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Murray Smelters

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This page was last updated on August 16, 2016.

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(This is a work in progress; research continues.)

Overview

From the roadside marker erected by Sons of Utah Pioneers:

MURRAY SMELTING -- Gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc were found at Alta, Park City and Tintic in the years 1864-1869. Since no smelting was done in the state or the surrounding area, smelters had to be built. Billy Morgan built the first smelter at 5189 South State Street on American Hill in 1869. The Woodhull Brothers built the first furnace on State Street by Big Cottonwood Creek June 1870. In 1871 the Germania Refinery & Wasatch Smelter were erected west of State Street on opposite sides of Little Cottonwood Creek. The Hanauer Smelter was built in 1872. The Horn Silver Smelter at 200 West and 4800 South and the Highland Boy Plant at 800 West. Bullion came on stream 1880, 1886. American Smelting and Refining Company took over the Germania Plant operations and later built a plant at 5200 South State St. which began operations in 1902. Smelting and ore refining grew from eight tons to thousands of tons of ore per day. The need for smelting eventually decreased and, in November 1950, the great smelting operation at Murray faded into history. Smelting in Murray had directly employed 10,000 people and, indirectly, thousands more. Many of these people were pioneers who settled in the Murray community prior to the coming of the railroad. #1 Murray Chapter SUP

Highland Boy Copper Smelter: (Bullion Street, about 5600 So., west of 700 West in Murray) The Highland Boy mine, in Bingham Canyon, was owned by Samuel Newhouse and his Boston Consolidated Mining Company. Samuel Newhouse sold out to William Rockefeller and Henry H. Rogers, of Standard Oil, which then built the first copper smelter in the valley. Bullion Street was the northern boundary of the smelter. Schools, a park, a fire station, and finally homes were built on the site. A Supreme Court order shut the smelter down in 1907 because to too much pollution. Dispute over revenue sharing from mining and smelting taxation led to the creation of Granite, Jordan, and Murray school districts, the latter preferring to "go it alone." (Salt Lake Valley Historical Tour, Ron Andersen, 1997)

Utah Sampler: (tall building, east of 380 West, 5500 So.) Utah Ore Sampling Company (UOS) built this sampler in 1909. Consolidated mining companies did their own sampling. This was the largest independent sampler between Missouri and California. After the ore was crushed and analyzed for content and quality, smelters decided on the basis of the samples, whether to buy larger quantities of the ore. Ore came here from all over the west. Most of the ores sampled here went to the ASARCO smelter for processing. The close proximity of the two plants allowed the railroads to treat them as a single destination for billing purposes. The large "Thawed House," where loads of frozen ore were completely thawed before they were run through the sample plant, still remains. This mill was unique because it contained the only railroad spur that connected to both the Denver and Rio Grande and the Union Pacific Railroads. The company operated until the 1950's, when the smelting industry in Murray ceased. (Salt Lake Valley Historical Tour, Ron Andersen, 1997)

American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO): (5200 Major Street, north of Murray High School) ASARCO is still in business outside of Utah. It was part of the Standard Oil conglomerate, with Rockefeller and Rogers heavily invested. The smoke stacks, some administrative buildings on the east side, and slag pile remain. It is a "potential" superfund cleanup site. What's left of Bergertown can be seen across Little Cottonwood Creek to the northwest. The two large smoke stacks were built in 1918 at a height of 465 feet to help dissipate the large concentrations of sulphur. The brickwork is some of the finest for this type of structure. (Salt Lake Valley Historical Tour, Ron Andersen, 1997)

The following comes from National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Historic Resources of Murray City, 1850-1950, Salt Lake County, Utah

Due to an abundance of water, seven different smelters were built in Murray alone during this period. Two more came later: the Highland Boy, a copper smelter, and ASARCO, which purchased and consolidated the remaining smaller smelters between 1899 and 1902. Out of the nine smelters which operated in Murray between 1870 and 1950, physical evidence remains from only the last, ASARCO. A list of Murray smelter follows:

Names Dates of Operation Approximate Location
Woodhull Brothers (later Morgan) 1870-early 1880s State Street & Big Cottonwood Creek (4200 South)
W. & M.Robins 1870-early 1880s State Street & Little Cottonwood Creek (5100 South)
American Hill 1870s 5189 South State Street (east side)
Wasatch Silver Lead Works 1871 -1880s 4850 South 80 West
Germania 1872-1902 Little Cottonwood Creek & railroad (4900 South)
Morgan (later Hanauer) 1874-1902 Big Cottonwood Creek & railroad (4200 South)
Franklyn (later Horn Silver) 1880-1890 4800 South 153 West
Highland Boy 1899-1908 5400 South near Jordan River (800 W.)
American Smelting and Refining 1902-1950 5200 South State Street

Murray leaders had lured ASARCO with promises of free land and water rights. The smelter would dominate the city's economy and its skyline for the next three decades. ASARCO dismantled the Germania and Hanauer plants, leaving the Germania slagheap the only reminder of the earlier smelter. When the ASARCO's Murray plant was completed in 1902, it was the most up-to-date and largest lead smelter in the world, with a capacity of 1200 tons of lead per day processed in eight blast furnaces. ASARCO built several warehouses and the first of two massive brick chimneys in 1902.

