Early Explorers: Two Franciscan Friars named Silvestre Valez de Escalante and Francisco Atanasio de Dominguez were some of the first explorers to pass through the Spanish Fork area. These priests were in quest of a direct route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Monterey, California. After traveling down Spanish Fork Canyon, they camped somewhere near the present day city limits on September 23, 1776.
Origin of the Name: Many years later the name "Spanish Fork" appeared on John C. Fremont's map of the area published in 1845. This was two years before the Mormons settled in Utah, and five years before there were any settlers in Palmyra. In all likelihood, the name "Spanish Fork" was derived from the fact that the route of the Taos trappers during the early part of the 1800's followed the canyon and the river. The indigenous population of Spanish Fork was composed of members of the Ute Indian tribe. They had no permanent villages due to their nomadic nature. Because these Indians ate so many fish, they were also known as the "water Indians".
First Home Built: Enoch Reece settled the first home in the Spanish Fork area in 1850; he laid claim to 400 acres of land approximately two miles west of Spanish Fork. Soon after, Charles Ferguson and George Sevey arrived in the area with 200 head of cattle belonging to Mr. Reece, and Spanish Fork had its first business venture.
Spanish Fork City Incorporated: In the winter of 1850-51, a few families settled along the Spanish Fork River. By the end of 1852 the population along the river had grown to over 100 families. In 1854, a fort was built in Spanish Fork to meet the needs of existing settlers. In January of 1855 the area of Spanish Fork was incorporated as a city. Soon after incorporation, the first Icelandic immigrants settled between 1855 and 1860. These Icelandic pioneers established the first permanent Icelandic settlement in the United States.
Growth and Industrialization: By 1860, the population had grown to 1,069. Spanish Fork inhabitants were of Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, and Scandinavian descent. In ten years the population had reached 1,450. The first commercial industry was a saw mill which began operation in 1858. One year later the first flour mill opened its doors for business. The business group known as the Spanish Fork Mercantile was opened on February 11, 1883; the association was similar in function to the modern day Chamber of Commerce.
First Schools Built: Spanish Fork City erected its first school house in 1862, a one room structure complete with a shingle roof. In 1910 the Thurber School was built, which presently houses the City government offices.
Infrastructure in Place: Spanish Fork built a light and power system in 1909, which was completed and connected with the government power plant in 1910. The development of the Strawberry Valley Reclamation Project in 1919 has had a significant impact on the City and surrounding area. It allowed for cultivation of thousands of acres, and also provided the City with a stable supply of water.
Livestock Show: The first annual Utah County Livestock Show was held on the City Square in April of 1925. This show has since become the Utah Junior Livestock Show. Fans, buyers, and exhibitors come from all areas of the state.
Current Government: Spanish Fork is a community that strives to maintain a high quality of life, and provides an outstanding environment for working, recreating, and enjoying life. City government is the Council-Manager form consisting of a part-time mayor and five part-time city council members, along with an appointed full-time city manager who administers the operation of the City and its employees.