Elwood Town History
By Willis Petersen and Wilma Fridal
Elwood originally consisted of the area between the Bear River and the Malad River from Bear River City on the south to Riverside on the north, and Thatcher on the west. The first white settler was a Mr. Davidson who in 1879, had a squatters homestead on the east side of the Malad River about ½ mile north of the county road sheds. He later moved 1 mile north to the area where the Elwood Cemetery is located. He sold out to Abraham Hunsaker who soon sold it to Allen C. Hunsaker who became the “Founding Father” of the community which was first known as Fairview, later Manila and finally Elwood.
The next settlers were Bear River City people who took up homesteads, worked them in the summers and returned to Bear River City in the winters until they eventually built permanent homes here.
As the Bear River Canal was built, other settlers came to homestead, or buy land from the Corinne Land, Canal and Stock Company which had the development rights to a huge tract of land, including railroad land and land in the Bear River Valley.
Elwood Town was incorporated in 1933 in order to establish a culinary water system which was finally completed in 1950. By this time we had electric power, telephones and natural gas soon followed.
Once utilities were completed more modern homes began to appear and around the beginning of the 21st century many homes were built and subdivisions began to appear.
The first Mayor of Elwood Town was Amos. P. Hansen. For the first 50 years Elwood government officials met in the Elwood church. In 1983 a town hall was completed. In 1999 a large maintenance shed was built near the town hall.
Prior to 1980 the people of Elwood used the ball park behind the old Elwood church for recreation. When this property was sold, property was donated by Raymond M. Hansen for the construction of Hansen Park. Work on the park began in 1982 and was completed largely through volunteer labor.
This area was originally covered with a lush growth of native grasses. Huge herds of cattle and sheep were pastured here. When much of the grass was destroyed by overgrazing, sagebrush became prevalent and had to be removed before farming could be done.
The arid climate made irrigation necessary and the fields were flooded to bring moisture to the thirsty crops. As more and more water was applied, a high water table developed water logging the land and bringing poisonous alkali to the surface. Fields throughout the valley which had been very productive became useless.
The Utah State Agricultural College pioneered the use of underground tile drains to lower the water table and permit the leaching out of the alkali. Upon seeing the success that this practice brought to Corinne, a group of Elwood farmers organized the Elwood Drainage District and with the help of Margetts and Kleinschmidt Inc. installed many miles of underground tile. Soon these soggy fields began to produce again.
Elwood never had the format of village with surrounding farms like Brigham Young recommended, but was an area with families living on their individual small farms.
Up until the end of WWII, Elwood residents operated their farms and orchards and were generally quite self sufficient. Each family had their vegetable garden, small orchard, potato patch, milk and beef cattle, chickens and pigs. The farm work was done with horse-drawn machinery with each farm having at least one team of draft horses and most had at least one saddle horse.
The main crops raised were hay for livestock, grain for home use, and for the market, sugar beets as a cash crop and at times various specialty crops such as red clover seed and various cannery crops. After the sugar factory was closed the beets were replaced by more the other crops and field corn became popular both for silage and for grain.
As tractors and larger equipment became more readily available, the smaller farms and their few animals could not compete. Many landowners leased or sold their farms to a few who became larger operators.
As industry came most of Elwood’s people took full time employment, and if they still farmed they did it as a sideline. Many worked at Hill Field, Second Street and later and Thiokol, Nucor Steel, La-Z-Boy, Autoliv, etc.
Early in our history schools were made available but were only attended when there was nothing to do at home. The first school was in Allen Hunsaker’s home. There were 5 different school houses built and used until the Elwood Elementary School was closed in 1963 and the students were bussed to Tremonton and Bear River City. The school bell from the old Elwood School has been preserved and now stands on the north side of town hall.
In the beginning there was no high school in the valley and those who continued their education went to Logan or Brigham City until Bear River High School was built in Garland.
As was common throughout Utah, the first organization was the LDS Church. Mr. Hunsaker was called as Presiding Elder of a Branch of the Church that functioned under the umbrella of the Bear River City Ward.
After the canal system was completed there were enough residents to form an LDS ward. On December 1, 1900 Peter M. Hansen, James P. Christensen and Knud H. Fridal became the first bishopric. The community has grown and prospered.
When the U&I Sugar Factory was built in Garland, a community soon sprang up there and soon the Garland Ward was formed. In 1908 the Tremonton Ward was created reducing Elwood to its present size.
The growing population outgrew the meeting house that had been built in 1929 and the LDS population began worshipping in the new stake house that was built just outside of our NW corner. Later the north end of our ward was joined to the Tremonton 9th ward. Then as a new meeting house was being built in Elwood, the ward was divided into Elwood 1st and 2nd ward who moved their church activities into the new building in August 2006.
The LDS church is not the only church represented in the area. Perhaps the most prominent of other religions was the Buddhist Church whose headquarters are in Honeyville. Other religions represented in the area include Baptists, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, the German Evangelical congregation and the Apostolic Christian church. These congregations met at various locations, including a schoolhouse built in 1899 referred to as the Union School.
A complete history of the town of Elwood can be found in the book “Elwood Town, A History of Early Elwood” compiled by Colleen M. Hansen, Wilma E. Fridal and Wilma K. Anderson. This book is available for purchase at town hall.