Railroads and Mining in Utah's Bingham Canyon, Gold and Silver Era 1863-1900
This page was last updated on January 5, 2024.
Gold and Silver Era, 1863-1900
The first mining claims in Bingham Canyon were filed in 1863, with the discovery of galena, a silver-bearing lead ore. The story varies depending on who tells it, but most agree that the galena was discovered and recognized for what it was by members of the U.S. Army's California Volunteers stationed at Fort Douglas, near Salt Lake City. These soldiers, because they came from the gold-rush region around Sacramento and Stockton, California, regularly ranged over the hills and canyons of northern Utah, looking for any mine-able ores.
Silver-bearing lead ore was discovered in Bingham Canyon in September 1863. The West Jordan claim was located. (USGS Professional Paper 38, page 98; Rickard, page 15)
The mining district was organized in December 1863 as the West Mountain Mining District and encompassed the entire range of the Oquirrh Mountains, from the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake on the north to Five Mile Pass near Camp Floyd on the south. The physical size of the district was reduced over time as other mining areas were developed in other locations within the Oquirrh Range, namely the Ophir District on the western slopes of the range.
September 17, 1863
The West Mountain Mining District was organized on September 17, 1863 by a group of military members, miners, and local business and church leaders in the Jordan Ward House. (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, page 81; Bailey, Old Reliable, page 17.) (Transcript of the minutes of that meeting in 1863)
The West Mountain Mining District included two separate mine locations for each of the 25 mining districts organizers. (Billings)
(Rickard, page 15, published in 1919, states that the West Mountain Mining District was organized in December 1863: "On September 17, 1863, the discovery was located as the ‘Jordan Lode," which was the first mining location made in Utah. In the following December a mining district, the first in the Territory, was organized under the name of West Mountain, which is the English for the Indian word Oquirrh. It included the whole of the Oquirrh range.")
(This reference in Rickard likely comes from the USGS Professional Paper 38, which was published in 1905, quoting J. R. Murphy"s "Mineral Resources of the Territory of Utah," itself published in 1872, saying, "In December following (the September 17, 1863 location of the West Jordan claim), the first mining district in the territory was formed and named ‘West Mountain district.' ")
Although the name "Jordan Silver Mining Company." was used in the original September 1863 organization of the mining district (Bailey, page 17), the actual company, the first formal mining company with interests in Bingham Canyon, was organized in California in 1864. (Rickard, page 16)
(The corporate organization took place in California because Utah did not yet have incorporation laws. The Utah Territorial incorporation act, including mining, was passed on February 18, 1870. An act applicable to the working and development of mines was passed on February 18, 1872, and another act applicable to records of mining claims was passed on February 18, 1876.)
All of the railroads that were to be constructed and operated in Utah were incorporated under the provisions of an act passed by the Utah Territorial Legislature on February 19, 1869, and titled "An act providing for the incorporation of railroad companies and the management of the affairs thereof." The purpose of the act was to provide uniform rules to govern the construction and operation of railroads. It was passed as the Central Pacific and Union Pacific were nearing their eventual junction at Promontory Summit, and as Brigham Young and other church leaders were making plans for a short line railroad from Ogden to Salt Lake City.
November 4, 1863
"The gold diggers in the West Mountains have succeeded in making a wonderful discovery about 40 feet below the surface, of Lead, Sulpheret of Iron, and Iron Pyrites. The Government has men all through the Mountains in every direction searching for Gold, the hopes being that it can be found in such quantities as to cause a great influx of rowdies, and destroy the order that reigns in the mountains. . . ." (George A. Smith to John F. Kinney, Nov 4 1863, LDS Historian's Office Letterpress Copybooks, CR 100 38, Vol. 2 p. 280; research and transcription by Steve Richardson)
The West Jordan Mining Company was organized in 1864 as the first mine of the district. However, the mine was inactive until late 1868, when the transcontinental railroad was available to provide cheaper transportation. (USGS Professional Paper 38, page 98)
In May 1864, the Vidette claim was located, and was the first claim in Bingham Canyon to show evidence of copper. (USGS Professional Paper 38, page 98)
Also in 1864, gold was discovered in Bingham Canyon. Most of the high paying gold taken from Bingham Canyon came by placer mining methods. Over a million dollars in ores were taken out within the next six or seven years. (Rickard, page 16)
Within six years the easy gold ran out, after producing over a million dollars. By the early 1870s the gold became, and remains today, a rich by-product of all the other mining activity in the district.
