The early histories of Clarkston and Newton are closely connected with each other. Clarkston had been settled in 1864. It was somewhat isolated from the other settlements of the Valley. Indian threats and actions caused the settlers considerable worry. Clarkston had severe winters and the snow drifted badly. For these and other reasons, it was suggested that the Clarkston site be abandoned and the settlers locate on the present site of Newton. The snow did not drift so much here and it was thought a better place for a settlement.
In February 1869, a meeting was held at the new town-site to take action on the proposed move. Bishop William F. Rigby presided at the meeting. Nearly all of those present favored moving the settlement of Clarkston to the new location. A later meeting was held in March of the same year. Most of the settlers of Clarkston were present and it was decided to make the move. Stakes were driven for the present public square and Bishop Rigby was instructed to lay out the townsite. In a few days James H. Martineau, County Surveyor, surveyed the townsite and fields. In the north field the lots were five acres each, in the south field ten acres each and in the meadow lands on Bear River, five acres each.
A few families wintered at the new location in 1869. John Myler built the first house in the New Town, as it was called back then. This house was built two and one-half blocks south and one and one-half block east of the present schoolhouse.
Other early settlers to arrive that spring and summer were the families of Bishop William F. Rigby, Peter Benson, Jonas Beck, Arthur Goody, William Bell, Swen Jacobs, William Griffin, John Griffin, John Jenkins, Peter Larson, James Larsen, James Nelson, Hyrum Curtis, Lee Whitaker, Richard Godfrey, Amos Clark and perhaps others.
As spring and early summer approached, some of the Clarkston people who had favored the move, began to change their minds. They decided they would remain at Clarkston. In fact, some who moved to the New Town, later moved back to Clarkston. This complicated conditions in a number of ways, especially with the rights to the irrigation water in the Clarkston Creek, which flowed down through the New Town and was called the Newton Creek.
As it now stood, those families who remained in Clarkston and those who desired to return maintained that Clarkston should remain as the Clarkston settlement. Those who had moved to the New Town (Newton) maintained that it should be the Clarkston settlement. A serious contention arose and President Brigham Young was asked to come and settle the matter. President Young held meetings at both places in the summer of 1870, and encouraged the people to build up both settlements. Those who desired to remain at Clarkston should do so, and those who desired to remain at the New Town should do so. At the suggestion of William F. Rigby the word New Town was shortened to Newton. It became the official name of the settlement. Bishop William F. Rigby was appointed as the bishop of the ward.
The settlers began to build their homes (log homes) and plant their crops. Some of the first houses had dirt roofs, dirt floors and quilts and other materials for windows and doors. The head of each family received the acres of land in the south field, and five acres of land in the north field.
The first religious and other meetings were held in the home of William Bell. Jonas Beck was the presiding elder. Bessie Griffin was the first schoolteacher. She taught in the little log house, a private home.
The following year more new settlers arrived. Among these were the families of Peter Jenson, John H. Barker, Franklin Young, a nephew of President Brigham Young; John Peterson, a Mr. Cummings, a Mr. Paulson, John Seiter, Alfred Atkinson, Ole Anderson, Will Sparks, Uric Loosle, Alfred Goodsell, James Christensen, Joseph Wilson, Chris Nelson, Otto Gasburg, Ras. P. Anderson, Hans Sorenson and perhaps others.
The first combination log school and meeting house was acquired by purchase for $50.00 from Franklin Young. Mr. Young had built a rather large house in which to live. The settlers had assisted him. Elizabeth Anne Griffin taught school in this house.
The people who remained at Clarkston and those who returned to Clarkston, retained their water rights in the Clarkston Creek. It left only a fourth interest in the creek for the people who were at Newton. After the water interests in the creek at Clarkston were used, it did not leave much for Newton as it was a long distance for such a small stream and there was considerable loss in evaporation and seepage, especially in dry years. There was a serious shortage of water in Newton. The year 1870 was a dry and trying year for the people of Newton. The water in the Clarkston Creek sank before it could be put on the lands at Newton. There were no crops or gardens. The people became discouraged and some threatened to move away. There was little, if any, seed wheat for the next season. Bishop William F. Rigby, John Jenkins and James Christensen arranged to borrow six hundred bushels of wheat from James Quayle at Logan. They gave a mortgage on the South Field. The interest was one peck on a bushel. It took three or four years to pay this wheat back with the interest. These men did a real service for the community in getting seed wheat, and wheat for flour for urgent emergencies.
