Native American History
Long before any white settlers arrived in the area, this region was home to Native American tribes such as the Ute and Paiute. These people made their homes here and lived off of the land by hunting, gathering and fishing. They also traded with one another and used horses for transportation. As early as 1824, fur trappers explored the region but did not settle in this area.
The first white settlers did not arrive until the late 19th century, although artifacts and arrowheads from the Native Americans are still found in the area today. This provides us with a glimpse into their history here.
George W. Bean discovered the ideal location for settlements in the Sevier River in July 1863. It was perfect with rich soil, good water, and nearby wood in the hills. After meeting Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde in Spring City, Bean and his team learned that the Sevier Valley settlement was under his direction.
In 1864, a group of ten men, led by Albert Lewis, traveled from Sanpete and reached what is now Richfield on January 6th. Orson Hyde later called for more families to settle, with some paying their way out and others responding to the call. The first white women to arrive were Ann Swindle and Charlotte Doxford. The initial settlement was named Big Springs or Warm Springs, named after the crucial spring at the base of the red hills. Later, it was named Omni after a prophet in the Book of Mormon before eventually being named Richfield due to its rich soil. The first dwellings were dugouts.
Things started off promising with temporary president Nelson Higgins leading the community. Unfortunately, danger lurked nearby in the form of Black Hawk and his tribe, who raided the area and killed two settlers. More attacks followed, including the tragic deaths of Jens Peter Petersen, Amalia Petersen, and Mary Smith. With safety concerns mounting, the settlement was evacuated, only to be repopulated by former settlers in 1871. By 1872, 150 families had returned to the area. Flourishing once again, Richfield had grown to 753 people by 1874, with 117 children attending school.
By the turn of the 20th century, Richfield had grown to become the educational and commercial center of Central Utah. New schools and churches were built while the townspeople enjoyed more services than before. As technology improved, communication made it easier for people to stay in touch with their families back in their home countries.