Located at the base of the Wasatch Mountains thirteen miles south of Salt Lake City, Sandy was a likely area for early settlement. The area was first used by nomadic bands of Paiute, Shoshone, and Bannock Indians who roamed along the base of the mountains as they traveled from their winter home at Utah Lake to their summer fishing grounds at Bear Lake.
Permanent settlers first moved into Sandy during the 1860s and 1870s because of the availability of land in the less crowded southern end of the Salt Lake Valley. The original plat was essentially one square mile, situated on an alluvial terrace running north and south along the eastern edge of the Jordan River drainage system and paralleling the mountain range.
In 1863 there were only four homes between Union (7200 South) and Dunyon (Point of the Mountain): the Thayne homestead at 6600 South and 800 East, one in Crescent, one at Dunyon, and a fourth outside present-day Sandy boundaries altogether. Within a few years, Thomas Allsop, a Yorkshire farmer who had immigrated to Utah in 1853, owned almost half of present-day Sandy from County Road to Fourth East along Alta Road to Lindell Parkway. LeGrand Young owned the land between Fourth East and State Street.
Farmers willing to try their hand at the thirsty soil that inspired Sandy’s name took up land along State Street, which stretched from downtown Salt Lake City to Point of the Mountain. But it was mining that shaped Sandy’s first four decades. When silver mining began in Little Cottonwood Canyon, entrepreneurs recognized Sandy’s value as a supply station; soon its main street was lined with hotels, saloons, and brothels serving miners ready to spend their newly earned wages. Three major smelters were located in Sandy–the Flagstaff, the Mingo, and the Saturn–making Sandy the territory’s most significant smelting center for a number of years.
The railroad was also significant in determining the course of Sandy’s history. Built in 1873, the railroad connected Sandy to Salt Lake City and facilitated the transportation of ore and other products both in and out of the area. A streetcar line in 1907 facilitated the transportation of locals to jobs in Salt Lake City; and the automobile later continued to serve that function.
When the mines failed in the 1890s, Sandy faltered, then underwent a significant economic transformation into an agricultural community. The fact that Sandy did not disappear, like so many other mining towns that dwindled with their mother lodes, was due to its location, resources, and the spirit of its inhabitants.
Sandy was incorporated in 1893, largely as part of an effort to combat what Mormon inhabitants considered “unsavory” elements in the town. Due to its mine-based beginnings, Sandy was somewhat of a boom town, unlike the majority of other rural Utah towns. After incorporation, it was almost as if Sandy had redefined itself. Gone were the large numbers of single, transient men. By 1900 there was only a handful of saloons and hotels, and Sandy began to more closely resemble other rural Utah towns–a place where everyone knew everyone else. Church, farming, business, and family formed the focus of the inhabitants’ world.
This pace and way of life continued for more than six decades, interrupted only by wars, the Depression, and the changing seasons. No significant jumps in population, economic trends, or social patterns altered the predictable and stable rhythm of life.
In the late 1960s, however, this rural town dramatically changed course with its second boom. It had always been assumed by local leaders and citizens that Sandy would grow outward from its logical and historic center–the nexus of Main and Center streets. However, population growth overwhelmed the physical center as neighborhoods spread out in every direction over the land.
During the 1970s, pocket communities took shape, providing the services, schools, and shopping traditionally offered by a city. Annexation issues became prominent as Salt Lake County and Sandy vied for control over land and resources. Sandy became a collection of small local communities identified by a youthful, family-oriented population. For many it seemed that Sandy was a bedroom community, an extension of Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, in the 1980s Sandy officials worked to create a community with an identity of its own and a vision for the future.
Sandy High School students originally attended Jordan High School, which was completed in 1913. In 1962 Hillcrest High School was completed, followed by Brighton in 1969 and Alta in 1978. Sandy students attend seven middle schools and over a dozen elementary schools. The community is served by a new modern library completed in 1991.
Sandy’s major employers at the present are Alta View Hospital, Becton Dickinson/Deseret Medical, Economy Builders Supply, Jordan School District, MacManagement, Sandy City, Shopko, Wasatch Building Products, Inc., Western Rehabilitation Institute, Discover Card, and the South Towne Mall.
Christian denominations with congregations in Sandy include Alta Canyon Baptist Church, Berean Baptist Church, Blessed Sacrament Church, Church of Christ of South Salt Lake, Community of Grace Presbyterian Church, Eleventh Hour Christian Church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Grace Community Bible Church, Grace Lutheran Church, Hilltop United Methodist Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mountain View Christian Assembly, Sandy Baptist Church, Seventh-day Adventists, and South East Baptist Church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has numerous stakes and wards. The city’s population in 1990 was 75,058.