The community of Duchesne is located just above the junction of the Strawberry and Duchesne rivers in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah. It was first
identified as a potential town site by Father Escalante when the Dominguez-Escalante expedition camped near the present-day town 18 September 1776 while
on their epic journey. Duchesne is strategically located not only due
to its location at the junction of the rivers but it is also at the
mouth of Indian Canyon, the major route into the Basin through the Tavaputs
Plateau from Price.
The town came into being in 1905 when the United States government opened the region
to homesteading under the Allotment Act. The land that forms all of Duchesne County and western Uintah County had formerly belonged to the Ute Indians as part of their reservation. A.M. Murdock, an Indian trader
at Whiterocks, obtained permission from the government to set up a trading
post at the site that became Duchesne City. With the assistance of several
other men, he set up a large circus tent for a general store and trading
post. Government surveyors laid out the streets and the survey was accepted
by the government on 18 October 1905. Other settlers soon pitched their
tents and built pioneer dwellings that were replaced over the next months
and years with more modern buildings for homes and businesses.
The town was originally called Dora, after Murdock's baby daughter. This name was
replaced for a short time by the name Theodore, in honor of President
Theodore Roosevelt. But when town to the east adopted the name of Roosevelt,
it was thought that two towns in the same county named for the same
president would be too confusing for mail delivery. The name Duchesne
was utilized for the new community. The name Duchesne is taken from
the name of the river that runs through town and was likely named by
fur trappers in the 1820s in honor of Mother Treasa Duchesne founder
of the School of the Sacred Heart near St. Louis, Missouri.
On 1 January 1915 the eastern portion of Wasatch County was split off to form Duchesne
County; by a vote of county citizens, Duchesne City became the county
seat. Today Duchesne is a community of approximately 1,200 people. It
hosts four chapels (two LDS, a Baptist, and a Catholic), two schools (an elementary and a high school/junior high), several businesses and
the county offices. For several years, work on the Central Utah Project
boosted the community's population and business; a park and a bowling
alley were built to make the city more attractive for construction workers.
However, in the mid-1980s the dam projects were completed and Duchesne's
population declined by several hundred people. The economic base of
the community is presently centered in farming and oil industry. As
county seat, Duchesne's major celebration is the annual county fair held in August. Due to the late date of settlement of the community, even at the present date several of the older citizens remember coming
into the region as pioneers childern with their families.