When she started last year, LuAnn Adams wanted something pretty simple: a few nice, historic pictures to hang on the courthouse wall.
But what started as a short-term centennial project for the Box Elder County recorder has blossomed into something bigger.The first offshoot was a centennial calendar that was supposed to feature 13 of the historic photos. It was printed with more than 130 filling its pages.
The 5,000 calendars quickly sold out last year, but photos for the courthouse wall kept pouring in, with dozens of people sending thousands of photographs.
"When all these photos started coming in, I couldn't say, well, we can't use this one or that one," Adams said. "Every time I got something new from a community in, I'd think, it can't be any better."
There had to be a place, she thought, for the pictures of long-ago farm children perched on horses or gingerly trying to hold geese almost as big as they were.
There had to be somewhere to display the serene shot of Mormons gathered around a pond in their Sunday best, hats in hands, watching the distant father with his arm upraised preparing to baptize his son.
But there wouldn't be room on the courthouse walls for the vast majority of the pictures Adams saw.
So she decided to let the project grow a little more, into a book of around 1,500 pictures that paint a vivid portrait of Box Elder County's settlement, growth and people.
"I think that old proverb is true: a photograph says 1,000 words," said Glenn Compton of Brigham City, a local photographer for 44 years and part of a family of photographers working in Box Elder County since 1883.
Compton's grandfather, A.W. Compton, traveled across northern Utah and southern Idaho, taking pictures and meticulously recording information.
"Every photograph he ever took, he would give it a number and a date and give the negative that same number," Glenn Compton said. "The studio register identified all the negatives."
A.W. Compton passed on his trade to his son and Glenn Compton's father, Mathew J. Compton. Between them, the three men took a century's worth of photos: hundreds of thousands of negatives, now housed at Utah State University.
The Compton Collection was a major source for the county's history book, Adams said, and there were many others, like Fielding resident Gale Welling, the town's unofficial historian.
Welling collects photographs, along with electric insulators, barbed wire and items from Utah history.
"One thing about pictures - you can sure store them easier than insulators and barbed wire," he said, laughing.
But Welling is serious about collecting pictures that tell the story of the wide valley Fielding sits in. He treasures pictures of people and the houses they lived in, local boys in military uniform, men working farmlands and the Bear River canyon before it was dammed.
But his favorite, the one he's having matted and framed for the courthouse exhibit, was taken outside Box Elder County, at the 1905 State Fair. It is a shot of Box Elder County's ornate exhibit, which showed the Bear River canal, electric lines, mountains and the county's grain and fruit. Box Elder took first prize for "most artistic display" that year.
"People ask where I got these, and I say I traded and bought, begged and borrowed for them," Welling said. "I just like to preserve the history of the county."
Adams said she hopes Box Elder families, and those with roots in the county, will buy the book to find a link with history.
The book will be divided into sections on every town, including some that no longer exist. It will have chapters on agriculture, Utah's statehood, the railroad, Indian people, Japanese settlers and other topics.
The 350-page book will sell for about $20, Adams said.