Wednesday, July 20, 2011


By John J. Creedon
Mining Gold in Frog Town
            While talking to Mr. Gauchet the other day, several firsts in Bingham were mentioned and for the benefit of my readers, I am listing a few of them and some of these have importance enough to warrant an article later to give further details.
            Grandma Scoville operated one of the first boarding houses in the camp and some of the first miners of the Old Jordan and other claims were her boarders.  Although Galena ore was first discovered in Bingham, its earliest miners were principally placer gold miners and panning for gold was the most important work in the Canyon for many years.  The gold found here was not of great quantity such as some of the early boom discoveries in other parts of the west.  There was not any great fortunes made by any individual and the work was difficult because of the gold and the lack of water to wash the gravel.  Bingham was strickily a “poor man’s camp” and unless you were willing to toil long and hard, the pay was meager. Nevertheless, Bingham attracted enough
solid citizens to build a town and keep the mining a vital part of the state economy until the present time.
            Most of the old prospect holes and diggings are covered up by the waste dumps of the Kennecott Copper, but I remember many of them as a boy.  Markham, Dixon and Cottonwood Gulches were dotted with these workings.  Some were just shallow holes while others penetrated deep into the earth by tunnels and shafts.
            Most of the mining was done in Carr Fork, extending to Highland Boy and in the other canyon, extending to the South Galena, site of the Old Jordan Claim.  These two main canyons were epock marked with prospect holes everywhere.

Galena Lead with Silver 1863
            The first in Main Canyon was the Old Jordan and the first in the Highland Boy area was the Stewart Mine.  Other mines sprung up by the score in the years before the 20th century began. Most of them faded out while others were consolidated such as the Old Jordan, Galena, Spanish and Telegraph mines into the U.S. Mining Co.
            The effects of the financial aid from eastern interests is manifest by the names of some of these mines, such as Boston Consolidated, New England and Bingham-New Haven.  Great Indian Chiefs of the eastern United States, Shawmut and Massasoit were remembered by mines bearing their names.  Many Indian names graced the entrances of these tunnels and shafts, such as Montezuma, Phoenix, Yampa, Yosemite and Winnamuck and Tiawaukee.  Colorful names like Last Chance, Frisco, Starless, Mystic and Arkansan, Mystic Shrine and Black Dog were given to other mines.  We find State and local names for others, Utah-Bingham, Bingham-Montana, Utah Consolidated, Utah Copper, Ohio Copper, North Utah and Utah Apex.
            Mining in that early day was filled with romance and adventure and the lure of a major strike was at the end of the rainbow for prospector.  It was back breaking work too and the transportation of ore was a major factor.
            The first narrow gauge railroad was reported built in 1873 to Bingham and later this railroad was extended to the upper parts of the Canyon by the Copper Belt Railroad with its colorful clanking shay engines.
Panning Gold
            Mr. Gauchet said the first railroad depot of the Rio Grande was two narrow gauge box cars located on the east side of the canyon just below No. 2 Fire Station.  The first agent was Ike Rogers.  He was an Arkansan, a giant of a man about 6 foot 3.  The depot was so low that Ike had to stoop most of the time and he assumed this stance even when out in the open.  One of the cars was the depot and waiting room and the other the freight depot.
            Some of the names of the early settlers in Bingham included Scotville, Strickley, Heaston, Bourgard, Lee, Brunton, Fitz Miller, Hocking, Stringham, Conary and Hayes.
            Dr. Woods was the first doctor with Dr. Lamb coming right after.  Peter Tavey was the first druggist.  Strickleys was one of the first stores and it was located on the east side of main street just above Markham.  Fitz Miller was a landmark for many years and it was saloon, dance hall and boarding house in its time.  It was razed when the Copperfield tunnel was built.

