Early Smelting In Utah
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This page was last updated on February 27, 2020.
(This is a work in progress; research continues.)
Not In Utah
Although many early miners sought after gold and silver to become rich quickly, it was the need for large quantities of lead that fueled many successful mines, including those in Utah Territory. After the easy gold was taken by placer mines, the ore became more complex and was a combination of lead, silver and to some degree, gold, in what is known as galena ore. Many smelters and reduction works were organized with varying amounts of success, to process the galena ore, and to smelt the resulting bullion to the three major metals, lead, silver and gold.
The arrival of the railroad in Salt Lake City in January 1870 allowed many mines in the area to begin operations due to low-cost transportation. In January 1871 representatives of the Omaha Smelting company visited Salt Lake City and convinced many mine owners to ship their ore to Omaha instead of New Jersey or California, taking advantage of the direct rail connection between Salt Lake City and Omaha.
The New Jersey location was the smelting works of Ballbach Smelting and Refining at Newark, opened in 1865 by Edward Balbach as the Newark Smelting and Refining company. With Balbach's death in 1889, his son Edward Balbach, Jr., reorganized the company as the Balbach Smelting and Refining Co. The Balbach process, patented in July 1864 by Balbach, Sr., was one of the first smelting processes to successfully separate gold and silver from lead by processing the galena ore that was found in almost every mining district nationwide.
According to an article in Engineering and Mining Journal magazine, upon the death of Edward Balbach, Jr., in 1910, it was Balbach's father, Edward Balbach, Sr., in New Jersey, along with Thomas Selby of San Francisco, who was responsible for bringing successful reduction and smelting of lead-silver ores in the Americas. "The refined lead then produced by the [Balbach] works, together with what came from the Selby works in San Francisco, constituted the only domestic supplies for some time and large quantities of refined lead continued to be imported from Europe."
The location in California was the lead smelter of Thomas Selby & Co., located in San Francisco from 1865 until 1884.
The reduction and smelting works in Omaha was the plant of the Omaha Smelting Company.
Utah's First Smelters
August 3, 1871
"Aug. 9th. Ground was broken on Thursday last [August 3rd], at the mouth of Silver Fork, Big Cottonwood Canyon, for a new smelting furnace which is to be erected there on the Gerrish Patent. The Chicago Mining Bureau is the chief proprietor, and Col. Weightman is the superintendent. This will be the first furnace erected in Big Cottonwood Canyon, and it is expected that by the first week in September the proprietors will be prepared to ship bullion. Mr. Gerrish himself after whose patent the furnace is to be built, is at work with a large force of hands superintending the work." (Our Pioneer Heritage, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Volume 15, 1972, page 56)
December 2, 1871
"Dec. 2nd. Messrs. W. Jennings & Co. have lately been experimenting in the smelting business, and for that purpose have erected in the Fifteenth Ward, temporary smelting works, and, so far, their efforts have been crowned with gratifying success. Their first attempt was made with a quantity of ore from the "Hidden Treasure" mine in East Canyon, owned by Messrs. Jennings & Lee, and the result was, some excellent pigs, composed of clear lead and silver, were cast." (Our Pioneer Heritage, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Volume 15, 1972, page 60)
In 1873 there were within 12 miles of Salt Lake City 11 furnaces for reduction of ores, and in the state of Utah there were over 30 such furnaces, all of which had developed since the arrival of Union Pacific in 1869. (History of the Union Pacific, Nelson Trottman, 1923, page 99)
An 1873 report for the 42nd Congress, being the fifth annual report, "Statistics of Mines and Mining In the States and territories West of the Rock Mountains" included the following:
- During 1872...
