Utah County was home to Native Americans tribes like the “Paiutes,” the “Shoshones,” and the “Utes” by the mid 18th century. The first “white” visitors to the area arrived in 1776 from Spain. Father Dominguez and Father Escalante described the native peoples as being “peaceful and kind.” Interactions took place for half a century before outsiders settled in the valley. In the early to mid 1800s, the valley became occupied by mountain men and trappers . Their presence has been captured in some of the city names in the Utah Valley area. The city of Provo and the Provo River were named after mountain man, Etienne Provost, who settled along the river in the early 1800s.
Mormon explorers entered the valley in 1849 and settled along the rich soil of the area between the mountains and Utah Lake. That year, the settlers established a fort at what is now called Provo. In the years following, more settlers followed and established towns like Lehi, Alpine, American Fork, Lehi, Pleasant Grove, Payson, and Springville.
Early settlers of the Utah Valley thrived by farming crops like sugar beets and a variety of fruits. The first large manufacturing plant was created in 1873— the Provo Woolen Mill. Other economic activity in the area included mining in various canyons throughout the valley. The government in the area was led by Mormon church leaders until the area was designated “Utah County” on January 28, 1850. Soon after, locals began building State Road, which went on to serve as the major connecting route from Utah County to Salt Lake. The road served as a center for commerce and mingling between those of different cities and trades.
In 1873, a line was built off of the transcontinental railroad to Provo. This major development reaffirmed the establishment of Utah County and brought even more commerce and growth to the area. From that point in time forward, many government and city projects took place which enhanced the resources of Utah County and promoted vitality and growth. Some of these included building Deer Creek Dam and Reservoir, the first library in Provo, Provo General Hospital, and finally Brigham Young Academy in 1875. The Brigham Young Academy has since grown to become Brigham Young University, a prominent and influential university in the nation.
During World War II, Geneva Steel Company was built in Utah County to help provide steel for the war effort. This plant served as one of the top employers for the county over the next 40 years. In the later half of the 20th century, Utah County began to be known for its innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. Thanks to two large and prominent universities in the county, the general population of Utah County is younger and more entrepreneurial minded. Today, businesses started in Utah County make up over a fourth of the fastest growing businesses in the whole state of Utah.
Utah County from the 1800s to now has been a place for agriculture, business, and entrepreneurship. Looking to the future, Utah County is expected to growth significantly in population, output, and overall wealth.