Area: 1,849 square miles; population: 15,518 (in 1990); county seat: Coalville; origin
of county name: the county includes high
mountain summits that form the divides of the Weber,
Bear, and Green River drainage areas; principal cities/towns:
Park City (4,468), Coalville (1,065), Kamas (1,061); points of interest:
Park City area ski resorts, Park City Historic District, Rockport
State Park, Echo Reservoir, High Uinta Wilderness Area;
economy: skiing, tourism, lumbering, livestock.
Summit County was created in 1854 from Green River and
Great Salt Lake counties, and Coalville was chosen as the county seat. The Uinta
Mountains dominate the eastern portion of the county, and the western section is a high back valley of
the Wasatch Mountains.
The first white men to visit the area were fur trappers and traders in the 1820s and
1830s. Until the arrival of the Mormons in 1847, Summit County was hunting grounds for
Northern Shoshone Indians. The Weber and
Provo rivers, draining the western slope of the Uintas,
provided the Indians with fish, among other benefits.
In 1846 Lansford W. Hastings,
a California promoter, announced a
new cutoff on the California Trail that would eliminate several hundred miles and many days of travel.
The cutoff turned southwest from Fort Bridger, Wyoming,
and entered Utah and the northeastern corner of Summit County through
Echo Canyon. It followed the Weber River to Salt
Lake Valley, went around the south shore of the Great Salt Lake, and then
west into Nevada. The first group to take this new cutoff was the
Donner-Reed party in 1846. Blazing a road through the Wasatch Mountains
cost them many days, and when they reached the Sierra they ran into early snow, with well-known tragic results.
Many lost their lives. A year later, the pioneering Mormons
adopted part of the Hastings Cutoff, but when they reached the Weber River
they turned southwest to Emigration Canyon.
This became the main trail for the immigration of the Mormons to Utah.
In 1869 the Union Pacific Railroad, builder of the eastern portion of the
transcontinental railroad, followed the Hastings Cutoff, and
today part of Interstate 80 follows the Hastings and Mormon trails and the Union Pacific route through
northern Summit County.
The first settlers in Summit County arrived at Parley's Park in 1850.
Wanship was settled in 1854, followed by Coalville,
Hoytsville, and Henefer in 1859. When coal was discovered near Coalville,
the Mormons established a mission there. During the 1860s, wagons hauled tons of coal from
Coalville to the Salt Lake Valley settlements. In 1873 the Utah Eastern
Railroad built a line from Echo Junction to Coalville to haul coal. This line
eventually became part of the Union Pacific Railroad.
The discoveryof silver, lead, and zinc in the Wasatch Mountains in the
1870s soon overshadowed the settlement and economic activities of the rest of the county.
Park City, a mining town founded in 1872, continued to expand into the twentieth century.
Many individuals made fortunes from the Park City mines.
Mansions on South Temple in Salt Lake City reflect
some of this wealth. Mining continued until the 1950s, at which time
it no longer was profitable. For several decades Park City was on the
verge of becoming a ghost town, but the area's rugged terrain and deep
snow led to its rebirth as a winter sports center. Skiing currently
is a major economic activity in western Summit County, while the rest
of the county is still noted for its farming and ranching. Other recreational
opportunities, including boating, fishing,
and tourism add to the county's diversified economy.