“Corinne is located five miles west of Brigham City at the spot where the tracks of the westward moving Union Pacific Railroad crossed the Bear River. Corinne’s history is unique among the towns of Box Elder County…founded primarily as a railroad town…it was the railroad town of Utah, founded to be a bastion against the Mormon Kingdom of Brigham Young and his apostles. As such, its history is fascinating and colorful.’
“As the Union Pacific tracks entered Utah from Wyoming early in 1868, the raucous tent-town familiarly known as “Hell on Wheels” moved along with it, setting at each end-of-track camp. Though the individual sites bore names like Wahsatch, Echo and Bonneville, those “towns” were only repeated incarnations of the same group of merchants, saloon-keepers, shillers, camp followers, and brothels, with temporary quarters, put up and torn down week after week as the tracks moved on…” Corinne was the final location of “Hell on Wheels,” before the Union Pacific’s westward- heading tracks joined the east-bound tracks of the Central Pacific at nearby Promontory Summit.
In its early days, Corinne was a wide-open, no-holds-barred frontier town. Surveyed in February 1869 by the Union Pacific, Corinne was originally named Connor, or Connor City, in honor of Colonel Patrick Connor. The proud founding fathers then decided the city needed a more suitable grand name, and they picked ‘Corinne.’ “Various stories are told about the origin of the name. It was the name of a character in a popular novel of the day; it was the name of a popular actress of the time, Corinne LaVaunt. The most likely source, however, is Corinne Williamson, daughter of General J. A . Williamson, land agent for the Union Pacific…Williamson was the first temporary citizen-mayor of the city. For whom his daughter was named is not specified. Perhaps it was the actress.’
“Not only was this a railroad town, it was a rallying point for all those who hated, feared, or were discomforted by the Mormon culture.” There were according to some reports, twenty-eight saloons and eighty “soiled doves” plying their wares… the city fathers passed an ordinance prohibiting polygamy within the city limits. There was even a petition requesting the removal of the territorial capital from Salt Lake City to Corrine.” “Corinne had a baseball team, an ice skating pond, and hotels, one of them—the central Hotel—a fine two-story brick structure.” “There was an entire block set aside for a university, and another for a Catholic church. The Gentiles, as the Mormons referred to non-Mormons, designed to rule the territory from Corinne and amid its ‘Gentile’ notoriety, Corinne boomed.
“Corinne was positioned to be a hub of transportation and commerce. Trains of freight wagons lumbered between Corinne and the Montana mines. Produce went north, ore came south. Before long, steamboats were plying the waters of Bear River and the Great Salt Lake…The most famous steamboat was the City of Corinne. The city had a grand Opera House, with a spring dance floor (underpinned by springs from box cars.) It was the largest such hall north of Salt Lake City.’
“The law firm of Johnson and Underdunk provided a device which operated somewhat like a slot machine. With the insertion of a $2.50 gold piece and the pull of a handle, one had a signed, sealed legal divorce document lacking only the names of the parties involved.’
But after the Utah Northern Railroad extended its tracks north, through Brigham City into Idaho, Corinne began a decline. Now Ogden was the junction city. “Even the canal turned against Corinne. The water leached alkali salts up through the soil, and the crops and trees died. Corinne withered on the vine.” Eventually the salts were drained from the land, and its land eventually produced bountiful crops. “Corinne survived as a town because of the land, not the railroad. Brigham Young had said that agriculture was to be the mainstay of Utah, and his prophecy has come to pass.’
“Corinne had the first U.S. weather station in Utah, the first non-Mormon meeting house, the first water system, the first drainage system, the first export of precious metal ore to the outside, the first public school, and of course, the first (and only known) divorce vending machine.”
Corinne’s strategic geographical position has been fulfilled as distribution and transportation companies, such as Walmart and others have located in the area.
Source: History of Box Elder County Reprinted in 2004 By Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Box Elder South Company
A History of Box Elder County Utah Centennial County History Serives by Frederick M. Huchel