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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Clifton

Thursday, June 13, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Payton Grover
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 City of Clifton

Clifton lies on the northeastern edge of the fertile 50-milelong Cache Valley. The northern third of the valley is in Idaho and the lower two-thirds are in Utah. The CaribouTarghee National Forest with its Bannock Mountain Range, rising to over 8,000 feet, lie west of the city. To the east, fertile farms, irrigation canals, streams, reservoirs and wetlands stretch for about 15 miles across the valley before meeting the mountains of the Bear River Range, also in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. This range has peaks rising to over 9,000 feet. Preston is about 14 miles southeast. Malad lies across the Bannock Mountains about 20 miles west. The Idaho/Utah border is about 13 miles due south.

Historical Tidbits

Pioneer settlement of the southern part of Cache Valley began in 1850, three years after the first migration of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church or Church of Jesus Christ) into the valley of the Great Salt Lake. The Cache Valley settlements moved progressively north. In 1860 the farming community of Franklin was established.

In 1862 the federal government established a military fort in the foothills overlooking Salt Lake City under the command of Colonel Patrick E. Connor. The fort was to protect the overland mail, emigrants headed west, settlers and an increasing number of gold prospectors in the regions to the north. On January 29, 1863, following an Indian attack in what is now western Montana where one prospector was killed, Connor led his army in an attack against a large body of Shoshone encamped on the Bear River about six miles east of what is now Clifton. Initially, the dug-in Shoshone warriors were winning the battle, until Conner directed his cavalry in flanking movements that overran the Indians. The army killed nearly 400, including women and children, with half that number escaping or being taken prisoner. Twenty-two of Connor’s soldiers lost their lives with about 130 wounded or disabled by frostbite. (See Eastern Idaho, American Indians—Bear River Massacre.) In July 1864 Ezra T. Benson, a member of the Church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles, called an exploring party of seven men to locate, select and plat townsites north of Franklin. They established several new communities including the present Idaho cities of Clifton, Dayton, Oxford, Preston and Weston. Settlement of Clifton began in 1865. The settlers were members of the Church traveling up from Utah Territory seeking arable land on which to establish their homes and farms. (See Eastern Idaho, Pioneer Settlements—Cache Valley.) They originally named the community Rushville because of the nearby bulrushes growing around the headwaters of Deep Creek. In 1865 settlers in Bear Lake Valley, located across the Bear River Mountain Range about 35 miles due west of what is now Clifton, decided to establish homesteads south of St. Charles contrary to the settlement agreements Church leaders had reached with the Shoshone and Bannock Indians. The Shoshone destroyed these farms and sent the encroaching settlers fleeing back to St. Charles for safety. In 1866 the Indians also threatened the north Cache Valley settlers causing them to abandon their farms and homes and move to the relative safety of Franklin. In 1867 these settlers felt it was safe to return to their homes and continue building their settlements. In 1869 the township was surveyed and the name changed to Clifton after a high cleft of rock lying west of the settlement. In 1872 the federal government surveyed the 42nd parallel. Prior to that time, most of the northern Cache Valley settlers managed their business affairs as though they were part of Utah Territory. Following the official survey, many of the northern Cache Valley settlers were disappointed when they found that they lived in Idaho. They now had to travel approximately 300 miles north to do their state business in Boise rather than traveling about 110 miles south to Salt Lake City. (See Eastern Idaho, Idaho/Utah Boundary Resolution.) In 1890 the Oregon Short Line Railroad built a rail line through Clifton en route to the Montana gold fields. Area residents now had an efficient way to transport freight and agriculture commodities as well as providing efficient passenger and mail services. In June 1915 Clifton became an incorporated village. It became a city in 1967 when the change in state law gave city

legal status to all incorporated municipalities.

Amenities and Attractions Today

The nearby Caribou-Targhee National Forest and Bannock Mountain Range offer city residents a wide variety of outdoor activities. Hiking, biking, ATV riding, hunting and fishing are popular outdoor sports. A marker commemorating the Bear River Massacre, the bloodiest battle in Idaho history, is located near Clifton on a gravel road just off U. S. Highway 91. Residents also enjoy the amenities of nearby larger cities in Idaho and Utah.


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