|Pioneer Happenings January
Moab City First
Incorporated 100 Years Ago
by Jeff Richards
years ago, during a landmark two-day Grand County Board
of Commissioners meeting held Dec. 29-30, 1902, the city
of Moab, Utah (population 300) was officially incorporated.
The event was announced with a two-word banner headline MOAB
INCORPORATED on the front page of the Friday, Jan.
3, 1903 Grand Valley Times weekly newspaper, which later
became known as The Times-Independent.
Beneath the headline were listed the names of the five councilmen who were
appointed to serve as the trustees for the fledgling city until the first
town election could be held. They were: V.P. Martin (a local merchant),
Henry Grimm (a blacksmith whose name was spelled as Grim in
the headline and in various other places throughout the newspaper), D.A.
Johnson, a local church bishop, Dr. J.W. Williams, the towns first
physician, and Harry Green (the boards president), who had spearheaded
the petition to incorporate the town.
For some time, the Grand Valley Times had been steadfastly campaigning in
favor of the towns incorporation, which came more than two decades
after Moab was first named and settled by ranchers and miners (Moab had had
a post office as early as 1880). One of the key issues for those in support
of incorporation was that it would allow for the hiring of a town marshal to
bring public carousing to a halt. Apparently, raucous (and often drunken)
celebrations among cowboys and the like were commonplace, and many citizens
were reportedly concerned for their own safety.
According to the Dec. 26, 1902 edition of the Times, a petition to incorporate
the town had been circulated in late December by J.N. Corbin, who managed
to get over 60 signatures in a short time. The petition was then reportedly
given to Mrs. Harry Green to be taken around to some of the women for
their names. Apparently, 90 signatures of registered voters were needed,
and ultimately 120 names were collected.
The town will undoubtedly be incorporated, as the petition is meeting with
very little opposition, the newspaper said with optimism three days before
the historic meeting.
The county commissioners then met on Monday and Tuesday of the following
week. The newspaper opined that the New Year was an opportune time
and the town will turn over a new leaf. During the meeting, Corbin
and Mr. and Mrs. Green then presented the list of signatures to the county
commission, which then approved the petition at some unknown point during
the two-day session ending Dec. 30, and Moab officially became incorporated.
Then, later in the week, on Friday, Jan. 3, 1903, the five-member Board of
Trustees of the Town of Moab met for the first time and unanimously approved
the first four laws to enter the towns books:
No. 1 established the official seal of the Town of Moab
as a circle impress with the words, Town of
Moab, State of Utah, Seal.
No. 2 set the salaries of town officials as follows:
the four trustees and the president of the board were
each to receive $10 per year, payable in quarterly installments.
The clerk was to receive $100 per year, and the treasurer
$40 per year, also payable quarterly. And, the much-needed
town marshal was to receive a whopping $50 per month,
or $600 per year.
No. 3 set the bond rates for the town officers ($500
each for the clerk and marshal and $1,000 for the treasurer).
No. 4 established a schedule of fees for licenses for people
and companies doing business within the town limits. Business
activities specifically mentioned in the ordinance were selling
intoxicating liquors, general merchandise, stores, markets,
and peddling and hawking. The liquor license fee
was the most expensive, at $400 per year. General business
licenses were $10 per year, and peddlers had to pay $100
for an annual license. Professional entertainers were to
be charged a $2 fee for each 24 hours they were in town.
One of the
first key issues for the new town in 1903 was the construction
of the Grand County Courthouse. Moab had just beaten out
rival Castleton in a battle to remain the county seat.
Thanks to its many mining camps and oil drilling operations
throughout the La Sal Mountains and other areas, Grand
County was the richest county per capita in Utah at the
time, yet it was the only county in the state with a railroad
but no courthouse building.
Grand County officials had been leasing for $900 per year an existing building
to serve as the courthouse, but desperately wanted to construct a new building.
However, the public had balked at the $10,000 price tag estimated by the
architect. Then, the Times editor jumped into the fray. The week before
the bond election, the newspaper made its final unabashed plea: We
let it to the public now to decide whether they will belong to the intelligent,
progressive and up-to-date class, or the class of ignoramuses. The
bond passed 110-14.
At the abovementioned Dec. 29-30, 1902 meeting of the board of county commissioners,
the site for the courthouse was debated, and the decision was made to put
it up for bid. Soon afterward, a site was approved (125 E. Center Street,
which is also where the present-day courthouse is located). Ground was broken
later that year (in October, 1903). The original courthouse lasted until
1937, when a newer one (which still serves Grand County today) was then built
at the same location.
of Moab, as a still further evidence of the spirit that
is now prevailing, have incorporated and start out the
new year bent on improvements over the old, a front-page
Times editorial commented as it heralded the new year a
century ago on Jan. 3, 1903 .