Early Magna Settlements

Write-up by: Malcolm Harrison

Photo Credit Malcolm Harrison

Placed by: Sons of the Utah Pioneers, Site Number 28

GPS Coordinates: 40.6833 N, -112.0915 W

Photo Credit Malcolm Harrison

Historical Marker Text: 

“Early Magna Settlements

In commemoration of the First Communities Established on the West Side of Salt Lake Valley and the First Major Industry of Utah

In 1853, Abraham Coon, an early Mormon pioneer, explored a canyon in the Oquirrh Mountains on the west side of Salt Lake Valley. He found an abundance of timber suitable for lumber and also a variety of oak tree the bark of which was useful in tanning leather. There was ample water to power a sawmill and a tan-bark processing plant. Abraham Coon obtained permission to open the canyon for these purposes, established a toll fee for access to the canyon, and used the revenue for the construction and maintenance of the road. The canyon was officially named Coon Canyon.

Abraham Coon and his family settled at the mouth of the canyon, and started a farming community that became known as Coonville. This was the first settlement on the west side of Salt Lake Valley and it covered a one-square-mile area south of this marker. The Coon, Deardon, Hardman, Shafer, Thomas, Sadler, Ek, Jenkins, and Larson families settled in the area. The 47th District School House was built here to house first- through eighth-grade classes and also church functions. 

In the 1860s, settlers from Salt Lake City were attracted to the fertile soil in this part of the valley, and the farming community of Pleasant Green grew up on the two-square-mile area north of Coonville. Early family names in Pleasant Green included Spencer, Reid, Taylor, Cockrell, Jacobs, Lecheminant, Breeze, Perkins, Sutton, Mellen, Hirst, Brown, Bouck, Bertoch, Hartley, Lambert, Whipple, Shields, Adamson, Drury, Featherstone, and Wolstenholme.

In 1906, Daniel C. Jackling brought the Utah Copper Company into operation by commencing open-pit mining in Bingham Canyon. Over the next forty years the mine, smelting, and milling operations were expanded and the company became known as Kennecott. The open-pit mine is truly one of the wonders of the world. The modernization of the mine and processing plants has gone forward, and in 1992 this remains one of the great copper producing centers of the world.

With the advent of the copper industry, Coonville and Pleasant Green merged into the unincorporated city of Magna. “Magna” means “magnificent” or “great,” a proud reference to the role played by the city and its people in the development of the copper industry. The name became official with the opening of the first Magna Post Office in 1917.”


Extended Research:

Many people believe that the Pioneers settled the Salt Lake Valley from East to West as the Saints arrived down through the Wasatch Mountains and expanded steadily towards the Oquirrh Mountains. As early as the mid-19th century, however, small groups and families spread out to settle areas west of Salt Lake City into modern-day West Jordan, Tooele, West Valley, and Magna. As the first settlement at the base of the Oquirrh Mountains, Magna has this secluded monument dedicated to preserving the story of how it was settled and cultivated. The legacy of this place is really the story of a town that has known many names.

Between 1851 and 1853 Abraham Coon and his family were the first of eight families to establish their homes and farms near the mouth of a small canyon called Coon’s Canyon. Natural resources could be found surrounding the canyon such as water flowing from natural springs and a mountain creek.[1] They called their new settlement Coonville, but this corner of the valley was called many different names over the years. According to A History of Salt Lake County, it was called “Mill Stone Point for its smooth stones suitable for grinding grain, stagecoach drivers then called it Point of West Mountain…Then the clutter of shanties and tents for migrant workers prompted the nickname Ragtown or Dinkeyville.”[2]

The history of the Early Magna Settlements and its various names has been quietly preserved through maps. In 1849 Colonel J. J. Abert ordered a map of the Salt Lake Valley to be surveyed.[3] At this time there was nothing noteworthy on the map west of the Jordan River aside from an irrigation ditch and a few sinks (places where flowing water disappears into the ground).

Stansbury, Howard, Cartographer, Surveyor, J. W Gunnison, Albert Carrington, Charles Preuss, Millard Fillmore, and Grambo & Co Lippincott. Map of the Great Salt Lake and adjacent country in the territory of Utah: surveyed in 1850 under the orders of Col. J.J. Abert. [Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., New York: Ackerman Lith, 1852] Map.

Just 40 years later in 1890, Collier & Cleaveland Lith. Co. produced another map of the Salt Lake Valley.[4] By this point, there were plenty of family farms and roads and two school districts. Abraham Coon lived to see all of this develop as he died only 5 years prior to the map’s completion. However, Coonville was not the official name on the map; by this time the town was known as Pleasant Green. A few years earlier on July 21, 1874, Judge Elias Smith had established the Pleasant Green Precinct. The name likely came from the reputation of the farms which produced bountiful crops, despite the arid climate, thanks to the natural mountain springs. It wasn’t until the arrival of Utah Copper Co. that the name Pleasant Green changed.

