Adapted from; Jessie L. Embry, A History of Wasatch County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1996; Leslie Shupe Raty “A History of Wasatch County, 1859-1899.” M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1954; Jenson, Andrew. An Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1941; “History of Charleston, Utah,” Online Utah, accessed April 20, 2020.
Charleston was settled in 1859. The earliest settlers include George Noakes, William Manning, and Alex Wilkens, who all used the land for ranching and some grain production, though the grain was killed by frost that first year. While Wilkens lived in Provo, a man named Charles Shelton lived on his ranch, and sold goods to the settlers on Wilkens’ behalf.
Some accounts suggest that Charleston was named for Charles Shelton, although another account was offered by William Winterton, an early resident of the area. Winterton recalled that while he and John C. Parcell were herding sheep in the area that Parcell’s stepson offered to deliver their mail if they had a name for the area, they chose Charleston.
Charleston was an agricultural community through the 19th and early 20th century. A creamery was founded in Charleston in 1894, and was soon processing so much dairy that it was moved to the more populous settlement of Heber in 1915. The city was incorporated in 1899.
The 1930s forever changed the landscape and makeup of Charleston. A severe water shortage in the 1930s led residents of Utah and Salt Lake Counties to push for the creation of Deer Creek Reservoir, which would inundate much of the ranching land of Charleston. Although an inspection said that Deer Creek would cover some of the best ranch land in the state, the needs of the more populous counties outweighed the needs of the ranchers, and they either sold their lands for the price offered or were taken to court. Though Deer Creek brought much needed water to the state, it flooded two thirds of the land of Charleston, and displaced many families. The population dropped from 343 in 1930 to 323 in 1940, plummeting to 175 by 1943. However, the dairy industry of Charleston continued producing over three million pounds of milk annually in the late 1940s. The population increased somewhat after the displacement of the 1930s and today stands at about 415.