Four distinct cultures, Ute, Navajo, European pioneer and Spanish have left their history in Blanding, which sits on White Mesa near Blue Mountain. Anasazi occupation occurred here as early as 600 AD. Utes and an occasional Navajo camped in this area because of the water from local springs and seeps. Navajos called the location "Sagebrush," because of the plant's prolific growth that amidst the pinyon and junipers forest at the base of the mountain.
In 1897, Mormon Walter C. Lyman and his brother Joseph loaded a buckboard with supplies and left Bluff to investigate White Mesa's potential for a community. Lyman supposedly had a vision that one day this isolated area full of sagebrush would have an LDS temple. Soon, digging began on a canal from Johnson Creek, which was completed in 1905 and still waters abundant crops of hay and grain.
First known as Grayson (after Nellie Grayson Lyman, wife of Joseph), the town changed its name in 1914 when a wealthy easterner, Thomas F. Bicknell, offered a thousand-volume library to any Utah town that would adopt his name. Grayson competed with Thurber (renamed Bicknell) for the prize; the two towns split the books and Grayson was renamed for Bicknell's wife's maiden name, Blanding.
Blanding received notoriety for its involvement in the 1923 Posey War, called by some the last Indian uprising in the US. But the "war" was really a final bid for freedom by desperate Utes living on the edge of Blanding.
Blanding's original livestock and agriculture economy eventually came to include lumber operations. In the 1950s, a uranium and oil boom accounted for new roads, service industries and an increased population. But by the 1980s, these resources were mostly depleted, and Blanding has come to rely more on tourism for its economic base, located as it is in the heart of the Four Corners region.