Area: 6,818 square miles; population: 11,333 (in 1990); county seat: Fillmore; origin of county name: after President Millard Fillmore; principal cities/towns: Delta (2,998), Fillmore (1,956); economy: alfalfa seed, cattle, electric power generation; points of interest: Cove Fort, Territorial Statehouse State Park in Fillmore, Topaz Relocation Camp, Old Fort Deseret, Gunnison massacre site, Clear Lake Waterfowl Management Area, Intermountain Power Project.
Millard County is bordered on the east by the Pahvant Range, while west to the Nevada border lie the broad valleys and desert mountain ranges typical of the Great Basin. The Sevier River, which begins in mountains east of Cedar City, drains into the sometimes dry Sevier Lake in central Millard County. A huge granitic upthrust in the House Range, as well as volcanic cones and numerous fossil beds, provide clues to past geologic activity and prehistoric animal and plant life of the area.
The county’s prehistoric residents, part of the Sevier Culture which disappeared ca. A.D. 1300, lived in small villages with semi-subterranean dwellings. Historic Indian groups of the area include Southern Paiutes, Pahvant Utes, and Goshutes. A small Indian reservation is located at Kanosh.
In October 1851 two groups left Salt Lake City for eastern Millard County. Some thirty families led by Anson Call made the first permanent white settlement, while territorial officials, including Governor Brigham Young and surveyor Jesse W. Fox, selected a site for the capital, Fillmore being near the geographical center of Utah Territory. The legislature met in Fillmore a few times, but in December 1856 it voted to move the capital to Salt Lake City because Fillmore was too far from major cities.
On 26 October 1853 seven members of a transcontinental railroad survey team led by Lieutenant John W. Gunnison of the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers were killed by Indians southwest of Delta, a tragic incident in the Walker War (1853-54) that was apparently triggered by the actions of a group of emigrants against the Indians.
Ranching and farming developed slowly. In the early twentieth century Millard County was second to Tooele in the number of sheep on its ranges, but later cattle became the major livestock interest. The establishment of the Union Pacific line through west Millard County and the founding of Delta in 1907 led to the most important agricultural development–large-scale alfalfa seed production amounting eventually to three-fourths of the state’s total crop. The Yuba Dam and other water projects made this venture possible.
Mining and smelting have contributed to the county’s economic growth, with Millard producing significant amounts of fluorspar, copper, manganese, sulphur, gypsum, beryllium, and salt. The most important industrial development, however, began in the 1970s when plans were made for the Intermountain Power Project’s huge coal-burning plant near Delta. Southern California buys much of the electricity generated by the IPP.
Miriam B. Murphy