History of Clearfield, Utah
Courtesy of Utah History Encyclopedia. (Links Added)

Clearfield, in northern Davis County, is bordered by Hill Air Force Base and the Wasatch Mountains on the east, and by Syracuse, West Point, and the Great Salt Lake on the west. It was one of the last communities to be settled in the north part of the county. Clearfield was once known as "Sandridge." There was little available water and the land was thought to be unproductive. The name was later changed to Clearfield from the suggestion of a teacher, who got the idea as she looked out over the attractive open surroundings.

An emigrant couple from England were the first settlers in Clearfield. Richard and Emily Hamblin had lived with relatives in Layton for a few years, and in 1877 they decided to make their own home in the area that is now Clearfield. Their first home was a dugout with a thatched roof of sagebrush covered with dirt.

Water had to be brought in from Kay's Creek in Layton, so Hamblin's first concern was finding a closer water supply. He dug several surface wells without success until 1881 when he struck water. He made a windmill to supply irrigation water and grew strawberries, which he marketed. After the completion of the East Canyon Dam in 1884, water was supplied by the Davis and Weber counties canal. This brought more people to the area to live and to grow crops. Most settled in the area that is now Syracuse.

Farming grew and the local farmers needed a market for their surplus produce. The Woods Cross Canning Cooperative was begun in 1892. It packed many different fruits and vegetables, but mostly tomatoes. The cannery grew as demand for canned goods increased. It employed hundreds of people each season, and was a significant Davis County employer before defense installations came to the county. During World War II, the orders grew and the supply of workers lessened. The cannery hired displaced Japanese-Americans as well as German and Italian prisoners of war, and the arrangement worked out well for all. The cannery closed after a fire in the late 1970s. By that time, farming in the area had decreased.

In 1869 the Utah Central Railroad came through Clearfield. In 1905 the Bamberger Electric, another railroad, took passengers between Ogden and Salt Lake City, stopping in Clearfield.

By 1940 alfalfa fields and forage crops were abundant and Clearfield was a peaceful farming community. However, the addition of defense installations in the area changed the scene. The efforts of the Ogden Chamber of Commerce helped bring Hill Field to Utah. The construction of the Air Force base began in 1940 and the facility eventually stretched along the eastern border of Clearfield. The base has provided many jobs for civilians and is one of Utah's major employers.

On the southwestern side of Clearfield, the U.S. Navy installed the Clearfield Naval Supply Depot. Residents of the area at first were very much opposed to the Navy's intentions. However, the Ogden Chamber of Commerce supported the idea, stressing both patriotic and economic advantages. In May 1942 the Navy received authorization to buy the land, and it paid local farmers the fair market value for their crops which could not be harvested. Construction began in June 1942 and was finished in April 1943.

Clearfield was considered a prime location for the depot because of its relative security from enemy attack, nearby air transportation at Hill Air Force Base, and the proximity of railroads and highways. The dry climate was ideal for storage, and there was a good supply of manpower. The depot was an important naval installation for the warehousing and distribution of supplies to West Coast supply points. During World War II years, it was difficulty to fill employment vacancies, and the supply depot hired almost anyone willing to work. In April 1945, 500 German prisoners of war were assigned to the depot as work crews. After World War II, the depot handled surplus property. During the Korean War, the distribution workload increased again. After that conflict, the depot began to phase out. Many civilian workers left to take employment at Hill Air Force Base or at other government agencies and private industries. The depot was phased out by 1962.

The facility did not stay empty long; private firms soon began moving into the large warehouse buildings. The area became known as the Freeport Center and today is a major western hub for manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution.

The community was started by Mormons and the faith is still predominant in the city today. However, the defense installations brought in workers of other denominations, and Clearfield now shows a religious diversity. Along with eighteen LDS wards, there are Jehovah's Witness, Church of Christ, Episcopal, Community, and two Baptist congregations. The community church concept was born in Clearfield out of the need for a Protestant place of worship for the incoming military workers after Hill Air Force Base was established. It was developed by the Home Mission Society of the American Baptist Church organization. The idea was to found a church that would include Christians of many denominations. Clearfield Community Church was the result, organized with forty-three charter members in 1943.

In 1993 the population of Clearfield is approximately 24,000 people. Clearfield is an active community as part of the greater Wasatch Front community. Residents are still employed in farming, defense, and manufacturing, as well as in running local restaurants and businesses. The building of Interstate 15 has made it convenient for residents to commute to Ogden and Salt Lake City for work as well as cultural and higher education needs.

See: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, East of Antelope Island (1969); Leonard J. Arrington and Archer L. Durham, "Anchors Aweigh in Utah: The U.S. Naval Supply Depot at Clearfield, 1942-1962," Utah Historical Quarterly 31 (1963); Ward J. Roylance, Utah: A Guide to the State (1982); Kathy Kelly, "Cannery Once Bustling Operation," Lakeside Review (25 May 1993).

Mary Peach

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