- Flagstaff Works -- 3,000 tons "base bullion" which was a combination of lead, silver and gold
- Miller Works -- 1,536 tons
- Winnemuck Works -- 1,232 tons
- Saturn Works -- 1,207 tons
- Utah Works -- 650 tons
- Wahsatch Works -- 150 tons
The following comes from Orson Whitney's "History of Utah," published in 1883, page 274:
In the summer of 1870 smelters began to be built in Salt Lake Valley, the first one completed being that of the Woodhull Brothers, on Big Cottonwood Creek, eight miles south of this city. From these works were shipped the first bullion produced from the Utah mines. It was smelted from the ores of Little Cottonwood, notably those of the Monitor and Magnet mines. The Badger State Smelting Works, also south of the city, were begun in August, 1870, and produced their first bullion in March of the year following. Then came the Jennings and Pascoe smelter, just north of the Warm Springs, Colonel D. E. Buel's furnace at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, the smelting works of Buel and Bateman in Bingham Canyon, and many others in various places. Among the best of these were those of Colonel Buel, in Little Cottonwood. In East Canyon, in the Ophir District, was erected in May and June, 1871, the pioneer crushing and amalgamating mill. It had fifteen stamps, and was built by the Walker Brothers for working the silver ores of that vicinity. From the summer of 1869 to the fall of 1871, ten thousand tons of silver and gold ores, valued at $2,500,000; four thousand, five hundred tons of gold and silver bullion, worth $1,237,000; and two hundred and thirty-one tons of copper ore, valued at $6,000, were shipped from the Territory. Silver bars, obtained by milling the silver ores, produced $120,000. During the same period the annual product of gold from Bingham Canyon was increased by means of superior sluicing methods from $150,000 to $250,000.
October 16, 1873
"At the Flagstaff and Last Chance smelters are an accumulation of 350 tons of base bullion; at the Chicago smelter, 80 tons; at the American Smelting Company's works, 50; at Carson & Buzzo's running smelters, 60; at the Sheridan Hill Smelting Co's works, 40; at the Mountain Chief, 50; at the Saturn, 30; at the Wasatch, 50; and at the Davenport, about 40. On an average value of $200 a ton, this represents $149,000! There are also some twenty tons of crude copper, from the Mammoth Copperopolls smelter, worth say $400 per ton; and then comes the product of the Germania separating and refining works, which turns out the pure gold, silver, copper and lead from the base bullion." (Helena Weekly Herald, October 16, 1873)
January 1, 1877
"The bullion shipped from the territory according to the tonnage report of the Utah Central railroad for the year 1876, amounts to 20,030 tons, while our reports from the smelters show as follows." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1877)
|Chicago (Stockton)||2,517 tons|
|Galena (West Jordan)||2,350 tons|
|Waterman (Stockton)||2,100 tons|
|Flagstaff (Sandy)||2,000 tons|
|Davenport (Sandy)||2,000 tons|
|Germania (Murray)||1,700 tons|
|Longmaid (Stockton)||1,700 tons|
|Sheridan Hill (West Jordan)||1,700 tons|
|Saturn (Sandy)||1,600 tons|
|Pascoe (Warm Springs)||1,200 tons|
|Morgan (Murray)||300 tons|
|Wasatch (Murray)||100 tons|
During mid 1877, the larger mines and smelter of Utah were idle due to the low price of metals on the metal markets of th east. Mine and smelter owners met with officials of Union Pacific, asking for a reduction in freight rates, to help mines better compete on the national markets. The mines had already removed their high-grade ore, and the low price of metals, together with high freight rates, were making it difficult for Utah mines and smelters to pay their expenses in mining the low-grade ores that remained. These major mines (a total of eight) included: Jordan, Neptune and Kempton, Saturn, Utah, Winnamuck, Spanish, and Davenport. The idle smelters (a total of nine smelters, with 24 stacks) included: Jordan (3 stacks); Sheridan Hill (4); Saturn (2); Davenport (2); and Winnamuck (3). (The New North-West [Deer Lodge, Montana], June 29, 1877, citing Salt Lake Tribune, June 21, 1877)
January 5, 1878
"The smelters of the Territory comprise the following companies: Paseoe's, two stacks. running; B. W. Morgan's, one stack, running; Wasatch, two stacks. running; Shumer, one stack, idle; Germania, three stacks, running; Gorden, six stacks, running: Sheridan Hill, two stacks, idle; Winnamuck, two stacks, idle; Flagstaff, four stacks, idle; Sandy, three stacks, idle; Mingo, four stacks, running; American, three stacks, idle; Sultana, three stacks, idle; J. D. Williams, one stack, idle; Frisco, one stack, idle; Queen, one stack, running; Chicago, three stacks, idle; Waterman, one stack, running. Most of these smelters, in addition to their blast-furnaces, have reverberating or roasting furnaces, and there are five concentration works." (The Inter-Ocean [Chicago], January 5, 1878)
The large amounts of lead coming from the Horn Silver mine during the late 1879 time period shown above give a good indication of Union Pacific's motivation to complete construction of its Utah Southern Extension Railroad between the end of the Utah Southern at Juab, and Frisco. After UP gained control of Utah Southern in mid 1875, its terminus remained at York until early 1879. It was the developing Horn Silver mine, which UP's officers also had an interest in, that was the motivation for rapid completion of railroad service to Frisco. Work resumed March 1879 and reached Frisco on June 23, 1880. Until that time, and throughout 1879 and early 1880, the stream of wagons between Frisco and the smelter in Murray (235 miles) must have been quite a sight to see. It would have to have been a stream of wagons, given the above mentioned production figures for finished unrefined lead.
