lumber. The erection of a new LDS meetinghouse in 1896 inaugurated a twenty-year building boom that saw the completion of many brick homes, schools, and commercial buildings.

Huntington's early economic base was agriculture and stockraising. Alfalfa seed was an important cash crop at the turn of the century, and honey produced by local apiarist Christian Ottesen won first prize at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1903. For most of its history, however, Huntington has drawn its main income from coal mining. Small "wagon mines" in Huntington Canyon provided limited employment. The coal camp of Mohrland, eight miles to the north, active from about 1909 to 1938, was virtually an extension of Huntington, with many residents dividing the year between the mine and the farm. With the coming of better highways in the 1940s and 1950s, many miners commuted daily from Huntington to Hiawatha and other Carbon County mines.

Its proximity to the regional commercial center of Price, twenty miles to the north, has prevented Huntington from developing extensive retail business. However, a flour mill erected in 1892 remained in operation into the 1980s, producing feeds for local farmers and flour and cereals marketed throughout Emery and Carbon counties. Huntington High School, established in 1915 and later renamed North Emery High, was a focal point of the community until the consolidation of Emery County schools in 1962.

From its early years, Huntington has had a strong amateur arts tradition. A martial band was organized in 1884. Community theater groups produced as many as half a dozen plays a year between 1890 and 1910. A choir directed by Thomas L. Hardee and composed of singers from Huntington and neighboring Cleveland won an Eisteddfod competition hosted by the Scofield Welsh Choir in 1895, and later performed at an LDS general conference in Salt Lake City. A men's glee club organized in the early 1920s is still in existence, with third- and even fourth-generation members.

The 1950 census found 1,442 residents in the Huntington precinct. The population fell by one-third in the next ten years as mining jobs disappeared. This economic decline was reversed in 1972 when construction began on Utah Power and Light Company's Huntington steam-electric generating plant in the mouth of the canyon. The construction plus development of coal-mining operations to supply the plant gave the town the character of an energy boom town for a few years. Industrial development not only enabled some former residents to return to the community but also attracted new permanent residents, bringing more diversity to the town's former character as a Mormon farm village. While the community is still predominantly Mormon, the Mission San Rafael was established in 1977 a few miles south of Huntington to serve Catholic families in western Emery County. Baptist, Assembly of God, and nondenominational Protestant religious services have also been held in the community. The 1990 population of Huntington was 1,875.