Weber County’s History
by Richard W. Sadler and Richard C. Roberts
Ogden’s proximity to and history with the railroad had earned it two nicknames toward the end of the 19th Century: “Junction City” and “Gateway to the West.” It also marked the beginning of significant commerce activity and stimulated the creation of a more organized effort to bolster and integrate business development activities.
The Chamber’s history is packed with many other examples of advancing prosperity in Weber County. It’s difficult to imagine what Weber County would look like without the vision, leadership, and service of countless individuals from the Chamber and other organizations in the community.
In that landscape – on April 1887, with David H. Peery as president and J. H. Krause as secretary – the Ogden Chamber of Commerce was organized. This was the second such organization created in Utah. Under its articles of incorporation, the Chamber was “organized for the purpose of advancing the general prosperity of…the city of Ogden.” Even now, in the 21st Century, the Chamber’s official mission statement is nearly the same.
Depression hit the United States in the 1890s, which lead to a temporary closure of the new Chamber. Another civic organization, the Weber Club, picked up many of the activities the Chamber was conducting. On 2 April 1908, leaders within the Weber Club attempted to form a commercial club, in essence re-establishing the Chamber. The attempt failed, but actually lead to the creation of Ogden Publicity Bureau on 12 May 1912, another offshoot of the Weber Club that directed some traditional chamber of commerce functions.
The two organizations remained close in ties and proximity, but the Ogden Publicity Bureau formally re-instated the name of Ogden Chamber of Commerce on 26 January 1920. Then, in 1926, the two organizations consolidated to become The Weber Club-Chamber of Commerce. This lasted for nine years when, in 1933, the two separated.
Over the years, the Chamber and its community partners have chalked up many important victories. When rumors began spreading in 1935 that the Federal Government was looking to establish a new Army Air Corp in the Mountain West, leaders from the Chamber sprung to action. On January 26, 1938 the Chamber boldly purchased and turned over 136 acres of land to the Government, a move to show how serious the community wanted the installation. Following one-and-a-half years of political jockeying, the Chamber was advised their proposed site was selected. Then on 4 January 1940, ground was broken for the development of Hill Air Force Base, probably one of Utah’s biggest economic development successes and a key installation in the United State’s defense.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Utah Governor J. Bracken Lee argued that Utah should not spend as much money as was proposed on both public and higher education. He proposed the return of Weber, Snow and Dixie Colleges to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; however, the Church was in no position to accept them into its education system. Chamber leaders adopted the “Save Weber” Campaign and even helped obtain options on a former dairy farm east of Harrison Boulevard (present site of Weber State University). Citizens across the state, led by those in Weber County, pushed the college issue on to the ballot, and the Governor’s plan was defeated in the November 1954 election by a vote of 120,683 to 79,955. The Chamber was also solidly behind Weber moving to become a four-year college over the next decade.
The organization remained much the same for more than 50 years. Then, in the 1980s, the Chamber combined forces with Weber Economic Development Corporation, the Chamber’s official business expansion and retention arm, and the Convention/Visitors Bureau (CVB). The CVB cultivates tourism and convention opportunities for the County’s various event venues. With its partnerships and umbrella organizations, the Chamber represents an impressive voice in the community that is directly involved in the creation of jobs, revenue, and general prosperity for the entire community.