Human habitation of the Emery County area dates
back thousands of years and includes the people of the Desert Archaic
Culture. This prehistoric culture was followed by the people of the Fremont
Culture, who inhabited present-day Emery County from about A.D. 500 to about
A.D. 1300. Evidence of both these cultures can still be found in artifacts
and the numerous pictograph and petroglyph panels that are found at Temple
Mountain Wash, Muddy Creek, Ferron Box, Black Dragon Canyon, Buckhorn
Wash and in hidden canyons throughout the county. In historic times, Ute
Indians occupied sites in what is now Castle Valley, and travelers on the
Old Spanish trail marveled at the "castles" of Castle country as they passed
through present day Emery County to and from California.
It wasn't until 1875 that ranchers from Sanpete
County recognized the settlement potential of the region. In the fall of
1877, young Latter-day Saint families were directed by Brigham Young to move into Castle
Valley and take up homesteads in what would become the settlements of
Huntington, Ferron, Castle Dale, and Orangeville.
Although livestock and farming remained the
mainstay of the county's economy throughout most of its history, two related
events affected the region's economic stability: the completion of the
Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG) Railroad through Emery County in 1883, and the
establishment of coal mines at Scofield, Castle Gate, and Sunnyside in
Carbon County by the mid 1890s. The railroad provided transportation to
other parts of the state and nation for locally grown produce and livestock,
and the miners provided a booming local market for animals and vegetables.
The mines also provided an opportunity for these early residents of Emery
County to diversify their economy by working in the mines during the winter
months and farming in their own fields during the summer. The D&RG also led
to the establishment of the town of Green River in Emery County's beautiful
San Rafael Swell country. The history of this region can be followed in the
John Wesley Powell Museum located in historic Green River.
Riding the crest of national economic growth
during the 1970s Emery County's population grew significantly as a result of
the construction of large coal-fired power plants in Castle Dale and Huntington by Utah
Power & Light Company (PacifiCorp) and the expansion of coal mines to fuel these
important power plants.
Today's Emery County offers an affordable,
comfortable place to live and retire, a cornucopia
of adventures to the vacationer, and unlimited opportunity to entrepreneurs
astute enough to grasp its full potential.