Building North Ogden Sewers

When they first started digging sewer lines, the water main (or pipes) were made of wood and always breaking.


As you’re counting the things you’re grateful for, don’t forget the gross stuff too! This month, Connection Publishing wanted to tell the history of something we should all be grateful for: a sewage system. In the beginning, the Native American way of sewage was much different than today. They dug trenches to do their business in. You might think that it was the smelliest way to get rid of sewage. Luckily, the harsh winters froze the trenches; therefore, the smells went away. Early settlers implemented the same idea, with some innovation for privacy. Instead of an open trench, they built outhouses. A septic tank wouldn’t arrive in the States until 1880. As a result, these settlers were still disposing of sewage directly into the ground. In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt used his historic New Deal to employ men to build outhouses for Americans. By this time, they were connected to septic tanks; however, it was still up to each household to empty the tanks every so often.

Workers laying bricks over the top of the pipe trench

North Ogden was lucky from the beginning because it was so close to the Ogden River Water System. By 1880, a 15-mile canal had already been dug out to bring even more residents water access. Their very first canal came much earlier in 1852. In addition, they had Rice Creek and Cold Water Creek. When irrigation companies started popping up, the company would trade stocks with households living near the river in exchange for the land nearest the rivers. Then, they would make agreements about when they could visit the waters to load up for themselves.

Others in the Salt Lake Valley had already run out of places to store their sewage by that time. Since there were so many farmlands in North Ogden, they dug an open conveyance system to send their sewage up northwest. Once there, farms could use the system to create their own fertilizer. Later, it was much more effective to use manure. Plus, the conveyance systems were an eye sore.

When they first started digging sewer lines, the water mains (or pipes) were made of wood. That was great for early plumbers because they were breaking down constantly. Plumbing was a booming industry, and the city often called on them.

Trench being dug using old steam traction trencher

The Randall family built the first home with indoor plumbing in North Ogden. It still sits at about 2000 North 1200 East. James Enoch and Isabella Chadwick Randall were in their forties when they built it. Then, they raised their 10 children in it. At that time, they were a minority and would remain so for decades. James Enoch was also president of the North Ogden Canning Company.

Then, in 1957, the Water Environment Association of Utah was established. As a direct result, members of the association trained those at Central Weber Sewer Improvement District how to treat water. This secondary treatment facility, which began in 1960, kept sewage from being dumped back into lakes and rivers. The district serves Farr West, Ogden City, South Ogden City, City of Harrisville, Pleasant View City, Washington Terrace, Marriott-Slaterville, Riverdale City, Weber County, North Ogden City, South Weber City, South Weber City, City of West Haven, Hooper, Portions of Plain City, Roy, and Uintah.

Do you have a history story or idea to share? We want to hear from you! Call Jenny Goldsberry at 801-624-9652.

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