Jesse Fox left his mark on early water development in Utah. His engineering endeavors during the pioneer period would develop water to irrigate thousands of acres of land in Salt Lake County.
He was born on his father's farm near Adams Centre, New York on March 31, 1819. He joined the Mormon Church and moved to Nauvoo in 1844, joining the pioneer migration in 1849 to Utah. Learning surveying as an assistant to the County Surveyor, he was employed by the church in 1850 to survey city lots and farm allotments. Later he would survey for a railroad to Red Butte Canyon to bring foundation stone to construct the Temple. In 1852, the railroad idea was abandoned. Jesse Fox became County Surveyor on August 2, 1852 followed by being appointed Territorial Surveyor, which he vacated in 1876.
He was chief engineer over the construction of the five major canals diverting water out of Utah Lake and the Jordan River within the Salt Lake valley.
When Salt Lake City decided on August 17, 1879 to find a new source of water from Utah Lake and the Jordan River, Jesse Fox was asked to survey the alignment and to estimate the cost to construct the canal. The proposed 28 mile canal was estimated to cost $280,000. A bond election was held to finance the canal in 1880. During the debate over the bond, the engineering ability of Jesse Fox became an issue. Opponents of the bond attacked him for his involvement in the failed canal from Little Cottonwood Canyon that was intended to carry the granite slabs to the temple. Some members of the City Council opposed the canal, believing that if the canal was constructed, water would never flow through segments about 5 miles southeast of the city. Ultimately, a bond election was held and approved on April 5, 1880, with five to one in favor. With the bond approved, the City Council hired Jesse Fox to construct the canal.
The canal was completed and water flowed from the diversion at the Jordan Narrows to the confluence of City Creek at Eagle Gate on July 12, 1882. Despite his critics, he must have been pleased to read the words of the Salt Lake Herald,"... We commend Mr. Jesse W. Fox Engineer, his skill, having the manhood to acknowledge his business...and the Herald regards this as one of the greatest days in the history of Salt Lake City." Later the canal would be used to exchange Utah Lake water for the high quality Wasatch Canyon waters. These exchanges would provide the city enough water to grow for the next 50 years.
Other work to his credit included the early survey work on the present Weber/Provo Canal through the Kamas Bench that would later become a key feature of the Provo River Project.
He also surveyed the early waterworks system in City Creek Canyon in 1872, establishing the diversion, settling tanks and 4 miles of cast iron pipe serving the city's downtown business district.
Jesse Fox left his mark on early water development in Utah. His engineering skills changed the history of the Salt Lake valley.