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Summit County asks for artifacts to share in new Rockport exhibit

Rockport pictured circa 1950, just before houses were torn down or moved. All that remains are foundations and roads.
Summit County
Rockport pictured circa 1950, just before houses were torn down or moved. All that remains are foundations and roads.

Beneath the Rockport Reservoir lie the remains of the town that flooded when the Wanship Dam went up in 1957.

After the summer of 2021, Rockport Reservoir was drying up. And national news outlets took notice of what they were calling a “ghost town” reemerging from the water for the first time.

But descendants of the area’s settlers will tell you, Rockport is not like other towns in the American West that died for economic or environmental reasons.

It was intentionally flooded as part of the Weber Basin Project, which also created the Willard Bay, Pineview, Causey, East Canyon and Lost Creek reservoirs.

According to Utah State Parks historians, the federal government acquired Rockport through eminent domain in 1952, so the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation could build the Wanship Dam. When construction began in 1954, just shy of 30 families living there had to move.

“That's kind of the crux of what I hope to get across in this exhibit is what a lot of people call ‘progress’ has its drawbacks and has its wounds that it creates,” said Summit County historian Joe Frazier said, who is curating the upcoming Rockport exhibit.

The reservoir now provides Utahns with water and recreational opportunities, but it covered productive farmland, land people called home. The exhibit will put that tension on display.

“The benefits weren't necessarily, for [Rockport residents], immediate,” Frazier said. “It was more of a downstream-type thing. So there's a whole discussion of what costs progress has, and who decides what's best for any group of people.”

To tell that story, Frazier and the county historians are putting out a call for artifacts.

Items should represent life before the dam was built, but items that represent the construction period will also be considered.

Rockport residents have made efforts to preserve their history. Frazier is aware of two homes in Peoa and one in Hoytsville moved there before the flooding.

The state also moved the Old Church out of the floodplain, and now it’s a highlight of Rockport State Park, which opened in 1966. The town co-op and schoolhouse are preserved at Lagoon Amusement Park’s pioneer village.

Summit County’s exhibit will be installed at the county museum in the Coalville County Courthouse basement.

The exhibit will run from June to December 2024. Some elements will be permanent, but the artifacts borrowed from residents will be returned.

If you have an items that you are willing to let the museum borrow, please email history@summitcounty.org.