Area: 2,586 square miles; population: 6,005 (in 2000); county seat: Beaver City; origin or county name: from Beaver River, so called because of the many beaver once found there; principal cities/towns: Beaver City, Milford, Minersville; economy: livestock, transportation, trade; points of interest: Beaver City Historic District, Frisco ghost town, Puffer Lake, Minersville Reservoir State Park, Elk Meadows ski area. The high peaks of the Tushar Range mark the eastern boundary of Beaver County. Delano Peak (12,173 feet) and Mount Belknap (12,139 feet) are around the highest mountains in the state. Most of the county, however, consists of the Basin and Range country typical of western Utah.
Archaic and Sevier Cultural sites of early Indian inhabitants have been found in Beaver County, and in historic times the area was part of the Southern Paiutes’ territory. The Indian Peak Paiute Reservation operated from 1915 to 1954 in southwestern Beaver County.
In 1776 the Dominguez-Escalante expedition crossed the county near present Milford. Jedediah S. Smith (in 1826-27) and John C. Fremont (in 1844) had also traveled in the Beaver area before Albert Carrington explored it for the Mormons. The county was created in 1856, the same year Beaver City was founded.
The U.S. Army built Fort Cameron in Beaver City in 1873, partly in response to Indian hostilities and partly to aid the 2nd District Court in the prosecution of those accused of participating in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. John D. Lee’s two trials were held in Beaver, and he was briefly imprisoned at the fort. The fort, abandoned in 1883, became the site of Murdock Academy (1898-1922), a branch of Brigham Young Academy, the forerunner of Brigham Young University.
Although the early settlers planted crops and grazed livestock, the county prospered in the nineteenth century because of a unique blend of mining, transportation, and trade in addition to farming. The Lincoln Mine, located northwest of Minersville, may have been the first mine opened in Utah (1858). Lead was smelted and shipped to Salt Lake City to make ammunition. Many claims were staked and mining districts organized in the 1870s. The fabulous Horn Silver Mine was discovered in 1875, and the nearby town of Frisco, a wild boomtown, was founded in 1876. The Horn attracted famous investors such as J. Pierpont Morgan.
Milford was founded in 1870 by livestock growers and became an important transportation center in May 1880 when the Utah Southern Railroad reached the town. The line was extended to Frisco a month later. Both ore and livestock were shipped from the town to Salt Lake, and Milford was also a forwarding point for freight. Horse and wagon teams carried freight from Milford to southern Utah, to northern Arizona, and to mining camps in Nevada. In Beaver City, the Beaver Woolen Mills, which operated from the 1870s to the turn of the century, found Frisco an important market for its products, especially blankets. The Beaver co-op store, reportedly the largest mercantile establishment south of Salt Lake City, opened in 1872 and profited from mining and transportation activity.
The Frisco mining boom lasted only a decade. In the early twentieth century the Cactus Mine near the town of Newhouse, west of Frisco, produced gold, silver, copper, and other minerals. In the 1980s the county’s geothermal resources began to be tapped when an electric power generating plant using natural steam was built northeast of Milford.
Miriam B. Murphy