Cradled in the mountains of Summit County, the fertile land around the new settlement of Coalville enticed settlers with hopes of agricultural success. But the area had more to offer than just a lush landscape. When a series of mines opened across the canyon walls in the mid-nineteenth century, the population of the town boomed. The Rock School House located on Coalville’s Main Street was at the time the center of community life and symbolized the collective spirit of the town.
The Rock School House wasn’t always made of stone. Initially, a small log cabin served as both the school and church in Coalville, but by the early 1860s the region’s growing population required a larger space. Coal mines spurred population and economic growth, bringing more families to the area with the promise of work. Residents donated time, labor, and supplies to fund the new building. Shipping lumber was tricky, but made easier with a team of oxen to haul stones and collect logs from nearby Sawmill Canyon. Completed in 1865, the Rock School House was described by the Deseret News as a “chaste, elegant building.”
The school’s large bell rang out to call children to their lessons and warned the town in cases of emergency or danger. The small building offered a welcoming space for community members to gather, worship, and enjoy theater, music, and dance. But, by the time the space was dedicated just four years later in 1869, Coalville’s needs had already outgrown the modestly-sized schoolhouse. The bell would ring for the last time on November 11, 1918, signaling the end of World War I.The building remained in use for nearly 60 more years, but it no longer served as a center of community activity. Eventually the structure and its furniture were sold to Lagoon Amusement Park and moved west over the mountains to Farmington. The Lagoon theme park boasts a hodgepodge of historical buildings arranged as a frontier community, offering visitors the opportunity to step back in time. Today, the Old Rock School House serves as a relic of Utah’s rural past, but it is also a building displaced by rapid population growth and changing community needs.
See Martha Sonntag Bradley, “Coalville,” Utah History Encyclopedia, 1994; David Hampshire, Martha Sonntag Bradley, Allen Robers, A History of Summit County,Utah State Historical Society,1998; “Coalville’s New Tabernacle,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 15, 1899; “Editorial Correspondence,” Deseret Evening News, September 24, 1869; “Old Rock Schoolhouse,” Utah Historical Markers; NaVee Vernon, Then and Now: A Walking Tour of Coalville’s Historic Main Street and Other Points of Interest, Summit County Historical Society, 2014.