The Columbia claim was located in July 1864. (USGS Professional Paper 38, page 98; this claim was later part of the Ohio Copper group.)
The Yosemite claim was located in January 1866. (USGS Professional Paper 38, page 98; this claim was later part of the Bingham Consolidated group.)
The Woodhull brothers ship the first ore from Bingham Canyon in July 1869 -- 10 tons of copper ore from their Kingston Mine. (David Spencer Wegg, Jr. "Bingham Mining District, Utah," 1915, page 35)
Woodhull Bros. made the first shipment of copper ore, ten tons, from the Kingston mine, Bingham Canyon, on Saturday, July 31, 1869. (Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology, page 81)
(Rickard, page 16, states that according to Bancroft, "the first shipment of ore from Utah was a carload of copper ore from Bingham canyon, hauled to Uintah ("Utah" in the Boutwell report), on the Union Pacific, and forwarded by Walker Brothers to Baltimore in June 1868." In June 1868, Union Pacific tracks were still somewhere in central Wyoming, so although the copper ore could have been shipped from Uintah in June 1868, this reference is likely a typographical error, and should read as June 1869.)
(In Jonathan Bliss' history of the Walker brothers, on pages 168 and 169, he discusses the Walker brothers" involvement in early Utah mining, adding that Brown and Son was the their agent for Union Pacific at Uintah, at least until the Utah Central was completed to Salt Lake City in January 1870.)
The Spanish and Winnamuck mines were developed in 1870, and were the first real mining activity in the district. (USGS Professional Paper 38, page 82; Arrington: Abundance, page 209)
By 1871, there were 35 mines working in the district.
"The Jordan mine is the oldest in the canyon and was purchased by J. W. Kerr and Company, who, in 1872, erected the Galena Smelter. Later the property was bought by Carson and Buzzo who constructed a 12-mile-long wooden flume, at a cost of $120,000, to furnish water power. After the Galena Silver Mining Company became the owners they built the Galena Smelter on the Jordan River and, in 1877, sold the property to the Jordan Mining and Milling Company." (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.88)
Soon after his return from an LDS church missions to Wales in June 1869, Elias Morris formed a partnership with Samuel L. Evans. Using Morris and Evans, Builders, as their company name they began the manufacture of fire brick and the construction of smelting furnaces. The new company built the Germania works, along with other smelters at Sandy, Bingham, Little Cottonwood, Flagstaff, East Canyon, Stockton and American Fork. They also erected the Ontario mill in Park City, which included the installation of the huge Cornish-style water pump at the Ontario mine itself. The company also did the stone foundations for the new Z.C.M.I. building and the Deseret National Bank in downtown Salt Lake City, along with the basement story of the LDS Salt Lake temple. After the death of Evans, Morris carried on the business in his own name, Elias Morris and Sons. Under this company name, in 1891 and in partnership with Houlahan and Griffith, he completed the brickwork and cut-stone work of the Salt Lake City and County Building. (Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, Vol. 4, page 488)
"Other mines in this area were located and worked, among them the Neptune, Kempton, Wall Street, and the Damn Fool. The Utah mine was located by soldiers from Camp Douglas and the 1871 owners, Buel and Bateman, built a nearby smelter. This mine was sold to an English Company at a price said to have been in the neighborhood of $450,000. In 1879 T. R. Jones, a banker of Salt Lake City, purchased the property." (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.89)
"According to some the most famous mines in Lower Bingham Canyon were the Winnamuck and Tiewaukee. The first was discovered in 1867 by Mormon farmers who ran a tunnel through a rich vein. In the year of its discovery the mine was purchased by Bristol and Daggett for $15,000, and in 1871 smelting was begun. An English company purchased the Winnamuck in 1872 and it traded hands again in 1876 when an Amsterdam company took it over." (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.89)
A description of the West Mountain Mining District by B.A.M. Froiseth, Utah's first cartographer, from Crofutt's Western World, July 1873 page 9:
"West Mountain or Bingham Canon Mining District is situated on the eastern slope of the mountains, 25 miles wide by 12 miles long and is composed of several canons and gulches, in each of which ore of a certain character predominates. The ores are very varied, embracing among others, grey carbonates of a high grade, sulphurets, bromides, oxides and large quantities of milling ores, and valuable placer claims have also been worked. The district was organized in 1863, and a good many locations made during the two following years, but it is within the last two years that the principal developments have been made. Bingham Canon contains a large number of very valuable mines, among which may be classed the following:--Winnamuck, Portland, Red Warrior, Last Chance, Dartmouth, Belshazzar, West Jordan, Grand Cross, Silver Shield, Live Pine, Telegraph, Vespasian, Osceola, Lucky Boy, Washington, Queen, Legal Tender, Merrimac, Orphan Boy, and many others which space forbids me to mention."
