Adapted from: Newell, Linda King: A History of Piute County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1999; “Town of Circleville Demographics.” https://www.circlevilleutah.org/demographics.html. Accessed April 21, 2020; “Welcome to the Town of Circleville, Utah Website.” https://www.circlevilleutah.org/. Accessed April 21, 2020.
Circleville was a town that was settled twice, first in 1864, then later in 1874. Circleville’s history is largely dominated by two historical infamies, the Circleville Massacre in 1866 and its ties to the notorious outlaw, Butch Cassidy. While these events are important parts of Circleville’s history, there is much more to its history than violence and larceny.
In February of 1864, a group of Latter-day Saint pioneers that included the Allred, Munson, and Beal families, set out to find an appropriate location for a settlement in what is today Piute county. After passing up several potential places, they continued further south on the advice of some local Piutes and settled in a circular valley, which they called Circle valley, and established a settlement which they named Circleville.
The early settlement was to be short-lived due to the perceived dangers of the Black Hawk War. The settlers of Circleville clashed with militant Utes, and four settlers were killed. Due to the fears of possible alliances between local, friendly Piutes and Black Hawk’s warriors, the settlers of Circleville captured and executed between 15 and 18 unarmed Piute prisoners on April 23 1866. Historian John Alton Peterson called the Circleville Massacre the Black Hawk War’s “greatest single tragedy.” The history and events leading up the massacre are too complex to treat fully here, but you can read more about it here on History to Go. In the wake of the Massacre, Brigham Young ordered the settlers in Sanpete and along the Sevier River to consolidate into larger groups for protection. Circleville was abandoned a little while later for other locations, and very few of the original settlers returned to the area.
Settlers returned to the area in 1874, when some ranchers moved back to the area. In 1877, the area became involved in the brief experiment of the Kingston United Order, although sone settlers returned to the Circleville area and worked outside of the United Order. The town slowly began to grow again, and by the 1880s the town boasted a log building that served as center, school, and church, as well as a post office. After the Kingston Order was dissolved in 1887, Circleville saw additional growth, including the addition of a dance hall.
The twentieth century brought challenges and opportunities to the area. In 1907 the Circleville Amusement Company built a social hall in the center of town. The theatre also became popular in Circleville There were several floods, one in 1903 that washed out many roads around the town, and a much larger flood in 1914 when the Hatch Dam broke. The flood swept out much of the work of the settlers, though no lives were lost, as the settlers had enough prior warning to evacuate. The Parker family arrived to the area, and their son, Robert Leroy Parker, would go on to become the famous bandit, Butch Cassidy (Although the Parker family sent their children to school in Circleville, they actually lived a ways away in Garfield county).
Like many other rural Utah towns, Circleville suffered from the hardships of the depression, and benefited from New Deal era projects that brought electricity and renovation to the town. While the area’s history has been largely agricultural, it did see some businesses and, at one point, a manufacturing plant. Though the availability of water has limited growth, Circleville today has also capitalized on the tourism industry, including nearby ATV trails and other outdoor adventures. The population is around 550.