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Utah Fuel Company

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Utah Fuel Company Mines


Utah Fuel Company was organized in 1887 as a subsidiary of the Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad. It remained a subsidiary of the railroad when the railroad was reorganized as the Rio Grande Western in 1889 to finance the conversion from narrow gauge to standard gauge. Utah Fuel Company was sold to the Denver & Rio Grande along with the Rio Grande Western in May 1901. The D&RG was forced to sell all of its stock in Utah Fuel in June 1918. The coal company was sold to William Salomon of New York for $4 million. (Athearn: Rio Grande, pp. 194, 195, 236)

Up to the turn of the century, most of the mining effort in Carbon County had been towards the development of the coking industry, in part to serve the "Smelting Capital of the West" at Salt Lake City. Sunnyside had built 200 coke ovens by 1902 and its coke production had reached 139,792 tons (about 2,800 carloads) for that year. By 1907 Sunnyside had 650 coke ovens and together with the 104 ovens at Castle Gate, along with some smaller operations, the total coke production for Carbon County was 324,692 tons, or over 12,800 railroad cars of coke. However, in 1908, with a major drop in demand, the coke production dropped over fifty percent to 134,195 tons. (Powell, Labor, p. 19)


Pleasant Valley Coal Company was organized about 1876, at about the time the San Pete and Winter Quarters mines were opened. Utah Fuel Company was organized in 1887. The consolidation of the two companies took place in 1899. (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Volume 7, page 75)

December 11, 1875
Commercial development of the coal resource in what is now Carbon County began in 1875 with the organization of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company by Milan O. Packard, M. P. Crandall, and Nephi Packard, all of Springville. At the same time, on December 11, 1875, these same individuals also organized the Utah & Pleasant Valley Railway to build a rail line between Provo and their new mine in Pleasant Valley. (Utah corporation, index number 4301)

(Read more about the development of the Winter Quarters mine -- the first mine opened by Pleasant Valley Coal Company.)

(When D&RGW purchased control of the Utah & Pleasant Valley Railway from Scofield as early as October 1880, and definitely by June 1882, the sale included the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, which was owned by the same people as Utah & Pleasant Valley Railway.)

Utah Fuel purchased the Winter Quarters mine in 1882, the Castle Gate mine in 1888, and developed the Sunnyside mine in 1900. (Alexander, p. 237)

June 8, 1881
There was a law suit between the Utah & Pleasant Valley Coal Company, and the Utah & Pleasant Valley Railway. (Salt Lake Herald, June 8, 1881)

September 6, 1882
Pleasant Valley Coal Company was organized in Utah, with stock valued at $200,000. On April 30, 1890, the stock was increased to $2 million. (University of Utah Special Collections, HD 9502 - U54 - U838 - 1990z - v.4)

Utah Fuel Company was organized in New Jersey in 1887 as a subsidiary of Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway (of Utah) to operate the Clear Creek and Sunnyside mines in Utah and the Somerset mine in Colorado. The original Winter Quarters mine and the Castle Gate mine was operated by the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, which merged with Utah Fuel in 1899. (Powell, Next Time We Strike, p. 21, citing A. C. Watts, "Opening First Commercial Coal Mine Described" in Centennial Echos From Carbon County, 1948, page 35)

The Castle Gate Coal Company was incorporated on May 21, 1898. The corporation was voluntarily dissolved on November 8, 1950. (Utah corporation, index number 2233)

(This was the first of three companies with the Castle Gate Coal Company name, and may have been the name used by Utah Fuel for the Castle Gate mine.)

Coal was discovered in the vicinity of Whitmore canyon in 1898 by cattlemen from Wellington. The land for the Sunnyside mine was purchased by Robert Forrester for Utah Fuel Company for $250.00. The excellent coking properties of the Sunnyside coal was discovered when Forrester sent a sample to the coke ovens at Castlegate. Work began on the Sunnyside mine in 1898. (Madsen, p. 52)

The first coal from Sunnyside was shipped on November 19, 1899, the first day of railroad operations from the coal camp. (Gibson: Sunnyside, p. 203)

The Clear Creek Mine at the head of Pleasant Valley was opened in 1899. (United States Fuel: Thirty Years, p. 6)

The Carbon County Railway (of 1899), in addition to its line from Mounds to Sunnyside in the eastern part of the county, also built the present six-mile D&RGW branch south from Scofield to the Clear Creek Mine of the Utah Fuel Company. (Utah corporation, index number 2749, projected to be seven miles long.)