"The West Mountain Mining District is situated on the eastern slope of the Oquirrh range. Its breadth from east to west is about twenty miles and its length is about thirty-five miles from north to south. The mines, however, are included in an area some five miles square. It was the first mining district organized in the territory and its first mine, the Jordan, was located Sept. 17, 1863. The records show that about 6500 locations have been made, but at the time of the visit probably not over 600 or 700 claims were held and but 63 were patented. There are no published maps of this district, so that a brief outline of the topography of the section in which claims have (p.90) been located may, perhaps, be of some assistance in making more clear the position of the groups and individual mines and works described. The trend of the Oquirrh range is north and south. The plain of the Jordan valley rises gradually to the base of the range, at which point its altitude is about 5400 feet. The crest of the range, about 8 miles from the foothills, is between 9,000 and 10,000 feet high. The mines are located within 3 miles of the summit and are scattered through four canyons opening into the Jordan valley. In order, beginning at the north, they are, Barney's Canyon, Bingham Canyon, Copper Gulch and Butterfield Canyon. Bingham Canyon, the principal one, and containing most of the mines, runs east and west for a few mills, then turns south and follows the trend of the range, with forks and side canyons extending nearly to its summit. On the north the canyon has the following branches: Freeman's Gulch, Markham's Gulch and Carr Fork and on the south Bear and Porcupine gulches. Carr Fork has as branches Cottonwood Fork and Sap Gulch on the north and Ross, Muddy, and Log forks on the south. Joining Butterfield Canyon on the north are Yosemite and Blackjack gulches. The great lead producing mines of the district are found in a large beaded vein or belt 2 miles in length. The district is connected with the outside world by the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd narrow gauge railroad, which begins at Wasatch Junction on the Utah Southern line and in 16 miles rises 1,603 feet. Beyond the station in the canyon the road is continued as a tramway for 3 miles and has branches to the principal mines. The freight charges over both tramway and railroad is from $1.25 to $3.00 per ton, depending on the quantity shipped. In the district there are about 20 hand and water power Cornish jigs, which are worked irregularly during the summer months by the owners of the smaller mines." (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.90, citing D. B. Huntley in the 10th U. S. Census, taken in 1880)
The following is a brief, chronological table showing the development of the district, from 1863 to 1879. (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.90):
|Discovered and organized 1864. Gold placers discovered.
|Gold placers extensively worked 1871. Utah smelter built. Ran from 1871 to 1873.
|Winnamuck smelter built.
|Completion of Bingham railroad.
|Concentration works erected by John Longmaid on the Utah mine. Demolished in 1876.
|Old Revere concentrating works built 1875-1878. Discovery of gold belt.
|Leaching commenced, continued two and one-half years.
|Old Telegraph leaching and concentration work on the Jordan River built
|New Revere concentrating works built.
|Sale of Old Telegraph property French company 1879. Experimental Jordan 10 stamp mill built
Mining activity increased considerably in about 1869/1870. Although the first mining companies were formed five years before, the district did not see serious mining work until transportation costs were reduced with the completion of the Union Pacific/Central Pacific transcontinental rail line in 1869. With the prospects of cheap transportation at hand, albeit fifty miles north in Ogden, as early as 1870 a surge of mining development came to the Bingham district. By September 1871 the district had thirty-five producing mines. Also in September 1871, the Utah Southern Railroad completed the construction of the first ten miles of its line, from Salt Lake City south to Sandy. The Utah Southern connected at Salt Lake City with the Utah Central Railroad, which had completed its line in January 1870, covering the forty miles between Ogden and Salt Lake City in just nine months.
