Tooele County (population 40,735) saw its first white settlement in 1849, when Mormon pioneers left Salt Lake City and went west to the Tooele Valley. As early as 1847, Tooele Valley, known for its waist-high grass, was used for grazing by herders from other valleys. The guiding force for permanent settlement in 1849 was Ezra Taft Benson, who had two groups in his employ, one caring for his livestock, the other instructed to build a sawmill and gristmill on Big Creek (Settlement) Canyon. The Benson Grist Mill (1854) is an important reminder of this early period in the County’s history and a key heritage tourism destination.

Later in the 19th century, the discovery of gold, silver, lead, and zinc deposits led to a mining boom, and mining continued to play an important part in Tooele County into the 20th century. Also critical to the county’s 20th century economy were development of Tooele Army Depot and Wendover Air Force Base. Wendover is famous as the training base of the Enola Gay crew that dropped the first atomic bomb in 1945.

Wendover is now owned by Tooele County, which is partnering with the non-profit organization Historic Wendover to restore and interpret the complex. The Historic Wendover Airfield Fly-in and Air Show draws thousands of spectators each year. Visitors to Tooele County can also see the famous Bonneville Salt Flats, the Great Salt Lake, and a mountain top view of the famous Bingham Copper Mine. Other local heritage attractions include a museum housed in the old Tooele Valley Railroad Depot, and another, operated by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, on Vine Street in the old Tooele City Hall.

Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2006.

For more information

Tooele County history

Guide to Historical Attractions

Pony Express National Historic Trail: Simpson Springs