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Duchesne ( doo-SHAYN) is a city in and the county seat of Duchesne County, Utah, United States. The population was 1,690 at the 2010 census, with an estimated population of 1,801 in 2014.
Duchesne is located just west of the junction of the Strawberry and Duchesne rivers in the Uintah Basin of northeastern Utah. The Duchesne River drains the southwest slope of the Uinta Mountains, and the Strawberry river drains the eastern slopes of the Wasatch Range and is connected to Strawberry Reservoir. The two rivers combine at Duchesne, and the Duchesne River continues east to join the Green River at Ouray, Utah.
Native stands of cottonwood trees and willows grow along the river banks, while sagebrush and rabbitbrush fill the un-irrigated bench tops. Alfalfa is the main cultivated crop of farmers in the area.
Via highway, Salt Lake City is 114 miles (183 km) to the west, Vernal is 58 miles (93 km) to the east, and Price is 54 miles (87 km) to the south.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2), all of it land.
18 September 1776 The Dominguez–Escalante Expedition came from the east where they crossed Blue Bench and descended into the valley north of the present-day town of Duchesne. "We ascended a not very high mesa [Blue Bench] which was level and very stony, traveled about three quarters of a league including ascent and descent, crossed another small river [Duchesne River] which near here enters the San Cosme (Strawberry River), named it Santa Caterina de Sena, and camped on its banks." "Along these three rivers we have crossed today there is plenty of good land for crops to support three good settlements, with opportunities for irrigation, beautiful cottonwood groves, good pastures, with timber and firewood nearby."
1822–1840 French Canadian trappers Étienne Provost, François le Clerc, and Antoine Robidoux entered the Uintah Basin by way of the Old Spanish Trail and made their fortunes by trapping the many beaver and trading with the Uintah tribe. From these French Canadian trappers the Duchesne River and ultimately Duchesne City received its name.
1900–1905 Leases were arranged with the Ute tribe through the Indian agent "Major" H.P. Myton to provide pasture for sheep in and around where Duchesne city is located now. A story passed down from Mrs. William J. Bond about her Father Joseph W. Thomas discusses the area. "During the winter of 1901 - 02, he (Thomas) hauled supplies from Heber to the now Duchesne area, to the sheep herd camp of John E. Austin, a brother-in-law. Together with three herders, Mr. Thomas tended sheep on the West bench (D-hill) near the (Theodore) cemetery site. They moved the herds to the East desert for the winter months. The indians had quite a village where Duchesne is now. It was a winter camp and in spring they scattered. A fence was stretched across the Indian Canyon as pasture for the horses that grazed there on 8" and 10" salt grass. Seguesee Jack (Ute tribe leader) refused settlers (sheep herders) permission to trespass the village site. The Indians feared the sheep would eat the good grasses."
1905–1906 On June 7, 1905 the Secretary of the Interior directed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to select one or more tracts of land in the Uintah Reservation suitable for townsites, so they might be reserved as such under the statutes of the United States. Three sites were designated, which are the current sites of Duchesne, Myton, and Randlett. A month later President Theodore Roosevelt approved the selections and declared these lands reserved as townsites. On August 28 the US government opened up the Uintah Basin to settlement of land they had acquired from the Ute Indians under the allotment act of 1891. "Land lotteries" were held in Vernal, Provo, Price, Grand Junction, Colorado, and Vernal, where each person was given a ticket with a number. On August 28 numbers 1 through 111 were allowed to make their claim. On August 29 the next 111 people could make their claim and so on. 60 people, 46 adults and 14 children settled on the townsite that is now Duchesne and called it by its first name, "Elsie" (Glen). Government surveyors laid out the streets, and the survey was accepted by the government on 18 October 1905. The first cabin was built by Charles Dickerson and Charles Ragland in October 1905. A.M. Murdock with the help of a few men put up a large circus tent to act as a trading post and post office. The name of the town was changed to "Dora" for a short time, after Murdock's 23-year-old daughter, then changed once again to "Theodore", in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. On September 15, 1905, Robert Duchesne Marsh was the first "white" child born in the townsite. The first winter was harsh, and the residents were living in tents or other temporary shelter. When spring came the high water of the Duchesne River overflowed its banks, flooding the town. Many of the homesteaders' dreams died after the first winter, and they sold their claims off for next to nothing. Judge M. M. Smith recalls, "One man asked me to write out a relinquishment for him, remarking, 'I must either give up my claim or my wife. She won't live here.'" Dikes were quickly built up but washed away, and some of the town was under 2 feet (0.61 m) of water until June. Tents and houses were moved around to avoid the flooding problem before the next spring.
