The early days
With the Homestead Act of 1862, land became available for settlement. The first person to work the land was David Cook. He plowed in the spring of 1876 and sowed grain that fall. Joseph Bodily also homesteaded eighty acres and built the first log cabin in 1877.
The fertile land would not produce much in a desert without water, but by 1884 the extended Hooper Canal brought water from the Weber River. With water, homesteads developed near the lakeshore. Soon hay and grain grew in abundance. Serious raising of dairy cows came when a group of farmers built a cheese factory.
Within twenty years of the first settlers, most of the land was under cultivation. It didn't take long before the farmers near the lake realized some of the land was well suited for fruit farming. Artesian wells with cement holding ponds and the Hooper Canal provided irrigation for several hundred acres of apples, pears, peaches, and plums. By the turn of the century, the Syracuse area became the largest producer of fruit in Davis County.
How We Got Our Name
William Galbraith, a salt maker on the lake, printed the name Syracuse on his salt bags. The name came from a salt company he knew of in Syracuse, New York. The name was later used by the Syracuse Bathing Resort, built in 1887 by Daniel C. Adams. He was determined to have the finest resort on the lake, and was the only spot along the shore of the Great Salt Lake with a natural grove of trees. The Union Pacific Railroad, constructed the Ogden and Syracuse Railway in 1887. The railway linked the Syracuse Resort to the main line between Ogden and Salt Lake City. The name "Syracuse" was subsequently adopted as the name of our city.
The first general store was built by Isaac Barton in 1888. In 1891, he sold his store to the Walker Brothers. On November 16, 1891, the Syracuse post office was commissioned. John Coles was the first postmaster and the post office was set up in a room in his home. Thomas and Clara Schofield later bought his farm and Clara Schofield became the postmaster until May 15, 1905, when the post office was discontinued.
On the bench above the Bluff, dry farming appeared about 1887. Alma Stoker, Richard Venable, and Richard Hamblin were some of the first who cleared the land. Deep wells were dug to water livestock and small gardens. In 1894, the Davis/Weber Canal Company brought water to this portion of thirsty land.
In 1882, the L.D.S. Church created the Kaysville-South Hooper Branch. In 1885, meetings were held in a one-room school built below the Bluff and in 1892, meetings were moved to a red, brick school house on the bench. On December 1, 1895, the Syracuse Ward was created. Three years later the L.D.S. Church built an elegant meeting house where the center of town is today. Soon after, a central school, amusement hall, and several businesses sprang up, such as the Syracuse Mercantile, Rampton's Blacksmith Shop, Homers' Barbershop, the Kaysville Canning Factory, and the Bountiful Lumber Yard. These businesses helped unify the community and were also responsible for the population growth shifting from lower Syracuse to the Bench.
Syracuse was always a farming community with a little salt mixed in. With irrigation, new row crops were introduced: sugar beets in 1893, potatoes in 1894, tomatoes in 1898, and peas in 1902. The Syracuse Canning Factory started up in 1898, canning tomatoes, pickles, and all kinds of fruit.
With irrigation available to most of the land, the community of Syracuse took on a new look. Instead of log cabins, new frame and brick homes dotted the landscape. Graveled roads linked Syracuse to nearby communities. Goods and services improved and almost anything a family needed could be purchased at the Syracuse Mercantile Store.
In the fall of 1909, permission was granted by the Davis County School Board to open a North Davis High School. It was an extension of the old, red, brick school. In 1925, school buses began hauling students to Davis High School when Syracuse High School was closed. (As an added note: a new Syracuse High School has been built within a stones throw of where the old High School once stood).
World War II brought changes; jobs were plentiful, many farmers worked their farms part-time, taking full-time jobs at Hill Air Force Base or the Navel Supply Depot. One-hundred and twenty Syracuse young men served in the armed forces.
Our First Mayor
In 1935, Syracuse formed a Town Board with Thomas J. Thurgood as the first Town Board President. On September 13, 1950, Utah Governor J. Bracken Lee signed a proclamation which entitled Syracuse to become a third-class city with a population of 837 inhabitants. Alma O. Stoker was the Board President at the time and became the first official Mayor. The first city service offered was culinary water. Other new services were also offered such as: garbage pickup services, natural gas, sewer lines, and police and fire protection.
Our First Fire Chief - Keith C. West
To learn about Syracuse City's very first Fire Chief and what he did for our community, click on the link above.
Syracuse became linked to Antelope Island State Park in 1969, with construction of a causeway. A new and improved road to Antelope Island has brought an influx of tourists through the heart of Syracuse. Today, Syracuse is rapidly changing from a farming community to an urban community. Old time residents have mixed feelings about what this might bring, but as the saying goes, "you can't stop progress, only give it good direction".