History of Ogden (Ice Sheet)

Jami Balls

In 1845 trapper Miles Goodyear established the first permanent settlement in Utah. He built the small fenced structure of Fort Buenaventura near the confluence of the Ogden and Weber Rivers and claimed the land approximating the Weber County borders. In 1847, Brigham Young sent the families of James Brown and Lorin Farr to purchase this settlement just north of Salt Lake City with $1,950 in gold coins. By 1851 the community had grown to over 1,100 residents and became incorporated as Ogden City. The name is derived from Peter Skene Ogden, a trapper from the Hudson’s Bay Company who trapped in the mountains east of that area in 1825. Generally, the settlement’s villages grew along the riverslimited by the availability of waterand remained largely rural and agricultural until the early 1870s.

The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 quickly changed Ogden from a small agricultural community to a major transportation center. Accordingly, the “Junction City” of the Union and Central Pacific railroads experienced great growth in diversity, commerce, and industry. The majority of the Weber County’s 1,807 residents lived in Ogden in 1860. By 1870, Ogden’s population increased to 3,127; in 1880 to 6,069; and by 1890 reached 12,889 residents. Stimulated by the diversity of its population, Ogden’s mayoral election of non-Mormon Fred J. Kiesel in 1889 was the first breakthrough in Utah’s Mormon-dominated politics.

Industry flourished in the “Junction City.” Woolen mills, canneries, livestock yards, flourmills, breweries, iron works, banks, hotels, and telephone, telegraph, and power companies grew throughout the area. An important job provider, the railroad had terminals for nine different rail systems and proved to be the most important employer of African-Americans in Utah. It also perpetuated the development of a small Chinatown built along 25th Street.

The commercial and residential growth of Ogden rapidly continued throughout World War I and slowed only with the onset of the Great Depression. From 1931 to 1946, Ogden’s zoning reflected a city of single-family homes, railroad villages, and businesses close to the railroads. The infamous 25th Street, which consisted of gambling houses, opium dens, and brothels, retained its notorious reputation until the end of World War II. Weber College was outgrowing its original location in downtown Ogden and was moved to a location next to the mountains giving it both room to grow and opportunity to enhance the campus by the natural landscape.

World War II reaffirmed Ogden’s significance as a transportation center with as many as 150 regular and special trains moving through the city each day. Considered a safe interior area with extensive rail networks, the federal government built Hill Air Base there in 1938. Soon they constructed the Utah General Depot in Ogden, which was the largest quartermaster depot in the United States and ascertained to be an indispensable and permanent link in the army’s supply system.

Following the war, competition from automotive and air transportation caused the decline of Ogden’s railroad industry and by the 1950s, rail passenger service was almost entirely eliminated. Business leaders worked fervently to bring private industry to the area to maintain stability. Today, Ogden consists of a rather stable economic structure, mixed population, and progressive attitude toward community and educational affairs. Weber State University is one of many institutions in Utah that provides a quality higher education. In 1993 The Ice Sheet was added to the beautiful mountainside campus at an elevation of 4790 ft.  With a projected capacity of 2000, it will house the curling events for the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics.

Sources: Richard Roberts, “Ogden” Utah History Encyclopedia; Thomas G. Alexander and Rick J. Fish, “Defense Industry in Utah” Utah History Encyclopedia; Patricia Comarell and Fred Aegerter, “City Planning in Ogden: The Junction” Beehive History 12; Richard C. Roberts and Richard W. Sadler, History of Weber County.