Mormon pioneers first settled the Kaysville-Layton area. Edward Phillips, John H. Green, and William Kay came with their families in the spring of 1850 and were followed by other families the same year. It is easily seen on a contemporary map that Layton, an outgrowth of Kaysville, was not a planned settlement as were many Mormon communities.
An 1854 survey outlined Kaysville's town plat where the business center was located. By 1882 two businesses, the Farmers Union and Barton and Sons, were operative several miles to the north in the area first called Kays Creek. By 1886 that area was known as Layton, named after Christopher Layton, a prominent early settler of the area, and a separate precinct and post office were established there.
Layton's citizens' ongoing discontent over being taxed by Kaysville without receiving any benefits came to a head in 1889 when Kaysville began construction of an imposing city hall. Led by Ephraim P. Ellison, Layton began an extended legal battle to break away from Kaysville which led several times to the Utah Supreme Court and eventually to the United States Supreme Court. Suits and countersuits were finally resolved in 1902, and Layton became an unincorporated area. A growing business district in Layton at the time included two general stores, a meat market, saloon, coal dealer, blacksmith shop, barber shop, hotel, and the Layton Milling and Elevator Company, which in 1903 shipped more flour than did any other Utah mill. The First National Bank of Layton, the oldest local business still in operation, was established in 1905.
With a population of 500, Layton was incorporated as a third-class town in 1920. Growth remained stagnant until World War II. However, the expansion from 646 in 1940 to 3,456 ten years later enabled Layton to become a third-class city in 1950. By 1985, with an estimated 36,000 citizens, Layton surpassed Bountiful as Davis County's largest city. The city's population in 1990 was 41,784.
Layton's area also expanded from its original 1.7 square miles in 1920. Its largest annexations were Laytona in 1957 with 3.5 square miles and East Layton with two square miles in 1981. The city today embraces 18.48 square miles.
Agriculture, the basis of Layton's early economy, produced two firsts in Utah Territory--the first reservoir built by Elias Adams in 1852 and the first alfalfa raised by Christopher Layton. Grazing utilized much of the marginal land, and early dry farming was also successful. Kays Creek provided water, and a succession of canal companies improved the scant supply. Construction of the East Canyon Dam and Reservoir finally assured a dependable water supply, enabling Layton farmers to become commercially successful with such cash crops as alfalfa, grain, onions, and potatoes. Peas and tomatoes were processed at local canneries, including the Layton Canning Company. Sugar beet production increased upon completion of the Layton Sugar Factory in 1915. Dairy products were marketed and east bench orchards produced abundant fruit crops. After World War II, field corn and turkey production were also successful; however, with increasing suburban sprawl, little agriculture remains today.
The construction of Hill Field in 1940 on the sand ridge to the north set the wheels of change in motion. During World War II Hill became an important center for supply and maintenance, with an attendant influx of war workers and servicemen and their families. Today Hill Air Force Base remains very important economically, not only to Layton but also to the state itself.
With the population increase, several wartime government housing projects were built in Layton. One of these, Verdeland Park, was dismantled during the 1950s and eventually became a spacious public complex which includes Layton High School, the Layton branch of the Davis County Library, the Heritage Museum, new city offices, and an attractive city park, including a wave pool.
As is the case with many cities, Layton no longer has a single downtown business district. Small stores and shopping centers dot the city, with the Layton Hills Mall being the largest. Smith's Food and Drug Center, Inc., with regional offices, dough and dairy plants, and automated distribution warehouse, is the largest employer in Layton City.
While Mormons are still most numerous, greater religious diversity is now found in Layton. Early settlers were members of the original Kaysville Ward until 1889 and 1895 when separate wards were organized to the north. There are seven Latter-day Saint stakes in the Layton area today. St. Jude's Episcopal church and school was established in Layton in 1885; however, the school was discontinued in 1896 and the church in 1916. In 1948 the St. Rose of Lima Catholic church was dedicated and is firmly established in the community. A number of other denominations including four branches of the Baptist Church, the First Assembly of God, Buddhists, Lutherans, the Church of the Nazarene, and an interdenominational community church are also represented in Layton.