San Pete Valley Railway
Comments by Garrie Tufford
Western Railroader, Number 586, March 1994
Article prepared by Garrie L. Tufford to correct photo captions by Mallory Hope Ferrell about a supposed "Gold Spike" celebration on Utah's San Pete Valley Railroad, published in the Western Railroader, October 1993, pages 3-4. [Received from Mr. Tufford on February 25, 2005.]
Your readers will be interested in knowing that the San Pete Valley Railway scenes in the October issue are misidentified as to location and purpose. The first San Pete Valley train to reach Manti, Utah was on November 29, 1893, more than seven years after the photos were taken. The road reached Moroni in late 1884, and extended the few miles to Chester the following year, in August 1885. There was no construction to celebrate in 1886, but a lot of talk in the papers about moving on to the south.
The George Edward Anderson negatives in the Brigham Young University library's Special Collections of these same scenes have much simpler captions. Negative number 2524, which shows the two trains facing each other, is simply identified as a "celebration on May 1, 1886," and the other, negative number 2617, "San Pete, Utah, engine on railroad tracks with four men and a dog."
The bi-weekly Manti Home Sentinel and its Sentinel Supplement, the only local newspaper in the Sanpete Valley until 1890, covers a more mundane event. The April 9, 1886 issue began carrying an advertisement for a "Grand Gala May-Day Excursion" sponsored by the Moroni brass band. Subsequent issues speak of an estimated 2,000 people who will attend the festivities from both ends of the road, enriching the coffers of the band and enabling them to pay for new instruments they had just purchased. The railway prepared by outfitting some flat cars "to do service as passenger coaches on May Day."
An interesting side note is the announcement in the April 23rd Sentinel that "Mr. G. E. Anderson started for Moroni [from Manti] yesterday where he will operate his travelling gallery for some time." By April 30th, Mr. Anderson's photographic "gallery" was doing business with the Moroni, Chester and other local people.
The May 11th Sentinel Supplement carried a lengthy description of the excursion with the following: "...Trains were started from Nephi and Chester as near the stated time as possible, but owing to the immense loads piled upon them, they made rather slow time, and did not arrive as at first designed, which caused the afternoon trains to be much later than was intended they should be. . .The gathering was doubtless the greatest of the kind ever gathered in Southern Utah, a view of which was taken by Manti's enterprising artist G. E. Anderson, which view may in the near future grace the sacred walls of your Editorial Sanctum." A few weeks later the Sentinel's editor acknowledged the "receipt of a copy of Mr. G.E. Anderson's picture of the excursion at Pleasant Hill." A profitable day for the Brass Band, but Little Promontory it was not!
The near locomotive at the excursion is San Pete Valley No. 1, and is probably Baldwin c/n 5695, although no satisfactory documentation has been found to record when this engine arrived on the San Pete Valley. It was probably renumbered 107 in the early 1890s. Photographs of No. 107, which is Baldwin c/n 5695, show a very similar engine, but one that has been rebuilt more than once. Influences of both the Union Pacific and Rio Grande Western are readily apparent, but who did what, and when, is not known. S.P.V. No. 107 was sold to the Sumpter Valley in 1899, where it was numbered 3 (first), renumbered 13 in 1906, and probably retired from the S.V. in 1910.
The view of the S.P.V. No. 2 appears to be at the Moroni shops, also in 1886. Disposition of this engine is not known with certainty, but it was off the San Pete Valley roster by 1892, when it disappears from the Sanpete County tax registers.
(We appreciate Mr. Tufford's effort in making this information available to The Western Railroader. He sent two photographs which are reproduced in this issue, as well as transcripts from The Home Sentinel and Sentinel Supplement. Portions are contained in another article in this issue. See below.
A May Day Excursion, 1886
(This has been forwarded by Garrie Tufford of Willernie, Minnesota, in regard to the San Pete Valley photos in our [Western Railroader] October issue. Please see also his letter in RPO and his photographs in this issue.)
(Taken from The Sentinel Supplement, Manti, Sanpete County, Utah.)
May 11, 1886, Pleasant Hill -- The Moroni Brass Band May Day Excursion came off as designed. -- The affair proved a much greater thing than its projectors ever dreamed of, in fact, so great, that it was a small size elephant in the hands of its originators. The patronage, (thanks to printers ink) from this and Juab Counties, was such that the facilities of our little road were entirely inadequate to move the masses of humanity that were on hand to take a ride to Pleasant Hill, to many of whom the ride itself was a sufficiently interesting event to more than compensate for the quarter charged. It being the first ride of the kind that many of the juveniles had taken. It was found impossible to move all the excursionists that presented themselves to go by the morning trains, large numbers of whom were left at Chester and Moroni, which event though unavoidable, split up the company, and this interfered with the enjoyment of the exercises of the day.
Trains were started from Nephi and Chester as near the stated time as possible, but owing to the immense loads piled upon them, they made rather slow time, and did not arrive as at first designed, which cuased the afternoon trains to be much later than was intended they should be.
When each train had made its round trip it was thought there were fully 2,500 persons on Pleasant Hill which, by the way, was anything but Pleasant during the fore part of the day, in consequence of the arctic breezes that were wafted with chilling effect on the thousands assembled, who sought to bear the induction with a patience that would have done credit to a company of lost explorers. Those present were enlivened by the fine performances of the Moroni and Nephi Bands, which were a credit to each, and was very pleasing to those who listened to their playing.
In the afternoon the weather moderated, when the coronation of the May Queens of Moroni, choir, and May Pole dance, speeches by Superintendent Langly A. Baily of Nephi, and Charles Remp of Moroni, who each made appropriate remarks on the situation and the object of the gathering, the like of which had not been witnessed by the "oldest inhabitant."
The proceedings were enlivened by the very performances of the Ephraim Harmonica Band, whose playing took the vast audience by storm, and won the praises of every listener. We were also favored with a well executed song by Miss Hansen and others of Mount Pleasant North Ward Sunday School.
The great company was, so far as known, safely carried without accident to mar the pleasures of the day, which speaks well for the employees of the Road, who all worked with a will for the success of the excursion, but it was simply impossibleto make the trips on time or take all who wished to avail themselves of the liberal terms offered, which fact should awaken the officers of the Road, to a sense of the situation that they may keep abreast of the times, and the demands of its patrons.
Financially, the excursion greatly exceeded the expectations of its projectors, and notwithstanding the few drawbacks, has greatly helped a worthy cause and should act as an incentive to other organizations to go and do better.
The gathering was doubtless the greatest of the kind ever gathered in Southern Utah, a fine view of which was taken by Manti's enterprising artist G. E. Anderson, which view may in the near future grace the sacred walls of your Editorial Sanctum. - Aaron Hardy, John H. Stott.