By John J. Creedon
            Two little strings of Christmas lights swinging bravely in the winter breeze symbolizes the Yuletide season in Bingham Canyon.
            As I walked through the street of Bingham last week, I thought how forlorn they looked, and yet they stood there as a challenge of a town that does not wish to vanish from the earth.
            A new mantle of clean white snow hid the desolation and ugliness of vacant lots and the skeletons of homes and stores.  The trees recaptured their beauty as they presented a scene of unspoiled splendor that God alone can create.
            As I walked along the years rolled back and I tried to visualize the old town as it was before the “march of progress” laid waste to all that was near and dear to so many of us.  This day the wind was sharp and whistled down the canyon sides through the empty spaces, where before the buildings formed a shield to protect the street from much of the wind.  The snow was still on most of the sidewalks, for there was no store owners to clean the walks.
            The cars that parked along the street were not there and there was only one person on the walk.  What a contrast to yesteryear, when you couldn’t find a place to park and both sidewalks were filled with shoppers from Copperfield, Highland Boy and Copperton as well as the local folks.
  There was a spirit of friendliness and good will as old friends met and exchanged greetings with each other and promising to visit during the holidays.  I viewed the great space between the post office and the Utah Power and Light Building, and in memory stopped at the stores which stood there.  There was the Vienna Building, where first I remember Mr. Lashbrook with his colorful whiskers, later George Wells built the Vienna and for many years he operated a grocery store on the ground floor.  I recalled the times I went to this store with my mother.  Later Leonard Miller was the proprietor and there was always open house in the rear of the store during the Christmas season.  Leonard was always cheerful and it gave you a lift just to exchange greetings with him and Lillian.  The last to operate in the old Vienna was Kim Goff.  Kim and Ruth and their staff certainly carried out the tradition of Bingham and you felt welcome there, whether or not you were a customer.
            Next door I went into the Bingham Radio, pausing to look at the fine display of merchandise in the windows and passed the time of day with Rita and Hugo and Anna Mae.
            Then on to the Union Drug, where everyone seemed to gather at one time or another.  It was always coffee times at the Union Drug for some of the local residents and business people. Here Bob and Marion were on hand to greet their friends and they were never too busy to stop a minute and talk.  You usually ran into Dr. Jenkins, Dr. Sorenson and a few years back, Dr. Frazier, Dr. Bennion and Mary would be there too.  I remembered Earl James saying that Bob’s place was the only one serving coffee where you could drink and not break the “Word of Wisdom”.  With all kidding aside the coffee was not that weak—it always made the top of the cup, if you tipped it far enough.
In earlier days, I remembered this building as Bogan’s Hardware.  They had the biggest toyland in the Canyon and when I looked at the space from the sidewalk to the hillside, I couldn’t believe my eyes, for it seemed to me as a boy that, the store extended back from the street a mile.  I could see Jim Bogan standing near the front of the store with his big smile.  If John was around, the contrast was great, for John seldom smiled, although he had a dry wit that amused us greatly.
            As I glanced in the vacant windows of the Utah Power and Light Company, I thought of the many men and women who worked there with managers J.B. Myers to G.L. West.  This window was always decorated with new appliances and a big Christmas tree.  It wa a busy office in Bingham’s prime.
            This was a long walk to make during Christmas.  If you stopped at each one and partook of the hospitality offered, only a man with a hollow leg was able to continue on uptown.

By John J. Creedon
my Uncle driving stage to Boston Con.
            We think little of the trip from Bingham Canyon to Salt Lake City and the valley towns in this modern day of rapid transportation and good roads, although with the dense fog of the past two weeks, how nice it would be with a faithful horse leading the way and making the distance in about the same time as a car will do in the fog.
            In the early days of Bingham, the thirty miles separating it from Salt Lake City was quite a trip to make in one day with the limited means of transportation at hand.
            First record of the railroad coming to Bingham was about 1873 and regular passenger service was not encouraged until about twenty years later in 1893.  Prior to this time if you wanted to go to Salt lake City you could take a stage.  It was almost impossible to make a round trip in one day.  The roads were poor and I imagine you would be pretty well shook up at the end of the ride. 
            After the passenger service was established on the Denver and Rio Grande in the “Nineties” and by the Bingham and Garfield in 1911, most of the travel between Salt Lake City and Bingham was by train.  Each train made two trips a day between these two points and you had a choice of trains for several years.  Bingham Bill, as the Rio Grande was called was a popular train for many years and it was a great event to make the round trip to Salt Lake City.
            With the appearance of the automobile about 1913, it was inevitable that soon this new means of transportation would take over with the advantage of more trips and more direct connections with the valley towns.
            One of the first of these auto stages was the Valley Transport, managed by Sam Barnes. Sam was a barber by profession and was a striking figure with his six-foot-two frame topped by thick curly black hair.  He was a fastidious dresser and with his friendly manner he was a popular man about town.
            Some few years later the Bingham Stage Line was organized and operated by Dr. A.L. Inglesby and Francis A. Miller. The big Bingham Garage was built about that time too and this was a booming business until the private automobile bacame so common and each family had their own transportation.
            Driving those stages in the early day required skill and courage.  Breakdowns and flat tires were part of each trip and the roads were not hard surfaced and in the winter, it wa shard to maintain schedules.  Snow removal depended mostly on “Old Sol” and after a few trips the ruts in the road were deep and hard to get out of it you happened to meet another car on a narrow section of the highway.
            Some of these drivers that come to mind in the heyday of the stage business were Joe Hasalone, Guy Della Lucia, Jack Marshall, Fat Burchell, Shorty Jones.  They even had a one-legged driver, Frank Lohr, who id a lot of driving.
            These men left an enviable record of accident-free driving over hazardous roads and in all kinds of weather.  They guided their vehicles over roads hub deep in mud and snow as high as the radiators on their cars.  They made their way over the flat in boiling July and August heat.  I can’t recall of any serious accident in all the years they operated.
            The Bingham Stage Line extended its service all over the state and its buses were operated in chartered trips in all sections for sightseeing and other business.
            I recall the times the firemen hired a bus to go rabbit hunting.  We would load the bus with happy hunters and would go as far as Holden and Fillmore in the South and to Skull Valley and Ibapah in Tooele County.  The drivers would join in the fun with us and we would have a great time playing cards on the way to the hunt and back home.
            It was not uncommon for a group to hire a bus to go to one of the basketball games in the early days of the sport in Bingham.  For many years the basketball teams themselves were transportated by bus.  They were transported by Bingham Stage Line.
            You would arrive at your destination cold and groggy from gas fumes for in that day there was no heaters and the buses were far from being comfortable and the fumes would leak into the loosely fitted doors and side curtains.

