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Wayne County Map

Approximately fifty families first established homes in 1875 near the Fremont River. After residents moved to the townsite from 1895 to 1897 the population increased; it was 327 inhabitants from approximately 120 families in the 1990 census.

Once named Thurber after early settler and explorer Albert King Thurber, the settlement experienced a name change in 1916 when Thomas Bicknell, a prominent educator and historian of Providence, Rhode Island, offered a library of 1,000 books to any town that would take his name. The citizens of Thurber voted to accept the library along with Bicknell's name and recorded the action in April 1916. The town was incorporated in February 1939.

Bicknell lies southwest of Thousand Lake Mountain and gradually slopes toward the Fremont River. The townsite was moved to a higher elevation in 1895 to assure a more adequate water supply. Following the advice of the LDS Church, another site was chosen and surveyed, blocks were laid out, and it was dedicated on 7 June 1895.

Residents had to build houses on the new site and did not begin moving in until about 1897. Once established, the citizens were faced with the immediate problem of obtaining culinary water. Pipe was purchased and a new water line constructed from Cotton Wood Springs to the townsite. The pipeline was completed in 1899 with additional water augmenting the system from Durfey Spring. In 1909 a waterworks corporation, the first in Wayne County, was created to maintain the water system. As the population of the town increased, an entirely new line was constructed, bringing water from Jackson Spring.

The school system had an early beginning in Bicknell. The first school opened in 1880 and was taught in the "Herd House" by Hiley Burgess. During the year 1881-82 a combination schoolhouse-dance hall was constructed. In 1890 a frame schoolhouse was constructed, and a rock schoolhouse was finished in 1909. Today the high school for Wayne County is located in Bicknell with students bused to school from the outlying communities in the county.

Bicknell recently has worked at an extensive beautification project. The city has added curb and gutter and sidewalks, and created three mini-parks. The city has received recognition for its efforts by being named "Tidy Town of Utah" in 1984, "Tree City USA," and "Most Beautiful Town" in Wayne County.

Kenneth R. Williams

Thurber town site lies southwest of lofty Thousand Lake Mountain and gradually slopes toward the Fremont River. This stream, enter the valley from the northwest, winds its way southward and eastward where it soon enters a narrow channel, formed by hills and ridges along the eastern and southern sides of the valley. West of the town is a plateau, sloping upward to distant mountains.

The first home in the area was built south of the river in 1875. In that year Albert K. Thurber brought into the region six hundred head of Church cattle. Beason Lewis came a little later and brought four or five hundred head. These two men took up land and settled at the mouth of Government Creek.

The chief reason for the people of Thurber moving to another site was the lack of a good culinary water supply. Water was brought to town in open ditches, and in the wintertime it froze, making it necessary for families to haul water from the river. Another drawback was the sand, which at certain times of the year was exceedingly disagreeable.

These unfavorable conditions came to the attention of the General Authorities of the Church and they advised the people to move to high ground. A town site was chosen and surveyed, and dedication services were held June 7, 1895. Apostle Francis M. Lyman and Elder J. Golden Kimball instructed the people to gather to the new location as soon as possible. "It is a requirement and a commandment for your temporal and spiritual salvation."

People had built houses on the new site and didn't begin to move until about 1897. It was the pangs of regret that they left their newly built schoolhouse of which they were justly proud. It was torn down along with other buildings, and only a few large trees are left to mark the site of the old town.

The community, which became known as Thurber, was named in honor of Albert King Thurber, early explorer of Rabbit Valley, Indian interpreter, and a present of Sevier Stake. His name is still perpetuated in the ward organization, but the town and post office are known as Bicknell.

An unusual circumstance led to the change. Thomas Bicknell, prominent educator and historian of Providence, Rhode Island, wished to perpetuate his name in Utah and offered a library of one thousand volumes to the town that would take his name. George C. Brinkerhoff, who was filling a mission for the LDS Church in that vicinity, discussed the matter with Mr. Bicknell and on his return explained the proposition to citizens of Thurber. The result was a vote in favor of changing the name of the town. Record of the action was made in the Court House in April 1916.

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