Adapted from M. Guy Bishop, A History of Sevier County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1997; “Aurora City History,” accessed April 9, 2020; “History of Aurora, Utah,” accessed April 9, 2020.
Aurora is located on the north end of the Sevier Valley, near a bend in the Sevier River. The area was explored in the 1870s by three men from Provo: George T. Holdaway, J. Alma Holdaway, and Elliot Newell. They were very impressed with what they found, and returned with a group of settlers in 1875 to settle the area. As the site they chose was on the bend of the Sevier river, and the area was full of willow trees, the settlers called the town Willow Bend.
The first few years in Willow Bend did not go as well as they might have hoped. The soil was more arid than that of Utah county, and they had difficulties getting enough irrigation water from the Sevier River. However, in 1879, the settlers purchased and expanded a canal that belonged to the Coon family. This, and several additional canals in the next few years, provided ample water for farming in Willow Bend.
Willow Bend grew, adding new buildings and new sources of water along the way. The city’s first school house was built in 1879, with Maggie Keeler as the town’s first teacher. An amusement hall was built in 1906 that housed the town’s first organ. The hall burnt down in 1910, though the organ was saved. The hall was replaced with a brick building, and a local acting troupe put on plays each winter.
The town was incorporated in 1914, when they decided they needed a culinary water supply. There are several versions of how the town was named. The first story is that the post office rejected the name of the town, Willow Bend, as they felt the name “Willow” was being overused. Numan Van Louvan suggested Aurora as an alternative, because the colorful hills reminded him of the Roman goddess of dawn. Accounts differ as to whether this name change happened in 1897, or in 1914, when the town was officially incorporated. Another version told locally is that on one occasion the settlers caught sight of the northern lights, or Aurora Borealis, and named the town accordingly.
Water was piped into the town in 1915, kindergarten classes were established in 1928, and a new chapel was built in 1933. Aurora drew upon additional springs in the forties, as well as a well in 1950, as it continued to grow. Today, Aurora has a population of a little over 1,000.