In the summer of 1847, Latter-day Saint pioneers who had recently settled in the Salt Lake Valley sent out exploring parties seeking to colonize the entire Great Basin. Twelve miles north of Salt Lake City, Utah, the area that became Centerville (population 14,585) was found to be ideal for grazing, and Thomas Grover took a herd of cattle and became the first white settler.
In the spring of 1848, the Deuel brothers brought their families to settle on the creek that came to bear their name. After an 1850 survey found the town to be precisely between the growing communities of Farmington and Bountiful, it became, naturally enough, Centerville.
Early homes were built of logs held together by wooden pegs or rawhide thongs, due to a scarcity of metal. Later on, some built their houses of adobe, and more substantial homes were constructed from abundant rocks. Typical of Utah's early settlers, the Centerville folk began building a wall in 1853 to protect their small community. It was never completed.
In 1854, a second wall began to be constructed around the nine blocks that then constituted the town. When expected Indian attacks failed to materialize, this effort, too, was abandoned.
By 1855, the town boasted a population of 194. Numerous small enterprises sprang up in Centerville, such as grocery stores, mills, blacksmith shops, and a cooperage. There were also shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, cabinetmakers, wheelwright, rock masons, nurseries, a meat market, and even a small silkworm operation.
Probably the most important business was the old Centerville Co-op, built at Main and Center in 1869. When money was scarce, housewives traded eggs, butter, and other items for store merchandise. The co-op finally closed in 1940, and the building has since been used as a lumberyard, restaurant, and law offices.
One of Centerville's oldest and most historic buildings was originally a stagecoach station built in 1866 for the Wells Fargo Company. After the Utah Central Rail Road was completed in 1870, the building was converted into an amusement hall where dances and dramatic performances were given. It was known for a time as the Elkhorn Hall and served as a community center and church while the Centerville Ward Chapel was under construction in 1879-80. It is still in use today as a residence.
Centerville has grown from a bucolic pioneer town to a bustling bedroom community that takes pride in its heritage. A walking tour booklet with photographs and maps provides information on 25 historic homes, and a new edition featuring additional properties is under development. Centerville's Historic Sites Committee sells a map and postcards depicting historic sites.
Descriptive curbside markers interpret historic sites for citizens and visitors, and the Whitaker Museum, adjacent to City Hall in an 1866 house, preserves records and local artifacts. Many preservation efforts in the city have been aided volunteers, including Boy Scouts doing Eagle projects. Centerville holds annual historic home tours and networking meetings with Historic Commissions of nearby cities to mark Preservation Week in May.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2005.