At the beginning of 1880, there were ten lead smelters in Utah, with the following order of production (largest first). (Deseret News, January 7, 1880)
|Horn Silver Mining Company (Frisco and Murray)||4,850 tons|
|Old Telegraph Company (Midvale)||3,050 tons|
|Mingo Furnace Company (Sandy)||1,950 tons|
|Morgan Smelter (Murray)||1,350 tons|
|Germania Smelting & Refining Works (Murray)||1,150 tons|
|Chicago Smelter (Stockton)||850 tons|
|Waterman Smelter (Stockton)||117.5 tons|
|Marsac Company||15 tons|
|Pascoe (Warm Springs)||7 tons|
In the ten year period between 1896 and 1906, there was a general increase in the production of lead, copper, and gold from the Bingham district and it had become the leading copper producing camp in Utah.
"Complying with Court Decree copper smelting was discontinued in Salt Lake Valley December 31, 1907. However, before the closing down of the three going copper smelters in Salt Lake Valley, preparation for their replacement had been made by new and more modern plants, the Garfield Smelter of the American Smelting and Refining Company erected near the south shores of Great Salt Lake and the Tooele plant of the International Smelting and Refining Company erected at the mouth of Pine Canyon overlooking Tooele Valley. The Garfield Smelter started operations in 1906, principally for the reduction of Utah Copper Concentrates but also custom ores. The Tooele Smelter got into operation in 1911, principally for the reduction of Highland Boy ores but also custom ores, and was equipped for the smelting of both copper sulfides and lead-silver ores." (Thomas Parry Billings, "History of the Bingham Mining District", written c.1952)
R. R. Rasmussen, Murray City Recorder wrote a "History of Murray" in May 1936. It was published as a multiple-part series in the weekly Murray Eagle newspaper, starting on July 30, 1936. The following comes from Chapter III, Smelters, published on August 20, 1936:
From a very early date Murray City and surrounding territories have been the center of smelting and refining. The first silver bars shipped out of Utah came from Murray. The first smelter was located on State Street where the Big Cottonwood Creek crossed the road, or at the location now occupied by the Murray Laundry. This smelter was owned by the Woodhull Brothers. The next one, according to Gottlieb Berger (Murray mayor), was one located on the Freeze hill. This smelter had five or six buildings. Mr. Berger lists the Germania Smelter as the next one, then the Wasatch, which was built near 48th South at a point about where Rocky Mountain Packing Corporation is now located. This smelter was built in 1873 or 1874. Then came the Horn Silver, which was located a little west about where the Murray power plant now stands. The Hanauer was built a little farther north, about midway between 48th and 45th South streets. Later, a brick yard was located at this place.
Mr. James W. Cahoon (Murray-area real estate developer) listed the smelter on the American hill as coming before the Woodhull Smelter. He tells us that the one on the American hill came about 1869. He says that at about the same time the Woodhull Smelter was built, there was also one built about halfway between Salt Lake and Murray, one through west side of State street. He says that the Flagstaff Smelter was built about this time at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon on the south side of the creek, and another one was built on the north side. He tells us that the Germania Refinery was built at Murray on the south side of Little Cottonwood Creek in the year 1871, and that the Wasatch Smelter was built the same year on the north side of the creek at the point where the canning factory now stands. The Mingo Smelter, he says, was built at Sandy in 1875, the same year the Flagstaff Smelter was moved from Cottonwood Canyon to Sandy. Mr. Cahoon gives the date of the erection of the Hanauer Smelter as 1872, and the Horn Silver 1879 or 1880. He tells us a small smelter was built at Warm Springs and one at Ophir about the year 1875, and that the Highland Boy was erected in Murray in 1886. Mr. Cahoon took an active part in the negotiations relative to the erection of the American Smelting and Refining Co. in Murray.
