West Valley History

Although Joseph Harker crossed the Jordan River in 1849, Chesterfield was the first area settled. According to “The History of West Valley City, 1848-1990,” The move west across the river was hardly a rush. Although Granger began to be settled first, it was not until 1875 that the westward expansion began into Hunter. Because there was not a reliable supply of water, settlement was limited to only a handful of families.

A dam was built at Jordan Narrows, and several canals were hand dug to bring water to the Salt Lake Valley. The Utah and Salt Lake Canal provided water to the south part of Granger (Winder Dairy area) and snaked out to Hunter. Farmers dug the canals to and through their land. The canals were expected to be the blessing that dry farming was not. Dry farms, depending only on rain for irrigation, did not provide much in the way of income, so farmers were very excited to have irrigation water for their fields.

The famers thought if a little water was good, lots was spectacular, but it “caused the salts and minerals in the soil to rise to the surface, forming an alkali crust deadly to the crops.” Trees died and the farmers figured out the importance of draining the water off their fields instead of letting it stand in them. Decker, Porter, Moon, Big, and Haynes Lakes were all created to collect the water from the four canals dug from the Jordan Narrows.

In 1880 Hunter became a separate Precinct from Pleasant Green (Magna) and had a judge, Joseph Morris. Other offices of the day included a constable, a fence keeper, and a poundkeeper. The jobs could be quite dangerous as folks were sure they owned land exactly where their fences were, and they should not have to pay damages their cattle, pigs or horses caused. The passage of the Edmunds Tucker Act caused fear for polygamous families, and in fact Rasmus Nielson was arrested and served 6 months in prison and paid $300 in fines.

Recreation and religion were strong in the area and ball diamonds were part of the building of each ward chapel Not every ward west of the Jordan had a great team, but Hunter and Granger did, and it was not at all uncommon for harsh words to be a part be a part of games that included those particular teams. But each ward also had a brass band, and when the ball games were over dinner and dancing finished out the day.

Deep wells had to be dug, and not all provided good water. Privies were the bathrooms of the early Hunter residents, and catalogues provided the reading material at the “end of the path.”

Hunter was slow to grow and the 1900 census showed just 354 residents. Weevils killed crops and bounties were paid for sparrows, ground squirrels and rats, not encouraging for families to start their homes and farms in Hunter. Even as late as 1951, 90% of Salt Lake County had inadequate culinary water supplies. Deer Creek Reservoir was built and a water board consisting of Williard Jones of Hunter and Lynn Packard and George Harmon of Granger and others from across Jordan, were included and water was procured so that in 1953 a bond was passed and water lines were built to bring water to 350 homes in the Granger-Hunter area. County Zoning soon followed and the post war housing boom finally made it to Hunter in the mid 1950s.

Today’s Hunter is as bustling as Granger and lots of cities and towns across the valley and is still a vital part of West Valley City.

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