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In 1850 the Utah Territorial Legislature created six small counties. Each contained an area of early white settlement. County borders and names were changed about 100 times before the creation of Daggett County in 1917 gave Utah its present 29 counties.
Counties are units of local government, but state laws define their form and powers. Three-member county commissions govern 28 of Utah's counties. In 1987 Cache County changed to another form of government allowed under state law and is now run by an executive officer and a seven-member council. The commission or council must hold regular meetings, open to the public, at the county seat. Other elected officials usually include county clerk, treasurer, attorney, recorder, assessor, auditor, surveyor, and sheriff. In the early settlement period, county and town officials were often LDS church leaders.
Counties may do many things. Like all units of government they raise money to operate by taxes, fees and licenses, fines, and when approved by the voters, bonds. Counties may license and regulate local businesses, zone property and plan development, build and maintain roads, and build and operate a variety of facilities including schools, libraries, jails, hospitals, fire departments, senior citizen centers, airports, golf courses, parks, zoos, and planetariums. Counties issue marriage licenses and record property ownership. They may also provide such services as water, waste disposal, electric power, flood control, welfare, and animal control.
Probate courts operated in each county until statehood and from 1852 to 1874, when federal law banned the practice, they often heard civil and criminal cases as well as probate matters (wills and estates).
In 1896 the new state constitution created seven multi-county judicial districts. A district court must meet at least three times a year in each county seat within the district. Counties also have justice-of-the-peace courts where cases involving violations of county ordinances are heard.
About three-fourths of Utah's land is owned by federal, state, or local government. This has profoundly affected the development of almost every county. Government is the leading employer in two-thirds of Utah's counties and number two or three in others. In the early 1970s Utah's counties formed voluntary, multi-county associations of government. Seven such regional associations presently operate in Utah to deal with planning issues and problems that transcend county boundaries, especially in the areas of health, social services, and economic development.
County history information comes from Beehive History 14, 1988, published by the Utah State Historical Society, and Utah History Encyclopedia, 1994, published by University of Utah Press.
|Find a brief history of Utah Counties|
|Box Elder County||42,745||5,724||Brigham City||1856|
|Emery County||10,860||4,452||Castle Dale||1880|
|Salt Lake County||898,387||737||Salt Lake City||1849|
|San Juan County||14,413||7,821||Monticello||1880|
|Wasatch County||15,215||1,181||Heber City||1862|
|Washington County||90,354||2,427||St. George||1852|