August 1900
Royal C. Peabody, treasurer of the Rio Grande Western Railway, purchased 6,130 acres of coal lands located at Sunnyside. The purchase price was reported as $47,235.20, and the lands were purchased from Orange Seely, John T. Tidwell, W. J. Tidwell, and others. (Salt Lake Mining Review, August 15, 1900)

(In January 1908, in a deposition, Peabody confessed that in all the coal land sale papers he signed, he had never seen the land, and did not read the papers he signed, which he signed at the request of a brother who was an "attache" of the coal company.)

Utah Fuel Company Created

October 19, 1900
Utah Coal & Coke Company was organized in New Jersey, with a stock value of $10,000. On October 31, 1900 the stock was increased to $10 million, and the company name was changed to Utah Fuel Company. (University of Utah Special Collections, HD 9502 - U54 - U838 - 1990z - v.4)

Utah Fuel Company was the new name for Utah Coal & Coke Company of New Jersey, which had increased its stock in 1901 for the purpose. (O. Meredith Wilson, The Denver and Rio Grande Project, 1870-1901, page 108)

By 1901, Utah Fuel operated all of the former Pleasant Valley Coal Company mines, with the Pleasant Valley company serving as the retail outlet for the coal. (Higgins, Will C. "One of Our Largest Home Industries: The Coal Mines of Carbon County, Utah", The Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 3, number 16 (November 30, 1901), page 13)

In 1901, about thirty miners were used during 1901 in the No. 1 mine, producing 350 tons per day, and about 200 miners worked in the No. 2 mine, producing about 1,000 tons per day. Sunnyside No. 1 was located in the main Whitmore canyon. Sunnyside No. 2 mine was originally located about 400 yards up the side canyon. (Higgins: Industries, p. 12)

March 1, 1901
Pleasant Valley Coal Company executed a trust mortgage in the amount of $2 million to Morton Trust Company, to secure the payment of bonds of Utah Fuel Company. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 16, 1907)

March 16, 1901
Utah Fuel Company purchased 2,400 acres of land, including mining apparatus and coking plant from Royal C. Peabody. On the same date, Utah Fuel Company filed a $1,000,000 trust deed with Morton Trust Company of New York for 7,564 acres of coal lands in Carbon and adjoining counties. (New York Times, March 16, 1899, "today")

(In November 1899, Royal C. Peabody was shown as the treasurer of both the Rio Grande Western Railway, and the Pleasant Valley Coal Company. -- Salt Lake Herald, November 19, 1899)

(During 1900, the Pleasant Valley Coal Company furnished 17 percent of the revenue for the Rio Grande Western Railway. -- Salt Lake Tribune, March 27, 1901)

April 17, 1901
Utah Fuel Company was incorporated in Utah. (Utah corporation, index number 3111)

April 20, 1901
"Utah Coal and Coke Company, a New Jersey corporation, has filed its articles at Salt Lake, with an amendment increasing its capitol stock from $10,000 to $10,000,000, and changing its name to the Utah Fuel Company." (New York Times, April 20, 1901)

Utah Fuel Company was the new name for Utah Coal & Coke Company of New Jersey, which had increased its stock in 1901 for the purpose. (Wilson, p. 108)

During late 1901, slack coal from the Sunnyside mine was shipped to Utah Fuel's Castle Gate mine and used in the 201 coke ovens there to produce about 5,000 tons of coke per month. (Higgins: Industries, p. 14)

