18 September 1776 The Dominguez-Escalante Expedition came from the east where they crossed blue bench and descended into Utah north of the present day town of Duchesne. “We ascended a not very high mesa(blue bench) which was level and very stony, traveled about three quarters of a league including ascent and descent, crossed another small river (Duchesne River) which near here enters the San Cosme (Strawberry River), named it Santa Caterina de Sena, and camped on its banks” “Along these three rivers we have crossed today there is plenty of good land for crops to support three good settlements, with opportunities for irrigation, beautiful cottonwood groves, good pastures, with timber and firewood nearby.”
1822–1840 French Canadian trappers Étienne Provost, François le Clerc, and Antoine Robidoux entered the Uintah basin by way of the Old Spanish trail and made their fortunes by trapping the many beaver and trading with the Uintah tribe. From these French Canadian trappers the Duchesne river and ultimately Duchesne City received its name.
1905–1906 On June 7, 1905 the Secretary of the Interior directed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to select one or more tracts of land in the Uintah Reservation suitable for townsites, so they might be reserved as such under the Statutes of the United States. Three sites were designated which are the current sites of Duchesne, Myton, and Randlett. A month later President Theodore Roosevelt approved the selections and declared these lands reserved as Townsites. On August 28 the US government opened up the Uintah Basin to settlement of land they had acquired from the Ute Indians under the allotment act of 1891. “Land lotteries” were held in Vernal, Provo, Price, Grand Junction, Colorado, and Vernal where each person was given a ticket with a number. On August 28 numbers 1 through 111 were allowed to make their claim. August 29 the next 111 people could make their claim and so on. Sixty people, forty six adults and fourteen children, settled on the townsite that is now Duchesne and called it by its first name “Elsie”(Glen). Government surveyors laid out the streets and the survey was accepted by the government on 18 October 1905. The first cabin was built by Charles Dickerson and Charles Ragland, in October 1905. A.M. Murdock with the help of a few men put up a large circus tent to act as a trading post and post office. The name of the town was changed to Dora for a short time, after Murdock’s 23 year old daughter, then changed once again to Theodore, in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. Sept 15, 1905, Robert Duchesne Marsh was the first “white” child born in the townsite. The first winter was harsh and the residents were living in tents or other temporary shelter. When spring came the high water of the Duchesne River overflowed its banks flooding the town. Many of the homesteaders dreams died after the first winter and they sold their claims off for next to nothing. Judge M.M. Smith recalls “one man asked me to write out a relinquishment for him, remarking, ‘I must either give up my claim or my wife. She won’t live here.'” Dikes were quickly built up but washed away and some of the town was under two feet of water until June. Tents and houses were moved around to avoid the flooding problem before the next spring.
The flooding continued annually until 1910 when $5000 was finally given to make the four river cut-offs needed to fix the problem. In 1906 the first bridge was built by Wasatch County across the Duchesne river in east Theodore.
1907–1914 The men of Theodore organized the Boosters Club and the women organized the Standard Bearers in 1907, both groups became a forceful factor in the early development of the town. With the flooding of the rivers every spring, the Boosters club was finding it hard to attract people and business to the “muddy” little town. The Boosters club raised $500 to build a bridge across the Strawberry River at the mouth of Indian Canyon. The bridge was completed in 1908, and later replaced by the state in 1914. In 1908 A.M. Murdock took down the tent and built the first store, barber shop, and post office, the “Pioneer Supply”. A town hall was built by the citizens in 1907. After the flooding issue was resolved the town grew quickly. In 1910 the population of “Theodore” was 929. The towns first newspaper, The Duchesne Record, started publication April 8, 1909. By 1910 the citizens had decided to change the name to Duchesne. The Post Office kept the name Theodore until the town’s petition to change the named was acknowledged on May 5, 1911. The town was incorporated in 1913 and A.M. Murdock was the first mayor.
On July 13, 1914 “Wasatch County was divided and Duchesne County was created.” Duchesne was made the county seat on Nov 5, 1914 by popular vote of the citizens of the county.
The name Duchesne is taken from the name of the river that runs through town and may be named by fur trappers in the 1820s in honor of Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne founder of the School of the Sacred Heart near St. Louis, Missouri although other theories as to the name exist.
A photograph dated 1909, showing the A. M. Murdock Pioneer Supply Store and post office at Theodore, Utah (which was located approximately where Kohl’s Market stood in Duchesne in 1991) appeared in a postal history magazine in 1992. The Theodore post office operated from 1905 through 1913, when it was renamed Duchesne.
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