The flooding continued annually until 1910 when $5,000 was finally given to make the four river cut-offs needed to fix the problem. In 1906 the first bridge was built by Wasatch County across the Duchesne River in east Theodore.
1907–1914 The men of Theodore organized the Boosters Club, and the women organized the Standard Bearers in 1907. Both groups became a forceful factor in the early development of the town. With the flooding of the rivers every spring, the Boosters club was finding it hard to attract people and business to the "muddy" little town. The Boosters Club raised $500 to build a bridge across the Strawberry River at the mouth of Indian Canyon. The bridge was completed in 1908, and later replaced by the state in 1914. In 1908 A. M. Murdock took down the tent and built the first store, barber shop, and post office, the "Pioneer Supply". A town hall was built by the citizens in 1907. After the flooding issue was resolved the town grew quickly. In 1910 the population of "Theodore" was 929. The town's first newspaper, The Duchesne Record, started publication April 8, 1909. By 1910 the citizens had decided to change the name to "Duchesne". The post office kept the name "Theodore" until the town's petition to change the name was acknowledged on May 5, 1911. The town was incorporated in 1913, and A. M. Murdock was the first mayor.
On July 13, 1914, "Wasatch County was divided and Duchesne County was created." Duchesne was made the county seat on Nov 5, 1914, by popular vote of the citizens of the county.
The name "Duchesne" is taken from the name of the river that runs through town and may have been named by fur trappers in the 1820s in honor of Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne, founder of the School of the Sacred Heart near St. Louis, Missouri, although other theories as to the name exist.
A photograph dated 1909, showing the A. M. Murdock Pioneer Supply Store and post office at Theodore, Utah (which was located approximately where Kohl's Market stood in Duchesne in 1991) appeared in a postal history magazine in 1992. The Theodore post office operated from 1905 through 1913, when it was renamed Duchesne.
Duchesne City and the surrounding area plays host to some of the best camping, fishing, boating, hunting, hiking, water skiing, and ATV riding in the state. 4 miles (6 km) to the west of Duchesne city is Starvation State Park. Starvation Reservoir on the Strawberry River was created as part of the Central Utah Project and is a great fishing and boating lake with stocks of rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, and Utah chub. The current catch and release state record for walleye and Utah chub are held at Starvation. The reservoir has 3,500 acres (14 km2) of surface area and is great for boating. There are four boat ramps; the largest is at the marina which also hosts RV parking, boat docs, camp sites, hot showers, and an RV waste dump. Activities at Starvation Reservoir include the annual Starvation Walleye Classic and Desert Bass Busters Club Tourny.
On the banks of the Strawberry River that runs through town is a boardwalk that not only has beautiful views but also is great to fish from. Other great stream fishing can be had on the Duchesne River and Rock Creek.
The High Uintas wilderness area is 30 miles (48 km) to the north and boasts great hiking, fishing and alpine camping.
ATV riding is permitted within city limits. The Yellow Stone and Reservation Ridge ATV trails are located with 20 miles (32 km) of town.
Duchesne sits at the junction of three wildlife management units and is home to world-class big game hunting. Mule deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, black bear, and mountain lion can be observed within miles of town.
Duchesne sits at the junction of U.S. Route 40, U.S. Route 191, and State Route 87. US-191 from Duchesne to Helper is designated the Indian Canyon National Scenic Byway.
Duchesne Municipal Airport (Airnav U69) is located 2 miles (3 km) northeast of town on the Blue Bench. The airport has a 5,800 by 60 ft (1,768 by 18 m) asphalt runway. Runway edge lights are medium intensity available from dusk - dawn, activate MIRL RY 17/35 & PAPI 17/35 - CTAF. Wind indicator is lit. Attendance is ON CALL. Services are available by request (435) 738-2464 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Mon - Fri; after hours call (435) 738-5538.