Up to the turn of the century, most of the mining effort in Carbon County had been towards the development of the coking industry, in part to serve the "Smelting Capital of the West" at Salt Lake City. Sunnyside had built 200 coke ovens by 1902 and its coke production had reached 139,792 tons (about 2,800 carloads) for that year. By 1907 Sunnyside had 650 coke ovens and together with the 104 ovens at Castle Gate, along with some smaller operations, the total coke production for Carbon County was 324,692 tons, or over 12,800 railroad cars of coke. However, in 1908, with a major drop in demand, the coke production dropped over fifty percent to 134,195 tons. (Powell, Labor, p. 19)

All coal from Sunnyside from 1899 to 1902 was sent to Castlegate to be made into coke. In the years 1902-1903, 480 coke ovens were built at Sunnyside. These were increased to 550 in 1912, to 624 in 1914, and again to 713 ovens in 1917, although not all ovens were in operation at the same time. The first coke was produced at Sunnyside in April 1902, and the volume grew steadily until the late 1920s. At its peak in the 1920s, there were 1,100 men on the Utah Fuel payroll at Sunnyside. In 1929 coking operations were practically suspended. Coke production was suspended at Castlegate in 1905. (Madsen, p. 53)

There were rumors that Utah Fuel Company and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company were about to be merged. (New York Times, December 27, 1902; July 28, 1903)

June 18, 1902
The first mention of Utah Fuel Company in the property records was on June 18, 1902 when E. L. Carpenter (paymaster at Castle Gate Coal Company) sold 2,446.93 acres at Castle Gate to Utah Fuel Company. (Carbon County Miscellaneous Records Book 3, p. 575)

(Read more about E. L. Carpenter)

December 1, 1903
Utah Fuel Company and Pleasant Valley Coal Company withdrew from the retail selling of coal, and placed their retail interests in the hands of the Bamberger Coal Company, effective December 1, 1903. D. J. Sharp resigned his position as head of the retail department on November 15, 1903, and since November 17, 1903, had continued with the companies as an order clerk. (Deseret Evening News, December 5, 1903)

In 1904 the Utah Fuel Company was furnishing 100 to 200 tons of coke per day from Sunnyside to the Anaconda smelter in Montana. (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1904, p. 30)

In late 1906, the United States filed suit alleging fraud on the part of Pleasant Valley Coal Company, and Utah Fuel Company, along with Morton Trust Company, and to "quiet" the titles to certain coal lands in Utah. The suit was filed in District Court in Utah, and testimony was taken in late November and early December 1906. In January 1907, the court found against the coal companies and the trust company, and ordered them to show cause as to why they were entitled to retain deed and title t the coal lands. The answers were filed with the court in May 1907. Because this suit involved the conveyance or transfer of property, testimony continued through June 1908 before a Master of Chancery, an officer of a court appointed to assist the court in finding the facts of a case. The suits were decided in late March 1909, but only as a criminal case involving land in Salina Canyon, to which the coal companies plead guilty and paid for the coal that had been extracted.

September 10, 1906
U. S. Attorney General Moody filed a suit in Federal Court in Trenton, New Jersey, against Utah Fuel Company, to recover possession of coal land in Utah that the government said had been obtained through fraud, by using "agents" to apply for federal land grants, then turn the land over to Utah Fuel Company. (New York Times, September 11, 1906)

November 8, 1906
"Salt Lake City, Nov. 8 -- Suits instituted by the Federal Government to recover thousands of acres of coal lands now held by Utah Fuel and Pleasant Valley Coal Company, came up today before Judge John A. Marshall in the United States District Court. These coal companies are known as Gould corporations, and are controlled in the interest of the Denver & Rio Grande Railway system." The defense argued that the Utah court did not hold jurisdiction because the coal companies were incorporated in New Jersey, and the co-defendant Morton Trust Company of New York, was a New York corporation. The defense also argued that the federal law allowing land grants to individuals, in this case forest and timber lands, did not make any exception or exemption as to how the land could be disposed of after the land had been granted by the state land board. (New York Times, November 9, 1906)

During late 1909 the first steel loading tipple in the state was erected at Utah Fuel's Winter Quarters mine. (Watts: Carbon County, p. 404)