On September 6, 1871, Utah Southern Railroad was completed to Sandy, where there were two smelters at that time, one of which was the Saturn Silver Mining Company, also the largest in the territory. The road was organized on February 5, 1871 and ground breaking was held at Salt Lake City on May 2. The construction of the road reached Draper, five miles south of Sandy, in December.
During December 1872, a little over a year after the Utah Southern reached Sandy, the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad began construction of its line west from the Utah Southern at Sandy to the Bingham Canyon mines. The company was organized on September 10, 1872 specifically to build its narrow gauge railroad from Sandy to the mines in Bingham district.
On September 10, 1872, the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad was incorporated to build from Sandy, on the Utah Southern, to the West Mountain Mining District. (Utah corporation files, index 4291)
In December 1872, Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd began construction of line at Sandy. (Reeder, page 152)
During 1872, ore from Bingham was shipped by wagon from the mines in Bingham canyon, to the Utah Southern railroad at Sandy, then by railroad to Omaha, Nebraska, for reduction and smelting by the Omaha Smelting Company. Utah Southern railroad reached Sandy in September 1871, but a railroad did not reach Bingham canyon until October 1873.
The following comes from the book The Mormons and The Silver Mines, published in London in 1872. The book was meant as a guide for English investors in Utah's developing mining industry.
In Bingham canyon, Utah, Salt Lake county, a fine lode was traced 1,200 feet long. The iron pyrites has been very troublesome. The Last Chance country is of decomposed granite, with porphyry, and the lode is of argentiferous galena, with grey and yellow carbonates containing gold in oxide of iron. An average assay is recorded of forty-seven per cent. lead, yielding 130 dollars silver and twenty-four dollars gold. The cost of mining is affected by deficiency of wood and water. The lead is considerable, selling generally at 120 dollars a ton. Much Bingham ore has been reduced to about one-third of its bulk by a rude process, and then forwarded to Omaha by rail for further reduction. About two tons and a half of rough ore make a ton of bullion ore, which costs about 120 dollars, but yields a fair profit.
("Rude reduction" is a general term to describe the initial basic reduction of ore, meaning the initial separation of the ore from the surrounding native rock, after the ore had been removed from the ore vein. The term was used to describe almost any unsophisticated method of basic ore reduction. Rude reduction methods included crushing and washing, as well as using a simple furnace to heat the ore and rock, driving off the sulphur, arsenic and antimony that fouled the metallic ore and prevented successful smelting later on. Every ore was different, and every mine was different, so rude reduction was also different at every mine, including ore from within the same mine. The successful mines figured out various reduction methods that could be used economically for all of the ore removed from their claims.)
The Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd's original subscription of stock failed to generate enough cash. As construction finances began to run out, the original organizers looked to eastern financial markets to gain capital to continue construction of the line. They found Charles W. Scofield and his associates in New York City, and in June 1873, in return for him and his associates buying the road's construction bonds, Scofield took control of the road. (Reeder, page 155)
As remembered by Hannah Settle Lapish, "Our family made a home in Lehi, Utah county from 1860 to 1868. When the rumor first reached us to the effect that a railroad would be built to Bingham Canyon, I invested in a piece of land on the line of the Utah Southern Railroad with money I had earned by selling sewing machines. On this land the Bingham Canyon Railroad Company located their depot and machine shop without first obtaining my permission to do so. I built a boarding house which became known as the Junction House and two cottages on the land. In 1876 my husband moved south to Salina, Sevier county, where he made his home. Being unable to effect a settlement with the railroad company for the use and occupancy of my ground, I commenced suit against the Bingham Railroad Company in 1879, which suit was continued until 1881, when the court quieted my title and awarded me damages against the company." (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 4, page 40)
Highland Boy claim located in Carr Fork by James W. Campbell. (USGS Professional Paper 38)
The following comes from Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 17, pages 35-37, citing Salt Lake Herald, April 21, 1873, which itself cited the Mining Journal.
Utah Mining In 1873
A letter from the Little Cottonwood Mining District dated April 21, to the Salt Lake Herald, states: The weather at this place for the past week has been all that we could desire. Under the influence of a warm sun and clear skies the snow has disappeared rapidly, and already many bare spots are visible on the hillsides; as a consequence the roads in some places are becoming very soft, yet notwithstanding the ore teams having difficult work, the Emma has shipped twenty-five tons per day during the week. Everything about this celebrated mine is getting in complete working order. They are arranging everything in a satisfactory manner for a successful season's work. The Flagstaff has shipped some thirty tons daily. Everything about the works of this mine also is going on satisfactorily. The Vallejo has again wheeled into line, and has shipped about one hundred and forty tons of ore. Other mines are represented as preparing for a heavy business this year.