The proposed Uinta Basin Rail project would build a new railroad line into Duchesne for transporting oil drilled in the area.
Duchesne has one public elementary school and one public high school. The schools serve all of Duchesne City as well as the communities of Bridgeland, Utahn, Strawberry, and Fruitland. Duchesne has hosted grades 1 through 8 since 1905. The first school building was built in 1907. In 1921 ninth grade classes were added. Other classes on the 10th grade level were added through the late 1920s. On May 17, 1931, Duchesne High School held a graduation ceremony for four students that composed the first senior class. The current structure was built in 2004-2005. The facility has two gymnasiums, one college-sized basketball court and one smaller gymnasium left from the 1965 structure. English department with classrooms and separate writing lab. Science department with classrooms and separate lab. Utah State University provides onsite distance education classes at the school so all students have the opportunity to graduate from high school with an associate degree. Wood and metal shops. Auditorium, lunch room, and administrative offices.
Duchesne High school colors are blue and white; the mascot is the eagle. Duchesne High School sponsors a men's football team, men's and women's basketball teams, men's wrestling, women's volleyball, as well as a track and field team and cross country team. Duchesne added mens baseball in the 2017-18 school year; a return after more than 50 years. Duchesne High competes in the 2A division of the UHSAA in all activities but Football which competes in 1A. Men's teams have won state titles in boys basketball (1989), football (2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013,2016), wrestling (1981, 2008, 2015), boys cross country (1994, 1998) and boys track and field (1993, 2004, 2005). The women's drill team, named the Talons, has won sixteen (2003-2018) state championships in a row. Duchesne has sponsored athletes that have achieved all-region, all-state, all-American, and even a finalist for the High School Heisman in 2007.
Duchesne city and the surrounding area is served by three organized churches.
In 1948 oil was found in the Uintah Basin but not developed until the early 1970s. Duchesne city is located in the area of vast oil and natural gas reserves spanning the northeast corner of Utah and extending into western Colorado. As prices for crude rise, oil industry jobs open up in the town but also disappear when crude prices fall. Currently (2009–2011) environmental groups have brought litigation against federal agencies slowing the award of leases on public land, slowing the development of oil resources and drilling, and affecting the economy of Duchesne and the surrounding area.
Duchesne has benefited from the water resources of the Duchesne and Strawberry rivers that flow close to the town. The Central Utah Project was active in the area for 20 years and provided good jobs from 1967 to 1987. A recent expansion to the water treatment plant northwest of town will start supplying culinary water to the community of Roosevelt some 30 miles (48 km) away.
Duchesne is home to a number of heavy machine and steel manufacturers. A wide variety of products and parts are manufactured, including underground cranes, shield haulers, rifle barrels, steam locomotive parts, drill collars, turbine parts, gears, sprockets, and splines for the oil fields, steel mills, coal mines, trona mines, power plants, other machine shops, manufacturers and other industries in many capacities. Products are shipped both domestically and to Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia, and Europe.
Agriculture has always been a mainstay for many Duchesne residents and surrounding communities. The vast amount of federally owned and leased lands have given cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers good grazing for over 120 years in the area. Overgrazing in the early 20th century has led to reform in the grazing areas and a steady decline in sheep and cow production throughout the area. Small family farms are the mainstay.
Duchesne has always been rich in its rugged beauty and tourism. Thousands are drawn during and warmer months to enjoy boating on Starvation Reservoir, fishing on the Strawberry and Duchesne rivers, and camping in the High Uintas.
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,690 people, 797 households, and 601 families residing in the city. The population density was 893 people per square mile. There were 550 housing units at an average density of 238.8 per square mile (92.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 98.01% White, 0.0% African American, 0.37% Native American, 0.0% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 1.64% from other races, and 0.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.57% of the population.
There were 797 households out of which 44.67% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 63.82% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.1% were non-families. 22.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.97 and the average family size was 3.55.
In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 31.88% under the age of 18, 14.45% from 18 to 24, 21.72% from 25 to 44, 20.81% from 45 to 64, and 10.15% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 11.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $46,318 and the median income for a family was $58,009. The per capita income for the city was $20,262.
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