A. C. Watts, the chief engineer for Utah Fuel at the time, stated in a 1913 article that the coal deposits at Castle Gate on the mainline of the RGW were opened in 1889, and that the Castle Gate mine was the second commercial mine in Carbon County, after Winter Quarters. The Castle Gate mine was also notable because it was the first mine to sprinkle coal dust with water to control the fire hazard and the first to use electricity in a coal mine. (Watts: Carbon County, p. 400)

The first coal seam opened by Utah Fuel in Willow Creek canyon was a disappointing four feet thick. Later explorations showed a twenty foot seam directly below, which was reached by a pair of rock tunnels. The coal from the Willow Creek (Castle Gate No. 2) mine was found to be the finest coal in the region. (Madsen, p. 29)

During the summer of 1912 a steel tipple was erected at the Castle Gate mine, being the second steel tipple in the state, and also the second steel tipple for a Utah Fuel mine. (Watts: Carbon County, p. 404)

In May 1912, Utah Fuel had five mines operating in Utah. The company was building fifty cottages for workers at Willow Creek for the opening of production of that new mine. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, May 23, 1912, p. 5)

(In July 1913 the U. S. government filed suit against D&RG over its ownership of Utah Fuel. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, July 17, 1913, p. 2))

(RESEARCH: Find court proceedings for U. S. government suit against D&RG and Utah Fuel, circa July 1913.)

(Mr. T. A. Ketchum filed a suit against Pleasant Valley Coal Company, Utah Fuel Company, and D&RG. (Coal Index: News-Advocate, December 24, 1915, p. 1) Ketchum was from Portland, Oregon, and organized the Ketchum Coal Company at Castle Gate. The mine was under development in July 1914. (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1914, p. 32; August 15, 1914, p. 28))

June 15, 1916
Truman A. Ketchum of Portland, Oregon, filed suit against Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, Pleasant Valley Coal Company, and Utah Fuel Company, alleging violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. (Ogden Standard Examiner, June 15, 1916)

(RESEARCH: Find proceedings for Ketchum's suit against Utah Fuel, Pleasant Valley Coal and D&RG, circa December 1915.)

June 20, 1918
As part of its receivership and foreclosure proceedings, D&RGW was forced to sell 100,000 shares in Utah Fuel Company to William Salomon & Company, for the amount of $4 million, for the Western Pacific Railroad and others. The suit for foreclosure had been brought by Equitable Trust Company to recover bonds in the amount of $36.9 million. (New York Times, June 21, 1918, "yesterday")

(100,000 shares of Utah Fuel Company were all of the company's shares, and all were owned by D&RG; all were sold at the above mentioned sheriff's sale. -- New York Times, November 22, 1921)

June 1923
As part of the reorganization of Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, its interest in Utah Fuel Company was to be converted to 300,000 shares of common stock that were to be owned equally by Western Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads. (New York Times, June 21, 1923)

Utah Fuel opened a new $300,000 coal washing and preparation plant at Castle Gate on February 24, 1940. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, February 15, 1940, p. 1)

Utah Fuel Sold To Kaiser, 1950

(Read more about the 1950 sale of Utah Fuel to Kaiser Coal Company, as a subsidiary of Kaiser Steel)

Utah Fuel Mines Sold to Independent, 1951

In December 1951 the Independent Coal & Coke Company purchased from Kaiser, all interests of Utah Fuel Company except the Sunnyside mine, including the mine at Clear Creek, and the mine and coal washing plant at Castle Gate. At that time, most of the coal being mined from Kenilworth was being transported around the mountain by rail from Kenilworth to the Castle Gate coal washing plant. (HAER: Kenilworth, pp. 27,28)

In 1958 Independent Coal & Coke began a 5,000 foot rock tunnel that was drilled north from the 1924-built Aberdeen tunnel to the main slope of the former Utah Fuel Willow Creek mine. With the completion of this new tunnel in 1959, coal was gravity fed down to the Castle Gate mine's main haulage tunnels and exited at the Castle Gate portals, adjacent to the coal washing plant, eliminating the cost of hauling coal around the mountain by railroad. (HAER: Kenilworth, pp. 27,28)

