Fur trappers were the first whites to explore, map, and capitalize on northern Utah. Weber County and the Weber River owe their names and much of their early exploration to fur trappers. The Weber River and the county were named for the American fur trapper John Henry Weber, friend and employee of William Henry Ashley.
John Henry Weber was born in Denmark in 1779. He spent some of his early years at sea before arriving in the United States in years just prior to the War of 1812. In 1822 he answered Ashley's advertisement to become a fur trapper in the American West, and he became one of the trusted leaders of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.
As the spring of 1825 approached, Weber and his men moved to trap the streams, seeking beaver and other animal pelts. They gave Weber's name to one of the rivers flowing west from the Wasatch mountains.
The Weber River site of Fort Buenaventura was the first of the Mormon settlements in Weber County. During a visit to the Weber River community in September 1849, Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders, including Heber C. Kimball, Jedediah M. Grant and Thomas Bullock, decided to locate the city of Ogden at the site.
On January 26, 1851, the Mormon church reorganized the Weber County area into a broader ecclesiastical district as the Weber Stake of Zion. In 1888 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) established a general LDS Church Board of Education. The board's major goal was to combine secular and religious education, initially with the establishment of church academies and later by providing LDS religion classes in locations adjacent to public schools.
In September 1888, the Weber LDS Stake Presidency organized the Weber Stake Board of Education with stake president Lewis W. Shurtliff elected as president of the board. The Weber Stake Board advertised that in January, 1889, the Weber Stake Academy would begin offering classes, with Louis Moench, then serving a mission in Germany and Switzerland, as principal. The school struggled during the Moench years (1889-1902), although it received annual appropriations from the LDS Church Board of Education. In 1902, David O. McKay was "unanimously elected" to become principal of the Weber Stake Academy. McKay's interest in the Weber school remained strong over the next sixty years.
During the first two decades of the twentieth century, Weber moved from being an academy to becoming a college. By 1928, Weber College was faced with several choices: becoming a college dependent on support from Ogden City and Weber County; becoming a state-supported junior college; becoming a branch campus of the University of Utah; or being phased out as a college.
The 1931 Utah legislature passed a bill which provided for the transfer of two LDS church-owned colleges to the state of Utah; Snow College was transferred in 1932 and Weber College in 1933. For the next three decades Weber College grew and developed under state sponsorship before becoming a four-year college in 1964.
The Utah Legislature authorized the addition of upper division courses in 1959, and four years later, Weber State College awarded its first baccalaureate degrees. In 1991, the institution was re-named Weber State University.*
WSU now has a 400-acre campus in Ogden, Utah, with 89 percent of the buildings constructed since 1960. In 2003, the first building was opened on a 105-acre campus in Layton, Utah. Outreach centers include WSU Morgan in Morgan, Utah, WSU West in Roy, Utah, and the Teaching and Learning Center in Layton, Utah.
The university is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and the National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education. Business baccalaureate and master's degree programs are accredited by the International Association for Management Education (AACSB), a distinction held by fewer than 10 percent of all colleges and schools of business. Students can select education programs in the College of Applied Science & Technology, the College of Arts & Humanities, the College of Education, the College of Health Professions, the College of Science, the College of Social & Behavioral Science and the John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics.
Students may earn four-year bachelor's degrees, two-year associate degrees or professional certificates. Master's degrees are offered in accounting, business administration, criminal justice and education. WSU's continuing education division teaches classes at times and places to meet the complex needs of students balancing family and work responsibilities. Distance learning, independent study, evening courses, off-site locations and an early college program for high school students provide learning opportunities throughout northern Utah.
The university is a leader in economic development partnerships promoting undergraduate participation on projects benefitting local business and industry. As the cultural center for the northern Wasatch Front, WSU offers the community a wide variety of speakers, performers and touring groups from around the world.
*Roberts, Richard C., and Sadler, Richard W. A History of Weber County. Salt Lake City:Weber County Commission, 1997.