The first settlers to Emery came from Sanpete County, Utah. This is unusually notable as the settlers headed east, instead of west (like most settlers at the time), even if it was over a mountain range. The first attempt at settlement was made at Muddy Creek. The Muddy Creek is a stream following down a wide canyon, and eventually emptying into the Dirty Devil River. The Muddy Creek vegetation included tall grass, sage, greasewood, rabbit brush, tender shadscale or Castle Valley clover, prickly pear cacti, and yucca. Growing along the creek banks were giant cottonwood trees and patches of huge thorny bushes with long needle sharp spines called bull berry bushes. These berries, when beaten off onto a canvas could be dried, made into jams, jellies, or even eaten raw.
Among these early settlers were Charles Johnson, Marenus and Joseph Lund families. Casper Christensen and Fred Acord also brought their families and began to build cabins and plant crops. Joseph Lund, the first to build a small one room log cabin with a lean-to, became discouraged and left it for Casper Christensen (this building still survives and has been restored and relocated to This Is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City). Most travel came by way of Salina Canyon and Spring Canyon, which weren’t much more than deer trails. Roads were bad at best and almost impassable most of the time. The modes of travel were by horseback, team and wagon, or on snowshoes in winter time.
Another company settled farther up the canyon around this same date—families who came from Beaver, Mayfield, and Sterling. They called themselves “The Beaver Brothers.” Among these were Dan, Miles, and Samuel Miller, George Collier, Samuel Babbett and others. Some of these became discouraged and left the first year. The Millers moved farther down the lower part of the Muddy Creek canyon. This part has been called Miller’s Canyon ever since that time.
Several miles south, on Quitchupah Creek, several families were trying to homestead on land that was more barren than Muddy Creek. In the 1870s, Brigham Young called on several families from Sanpete County to settle on Muddy Creek. Most of the first homes on Muddy Creek were called a Dugout (shelter). It was a room dug in the side of a hill or the bank of a wash. The front was very crude, sometimes the only door being a blanket hung over the opening, or a rough wooden door, hung with leather hinges. The windows were small openings made in the front wall and covered with heavy greased paper or white canvas. Each had a fireplace in one end, which served for heat, cook¬ing and light. The heat from the fire made the dugout unbearably hot in summer, so then the cooking was done on an open fire outside. The roof of the dugout was made of poles, covered with willows and dirt. These roofs served well in dry weather, as they were warm and kept out the wind. However, they leaked badly in stormy weather. Another great inconvenience of these roofs was the fact that they were a home for snakes, rats, mice and spiders. The floors were usually dirt or sometimes rock.
During the years from 1882 to 1885 quite a number of families moved into the Muddy Creek area. A few of them were: Jedediah Knight, Joseph Nielson, Pleasant Minchey, Frank Foote, Charley and Ammon Foote, George Merrick, Oscar Beebe, Orson Davis, Heber C. K. Petty, Sr., Joseph Evans, Rasmus Johnson, Carl Magnus Olsen, Peter Nielson, Peter Hansen, Heber Broderick, Peter Christensen, George A. Whitlock, Peter Victor Bunderson, Rasmus Albrechtson, Christian A. Larsen, Lafe Allred, Hyrum Strong, Peter Jensen, Isaac Kimball, William George Petty, Niels Jensen, Wiley Payne Allred, Andrew C. Anderson, Stephen Williams and David Pratt. Most of these families were Danish immigrants. By 1885, it was determined that the canyon itself was not wide enough for many farms and that more fertile land lie to the south of the Muddy.
The settling of this land, required bringing the waters of Muddy Creek through a tunnel that took nearly three years to dig. With no trained engineering assistance, the settlers made their calculations, started from opposite sides of the hill, dodged numerous cave-ins of the treacherous Mancos shale, maintained the correct level inside the tunnel and connected both tunnels nearly perfectly.
The year of 1883 was a red letter year for Casper Christensen. On April 15 he was set apart as the Presiding Elder of the Muddy Creek Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On the 26th of August his daughter, Bellette, was born, the first baby girl to be born on the Muddy Creek. September 2 the Emery Ward was organized with Casper Christensen as Bishop. Then on November 19 he was officially appointed Postmaster at Muddy, in the County of Emery in the Utah Territory. His daughter, Hannah, was appointed as his assistant.[
When Casper Christensen was first appointed postmaster and Bishop, a postal inspector found him working in the field and tried to make him understand that he wanted to inspect his postal records. Finally in desperation he said, “You don’t seem to know who I am. I am a postal inspector.” Brother Casper indignantly replied, “And YOU don’t know who I am. I’m the Bishop on the Creek!” Town residents have continued to use this phrase when dealing with someone who was self-important.
Muddy Creek and Quitchupah residents consolidated on this new townsite. Log cabins were built as soon as logs could be hauled from the nearby mountains. The logs were smoothed on one side with grooves chopped in each end. They were then placed on top of each other with the smooth side facing inward. Chinks between the logs were filled with mud or clay. Willows were used for lath, nailed to the logs and plastered with mud. This mud was then rubbed smooth and painted with a whitewash of lime. The roofs were made of rough lumber, and covered with a layer of straw or brush and then a top layer of dirt. Later the roofs were greatly improved when cedar shingles became available.
The town of Muddy would later change to Emery, after Governor George W. Emery. However, both names would be synonymously used. Emery has always been an agricultural community. Ranching and farming is its major livelihood. The town would swell in population to have its own school, but after World War II, the population has decreased due to lack of economic opportunities and has generally hovered around 300 residents. The discovery of coal, south of the town, lead to several mines being developed, and the idea that the town could once again draw in new residents. However, with the decrease in coal prices, production has not required the initiation of new mining operations.
On November 2, 1967, the Last Chance Motel was destroyed by a cone-shaped F2 tornado. Furniture and bedding were thrown hundreds of yards. The tornado occurred at the unusual time of 5:30 am and no injuries were reported.