Wednesday, July 20, 2011


By John J. Creedon
Copper Belt Train with wooden cars
            Several of the TV programs of the past few weeks have been taking us back through the years to the “Roaring Twenties” and the “Depression Thirties” in song and story.  Just as they were notable years nationally, so they were in Bingham and the other night while listening to the melodies of the “Twenties” many fond memories of that fabulous decade in Bingham came to mind.
            It was a decade of prosperity and good time in the Canyon.  The mines were all working at full capacity and there was plenty of work for those who were seeking it.  That was a decade when the U.S., Apex and Utah-Delaware had work forces well over 500 mark each, and the leasers were doing well in smaller mines as well as in the above mentioned Utah Copper was working full tilt.
B&G Bridge being built in Carr Fork
            This was the decade when we had three disastrous fires, the Bourgard fire in 1924 and two big fires in upper main in 1925 and 1927.  The ashes of these fires were hardly cooled when new buildings were started.  This was the period of much growth and building in Bingham.  It was durng this period that the Bingham and Copper Hotels were built.  Also constructed was the Belmont, Knight and the Ritz Hotels.
            It was in the early 1920's that the town of Copperton was started and the Gemmell Club was built in Carr Fork.  The new high school building in Bingham was completed in 1925.
            In February 1926 the greatest tragedy in Bingham’s history occurred when the snowslide in Sap Gulch in Highland Boy wiped out over 40 lives and destroyed several buildings.
            This was the decade that radio became so popular and millions of listeners were glued to their sets each week to hear Amos and Andy, Myrt and Marg, Fibber McGee and Molly and Billy Jones and Ernie Hare.  Uncle Mark James was busy getting the latest radio sets on display and advising his customers on how to get the best reception.
Betting on Dog and roster fights
            We thrilled to the songs of Henry Burr and Frank Munn, the Golden Voice of Radio. Gene Austin was one of the most popular singers of that era.  B.A. Rolfe and his lucky Strike orchestra and Ben Bernie and all his lads were among the leading orchestras.  Jessica Dragonette was one of the finest soprano voices on the Philco Hour.  Talking pictures were just around the corner at the end of the 20's.
            Entertainment was plentiful in Bingham in that golden eara.  We had the Isis, Gem and Princess theaters in Binghham, the Princess in Highland Boy and the Diana in Copperfield. Dances were held weekly at Canyon Hall, Dreamland at Gemmell Club.  Dances were also held at Finn Hall, Society Hall and in Highland Boy and Copperfield.
            There was a miniature golf course where the Post Office now stands and for a short time it was a popular sport.  This was also the era when all the moonshine was not over the mountains, but was to be found in many and varied places.
            In 1925 a new establishment opened with a bang on Main Street–Berger’s Nest, about where the Adondakis Merc. now stands.  Here was a complete answer to the sporting man’s taste. There were pool tables for the cue artists, a shoe shine stand, pop corn machine and all kinds of tobacco and candy for sale and for the addicts of a new craze in town, Mah Jong, Joe had a complete layout for the game.  These games sometimes lasted all night.  On hand to greet the customers was Joe Berger and Smokey Thomas and Bill Krueger.  Opening night had Matty, automobile salesman deluxe and a great story teller to liven up the celebration.
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            1927 marked the end of a political dynasty in Bingham, at least for a few years, when Dr. John F. Flynn and his party dethroned Dr. F.E. Straup from office and took over city hall.  For the first time in may years there were a few new faces running the local government and filling the political jobs.
            And finally Dr. Flynn left his monument to his aggressiveness in the face of almost unsurmountable odds, when the paving of the main street was completed in November 1928 and opened with the fire department answering their first alarm since the streets were closed off.
            This was a fabulous time in Bingham.  Good times, plenty of work and places to play, no wars or hard times to worry about.  We looked forward to a bright future, little knowing of the things to come in the next decade.

By John J. Creedon
            Yesterday I spent about three hours with an old friend, Isadore Gauchet, reminiscing about the early days of Bingham Canyon, those years before my time and I wish that I could give you a word for word account of the places, people and events that he told me about.
a gulch to Copperfield a right to Carr Fork and highland Boy
            We went back to the very beginning of Bingham and he related the story of the discovery of ore in Bingham that he heard from his Grandmother Scoville, one of the first pioneers to live in this area.  She came to Bingham in 1867, just four years after the first ore was found.  Her version of the event ties in closely with the accepted one listed by historians and in looking at a journal she kept of her trip across the plains and early experiences, an eye witness story seems to be the best.
            She said that a squadron of cavalry from Fort Douglas was dispatched to come to the Bingham area for the purpose of exploration work and they were to attempt to signal headquarters in Salt Lake City from Clipper Peak in Bingham by means of mirrors and fires.
            While on their way up the right hand gulch, called Gelena Gulch after, one of the horses slipped and tore loose a section of the earth uncovering a shiny mass of galena ore.  She said it shone like a mirror and one of the soldiers who has some previous experience of mining, took a sample back to the Fort with him.  Here it was examined and assayed and found to be high grade galena or lead ore.
Silver and Lead in trench mined in 1863

