CORINNE — The winds of change have blown through Corinne more than once since it was first established in 1869. But the one thing that remains the same is its reputation for being a place where the community knows how to have a good time.

Corinne residents are presenting the fourth annual production of "Corinne: The Gentile City" this weekend. The pageant, which is free to the public, is a humorous look back to the days when this rural, Mormon farming community was not entirely rural and definitely not Mormon.

Throughout the production, reporter Willoughby McGuire chronicles some of the highlights from Corinne's heyday, reciting actual newspaper accounts from that era. Otherwise, co-director Kim Davis said there has been some "artistic license" taken to make the story a fun one.

Diane Harper, 77, is a lifelong resident who has seen all productions since the pageant was started four years ago.

"I am glad they are keeping the history alive," she said. "This has been very good for our community, and it has been very enjoyable for the old-timers."

In 1869, what started as a railroad camp quickly became a booming town. With its proximity to the railroad and to the Bear River, anti-Mormon businessmen saw it as a perfect location to establish a business community to rival the economic hold Mormons had on the territory.

Within a year, the town was thriving. Trains went in and out of Corinne daily, and it was the perfect hub for freight en route to Montana. In July of 1871, the Corinne Daily Reporter listed a number of the local businesses: The Rocky Mountain Female Academy, Mrs. Dwiggins Restaurant on Fifth Street, Hardenbrook Bros. Livery Stable, Gilmer and Salisbury Stageline, D. Conway's furniture store, Wilcox & Gibbs Sewing Machines, the Uintah House Bakery and S. Craner & Co. Dry Good Store are only a small sample.

There were grand hotels, two theaters and the Opera House — the largest recreation center after the Salt Lake Theater. There were churches in Corinne — just not Mormon churches.

There were also dozens of saloons and gaming halls, and as many as 80 "soiled doves" waited for visitors in the fine hotels.

Alexander Toponce, a freighter, described nearby Blue Creek as a rough and rowdy town.

"Drunkenness and gambling were the mildest things they did. It was not uncommon for two or three men to be shot or knifed in a night," he said. "And Corinne was just as bad."

Davis, co-director of "Corinne: The Gentile City," said her grandmother told stories of a Mormon ancestor from Idaho who traveled into Corinne to purchase a cook stove for his wife. He was excommunicated on his return.

But business didn't last and neither did the town's rowdy reputation. As the businessmen closed their shops and moved on to another western town, the Mormons moved in, and Corinne became another small farming community. The saloons and the dance halls are gone, but the community, as evidenced by the pageant, still knows how to have a good time.

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One thing that makes this pageant particularly enjoyable for the residents of this town is the people who take part in the event. Corinne is no different from other small towns where community events can often become merged with church activities. But here, everyone is welcome to join the cast, and many do.

"It has been so fun to get to know people we don't ordinarily get involved with," said Davis.


E-mail: amacavinta@desnews.com