Area: 644 square miles; population: 158,330 (in 1990); county seat: Ogden; origin of county name: from early trapper John Weber; principal cities/towns: Ogden (63,909), Roy (24,603), South Ogden (12,105), North Ogden (11,668), Washington Terrace (8,189); economy: defense, transportation, warehousing, distribution, retailing, tourism, recreation, health care, printing; points of interest: Fort Buenaventura State Park, Weber State College, Willard Bay State Park, Ogden Union Station (Browning Firearms Museum, Browning Kimball Vintage Car Collection), Pineview Reservoir, Snow Basin, Powder Mountain, Nordic Valley, Ogden’s Historic 25th Street, Ogden Nature Center, Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity in Huntsville, Eccles Community Art Center.
Weber County has long been the crossroads of Utah and the Intermountain West. Its eastern boundary is the spine of the Wasatch Mountains with their towering peaks and sharp valleys. It extends west into Great Salt Lake. Both mountains and flatlands are laced by the Ogden and Weber rivers and their tributaries.
Nomadic Shoshone, Ute, and prehistoric Indians favored the area for centuries, hunting in the mountains and foothills and fishing in the streams. Mounds near the confluence of the Weber and Ogden rivers contain remains of their camps.
American and British mountain men entered the area in the early 1800s, trapping beaver and trading with the Indians. In 1824 Jim Bridger became the first white man to report sighting Great Salt Lake. Peter Skene Ogden traversed the high valley just behind the Wasatch Front in 1825 and is remembered in the name of the area’s largest city–although he never visited the actual site. The first accurate maps of the area were drawn by John C. Fremont, after he visited the mouth of the Weber River in 1843.
Permanent settlement began in 1843 when horse trader/trapper Miles Goodyear built a fort and trading post on the banks of the Weber River, near where it meets the Ogden River. Late in 1847 he sold his claim to James Brown, a veteran of the Mormon Battalion, for $1,950 in gold coins, and the property became Brown’s Fort, also known as Brownsville. Within three years the community had 1,141 residents and its name was changed permanently to Ogden and the surrounding area designated as Weber County.Growth accelerated in 1869 when the nation’s first transcontinental railroad was completed on 10 May at Promontory Summit, sixty miles northwest of Ogden; the junction for transfer of rolling stock, passengers, and freight was quickly moved to more conveniently located Ogden, nicknamed “Junction City.” Other industries established included woolen mills, canneries, livestock yards, flour mills, breweries, iron works, banks, hotels, and telephone, telegraph, and power companies. Ogden inventor John M. Browning patented in 1879 a new, single-shot rifle–the first of more than 100 firearms developed by the Brownings and sold all over the world.
Weber County’s next sizeable population explosion came just before and during World War II when the military built Defense Depot Ogden in northern Weber County and Hill Air Force Base and the Naval Supply Depot in nearby Davis County. DDO and Hill continue to provide many jobs for Weber County residents. The war also placed increased demands on the transportation network, and as many as 150 regular and special trains moved through Ogden’s Union Station on many days in 1944.
Weber County has definitely entered the space age. A number of aerospace industries have offices and other facilities here, and manufacturing plants produce powerful, miniature, jet engines for aircraft and missiles and Jetway loading bridges for airports worldwide. Weber State University (with some 13,000 students), the U.S. Forest Service regional headquarters, the IRS Service Center, and the McKay-Dee and St. Benedict’s hospitals are among the county’s major employers in the 1990s.
Murray M. Moler