Adapted from Martha Sonntag Bradley, A History of Kane County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 199 and “Alton,” VisitSouthernUtah.com
What’s in a name? Alton had several names, and many more proposed, before it became Alton.
Alton began as an offshoot of the settlement of Upper Kanab. The location of present-day Alton was first settled by Lorenzo Roundy and his first wife, Susanna Wallace, in 1857. The settlement was known as Roundy’s Station. Roundy’s family and the few other settlers abandoned it in 1865 to strengthen other nearby settlements such as Kanab, as well as to be protected by joining larger groups.
Some settlers returned to Upper Kanab in 1872, including Roundy’s nephew, Byron. A saw mill was constructed under the direction of Brigham Young, and the settlement grew gradually, though it remained largely agricultural.
Alton began its own history in the early 20th century. Jonathon Heaton moved to the area with his family in 1901, and—having bought up a good deal of land—hired Lysander Porter to survey the site. Porter, along with William Cox and Junius and Daniel Heaton, laid out the town. Heaton sold lots for a tidy profit, and a committee explored the possibility of piping water into the new town. In 1908, a school house was completed, and the residents of the settlement got together for a party on May Day, and residents discussed several possible names for the town, including Heatonville, Oaktown, Snowville, and Klondyke. One of the residents, Charles R. Pugh, had been reading about the Alton Fjord in Norway, a fjord of considerable altitude. Since the town was at an altitude of 7,200 feet, it seemed like a good name. All the various names were put into a hat, and two year old Gwen Heaton drew out the winning name: Alton.
Alton grew as ranchers from nearby moved to the town and the residents invested in infrastructure, including a church, paved roads, and a culinary water system. Many of the buildings from the World War I era are unique in design, and give Alton a harmonious look to their homes and public buildings.
In the 1930s, Alton’s population reached its peak of 350, and the country benefited from the New Deal projects of the era, including street and sidewalk repairs. It was also during the 30s that Alton gained access to electric power, and a flood control system. Although one coal mine near Alton produced coal during and after World War II, the population has gradually shrunk. It remains a gateway town to Utah’s National Parks, and has a population of around 120.