In 1904 and 1906 lawsuits brought by local farmers sought injunctions against Murray (and other) smelters due to the effects of high-sulphur smoke and flue dust on crops and livestock. Due to court injunctions the Highland Boy smelter was dismantled, and ASARCO entered into an agreement to compensate plaintiff farmers and work on a permanent solution to the problem. Under the agreement, ASARCO was able to continue production while conducting a program of research on the effects of smelter smoke. The program included experimental farms in Murray and eventually resulted in the construction of a second stack, built in 1918, a 455-foot structure designed to better disseminate the smoke.

ASARCO processed lead and other ores continually between 1902 and 1930. The plant had to closed for seven months in 1931 as a result of the closure of mines during the Great Depression. The smelter never fully recovered and experienced periodic layoffs and closures until World War II. Production revived during the war years, but by October 15, 1949, ASARCO had begun moving its resources to its Garfield plant and by November 1950 the Murray plant was closed completely.

Timeline

March 1869
The first smelter in Murray was built on what is known as "American Hill," at approximately 5200 South on the east side of State Street. ("The History Of Murray Smelters, 1870-1950"; informal history distributed to walking tours)

June 1870
"In June, 1870, the Woodhull Brothers built a furnace eight miles south of Salt Lake City, at the junction of the State Road with Big Cottonwood Creek. From these works was shipped the first bullion produced from mines in Utah." (Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints, 1873, page 720; quoted by Bancroft, History of Salt Lake City, 1886, page 703)

(Using today's street numbering system, Big Cottonwood Creek passes under State Street, known previously as the State Road, at about 4200 South. The original Utah Southern line crossed Big Cottonwood Creek about two blocks west of the State Road. This smelter site later became the Morgan/Hanauer smelter.)

1871
Murray was at that time known as "Cottonwood" because it was at that location, at about 4900 South, that the Utah Southern crossed Little Cottonwood creek. Construction of the Utah Southern was delayed during June and July 1871 at the Little Cottonwood crossing while a trestle was built, 24 feet high and 600 feet long. (The line crossed Big Cottonwood Creek about a mile north at about 4200 South by way of a much smaller trestle.)

1872
Because of the growing production of the Bingham mines, along with other mines throughout the territory, in 1872 two smelters (the Germania and the Mingo) were built on the Utah Southern at Murray, four miles north of Sandy. (Arrington: Abundance, p. 207)

The Germania lead smelter was located near Murray. The Mingo smelter was located at Sandy.

At 150 W. Vine Street, was the Germania smelter, where Anton Eilers, the father of modern silver and lead smelting perfected his chemical theory. (Salt Lake Valley Historical Tour, Ron Andersen, 1997)

1874
It was reported in December 1874 that the Germania Works smelter was using coke made from Sanpete coal, which the smelter's superintendent said was equal to that imported from St. Louis. Utah imported over 7,000 tons of coke during 1873. (Engineering and Mining Journal, December 5, 1874, p. 353)

In 1874 the Morgan/Hanauer smelter was built in Murray, making the Salt Lake Valley one of the smelting centers of the west. (Arrington: Abundance, p. 207)

The Hanauer Smelting Works was located on the south bank of Big Cottonwood Creek, west of Main Street at about 4200 South. According to a UP engineering map from the ICC valuation period, "Bullion Spur" branched off of the Utah Southern line (later known as the Provo Subdivision) in an eastern direction for a distance of about 1200 feet. The points of the Bullion Spur switch was almost exactly on the line between Township 1 South, and Township 2 South, both within Range 1 West.

About 1000 feet south of Bullion Spur was the brick works of Western Fire Clay Company, which was located between the UP and D&RGW tracks (including a bit of joint trackage), just north of the Murray city limits, at about 4300 South (Fireclay Avenue).

May 1878
"Germania Works - The Germania has commenced refining again, after a cessation of three or four years they expect to make 400 or 500 tons of lead a month, and to find a market for it in China. The price at which it can be bought in London and taken either by sailing ships or by steamer through the Suez Canal to China, is such as to leave them a fair margin." (Deseret News, May 15, 1878, citing Utah Commercial, for May)

1879
For the year 1879, the Germania Smelting & Refining Works refined 2,301,276 pounds of lead, 344,836 ounces of silver, and 2,202 ounces of gold. (Deseret News, January 7, 1880)

January 1885
The Hanauer smelter was completely destroyed by fire on January 16, 1885. The fire was caused by an overturned slag pot. (Engineering and Mining Journal, January 24, 1885, p. 60)

March 11, 1885
The Hanauer smelter was restarted. The rebuilt smelter had a larger capacity. (Engineering and Mining Journal, March 7, 1885, p. 198)

1897
In 1897 Utah Consolidated constructed the first smelter dedicated to the processing of copper ores. This first smelter in the Salt Lake Valley just south of Murray for the treatment of ores fro the Highland Boy mine. (Billings)

1899
In 1899, American Smelting & Refining Company was organized by combining the Germania and Hanauer smelters at Murray, the Mingo smelter at Sandy, and the Ibex smelter at Leamington.

