The earliest settlements in the West Millard area were in the towns
of Oasis and Deseret, settled 1860; Oak City, 1865 and Leamington, 1871. By 1876,
Hinckley was settled. The idea of securing land to farm on the great stretches of level
desert in the vicinity of what is now the city of Delta, was very strong in the minds of
some of the people of Oak City years before any settlement was ever started at Delta.
Some of the land on what is now known as South Tract, had water so near the surface that if alfalfa could be started it would sub-irrigate and grow without further irrigation. It was thought that water could either be pumped out of the ground or a small reservoir could be made across a ten-mile hollow to catch enough rainfall to start the alfalfa.
With this idea in mind, in the summer of 1903, Frederick R. Lyman, Edward S. Lyman, Joseph S. Anderson, and E.L. Lyman, Jr., made a trip from Oak City to the land near the ten-mile hollow, about five miles southeast of the present site of Delta. They traveled in a white top buggy and took along some home-made drilling equipment. After drilling a number of holes, they found the water to be about ten feet from the surface which was regarded too far for sub-irrigation, so the scheme was abandoned.
After suffering a number of years of drought because of a water shortage in the Scvier River during the summer months, (although there was a large stream in the winter and early spring), the Deseret Irrigation Company in 1902, filed on all the surplus water of the Sevier River. They began building a dam to hold the surplus water but before much work was done it became apparent to the promoters that the job was bigger than they could manage without outside help. They talked of selling part of their interest to others who would be willing to help complete the dam.
Frederick R. Lyman had an idea that some of the water could be used on the level land of what is now Delta. With this in mind he, Bishop Peter Anderson, and E.L. Lyman, Jr., Callis Lyman, then a boy, (all of Oak City), made another trip in the summer of 1905 to look over the feasibility of such a project. They were pleased with the land and the conditions were favorable for diverting the water at its present site through a canal.
After this trip, the Millard Stake presidency, consisting of Alonzo A. Hinckley of Hinckley, Frederick R. Lyman of Oak City, and Orvil L. Thompson of Scipio, called James A. Melville on a mission to investigate the water rights of the Deseret Irrigation Company and to find out if the title was clear and safe for a number of settlers to purchase and use the water. Mr. Melville's report was favorable and soon after, the Melville Irrigation Company was organized with Frederick R. Lyman as president and Orvil L. Thompson, secretary.
The Irrigation Company and the proposed town was named Melville for James A. Melville, who investigated the water rights and gave valuable assistance in the organization of the irrigation company." A convention of the citizens of Millard County was called by James A. Melville and held in Fillmore. March 24, 1906, to discuss utilizing the waters of Sevier River by building reservoirs, canals, etc. James A. Melville was later elected chairman. A.A. Hinckley made a motion that the new town being contemplated should be called Melville and that the new irrigation company should be called the Melville Irrigation Company. (From the first minutes of the Melville Irrigation Company.)
The First settlers came from other communities in the county and state with a generous sprinkling from Wayne County, commonly called Rabbit Valley. In the year of 1909-1910, there were in the school, representatives from thirteen states besides Canada, Mexico, and the Somoan Island.
The site of this new community was east of the Sevier River and east of
Hinckley, and Oasis which had been settled about 50 years before. It was located in the
northeast comer of the Pahvant Valley which extends approximately one-hundred miles north
and south and sixty miles east and west. The town itself was laid out on a very unlevel
piece of ground. Nelson S. Bishop is credited with saying the reason the organizers did
this was that a lot of men could level it easier that one man could.
The vegetation consisted mostly of greasewood and shad scale and the animals found here were coyotes, snakes, rabbits, lizards, quimps, badgers and porcupines. The quimps were real pests, they could be seen by the doors of the homes anytime. Cats would kill the quimps and pile them up. Cats were a real neccessity then.
The first house was built in the spring of 1907 by T. George Theobald and John E. Wright for Nelson S. Bishop who came here from Utah County, but formerly was a native of Fillmore. The house was made of lumber hauled from Oasis and consisted of a room 12 x 16 feet and a shed which served while the larger story-and-a-half, nine room frame house was under construction.