            It was from this discovery that the first mining claim in Utah was established and soon the first mining district in the State was organized, known as the West Mountain Mining District.  It is said that this organization took place in the old building that houses the West Jordan Flour Mill in West Jordan.  The first claim was called the Old Jordan and it formed the nucleus of the present United States Smelting Refining and Mining Company.
            How much more thrilling is it to hear of this event from the voice of one who sat at his grandma’s knee and listened to this historical event, than to read about in a book.
Mr. Gauchet’s memory is remarkable and his ability to associate places and events is amazing for his years.  As I mentioned before he and his brother Aron were the first twins born in Bingham, April 13, 1884.  He has a great love for the old canyon and the many fine people who made it famous.  Like the rest of us he is saddened at the turn of events that is leading to the abandonment of the town.
            We spoke about the early days in Bingham and as I sat there listening I imagined myself at his side as we traveled up and down the Canyon.  Some of the names and places were quite familiar to me, while others I did not know or, in some cases had never heard about before.
            He told me about the only place in the Canyon where there was a two way road in his day. As he described it, “A large rock stood in the way of the wagon road a few rods from Grandma Scovile’s home.  It was about 15 feet high and about the same width, being almost round, and the old timers had to make a road on each side of it.  As a child I had been on top of the rock many times, until progress required that it be removed.  This rock was near the site of the Civic Center.”
            He mentioned another landmark that was familiar to the miners of the early days.  It was the Conglomerate Rock on the right side of the road to Upper Bingham, now about the center of the large pit.  Many are the miners who slept off the effect of pay day in Bingham, finding under the outcropping a large hole at the base, where there was a dry place to rest.
            One of the most interesting landmarks of that day was the wooden flume that conveyed Bingham Creek from a point above the John B. Rogers Mill to the gold diggings of Prichett and Daggett, just below the Old Winnemuck Cliff.  This flume was about 18 x 18 inches square and on a slight grade and was 2-1/2 miles long.  In order to pass the Tiawaukee Cliff, a timber trestle was built and this was visible from most of the camp.  Mr. Gauchet said he recalled the last time water was in theis flume, that he and his brother Aron and sister Lena took off their shoes and stockings and placed them on a flat board and they waded inside the flume from a place near the beginning all the way down to the head of the penstock that conveyed the water through a steel pipe to the monitor nozzle for gravel washing.

By John J. Creedon
cutting trees in Telegraph
            We came back home for Christmas.  After fifty happy and memorable holiday seasons in the Old Canyon, we just had to make one more, so we attended Midnight Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Copperton.  In this familiar holy place we joined in the celebration of the birth of Our Savior.  Everything was so reverent and peaceful, with the children’s choir singing the sacred songs of Christmas, the inspiring sermon of Father Sullivan and kneeling in humble homage with old friends.  This was a holy hour—far removed from the woes and cares of the world.
            It brought back memories of other Christmas nights.  Nights when the Star of Bethlehem looked down on a world at peace and on a town asleep with happy dreams.  Those dreams are gone now and the old town is nearly deserted with great gaps between the homes that still stand. Santa must have received a great shock when he visited Bingham on Christmas Eve.  Gone were most of his patrons from the narrow confines of the canyon and scattered over the valley below.
            I remember well the first Midnight Mass I went to at old Holy Rosary Church in Carr Fork when I was a little boy.  My father and I walked down the steps from the B&G through drifts of snow.  Father Markham was the pastor and the faithful came down from Highland Boy and Copperfield on foot through waist high snow banks.
Copper Belt train and railroad in Copperfield
            There were no electric Christmas lights in those days and the Christmas trees were lit up with different colored candles.  None of the elaborate Christmas decorations were strung across and along the streets and there wasn’t any public Christmas tree.
            But there was warmth and good will and genuine good people in abundance and the holy season of Christmas was not so commercialized as it is today.  We didn’t see Santa Claus selling every item from simple toys to automobiles and boats, food, liquor and tobacco.  His picture was not plastered on every billboard or empty space and the young people were not exploited long before Thanksgiving.  In that day Santa was real and symbolized the spirit of giving for the sake of making someone happy.
            I remembered my first sleigh and how proud I was of my Flexible Flyer.  Finn Hill was the place to try them out and wheat a happy group of boys and girls I had for pals and neighbors. Most of my friends were very poor in worldly goods.  Their fathers were either dead or invalids, victims of the “miners con” at an early age.  Their courageous mothers had to be mother and breadwinner both and what a noble band of women they were.  With the limited means they had, you were always welcome to share with others.
            I thought of meeting one of these old friends the day before Christmas, Knock Olsen.  I hadn’t seen him for years and as we clasped hands and exchanged greetings the years rolled back and we were back in Finn Town.  His father was horrible crippled with rheumatism as long as I knew him.  Mother Olsen made us always welcome and as I stood by Knock, I thought of the other brothers, Ted, Peck and Bull.  We had nicknames for most of the gang in Carr Fork and many of the boys and girls would be unknown by their given names.
Voting on the "Crummy"
            Knock, Fat Hurley and I relived for a few precious moments the days when we were young and recalled some of the experiences we had together.
            Knock remembered how many of the families in Carr Fork got their coal.  The B&G switch engine made several trips a day from Bingham Yard to the Apex Yard and in that day before safety rules were so stringent, I used to ride that engine many times and would kick off coal all the way up and down the right of way.  My good deed was catching, for it seemed the firemen would miss the firebox quite regularly and the coal would fall along the track where we would pick it up.

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