October 22, 1873
"The Bingham Canyon Railway was opened for traffic. Wed. October 22, 1873." (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 17, page 6, "The Year 1873")
With the completion of the railroad to a point below the actual town in November 1873, the major users of railroad services, such as Wells Fargo express, the stage lines, and the freight companies soon moved down to the railroad's terminus. Obviously with the business center of town moving out of town, the town fathers used their influence with the property owners who had prevented the railroad from obtaining the needed right of way and building right into the town itself. The extension into Bingham was completed a year later in November 1874. (Reeder, page 159, citing Salt Lake Herald, November 23, 1874)
Work began on a two-mile extension of the BC&CF into Bingham in spring 1874. The new line was built at 5.6 percent grade and operated by mule power. It was built with a three-foot gauge and heavy ties to allow a locomotive, if one with enough power should become available. The intention of the extension was to gain access to the property of the Utah Mining Company. (Reeder, p.160, citing Salt Lake Herald, June 16, 1874; November 25, 1874)
In July 1874 work was begun on a mule powered tramway to the Jordan Mine of the Utah Mining Company, located about three miles further up the canyon above the town of Bingham. The steepness of the canyon (at about six percent) prevented the continuation of the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd narrow gauge railroad above Bingham, so to reduce the costs of construction, the mining companies pooled their resources and built the mule tramway using an average grade of 5.6 percent and a gauge narrower than the three-foot gauge used for the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd. (Salt Lake Herald, July 10, 1874)
Because of delays caused by disputes of right-of-way over some of the mining claims, it was not until the following September of 1875 that the tramway was able to go into service. Besides moving the ores of the Utah Mining Company, the tramway was used to transport the ores of many of the other mines.
The tramway operated by gravity to move the loaded cars from the mines down to the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd station at Bingham, and mules were used to return the empty cars back to the mines to be loaded again. The mules were teamed together in groups of ten to twelve animals to return them back to the lower end of the tramway, where they were stabled.
As the mining industry was getting started in Utah, the smelter industry also grew to serve the growing mine production. When the Utah Southern Railroad was completed to Sandy in 1871, the town was the site of two smelters. One of which, owned by the Saturn Silver Mining Company, was the largest in the territory, processing fifty tons of concentrates per day.
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 four miles north of Sandy, at Murray, again on the Utah Southern. (Arrington: Abundance, page 207) With the construction of the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd, the Galena Silver Mining Company began construction, in late 1872, of a smelter near the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd's crossing of the Jordan River. (Reeder, page 152)
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, page 353)
The Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd had projected its entire line from Sandy to Bingham as a three-foot gauge railroad. However, construction of three miles of the BC&CF between the connection with Utah Southern at Sandy, and the Galena Smelter on the Jordan River, included a third rail set to standard gauge for operation of standard gauge cars interchanged from the Utah Southern, to allow movement of coke and other materials in standard gauge cars. (Reeder, page 152)
The Telegraph mine shipped its first ore in 1874. The mine was the first producing mine of the later United States Mining group. (Wilson thesis, page 4)
In 1874 the Morgan/Hanauer smelter was also built in Murray, making the Salt Lake Valley one of the smelting centers of the west. (Arrington: Abundance, page 207)
The Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd was a paying railroad from the start, because of the high value of the traffic that it was moving. The Bingham canyon mines made up one the richest camps in the west. The silver and lead mines only became marginal after almost twenty-five years, in the mid 1890s. And much to the relief of Bingham's business owners, as the gold, silver, and lead ores became more costly to mine, copper development was becoming the focus of the mining operations.
During June 1875 Scofield, who had taken control of the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd two years before, also took control (by purchase of all stock) of the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad. The Wasatch and Jordan Valley had been incorporated on October 24, 1872 to build a railroad from the Utah Southern at Sandy to the mines and granite quarries located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, opposite and across the Salt Lake Valley from Bingham Canyon.