April 1899
American Smelting & Refining Company (ASARCO) was organized in April 1899 to consolidate the nationwide smelting interests of Standard Oil of New Jersey, known as "the Rockefeller crowd." (source not recorded)

Utah Consolidated (Highland Boy) completed its copper smelter in Murray during May 1899. Construction had begun in August 1898. Utah Consolidated was controlled by Rockefeller interests. (Salt Lake Mining Review, May 30, 1899)

May 1, 1899
American Smelting & Refining Company was incorporated on May 1, 1899. The new smelting company's holdings in Utah included the Germania, Pennsylvania, Hanauer, and Ibex smelters. (Salt Lake Mining Review, May 15, 1899, p. 7)

In early 1902, ASARCO completed its new lead smelter at Murray, adjacent to site of former Germania smelter. Construction had begun in 1901. (USGS Professional Paper 38, p. 386)

1902
ASARCO built its new smelter at Murray, with operations starting in July 1902, using a total of eight blast furnaces and having a capacity of 1200 tons per day.

January 1908
Utah Consolidated closed its smelter in January 1908. (Mining Science, January 2, 1908, p. 29)

1946
Utah's three big smelters at Murray, Midvale, and Garfield were closed by a 150-day strike that was settled on June 30, 1046. (Murray Eagle, June 20, 1946)

October 1948
The ASARCO smelter at Murray reopened after a two month shutdown. The delay had been to insufficient ores from Australia and South America, which had to compete with other cargo as ship ballast. Also, the price of lead was being held below costs of mining due to wartime restrictions. Many lead mining operations in the western U.S. were still idle due to depressed lead prices. (Kane County Standard (Kanab), November 5, 1948)

April 1949
By the time of its 50th anniversary, ASARCO at its Murray smelter was processing ores from Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada. (Murray Eagle, April 1, 1949)

October 15, 1949
After operating at Murray since 1902, the smelter of ASARCO began the shutdown of its operations in preparation for final closing. Between 1902 and 1922, the smelter processed ore from Park City, Bingham, Tintic, Southern Utah, Southern Idaho, and Nevada. Since the mid 1920s, the smelter's entire tonnage had been produced from just one of its eight blast furnaces due to declining tonnage of the combined lead, silver and zinc ore (known as galena) coming to the smelter. At least 100 of the smelter's 250 employees were to be reassigned to ASARCO's copper smelter at Garfield.

October 1950
The plant of the closed ASARCO smelter at Murray was sold to a group of Salt Lake City and West Coast businessmen. The slag pile had been sold to Utah Construction Company for the making of insulation, road bed material and road fill. (Murray Eagle, October 15, 1950) The smelter property was sold to a newly organized company called Murray-American Mill Company, with the sale taking place in September 1950. (Murray Eagle, October 19, 1951)

October 1951
In October 1951 the property (117 acres) was sold to three Riverton businessmen, Gwynne Page, Donald Page, and J. H. Berrett. Most of the buildings on the site were sold by Murrray-American Mill Company for their salvage value, with but a few remaining, along with the two smokestacks. (Murray Eagle, October 19, 1951)

February 1952
A 22-acre parcel of the smelter property was sold to Buehner Cinder Block Company. (Murray Eagle, October 19, 1951)

January 18, 1994
By the mid 1990s, on-site remnants of the smelter operation included two large smoke stacks, a foundation wall of one building, the old office building, and the slag piles. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed on January 18, 1994, that the Murray Smelter site be placed on the National Priorities List, usually known as "Superfund".

The Murray smelter site is the former location of a large lead smelter in Murray City. The smelter operated for about 77 years, from 1872 until 1949. ASARCO operated it from 1902 to 1949. The lead smelting and arsenic refining operations affected the soil, ground water, surface water and sediment at the 142 acre site and the surrounding area.

The Murray smelter site was northwest of the corner of State Street and 53rd South Street in the City of Murray, Salt Lake County, Utah. Murray is approximately 6 miles south of Salt Lake City.

The Murray smelter was a lead smeltering facility which the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) operated from 1902 through 1949. The smelting process produced large amounts of a dark, rock-like waste material called slag that contains high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead. During and after the operation of the smelter, the slag was used widely as railroad ballast, road base, parking lot gravel, and fill. When the Murray Smelter was operating, it also released metals and other materials to the air, resulting in contamination of the soil around the site. Nearly 100 smelters operated in the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

November 1995
The two smoke stacks and building remnants remained on site while ASARCO and EPA negotiated a cleanup. The site's cleanup started in November 1995, and was completed with the demolition of the smoke stacks in August 2000.

October 2007
The site today [2008] is the location of a new, state-of-the-art hospital, known as the Intermountain Medical Center. Groundbreaking took place September 2003, and the new facility opened in late October 2007. It replaced an earlier Cottonwood Hospital, which had opened also in Murray, Utah in 1963.

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