Although home to Native Americans for many centuries, from approximately 1825 to 1847, various trappers and mountain men spent time in the valley, but the first permanent settlerswere Mormon pioneers sent south from the Salt Lake Valley by their leader, Brigham Young, in 1849.
The Provo River was named from the mountain man, Etienne Provost, and Provo was named after the river. Many of the other communities were officially founded the following year,1850, including Alpine, American Fork, Lehi, Pleasant Grove, Payson andSpringville. The same date it officially became a county in January 1850, a road eight rods wide was set aside, running from Ogden on the north, past the 'Temple Block' in Salt Lake City and culminating in Provo. It was to be called State Road and it became a major thoroughfare for commerce and migration of early settlers from the Salt Lake City gathering point to outlying areas, especially to Utah County. Much of the old road exists today as State Street which runs through several communities.
From 1857 to 1858, a large contingent of federal troops moved into the Salt Lake City area. It was a move detested by the predominantly Mormon population and some 30,000 locals streamed south to Utah County to get away from the influence of the troops. Alas, troops also moved into Utah County and founded Camp Floyd in the area now known as Cedar Fort. There was some unpleasantness between the troops and residents but the last of the troops finally left in 1861. When the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, it only took four more years until a line was extended to Provo and then later south and east to give rail connections throughout the Intermountain West.
The Provo area is known worldwide as the home of Brigham Young University. Brigham Young issued a deed of trust to establish Brigham Young Academy on October 16,1875. The fledgling institution went through some rough years and nearly folded on occasion before officially becoming Brigham Young University on October 23, 1903. From humble beginnings with sometimes only a handful of students, it is now a major university with some 30,000 students.
The County population grew slowly and steadily through the years of World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. The official census counted 23,768 citizens in 1890 and that number grew to only 49,021 in 1940. Today, the county has 516,564* residents. For many years, Geneva Steel was one of the few major employers outside of agriculture, government and schools. Geneva was built during World War II to provide steel for the war effort. But starting in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, the valley became one of the entrepreneurial hot spots of the nation and, in particular, has become a Mecca for high-tech, computer-related companies.
Now, Utah County boasts a young, healthy, well-educated population, low crime rate, and a solid economy.
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