The old Sevier County Courthouse in Richfield before it was demolished.
The first settler in the Venice area was Francis George Wall, an early resident of Glenwood. In 1875, Wall bought an 80-acre tract of land, then called the Cove River Ranch, on the south side of the Sevier River. He built a cabin and moved his family from Manti. As other settlers moved in, the settlement was named “Wallsville”.
One of the most important structures in town was the bridge across the Sevier River. The first such bridge was built as early as 1885. A log meetinghouse was built in Wallsville in 1887, and used for both school and church meetings. A post office was established in the local general store in 1894, and in 1900, a ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. Residents voted to rename their community “Venice”.
In 1900, a white brick schoolhouse was built. This school operated until 1924, when the school district built a new building in Venice, and the old building was sold to the LDS Church. This building, with numerous additions over the years, served as the ward meetinghouse until it was torn down in 1984. The school was closed in 1950, but still stands as a Venice landmark.
The Marysvale Branch of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad was formerly the most important transportation corridor in the area. It ran through the northwestern corner of Venice, transporting farm products as well as passengers. The railroad line was closed down after the 1983 landslide at Thistle.
The first permanent settlers (about 30 families) moved into the area in 1864 at the direction of leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They found abundant salt deposits nearby so they named the area “Salina”.
In 1866 troubles with Indians who used the area as their hunting ground the Black Hawk War forced the white settlers to retreat to the Manti area. They returned to Salina in 1871, organized a militia, and constructed a fort and buildings for a school and a church. At that time they discovered coal deposits in “almost inexhaustible quantities” in the canyon east of the settlement.
A creek north of the settlement was tapped to provide water for irrigation, domestic purposes, and to power various enterprises such as sawmills, grist mills, salt refineries and generation of electricity. The Sevier River was tapped in 1874, and by 1908 the area west of the settlement was being fully cultivated.
In June 1891 the settlement was connected to the state’s railroad system, and that year the central area was incorporated as a town. It soon became the shipping terminal between the area settlements and the rest of the state. In 1913 the town was re-incorporated as a city.
During World War II, Salina contained a POW camp, housing 250 German prisoners both of the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS. On the night of July 8, 1945, Private Clarence Bertucci climbed one of the guard towers and took aim at the tents where the prisoners were sleeping. He fired 250 rounds from a light machine gun and managed to hit some thirty tents in his fifteen-second rampage. By the time a corporal managed to disarm Bertucci, six prisoners were dead and an additional twenty-two were wounded (three would later die of their wounds).
This incident was called the Salina Massacre. Bertucci, who was from New Orleans, was declared insane and spent the remainder of his life in an institution.
Prehistoric people occupied the Richfield area for more than 7,000 years. Fremont culture remains are found near most community sites in the Sevier area and are dated from approximately CE 1 to CE 1000. In the late summer of 1776, Father Escalante and his party of Spanish explorers passed through the general vicinity, looking for a trail to link Nuevo Mexico and California. During the late 1820s, Jedediah Smith and other fur traders crossed the area. Sevier County lies on one of the variants on the Old Spanish Trail between Santa Fe, New Mexico and California and was used by travelers between 1830 and 1850.
In the early part of January 1864, a party of ten men under the leadership of Albert Lewis came from Sanpete County, Utah and arrived in what is now Richfield. The Mormon settlers found fertile soil, good water and wood in the nearby hills. They decided that it was a desirable site for a settlement. These pioneers made a dwelling place for all ten men, which they called ‘The Hole in the Ground.’ They carefully covered this hole with brush willows and other materials and made a crude chimney of rocks. This dugout was located on today’s Main Street. These men spent the remainder of the winter in this dwelling, planning and preparing for the time when they could bring their families.
The early Mormon settlements were abandoned in 1867 due to the conflict known as the Black Hawk War. But, when resettled in 1871, Richfield grew to become a regional center. The coming of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in 1891 opened the valley for expanded agricultural commerce and mining.
In 1939, Utah Governor Henry H. Blood vetoed a proposal for a junior college in Richfield. Fifty-seven years later, Snow College opened a Richfield campus, which serves about 600 students per year.
Just below the Old Lime Kiln you can see the first County Jail.
The first County Jail was built in 1879, and was located on Third North and Main Street. It joined the County Court House on the East. The Jail consisted of two cells build by spiking 2×4’s and nailing them together. The cells were plastered. The rood was shingled and was supposed to be rainproof. A high board fence was built around the lot. The bed ticks were filled with straw and a board served as a bed.
This old lime kiln, now restored, is the best preserved of seven kilns constructed here during the late 1880’s. It was built by John Kyhl for Jens Larsen Jenson, a Swedish immigrant. The vital lime was used in the construction of homes, churches and schools of the early settlers. Limestone was quarried in the nearby hills, malted down in the kilns and cooled – a process that took several days. The result was a fine, white powder suitable for brick-making, mortar and plaster. Use of this kiln ended around 1905 when Mr. Jensen went blind from exposure to the extreme heat.
See other historic markers in the series on this page for SUP Markers.
The community was first settled in the spring of 1874 by James C. Jensen, Jens Iver Jensen, and others. The area was settled by Danish converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and named after Kronborg Castle, known as Elsinore in Hamlet. It was home to a Utah-Idaho Sugar Company factory for processing sugar beets into sugar from 1911 to 1929, but was closed due to a sugar beet blight. The town was given its official name at the suggestion of Latter-day Saint Stake President Joseph A. Young. Previously, the town was named Little Denmark because many of the early settlers were immigrants of that country.
One of the town’s leading citizens, George Staples (1834–1890) was gored to death by a Jersey bull on his farm outside town on October 30, 1890. Staples was the English immigrant and adopted Sioux who widely credited with opening the way for peaceful settlement of southern Utah by negotiation with Native American tribes in the area such as the Pahvant Ute band led by Chief Kanosh (1821–1884).
On September 29, 1921, the town was rocked by an earthquake which damaged several buildings, including the school, which would later house the library.
Near this spot in 1865 a rock fort was built as a protection from Indians. It was a cooperative project. Each man who owned a city lot built one rod of the wall which was 3 l/2 feet at base, 12 feet high, 1 foot at top. There were portholes at intervals, wooden gates on east side. Men stood guard at all times. They gave signals, using a white flag by day and a drum by night. After 1878 the bell atop this monument hung in Academy Hall. It rang for church, school, and other occasions.
Check out all of the historic markers placed by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers at JacobBarlow. com/dup