Service began on a two-mile, 5.6 percent grade, mule tramway to Utah Mining Company mine during the summer of 1875. Construction began in June 1874, with delays because of disputes over right of way over located mining claims. (Reeder, p.161, citing Salt Lake Tribune, July 16, 1875; September 1, 1875; Salt Lake Herald, August 12, 1875)
By early 1879 both the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd and the Wasatch and Jordan Valley roads were being operated as one, sharing the same Superintendent and General Manager. On April 29, 1879 the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd was merged with its sister road, forming a new Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad. (Articles of Association, Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad, part of file for D&RGW, Utah Index Number 15038, November 15, 1920; Reeder, page 189)
(The line to Bingham Canyon was still regularly referred to as the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd. None of the available documents acknowledge the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd at any time after April 1879.)
The original Wasatch and Jordan Valley was incorporated October 24, 1872 to build a line from Sandy to the mines located in Little Cottonwood canyon. Construction started in November 1872 over a grade previously started by Utah Southern in summer 1872 and rails were laid five miles to the Davenport smelter and the granite quarries at the mouth of the canyon by April 1873. The line was completed to its terminal at Fairfield Flats at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon by September 1873. Scofield took control of the railroad in June 1875 and completed an eight-mile mule tramway to Alta by September 1875. (Reeder, pages 170-189)
Fire among the wooden frame buildings in Bingham was a constant threat. On a Sunday, November 7, 1880, the town was partly destroyed by fire. It happened again on August 19, 1895, when there was reported that there had been $200,000 in fire damage. (Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology)
January 29, 1881
"In Muddy Gulch and Carr Fork and adjoining gulches the Last Chance, Hooper, Stewarts and Sacred, Centennial, Bonham, Yampa, Highland Boy, Bret Harte, Mormon Nell, Agnes, Chas. Dana, Honest Abe, Jersey, Saginaw, Saratoga, Burning Moscow, Croesus and many others." (Western Mining Gazetteer, January 29, 1881)
Even though the mines in Bingham and Little Cottonwood canyons were successful nearly from the start, the traffic levels from the diminishing mining activity weren't adequate for the newly merged Wasatch and Jordan Valley and the line was forced into foreclosure in August 1881. The property was purchased by Denver and Rio Grande Western interests on December 31, 1881. (Reeder, page 192)
The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railway was organized in Utah on July 21, 1881 to build the projected Utah lines of General Palmer's Denver and Rio Grande Railway. Numerous lines throughout the territory were surveyed and filed on. However, to speed up completion of the line to Salt Lake City, and to ensure profitable traffic once it got there, the Denver and Rio Grande Western purchased all three of Scofield's railroad properties; the combined Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd and Wasatch and Jordan Valley lines, and the Utah and Pleasant Valley. The Utah and Pleasant Valley had been built over the 52 miles from Springville south to the Winter Quarters coal mines located west of present-day Helper.
The first Denver and Rio Grande Western train came into Salt Lake City on June 13, 1882. (Reeder, page 387)
Denver and Rio Grande Western completed narrow gauge line from Ogden to Denver on March 30, 1883. They had constructed from Colorado line to Tucker; bought the Utah and Pleasant Valley from Tucker to Springville; and constructed from Springville to Ogden, connecting with the Wasatch and Jordan Valley and the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd at Bingham Junction. (Reeder, page 387)
The Denver and Rio Grande Western was completed to Salt Lake City in June 1882 and service began to Ogden the following May. In August 1886 the Denver and Rio Grande Western became totally independent from the Denver and Rio Grande, and its controlling interests in Colorado.
December 8, 1882
"Hauling a Train by Mule Power." "Yesterday morning an engine attached to a train of passenger cars, going down to Bingham Canyon, gave way by the bursting of some part of its machinery. Passengers were placed in a car and hauled to their destination by means of mule power." "The engine is a very old one, and almost unfit for use for any purpose whatsoever." (Salt Lake Evening Chronicle, December 8, 1882)
July 24, 1883
"Accident on the Bingham Railway" "As is generally understood the passenger train on the Bingham branch runs to the Jordan without an engine, the grade being steep enough for that purpose. When approaching the river last evening, where the locomotive was waiting, the wheels on the passenger car commenced slipping, and all the efforts of the train men to check the speed were unavailing; the result was that the car ran into the locomotive, and several persons who were standing on the front platform were badly, though not seriously, injured. A son of Dan. Clays, of Bingham, had his leg broken, and the conductor was badly bruised." (Salt Lake Daily Herald, July 24, 1883)
By 1889 the traffic on the Denver and Rio Grande Western had increased so that the management of the road made a decision to widen the gauge of the line to match the standard gauge of its eastern and western connections. To finance the widening of the gauge on the Utah lines, in July 1889 the Denver and Rio Grande Western was reorganized as the Rio Grande Western Railway.
