Area: 1,171 square miles; population: 70,180 (in 1990); county seat: Logan; origin of county name: derived from the French verb cacher, “to hide,” because early trappers in Cache Valley concealed their pelts and supplies for safekeeping; principal cities/towns: Logan (32,762), Smithfield (5,566), Hyrum (4,829), North Logan (3,788), Providence (3,344), Wellsville (2,206), Hyde Park (2,190), Richmond (1,955), Lewiston (1,532), Nibley (1,167); economy: manufacturing, trade, education, agriculture, dairying; points of interest: Hyrum Lake State Park, Utah State University (Old Main, Nora Eccles Harrison Art Museum) Cache National Forest, Logan Canyon, Hardware Elk Ranch, Beaver Ski Resort, Ronald V. Jensen Living Historical Farm, Logan LDS Temple, Logan LDS Tabernacle, Wellsville LDS Tabernacle, Logan Historic District.
Cache County, located in the northern part of the state, is bordered by the Wasatch Mountains on the east and a spur of the Wasatch, the Wellsville Mountains, on the west. The Bear River flows through the northwestern corner of the county where the Little Bear, Blacksmith Fork, and Logan rivers add their waters to it. Cache County was formed in 1856 by the territorial legislature and its boundaries were redefined in 1864 when part of Cache became Richland (Rich) County.
Northern Utah was part of the Plains Culture area and, later, Shoshoni territory. Between 1824 and 1855 Cache Valley was repeatedly visited by trappers and explorers. Among the early trappers in the area were James Weber and Jim Bridger in 1824 and Peter Skene Ogden and James Beckwourth in 1825.
Settlement of Cache Valley by the Mormons began in 1855 when a group organized by Bryant Stringham drove a herd of cattle into the valley on 29 July and camped at Haw Bush Spring, later known as Elkhorn Ranch. Because the winter of 1855-56 was very severe, the cattle were driven back to the Salt Lake Valley. Peter Maughan, sent to Cache Valley in 1856, founded a permanent settlement called Maughan’s Fort, which became the present town of Wellsville. More settlers began to arrive and five towns (Providence, Mendon, Logan, Richmond, and Smithfield) were settled in 1859.
The Utah Northern Railroad between Brigham City and Logan was completed in early 1873 and was later extended into Idaho. A branch line from Brigham City to Corinne then tied Cache County to the transcontinental line. The railroad provided jobs for Cache residents and also opened new markets for their farm produce, especially grain and dairy products. By 1880 national market trends had begun to affect the local farm economy. Advances in dry-farming techniques and canal and reservoir construction increased farm production, fruit and vegetables became cash crops, and the building of grain elevators in the 1890s allowed Cache farmers to store grain until prices improved. The county’s sheep herds grew from 10,000 in 1880 to 300,000 by 1900, and dairy cows numbered 16,000 by 1910. Commercial creameries, flour mills, woolen mills, and knitting factories developed around Cache’s booming turn-of-the-century farm production. Today, Cache County continues as the state’s leader in dairy products and also as a major producer of hay, alfalfa, and grains.
The founding of Utah State University (USU) in Logan as a land-grant agricultural college in 1888 provided the key to the county’s future. USU’s scientific research, agricultural extension services, and experimental farms have benefited farmers in every part of the state. With some 12,000 students currently enrolled, USU has grown to be the county’s largest single employer. Course offerings now include almost all academic subjects, and the university has become a major cultural resource for the community and state. A variety of manufacturing firms, retail trade outlets, and service providers (including government services) contribute to Cache County’s diversified economy in the twentieth century.