Operations at the mines of the Independent Coal & Coke Company were reduced in early 1960 due to the depressed coal market, with the company cutting back from a five day week to a four day week, and laying off 91 miners from their operations, 50 from Castle Gate, 28 from Kenilworth, and 13 from Clear Creek. Clear Creek was producing about 800 tons per day. (Deseret News, February 5, 1960)

Utah Fuel Mines Sold to North American, 1968

Independent Coal & Coke Company sold its coal interests at Clear Creek and Castle Gate/Kenilworth to North American Coal Company in 1968. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 17, 1973)

North American Coal sold the Clear Creek and Castle Gate properties to an undisclosed company in February 1973. North American Coal had closed the Castle Gate mine in 1972 when Utah Power & Light purchased the Deseret Mine for the LDS church to supply coal for power generation. At its peak the North American mine at Castle Gate produced about 650,000 tons, about 375,000 tons of that production was sold to Utah Power & Light. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 17, 1973)

North American sold the Castle Gate property to McCulloch Oil Company, and the Clear Creek property to Valley Camp Coal Company. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, Special Edition, January 2, 1975, p. 5)

Later Utah Fuel Company

The Utah Fuel Company name was used again in the late 1970s by Coastal States Energy Company, a subsidiary of Coastal States Gas Corporation, for its newly developed Skyline Mine. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 18, 1979)

Somerset Coal Mine

Robert Forrester, geologist for Utah Fuel Company, was sent to Colorado to open the company's newest coal mine at Somerset. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 29, 1907)

At the same time, in 1902, Denver & Rio Grande built its North Fork Branch to serve the new coal mine at Somerset. The narrow gauge line was 43 miles in length, and connected Delta, Colorado, with the Somerset mine, following the North Fork of the Gunnison River. The branch was laid using standard gauge ties, in preparation for conversion from narrow gauge to standard gauge. The conversion was completed in 1906. The North Fork Branch was one of three lines built by the Rio Grande Railroad, a subsidiary of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. This company was absorbed into the parent company in 1908. (Robert Lemassena, Rio Grande To The Pacific, 1974, page 76, 78, 81, 247)

February 7, 1903
David Crow, the mine superintendent at Utah Fuel's mine at Castle Gate, was being transferred to the new mine at Somerset, Colorado. (Salt Lake Herald, February 7, 1903)

(After a review of online digital newspapers, the above note is the earliest reference to the Somerset mine.)

March 23, 1903
The Somerset post office was established.

May 23, 1903
About 100 men were working at the Somerset mine, developing it for production. (Deseret Evening News, May 23, 1903)

Utah Fuel opened a coal mine in Somerset, Colorado. (Gibson: Sunnyside, p. 205)

December 3, 1951
Minerals Development Corporation of Salt Lake City, purchased the Somerset and Oliver coal mines in Colorado from the Utah Fuel Division of Kaiser Steel Corporation. Minerals Development was controlled by the Cabot interests in Boston, New York, and Salt Lake City, with Claude P. Heiner of Salt Lake City as president. The company offices were in Salt Lake City. Minerals Development Corporation was shown as a subsidiary of Godfrey L. Cabot, Inc., a 65 year old firm that was reported as the largest producer of carbon black in the country, with principal operations in Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, along with gas and oil holdings throughout the west. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 4, 1951, "yesterday")

October 5, 1955
Minerals Development Corporation sold its Somerset coal properties in Colorado (the Somerset and Oliver mines) to U. S. Steel's Columbia-Geneva Steel Division. The purchased U. S. Steel successful testing of Somerset coal in its Geneva steel mill, starting in January 1953, and purchased an option to buy the mine in January 1955. The two mines were shipping 10,000 tons per month to Geneva. (Daily Herald, October 5, 1955, "announced today")

(After 1953, coal from the Somerset and Oliver mines was shipped to U. S. Steel at Geneva. U. S. Steel completed its wash and preparation plant near Wellington, Utah, in 1958. After 1958, Somerset coal was shipped to Wellington and blended with coal from U. S. Steel's Horse Canyon mine (served by Carbon County Ry.), and the blended coal was shipped to Geneva.)