Alonzo Billings built a two-room time house on his farm, one and one half miles south of the Delta High School. It was occupied by Walter Gardner and his family.
Edgar W. Jeffcry also built a one-room house on his farm which is now in use as a garage on the original homestead.
Wilford Warnick built a home on the east side of the river on his farm.
Henry J. McCullough of Grass Valley, Garfield County, built the second house in the town proper. It was built of logs which he brought from Fillmore. It was completed in December, 1907, but they did'nt move into it until January, 1908.
Delbert Searle built a log house on his farm in the summer of 1908.
Most of the first settlers lived in tent houses, or tar-papered shacks, and railroad tie houses. Jens Peterson of Scipio built a two-room frame house on his farm south west of town. He was the first to clear and plow his land, and one of the first to plant trees on his lots in town. His son, Dean F. Peterson and family, took over and made their home on his farm.
J.J. Clark of California, one of the first settlers of the North Tract, erected an immense tent on the west side of the railrod track, south west of where the depot was later built.
The town was laid out one mile wide, in 10 blocks, north, east, south, and west. The main business street runs through the center of town (east and west) and was named Clark Street in honor of Senator Clark of Montana, who built the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad (now the Union Pacific) which serves the Pahvant Valley.
For a time after the town was established in 1908, a town lot was given free to every
farmer who "took up" 40 acres of farm land. The land was platted and a map drawn
with the lots numbered. The townsite was reserved in the center for business
establishments. Numbers for the lots were drawn out of a hat by Hazel Huff (Works). The
drawing took place on the big opening day in a sheep wagon out in the greasewoods. Some of
the men chose to build on their farms and this was the reason there were so many open
spaces in the town in 1914.
In 1908, it was a dreary-looking greasewood flat as far as the eye could see. The only thing to break the monotony was the passing of the trains. At this time there were two artisan wells on the townsite at this time-one on the N.S. Bishop lot and the other where the old jail used to stand. Fresh drinking water was hauled from one or the other of these wells. Peter Lorenzo Brunson, who married Alta McCullough, was at the drawing and drew the farm on what is now known as Lyman Row. He drilled the third well in Delta. The plentiful greasewood roots were used for fire wood as wood was as scarce as drinking water.
On January 13, 1908, Mr. MeCullough started to build a small room on the west side of his house for the post office. The first mail arrived January 18, 1908. The building was not finished so a small trunk was used for the mail for six days. The first sale of stamps was made by Mrs. Sarah McCullough on February 7, 1908. There' s a story that to maintain the first post office, members of the H.J. McCullough family used to write to each other. Eight letters had to pass through the post office each day to keep the contract from lapsing. Mr. McCullough and his sons, Levi H., T. Clark and John Alvey, carried the mail from the railroad station to the post office for nearly two years free gratus.
There was a railroad switch or siding here before the project was ever started. It was
named "Aiken", meaning near to, referring to Oasis. Later it was called
"Melville". On account of the similarity of the name Melville to Millville in
Cache County, the post office officials would not grant a post office under that name.
Hoping to gain favor from the railroad, the name was changed to "Burtner", May
12, 1908, for J.H. Burtner, general passenger agent for the Salt Lake route (S.P.L.A.V.S.S.L.R.R.). This name did not meet with the approval of the division
superintendent of the railroad and he would not grant a station under this name
A post office was established at Delta January 18, 1908, named the "Burtner" post office. A telephone line was completed to Burtner in 1908. A Burtner branch of the Latter-Day Saint Church was organized February 1, 1909. Burtner ward was organized October 19, 1909. On May 11, 1911, the name of the settlement was changed to Delta, its present name. John E. Steele was the originator of the name "Delta". Later it was recorded on county books August 6, 1913, that the town of Burtner be changed to the town of Delta. The name seemed appropriate since the valley is a delta of Lake Bonneville and the streams which followed its drying up.