Modena came into existence around 1899 when the railroad (which would become the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad in 1901, and later the Union Pacific) was extended from Milford to the Nevada state line. Water was found at nearby Desert Spring made this a natural location for a stop to refill steam engines. Recognizing that Modena was the closest rail hub to St. George, Pioche, and other towns in southern Utah and Nevada, Brigham J. Lund, E.M. Brown, & Jose Price arrived and started a business providing goods to these towns. By 1903, Lund bought out the others and incorporated B.J. Lund & Co.

By 1908, Modena had become an important area for livestock. In one week that May, 140,000 sheep were sheared in the town's stockyards. Meanwhile, the town continued to be a supply point for the region's mines. Despite its importance, Modena remained small, and didn't even gain electricity until the 1940s.

As with many railroad towns, the advent of the diesel locomotive made Modena unnecessary as a water stop. The depot subsequently closed, and the town declined. Today, a small handful of residents remain and around a dozen historic buildings and homes still stand.