More irrigation water was an absolute necessity. President Brigham Young had recommended a site for a reservoir east of Clarkston and north of Newton, on the Clarkston Creek. A public meeting was held in March 1871, at which the settlers voted to build a reservoir. It was agreed that the farmers should receive water in proportion to the labor done on the reservoir. It was necessary to place a dam across the hollow in which flowed the Clarkston Creek towards Newton. The committee for the construction of the dam were Bishop William F. Rigby, Franklin W. Young, Stephen Gatt, Swen Jacobs and John Jenkins. There were some skeptics who thought the dam would not amount to much. Generally, the people went to work with a strong determination to succeed. It took much hard labor with the limited equipment. Work was continued on the dam nearly every year for a number of years. In the first years of construction, the dam broke two or three times and let all the water out. It left the people without sufficient irrigation water and they had very light crops. The wheat was shrunk. People had to depend on their reserves. Some had to go away to work. Some became discouraged and moved away never to return.
The reservoir furnished water for the lots in the north field and the town lots. As the settlement grew more irrigation water was necessary. In 1885, the dam was enlarged, made stronger and more water was stored. In 1886 the canal, which the settlers had been working on since 1881, was completed. The dam was raised to twenty-eight feet and backed the water so the lake extended back more than one and one-half mile. The dam was 110 feet wide at the bottom and 127 feet wide at the top. This made ample storage, if the water could be had. The dam cost about $10.000.00. Later, more irrigation water was obtained from the West Cache Canal, for the lands in the south field. The reservoir was a great help in the growth and development of Newton. Without it, very few people would have remained. For drinking purposes, the people obtained their water from a spring in the north part of the settlement; also from wells which were dug.
A small gristmill was built north of Newton on the creek by a Mr. Peterson. He used a wooden water-wheel to get his power. A small saw mill was built near the slough north of Newton by John Stoddard. It, too, was operated by a wooden water-wheel. The machinery for the mill was taken from a mill at Wellsville. As there was no bridge across Bear River at this point, the machinery was floated across the river on a raft. The people got their logs for sawing from the Clarkston hills.
A co-op store was built with the post office in part of the building. Thomas Beck was the manager and William Griffin the postmaster. The building was near the present post office. Most of the trading was done with scrip.
At first the people cut their hay with scythes and their grain with the cradle. Later, Peter Benson bought a reaper and binder and did much of the cutting. At harvest time, he worked days and most of the nights, cutting grain. He hung a lantern on his machine when he worked at night. When the people desired cash, they hauled their grain to Corrinne. This at first was the nearest railroad station. Otherwise, they hauled it to Logan where all they got was scrip.
Newton, like Clarkston, developed a rather large dry-farm area and, in normal years, a considerable amount of grain was raised.
Because of the lack of bridges across Bear River, the people of Newton and Clarkston had difficulty and much inconvenience in getting to Logan and other settlements of the Valley. At first Bear River had to be forded. Later, the Reese Ferry at lower Benson was used. In January and February 1871, a substantial bridge was built across Bear River southeast of Newton. It was called the Newton Bridge. The county made an appropriation towards the expense of the bridge and the people of Newton and Clarkston stood the remainder of the expense. The bridge was 109 feet long. The location committee for the bridge was Peter Maughan, Simpson Molen, Samuel Roskelly, William F. Rigby and Samuel Smith. The construction committee was William B. Preston, Franklin Young and Simon Smith.
A new schoolhouse of rock, was built in 1873. It was twenty-eight by forty-two feet and built on the east side of the public square. The people taxed themselves three percent for three years to raise funds for the construction of the building. Good rock for construction could be had from the hills west of Newton. A new meeting house, thirty-six by sixty feet, was built on the northwest corner of the public square in 1887. It was lumber construction lined with adobes.
Newton had some experiences with the United Order established by the L.D.S. Church. In 1875, a branch of the Order was organized in Newton with William F. Rigby at the head. Most of the people of the settlement consolidated their farming operations. All the dry stock was turned in. They were driven to the Promontory, west Box Elder County, for grazing at $1.00 per had. There was the Co-op Store, the planting of the Order was quite successful for a few years.
Newton has become one of the progressive and substantial communities of the Valley. It has an interesting history.