By John J. Creedon
            With the peculiar layout of Bingham Canyon and its many neighboring communities, it was natural that the transportation of people and goods would be a major business.
            In the early days when Bingham was young, few of the residents had their own means of transportation, so the livery and taxi service became a necessity and blossomed into one of the most thriving businesses.
            The people of the Bingham district was spread out from Lead Mine to Bingham and then on to Upper Bingham or Copperfield, Telegraph and upper U.S. Mine in the one canyon and to Highland Boy and the Boston Con on the Carr Fork side.
            One of the most familiar livery services in my boyhood was the one operated Black’s Cannonball Express.  He was a colorful character and talked to his horses continually while driving.  His favorite horse was Bessie and old timers can recall his favorite saying when talking to Bessie.
            The Canyon was dotted by livery stables that furnished rigs and saddle horses for those living in the outlying communities.  Bingham Coal Co., operated By George Chandler was the largest one.  Star Livery near No. 2 Fire Hall and Harry Steel’s near Butcher Hill were among the others.  Besides the stables that rented rigs and horses, there were many smaller stables that housed horses and wagons for the various business establishments.
            The teamsters, or “skinners” as they were called were a colorful outfit.  Many of them were hard drinkers and all of them were hard workers and possessed a skill that is all forgotten today.
Some of these men I recall were Smiler Shelley, who hid his face in a heavy black beard.  We used to needle him, by yelling, “Come on out from behind the bush, Smiler, we see you.”  Smiler would crack his whip in our direction and go his way.  Billy Cloud, who could handle the reins and the cuss words equally well, Henry Berlin, Rex Holden and Joe Carlston come to mind.  Then there was Peggy McGee and Peg Leg Pratt, both nicknamed because of having a leg missing.  These men got around fine and made their living by their skill, despite their handicap.
            Of all these men, I believe the standout were Dave Wherritt and Joe Hamilton.  Dave’s span of years extended from the “nineties” to the time of his death a few years ago.  Dave was intrusted with many special jobs—jobs that required his special skill and knowledge of horses and roads.  Dave was sort of a landmark for so many years that it seemed he was here always.  He was a hard worker and as honest as they come.
            Joe Hamilton was a marvel handling teams and unloading heavy goods.  Joe had only one hand and it was amazing to see him handle several spans of horses.  He would wrap the reins around his stump and make his way up and down the narrow canyon.  To remember him unloading heavy beer kegs with his one hand, stands out clear as if it were yesterday.
            It was a long ride from the D&RG depot to Upper Bingham or Highland Boy in a rig over bumpy rutted roads in bad weather, but that was the way it was done some fifty years ago.
                        School children were transported from Upper Bingham and Highland Boy in open sleds in the winter time.  There would be two long benches facing each other and the bottom of the sled would be covered with straw and heavy robes would be used to cover the knees of the students to keep them warm.
            Much of the ore shipped out of the Canyon was hauled by horse drawn wagons or sleds, depending on the time of year.  It required great skill to guide these heavy vehicles along the narrow streets.
    Rough locks were used to augment the braking of these heavy wagons.  This consisted of a large chain wrapped around one of the rear wheels or runners to slow the pace of the heavily loaded wagons.
            Runaways were unfrequent, but when there was a runaway, it created great excitement and heavy damage, often killing or injuring the horses so badly they had to be destroyed.

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