Minerals Development Corporation leased the Somerset coal mine from U. S. Steel's Columbia-Geneva Steel Division. (Daily Herald, December 22, 1960)

January 1, 1961
Columbia-Geneva Steel took over active management of the Somerset coal mine, ending the lease to Minerals Development. All employees became direct employees of the steel company. (Daily Herald, December 22, 1960)

Kaiser owned the Somerset Mine in Colorado briefly in the mid-1950s, but determined rather quickly that Somerset coal was inferior to what it was producing from Sunnyside. The Somerset mine was located in Colorado's North Fork Valley, 38 miles northeast of Delta. One of the managers of Kaiser's Somerset mine bought Somerset in the name of Minerals Development Corporation of Colorado. Minerals Development sold the mine to U.S. Steel in 1960; USS took over January 1, 1961. After selling to Minerals Development, Kaiser did not buy coal from the Somerset mine. (Bruce Collins, email dated November 14, 2007)

In later years, Kaiser purchased coal from the Mid-Continent mine at Redstone and loaded at Carbondale in Colorado, not from Somerset. All Kaiser coal purchases ended in late 1982 as Kaiser prepared to close its Fontana steel plant, which took place a year later.

"Mid-Continent never had anything to do with Somerset. According to state records and my dubious memory Somerset was closed in December 1985, with replacement coal from Mid-Continent's Dutch Creek No. 2 mine. The plan was for Mid-Continent Resources to be US Steel's main supplier, but that only last until the United Steel Workers of America went on strike in August of 1986, idling the Geneva mill. The Somerset Mine never reopened. A new mine, Sanborn Creek, was opened just above Somerset in a higher seam in 1992 and produced through 2002. It was replaced by the Elk Creek Mine in 2003, and it is still producing (3,794,264 tons in 2010). For a time after USS closed Somerset the property was owned by the same people that owned the Kaiser Utah properties (Sunnyside), but it's been owned and operated by Oxbow Mining, LLC, for a long time. Oxbow is owned by William Koch. Arch owns the West Elk Mine, on up the canyon a little ways." (Bruce Collins, email dated April 10, 2011)

After US Steel closed its captive mine at Somerset in late 1985, they began buying coal from Mid-Continent Resources. The shipment of coal from Redstone/Carbondale continued until a fire at the mine severely reduced production in August 1990. Geneva Steel was forced to start buying its coal from other sources, and the last train loaded at Carbondale in late January 1991. (Bruce Collins, email dated October 19, 2004)

December 1985
"Kaiser Coal Corporation acquired the Somerset coal mine complex near Paonia, Colorado and a coal preparation plant near Wellington, Utah from United States Steel Corporation and U.S. Steel Mining Co., Inc. At the same time, Kaiser Coal Corporation entered into a contract to supply the requirements of high volatile metallurgical coal to United States Steel Corporation's Geneva Steel Mill in Provo, Utah. The Company expects to supply 750,000 to 800,000 tons of coal per year through 1989 under this contract. The Somerset coal mine complex contains 60 million tons of recoverable high Btu, low ash, low sulfur coal. The mine, which was idled prior to the acquisition, also includes a unit train loadout facility and mining equipment, some of which has been relocated to Kaiser Coal Corporation's operating mines in Utah and New Mexico." (Kaiser Steel Corporation, SEC 10-K Annual Report for the year ending December 31, 1985)

More Information

Sunnyside mine -- Information about the Sunnyside coal mine from 1896-1943, prior to being purchased by Kaiser Steel

Kaiser Coal Company at Sunnyside -- After Kaiser bought the Sunnyside mine in 1943, it became a dedicated coal mine that furnished coal solely to Kaiser Steel Company.

Pleasant Valley Coal Mines -- Information about the Utah Fuel Company coal mines in Pleasant Valley, including Scofield, Winter Quarters, and Clear Creek, also the later Skyline Mine, served by D&RGW.

Castle Gate Mines -- Information about the Utah Fuel Company coal mines in the area of Castle Gate, including the Willow Creek, Panther, New Peerless, Rolapp, Cameron, and Hardscrabble mines.