In 1867, many years before Genola was settled, Brigham Young predicted that there would be a town in both the East and West part of Goshen Valley. For years after that, the pioneers of Goshen Valley watched for the fulfillment of his prophecy. When Mount Nebo, since renamed Elberta, was settled in 1896, they observed, “Well, sure enough, part of Brigham’s prediction has come true, but we don’t see how there can be a town on the East side of the valley; there isn’t any possible source of irrigation water except Warm Springs, which is already being used along the lower edge of the bench and on adjoining meadows.” Nobody had yet dreamed of the Strawberry Reclamation Project which was to come and bring to pass the fulfillment of Brigham Young’s prophecy.
Some of the early colonists of Goshen Valley stated that when they entered this area in 1856 there was a well-established, horse-raising ranched named Stewart located about a quarter mile North of Warm Springs. He claimed a squatter’s right to all of the bottom land watered by the springs. To this day, this bottom land is often referred to as “Stewart’s Bottoms.”
In the year 1881, Phillip Thomas and his son-in-law, Carl Borup, secured some land from Stewart and settled on Warm Creek.
The earliest settlers of what is now called Genola were dry farmers. These men and women had gone into the locality to homestead the land and to scout the possibility of raising crops with irrigation. The northern portion of the district, including some lake shore land, was settled first. Nothing much could be raised except rye, which thrived fairly well. Some wheat was grown on the lake shores where it could get the dew from the lake, but most of the settlers lived too far from the lake. To supplement their income, the men engaged in hunting, fishing and trapping.
A few people lived near the Townsend rock quarry. This industry was quite early and furnished work for some for the early landowners. As late as 1917, the Townsend Hotel had the only telephone around. Townsend quarry, hotel, townsite and flag station were all named after Byron Townsend.
The first school was held in a one-room schoolhouse provided by the settlers. This was used from 1905 until 1918 when a two-room schoolhouse was built on property where the LDS Church now stands. In the 1930’s Genola’s school was permanently discontinued and the students bussed to Goshen School. In 1939, the LDSChurch purchased the building and ground.
The East Warm Creek Irrigation and Canal Co. was organized in the spring of 1910.
Roads were first laid out by Wallace York and his son, Lavon, and Nels W. Nelson. Willows were cut and lines staked out at one mile east and west and one half mile north and south. These roads were accepted ascounty roads in 1916. Most of the roads are two rods wide with the land owner giving a rod in front of his place. Before the town was incorporated, grading, graveling, and other street upkeep was done by the county; but much of the time the town has shouldered this task. At times in the past, the County has maintained Genola’s roads in return for the receipt of Genola’s Class C tax money. In intervening times Genola has found it difficult, because of lack of equipment, to do the same maintenance themselves; therefore beginning January 1986, the town entered into a contract with the county by which they would maintain the roads.
In 1916 the local Farm Bureau was organized and this was the basis of organization structure until the incorporation in 1935. Their goals and desires led to many improvements in the area. The community had at one time or another borne the name of Hardscrabble or Solver Lake but by 1916 it was called Idlewild. During the winter of 1916-17 the citizens of Idlewild met at the schoolhouse and by a majority vote, changed the name to Genola. Several other names had been presented and voted on but the name “Genola” was unanimously adopted.
With the coming of the Strawberry Irrigation Water in 1916, more families moved into the area and made their homes in Genola.
The first formal church organization was in 1919 when a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was formed. In 1924 it was made into a ward with members meeting in the Schoolhouse until 1939 when the church purchased the school grounds.
Some towns and mining camps just sprang up without much preconceived plan or survey. This was not true of Genola. The distribution of water over the project made it imperative that an accurate survey be made in advance with provisions for the streets, cement laterals, weirs, and other anticipated needs. After more than three years of effort a rural mail route was established in August 1921. Kerosene lamps were used until the electric power came in September 1929.
The people of Genola were not satisfied with their culinary water so they incorporated the Town in 1935 and tool steps to establish a municipal culinary system. The work was begun in September 1936 and was completed in May 1938. When finished it cost $72,500. Water was turned into the line in January 1939.
