BRIGHAM CITY — January marks Brigham City’s 150th birthday, and myriad events are planned through June in celebration — all to tell the story of a tiny fort for eight families that grew to a city of 18,000, many of whom work on rocket engines.
But plans over the next few months also include a pageant, festival, historical and religious programs, tours, a runners’ marathon, a soapbox derby and downtown businesses adorned with legacy photos of the structures’ past appearance.
The first week of the year, the Sesquicentennial Task Force presented the city council with a copy of the city’s Jan. 12, 1867, Articles of Incorporation and details of the birthday party.
“It’s going to be a six-month celebration,” Sarah Yates, task force member and former local newspaper editor, said in an interview. “We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff planned.”
Turning a century and a half old will first be commemorated with the Sesquicentennial Ball, featuring a live orchestra and more on Saturday in the Academy Center downtown.
In addition to Basin Street West, with its 23 musicians and three singers, the Savoy Swingers, Utah State University’s swing dance team, will perform floor shows twice during the night. Tickets for the ball are $10 per person or $15 per couple, available at City Hall, the Bunderson Center or the city senior center.
“Orchestras are expensive,” Yates said, “We’re on our fourth orchestra” she said of negotiations that ended with Basin Street West, of Provo. “They want a bus. So we’ll provide that instead of them all driving their private vehicles so far in the dead of winter.
The script for the historical pageant, set for May 5-6, is still being finalized, said Kaia Landon, task force member and director of the Box Elder Museum of Art, History and Nature.
“It will be period costumes, actors, dialogue, the whole shebang,” Landon said. She and Kathleen Bradford, Brigham’s resident historian, are serving as consultants on the script for historical accuracy.
Bradford will also lead presentations from February through April, covering the city’s founding, early settlers, encounters with the Shoshone tribe, fort building and architecture — as well as speakeasies and hobos.
An amazing supply of vintage black-and-white photographs will backdrop the city’s reminiscence.
As part of this weekend’s ball, a “selfie station” will be set up so that attendees can snap their photos with some of the same historical backdrops used by the Compton Photography Studio. Founded by Alma Compton, the studio was run by the Compton family in Brigham City from 1884 to 1996, Landon said, donating its inventory to the local museum and USU. The museum, she said, is in the process of digitizing the more than 6,000 Compton photos, she said.
Landon, Yates and Bradford — as well as David Morrell, retired Box Elder School District business manager — make up the four-member Brigham City History Project, which since 2013 has been compiling a book on the city’s history.
According to their work, and various sources such as the Utah Division of State History and the city’s website, the first settler of what was to become Brigham City was William Davis. The Pennsylvania convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints crossed the plains with the Mormon expeditions that arrived in Utah in 1847.
Davis was sent north in 1850 by the church to explore, and found the Brigham area habitable. He returned in 1851 to build a small fort, 100 feet by 250 feet, which held 23 people and eight families by 1853 in the area of Seventh North and Fifth West.
By 1950, the city reached a population of around 6,000 souls before experiencing rapid growth, led by the advent in 1957 of the Thiokol Corp. aerospace company, builder of missiles and shuttle boosters.
The boom sent the census to 11,720 by 1960, peaking at 20,000 by 1990, before settling to the city’s current roughly 18,000 head count.