Green River Still Growing
At least two communities in Emery County have been settled outside of the Mormon "call to settle" influence; one is Green River and the other is Moore.
The settlement of Green River could have been first at a place on the river called "Willow Bend" as early as 1872. This is one of the most prominent points on the Spanish and Gunnison Trails.
Prior to that time, various parties of trappers and explorers stayed, camped from time to time, on both sides of the river where the bridge is now being reconstructed. In 1878, a mail route was established between Ouray, Colo., and Salina, crossing where the town is now. The mail station was manned by an unofficial postmaster named "Mr. Blake", so for a short time the settlement was called Blake City.
In 1895, (according to "Castle Valley - A History of Emery County", page 183), Tom Farrer of England who had been living in the Green River area since 1879, was made official postmaster and petitioned the US Congress to change the name to Greenriver, which was already that of the railroad station; one word so not to confuse it with Green River, Wyo.
Various bridges at first called "wagon bridges," water wheels, ferries, and dam sites were made and changed along the river over the years. Even though the water wheel became a distinguishing landmark for Green River, more water was needed faster than it could provide to irrigate all the land that the new settlers required, so dams were built. The town grew in frontier town fashion (according to Emery County 1880-1980) beginning with the mail station and stopover, livestockmen, homesteaders, and then the railroad came through.
It is not clear if Tom Farrer is J.T. Farrer, Sr. or Jr., or a third person named Tom; but J.T. had brothers, Alfred and Levi mentioned.
J.T. Farrer settled much land, built dams, and the "gravity ditch," ran the ferry, and had a general store, helped establish the town government, and by 1880, there were enough men (about 14 men, some with families) that a precinct was formed so they could vote for county and state officials.
Apparently the Farrer's had a long battle with the railroad who just built across land wherever they pleased, jumping the original settler's claims. At one point, the railroad closed Farrer's Ferry and placed guards along a fence they made. Farrer had a party waiting to cross, "and intended to get them across. We bluffed off the guard, cut the wire and put in a gate. We ferried the party over the river."
A new townsite came into being in 1906, under the direction of E.T. Merritt. The Farrers refused to allow "their settlement" to become part of the new townsite, thus some street names in adjoining neighborhoods have different names. Rod McDonald is recorded as the first town president, 1906-10. In 1910, Green River became a third class city governed by a mayor and council.
Early children may have been taught school in Elgin, the town on the east side of the river. School was taught on the west side at first in the mail depot, then a log cabin was built but no date can be found as to when.
In 1894, a frame building was erected with Minnie Taylor, followed by Mrs. Berry, and then Mr. B.F. Larson, hired as teachers. In 1906-07, more classes were needed so they used boarded-up tents for extra classrooms. Then a modern two story, 10 classroom, brick building was dedicated in 1910 by Governor Spry. The old frame building was leased to the LDS Church for worship services.
Green River established tourism about 1901 with the building of the beautiful hotel, The Palmer House which catered to railroad and ferry passengers and new settlers.
In 1930, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad moved its railroad division to Helper which took a toll on the population and commerce of Green River. Roads were not paved before 1935; the railroad was the main source of travel prior to that.
Green River is famous for its melons. Various types of water melon and cantaloupes were and still are produced; some unique with origins both local and unknown. The melons were grown, harvested, packed and shipped by train in the fall and sold as late as Christmas in the cities of Denver and Salt Lake. One fellow called "Melon Brown" who experimented with and sold various seeds, was trying to produce a cantaloupe that would keep until spring. The Wilson Produce Company founded by Sam Wilson and Sons, were shipping melons East by rail cars in 1929 to Nebraska and Kansas. One year they shipped 330 railroad cars filled with melons out of Green River. During the 1920s, the D&RG would run the "Melon Special," bringing people from Salt Lake City and points south to the Melon Days celebration, which is still one of the most exciting and well attended of Emery County community celebrations and is held each September.
Boating on the Green River was first as exploring done by John Wesley Powell and others. Then the ferry was established and other boats used to transport people and goods up and down the river for settlement and business, but pleasure voyages soon came into being, also. Everything from two sweethearts in a lowly rowboat to the deluxe paddle wheel boat with a coal-fired engine, named "Cliff Dweller", built by Captain H.T. Yokey. It proved unpractical in Green River, was renamed "The City of Moab" at some point for some reason, and hauled to the Great Salt Lake and used there for a time.
People still run the river today with rubber rafts and various crafts.
The annual Friendship Cruise from Green River to Moab, using every kind and size of gas engine-driven motor boat, is a popular event. In "low-water" years, the cruise cannot be held safely, but people are hoping for a lot of water this year to be able to get together again at this fun river outing.
Green River has seen booms of oil drilling, then the uranium and ore seekers, has gone through the prosperity and growing pains of the missile base era, but all the while relying steadily on the land, the river, and the people who love both. Even though people keep coming to establish new business ventures, melons and tourism still seem to be the long lasting attractions for both citizens and travelers. Some people come for the great golfing, some to run the river, some for a Navajo Taco or a favorite hamburger, some to see the geysers, to fish, or hunt birds, or just stay overnight on the way to somewhere else. But for me, no trip to Green River is complete unless I buy some melons and visit the ever-changing wonderful John Wesley Powell River History Museum, situated on the slowly ever-changing Green River.
The town of Green River is truly an oasis in the desert.