In 1951, the Town of Genola purchased with government appropriated funds fifteen acres of ground for a Veteran’s Memorial Park. This houses the Town Hall, Fire House, equipment compound, bowery, playground, rodeo grounds and ball parks. These improvements were made by united civic effort.
Sometime in the summer of 1952, part of Genola survived quite a disastrous flood. The little reservoir situated near highway 6 in the Southeasterly part of Town, gave way, allowing a wall of water six to eight feet high to go dashing down across the farms in the South section. At the height of the flood, the water picked up farm machinery, posts, small buildings, parts of fences, chickens and other things. Rocks and mud from the reservoir were carried along by the water, filling the ditches and gouging out valleys here and there and leaving general destruction; however, the reservoir was soon rebuilt.
About eight or nine telephones were installed in the year 1949; by 1960 direct distance dialing was available.
Several years during the 1950’s were extremely dry. Water was very scarce and heavy frosts hit the grain and pea crops doing much damage. In the spring of 1959 a destructive army of grasshoppers invaded the valley, forcing a poisoning campaign to be instituted.
In 1961, a well was drilled east of the Union Pacific Railroad. Originally the well produced one-half second foot. A larger pump was installed with a capacity of 285 gallons per minute. In 1962, a mass meeting was held to discuss water matters and it was unanimously voted to have water meters installed for better water control.
Some orchards had been yielding in Genola, but beginning in about 1962, orchard men began putting in large acreage of fruit trees – several fruit varieties, but mostly peach, sour cherry and apples. Today there are approximately ___ acres of fruit trees owned by nearly ten different landowners.
In 1967, permission was granted by the Town to have an Ettie Lee Home for Boys established. This functioned for several years and then was taken over by Utah Home for Boys (State) and then the project was abandoned.
In 1979, a public hearing regarding Zoning Ordinances was held. To indicate the growth of the town, at this time the Genola Ward was divided into two wards with the division being Center Street, the North side being one ward and the South being the other. The population at this time was approximately 600 people.
During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s farmers began changing over to sprinkling systems. Some were gravity flow and some pumped. Today hundreds of acres of cropland is being watered with a new gravity flow irrigation system. It is less expensive and conserves water and labor. It could probably be estimated that 65-75% of the ground is under sprinkling system.
On May 24, 1980, a mass meeting was held regarding culinary water. The town members voted to build a new headhouse which was completed on July 17, 1982, with a capacity of 500,000 gallons. United public support was evidenced by the willing response of the volunteer labor.
Flooding, historically considered to be a very remote possibility in Genola, became a frightening reality in the spring of 1983. Excessively heavy snow-pack in the Santaquin Canyon area, coupled with heavy spring rains, brought water cascading out of Santaquin Canyon. The flow, estimated to be well in excess of 300 second feet, gutted the canyon, were diverted by the collection basin at the mouth of the canyon and overflowed the storage reservoirs in Summit Creek Irrigation Co. and burst into Genola. Through emergency response and emergency measures by citizens the flow was kept under fairly good control, but many farms, roads, and the Strawberry irrigation system in Genola sustained severe damage. Flood conditions continued six weeks.
The years of 1985 and 1986 brought less snow and less threat, however some water from the Canyon was diverted into Genola.
A history of Genola Valley was published in 1983 titled Place of Promise.
The Town is essentially agricultural in character, unlike most other communities in Utah County. Houses in Genola are located on farmsteads rather than in clusters, and the social life of the community revolves around the church and community park. Dairying is still a prominent business; however, the fruit business is taking over large acreage.
Even though Genola is classified as a rural community it is not lacking in the finer things of life. They are an authentic and cultural people and avail themselves of much that the state has to offer. Many small businesses are found within the valley with excellent services offered.
Sources: Goshen Valley History, Raymond Duane Steele, 1960
Records of Max E. and Melba Nelson, 1987
Info courtesy of Genola Website