Price, the county seat of Carbon County, is the largest city in the county and is located in the Price River Valley of the Colorado Plateau province of Utah. It is believed that Price was named after LDS Bishop William Price of Goshen, Utah, who explored the region in 1869. The area was originally a part of Sanpete County, and then was included in Emery County when it was created in 1880. Price was organized on 14 July 1892 while it was still a part of Emery County.
Caleb Baldwin Rhoades and Abraham Powell, trappers from Salem, Utah, were the first recorded settlers in the Price River Valley. They arrived in October 1877 and built a cabin in the northwest corner of what is now Price. The two returned to Salem when the trapping season was over. Their talk aroused interest in the area among their friends and families, and they soon convinced a group join them in relocating in the Price River Valley. However, Abraham Powell never returned to Price as he was killed by a bear on 7 December 1878 while hunting in the Nebo Mountains.
On 21 January 1879 Caleb Rhoades returned to the valley with two brothers, Frederick Empire Grames and Charles W. Grames. The men helped each other build homes for their families. Later that year, they were joined by their families and others, most coming from Utah County.
These early pioneers of Price experienced much hardship. Food was in short supply, and crops were difficult to grow because of a lack of irrigation water. Water had to be carried from the river in barrels and tanks. An irrigation ditch to carry water to the fields was of utmost importance. Construction of two ditches began in February 1879 when Caleb Rhoades and Frederick Grames began the project. A community effort eventually finished the two ditches, but it wasn’t until the Price Water Company Canal was finished in 1888 that the irrigation problem was solved. The canal is still in use today.
The character of Price changed dramatically with the completion of the railroad in 1883. Price was quickly transformed from an isolated farming community to the commercial hub of Castle Valley. The railroad was directly responsible for Price becoming the retail, political, educational, and cultural center of the area. The railroad also opened up the nearby coal mines, which brought thousands of foreign-born, non-Mormon immigrants to work the mines. Originally these miners lived in the coal camps near the mines, but Price gradually assimilated many of them, reflecting the ethnic diversity of the county and becoming a cultural hub as well. These immigrants came from many countries, but the majority were Greek, Italian, Austrian, and Japanese. This diversified population has remained today, making Price one of Utah’s most culturally complex and varied communities.
Price has a variety of stores and businesses, as well as many parks, recreational facilities, schools, and a full-service hospital. Price is also the home of the College of Eastern Utah, a rapidly growing community college. The recent expansion and remodeling of CEU’s Prehistoric Museum have made it one of the best of its kind in the world.
The economy of Price is very much tied to the coal industry, and therefore has been through many up and down cycles; but Price remains today the commercial and cultural center of Castle Valley. Its population in 1990 was 8,712. Price has always been and continues to be unique among Utah towns.