Enterprise

Adapted from: Alder, Douglas D., and Karl F. Brooks. A History of Washington County: From Isolation to Destination. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1996; “Welcome to Enterprise.” https://enterpriseutah.org/. April 30, 2020.

Enterprise Dam, Utah State Historical Society

The town of Enterprise has its origins in the earlier settlement (now a ghost town) of Hebron. Some Latter-day Saint settlers grazed along Shoal Creek in the 1860s, and decided it was a good place to settle. Some Paiutes in the area encouraged the Saints to settle there, so they established a small settlement centered around ranching rather than agriculture, as the altitude of 5,400 feet, as well as limited water supplies, would make extended farming difficult. Erastus Snow came to the area in 1868 and organized the seventy-five settlers into a church unit. Snow named the area Hebron, after the ancient biblical city. Even with the emphasis on ranching, the lack of water was a problem, especially for those trying to grow small gardens or raise crops for themselves. Some settlers moved elsewhere, in search of better prospects. 

The creation of Enterprise was largely the product of the ideas and determination of Orson Huntsman, a resident of Hebron. Huntsman moved from Hebron in search of better water prospects, but faced similar shortage problems elsewhere. He returned to Hebron and pondered different possible solutions to the water shortage.  He came up with a radical solution. If the settlers could create a dam at the head of Shoal Creek, they could have a reservoir and canal system capable of year round water delivery. This would potentially allow for a larger settlement, but it would mean Hebron would be left out of the new water, and the residents of Hebron would need to move to a new community. He pitched the idea to various residents, and found that his idea was not well received. Hebron’s bishop and Huntsman’s father-in-law, Thomas Terry, was not supportive of the idea. Huntsman decided to proceed anyway, filing a desert claim in 1891, called the area Enterprise and spent three years visiting nearby settlements looking for investors and supporters. His actions did not make him popular in Hebron.

Huntsman found some support in 1892 on a trip to St. George. He pitched his idea to a crowd that included the stake presidency, and the presidency supported the project. Formal work began on the project in 1893, and turned out to be a longer undertaking than anticipated, taking sixteen years to complete. In 1894, the new bishop of Hebron, George A. Holt, began to mount serious opposition to the project, attempting to divert additional water from Shoal Creek to Hebron, which would mean less water for the intended reservoir. Huntsman and some friends continued on undaunted, with one man, Chris Ammon, doing the bulk of the stonework. 

An earthquake in 1902 changed most residents’ minds. The earthquake damaged most of the stone homes in the area, and the rest of the residents made the move to Enterprise, abandoning Hebron that year. The reservoir project was a great success, with Enterprise Reservoir providing water for the area to the present time. 

Enterprise has remained a small community, but is much larger than Hebron ever was. Growth has been fairly steady through most of its history, with a sharp uptake in recent years. The town still maintains its small town feel, and is known for its proximity to recreation and its annual August corn fest. The population today is a little over 1,800.