The actual conversion of gauges was in progress between March and November 1890, with various portions being operated as standard gauge as they were completed. On June 2, 1890, Rio Grande Western ran its first standard gauge train into Bingham. Rio Grande Western completed the conversion of all of its lines, between Ogden and Grand Junction, Colorado on June 10, 1890. However, the first standard gauge train operating through from Denver didn't arrive in Salt Lake City until the following November, because of delays in the construction of standard gauge lines in Colorado.
The Spanish group of mines in Bingham was located in 1885. The group was later part of the United States Mining group of claims. (Wilson thesis, page 4)
The Hanauer smelter completely destroyed by fire on January 16, 1885. The fire was caused by an overturned slag pot. (Engineering and Mining Journal, January 24, 1885, page 60) On March 11, 1885, the smelter was restarted. The rebuilt smelter had a larger capacity. (Engineering and Mining Journal, March 7, 1885, page 198)
By the 1890s, there were twenty-one mining companies instead of the thirty-five companies in 1871, and these mines were mainly consolidations of many of the early claims, such as the Jordan, Brooklyn, Telegraph, Galena, and Yosemite properties. (The Telegraph group, later controlled by the United Sates Mining company, was first located in 1873. (Wilson thesis, page 3)) These twenty-one mining companies were producing almost three times the tonnage of ore, and all of the ore needed rail transportation.
Denver and Rio Grande Western was reorganized as Rio Grande Western Railway on July 21, 1889, to finance the conversion to standard gauge. (Utah corporation files, index 565)
During the early 1890s, the Rio Grande Western mule tramway extended to the Jordan and Galena mines. (Spendlove, page 29)
On June 2, 1890, Rio Grande Western operated its first standard gauge train into Bingham. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 3, 1890)
On June 10, 1890, Rio Grande Western completed its conversion to standard gauge between Ogden and Grand Junction. (Johnson, page 62)
During 1892, there were 21 producing mines in West Mountain Mining District, including the Jordan, Brooklyn, Telegraph, Galena, Petro, and Yosemite properties. (Arrington: Abundance, page 209)
During 1896, the top five shippers of ore from Bingham were Dalton and Lark (16,913 tons); Old Telegraph (12,000 tons); Jordan and Galena (8135 tons); Spanish (1,743 tons); and Golden Opportunity (1,400 tons). The Niagara shipped 786 tons. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1897)
June 25, 1896
"New Depot For Bingham -- The Winnamuck company of Bingham has given the R. G. W. Railway company a tract of land 60x100 feet for depot purposes, and yesterday surveyors were at work staking off the ground for the new buildings, which will consist of a tasty depot building and a commodious warehouse, which will be erected about midway between the Winnamuck office and mill. The new depot will be about 1,000 feet down the canyon from the company's old box-car ticket and express office, and, when completed. will "fill a long-felt want." (Salt Lake Herald, June 25, 1896)
(Read more about the Winnamuck mill; which opened in May 1896)
The first "important" shipment of copper ore came from the Highland Boy mine, which was being operated by Samuel Newhouse and Thomas Weir. (A. B. Parsons, The Porphyry Coppers, 1933, page 47)
During 1899 Colonel I. S. Pine purchased the Jersey Blue group of claims. These claims formed the basis of the Bingham & Eastern mine, located near the junction of Carr Fork and Bingham Canyon. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 31, 1899)
In the five year period between 1895 and 1900, copper became more important as a product of the mines in Bingham. The history of the Bingham and its railroads and mines would change in ways no one at the time could have seen.
By this time, the big mines included the following:
It should be mentioned that the United States Mining Company's mines in Galena and Bear gulches never did become large copper producers. Whether by choice, or by the happenstance of the ore veins themselves, the U. S. company continued to focus on mining lead and silver, as well as taking whatever gold was present. (Read more about United States Mining Company)
(Here ends coverage of the gold and silver era in Bingham Canyon, and the beginning of the copper era.)