Collier & Cleaveland Lith. Co. Map of Salt Lake County, Utah. [Denver and Salt Lake City: Collier & Cleaveland Litho. Co, 1890] Map.

While knowledge of the rich mineral deposits in the Oquirrh Mountains was known since the early days of the pioneer’s arrival into the valley, no claims were officially staked until a decade after Abraham Coon and his family settled the area. Brigham Young, the first governor of Utah and simultaneously president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encouraged all of the pioneers to put their time and effort into agriculture rather than mining. While it was not expressly forbidden to go prospecting or dig up minerals it was not considered a priority. Brigham Young himself said, “Gold is good in its place— it is good in the hands of a good man to do good with, but in the hands of a wicked man it often proves a curse instead of a blessing.”[5] With the passage of time and a strong push from outsiders like Colonel Patrick E. Connor, now known as the father of Utah mining, soon mining ventures opened up all over the state with one of the largest in the Oquirrh Mountains around the turn of the century.

Daniel C. Jackling created the Utah Copper Co. in 1906 which would later become Kennecott Copper Corporation. The company began constructing a mill in the area and Jackling decided to call it Magna, from the Latin word meaning “superior” or “great”.[6] The town post office also adopted the name Magna, which was not uncommon at the time. Many towns, especially small ones, were called one name and had another name for the post office. The town grew from a rural farm town and became known as a bustling mining town. The profitable mines attracted immigrants from all around the world including places like Greece, China, Italy, Serbia, Mexico, and more. Pleasant Green was slowly forgotten as the green farms were replaced with the roads and buildings of industrialization and urbanization.

Although initially settled by only a handful of families, by 1950 the population reached 3,502 and as of 2020, it has climbed to almost 30,000 residents.[7] Many people call this town home, but few know the history of the settling of where they now live. Not many know the stories of why the land where neighborhoods and shopping centers now stand used to be called Coonville, Millstone Point, Point of West Mountain, Ragtown, and Dinkyville. Today the Township of Magna is what appears on our maps, but there is certainly more than meets the eye to this small town with a rich history.


[1] Robert Goble, “Pleasant Green: The Town That Had Forgotten Its Name — Episode One.” YouTube, December 24, 2018.

[2] Linda Sillitoe, A History of Salt Lake County, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, UT, 1996, 153.

[3] Howard Stansbury, Cartographer, Surveyor, J. W Gunnison, Albert Carrington, Charles Preuss, Millard Fillmore, and Grambo & Co Lippincott. Map of the Great Salt Lake and adjacent country in the territory of Utah: surveyed in 1850 under the orders of Col. J.J. Abert. [Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., New York: Ackerman Lith, 1852] Map.

[4] Collier & Cleaveland Lith. Co. Map of Salt Lake County, Utah. [Denver and Salt Lake City: Collier & Cleaveland Litho. Co, 1890] Map.

[5] Brigham Young, The Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star. Volume XII. 1850, 245. BYU Library Digital Collections.

[6] L. Stewart Radmall and Mark E. Walker. “Pioneer Monuments of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.” Internet Archive. Sons of Utah Pioneers, January 2, 2021.

[7] U.S. Census Bureau. “U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: Magna Metro Township, Utah.” United States Census Bureau Quickfacts, May 3, 2022.

For Further Reference: 

Primary Sources

Collier & Cleaveland Lith. Co. Map of Salt Lake County, Utah. [Denver and Salt Lake City: Collier & Cleaveland Litho. Co, 1890] Map. 

Stansbury, Howard, Cartographer, Surveyor, J. W Gunnison, Albert Carrington, Charles Preuss, Millard Fillmore, and Grambo & Co Lippincott. Map of the Great Salt Lake and adjacent country in the territory of Utah: surveyed in 1850 under the orders of Col. J.J. Abert. [Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., New York: Ackerman Lith, 1852] Map. 

Secondary Sources

Goble, Robert. “Pleasant Green: The Town That Had Forgotten Its Name — Episode One.” YouTube. YouTube, December 24, 2018.  

Radmall, L. Stewart, and Mark E. Walker. “Pioneer Monuments of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.” Internet Archive. Sons of Utah Pioneers, January 2, 2021.  

Sillitoe, Linda. A History of Salt Lake County, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, UT, 1996, p. 153.  

Sadler, Richard W. “The Impact of Mining on Salt Lake City.” Utah Historical Quarterly 47, no. 3 (1979).  

U.S. Census Bureau. “U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: Magna Metro Township, Utah.” United States Census Bureau Quickfacts, May 3, 2022.

Young, Brigham. The Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star. Volume XII. 1850, p. 245. BYU Library Digital Collections.  

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