Buel & Bateman
(David E. Buel and Issac C. Bateman) (or Colonel E. D. Buel)
(The Buel & Bateman smelter was on the same site as their Buel & Bateman mine in Galena Gulch, Bingham Canyon. The mine was located just down-canyon from the West Jordan claim on which the Jordan and Old Jordan mines were located.)
The first smelter in Utah "was by the Utah Smelting company and was erected in Bingham, its stacks being blown in first on September 20, 1870." "The old site of this smelter and the mine from which its ores were taken are now the property of the Niagara Mining and Smelting company, and remains of the old slag dump are still apparent to the passer-by." (Salt Lake Tribune, July 22, 1897; describing a float for the Pioneer Day parade that depicted the first smelter in the state.) (The original source shows 1860 as the date; likely a typographical error for 1870.)
Utah smelter operated from 1871 to 1873. (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.90)
"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)
April 22, 1871
"Buel and Bateman's furnace started in Bingham canyon last Saturday (April 22, 1871), and bids fair to do a first-class business in the future. It is run with charcoal shipped from Truckee, Cal." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 25, 1871)
April 28, 1871
"Bullion Coming In. - Bullion was arriving yesterday afternoon from the Bateman & Buel smelting works, Bingham canyon, and being stacked up in front of the company's office. These works are now running steadily and turning out a fine quality of bullion." (Salt Lake Herald, April 28, 1871)
May 2, 1871
"Buel & Bateman's furnace in Bingham canyon is running regularly and turning out six tons of bullion daily. Their works at Little Cottonwood will start today. The last named works have been standing still for some time past for the want of ore, which the snows and bad weather have prevented the miners from getting on their dumps." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 2, 1871)
May 13, 1871
"Buel & Bateman's furnace at Bingham smelts about twenty-two tons of ore per day, using twenty-seven and a half bushels of charcoal to smelt one tons of ore, the same costing thirty-seven and a half cents per bushel delivered at the furnace. Messrs. Wilson & Taggart are duplicating these works at another point in this canyon. The three furnaces on the State Road south of this city they found idle; also Robins and Co.'s expensive works at Little Cottonwood." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 13, 1871, citing a trip made on May 10th by Messrs. Hefferman and Coff of Corinne.)
May 6, 1871
Mr. Bateman sold his interest in his mine to the newly organized Utah Silver Mining Company (Limited), in exchange for a certain number of shares in the new company. On or about March 3, 1973, Issac Bateman (of Buel & Bateman) was elected as president of the Utah Silver Mining Company (Limited). (Salt Lake Tribune, July 22, 1871; March 3, 1873)
January 23, 1872
"The Buel and Bateman furnace has been shut down indefinitely, for reasons best known to the parties interested therein." (Corinne Daily Reporter, January 23, 1872)
February 17, 1872
"Salt Lake Iron Works -- About fifty hundred (5000) pounds of castings were turned out at these works Thursday afternoon for the Utah Central Milling Company. This is the English company that bought out Buel & Bateman's works and mines at Bingham. The castings are mainly for three furnaces, which the company are erecting at Sandy station." (Salt Lake Tribune, February 17, 1872)
(Read more about the Buel & Bateman smelter—compiled by Treasure House Relics)
In 1903 the Copper Belt railroad built spurs and extensions to get the ore traffic of other mining companies in the canyon. The new construction included a spur to Boston Consolidated mine and the Yampa Consolidated mine, both in Carr Fork, along with another spur to the Yampa Consolidated's smelter. (1909 Bingham Commercial Club Souvenir booklet)
The Yampa Consolidated Mining Co., had been organized in April 1901 as a consolidation of Yampa mine and seven other properties, all located on the north slope of Carr Fork. (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, USGS Professional Paper No. 38, 1905, page 382)
The Yampa smelter was completed in December 1903 and was located on the north slope of the canyon, about a quarter mile below Rio Grande Western's Bingham station. (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, USGS Professional Paper No. 38, 1905, page 302)
The spur to the Yampa smelter crossed the canyon just above the Bingham station and continued along the north slope of Bingham Canyon to the smelter.
The new Copper Belt spur for Boston Consolidated was built after the mining company signed a two-year smelting contract to supply the Bingham Consolidated smelter in Midvale with 200 tons of ore per day. By October 1903, Boston Con was shipping as much as 500 tons per day from the Carr Fork mine. The mine was shipping 4,000 tons by February 1904. (Economic Geology of the Bingham Mining District, USGS Professional Paper No. 38, 1905, page 381)
Considering that the average rail car at this time had a 30-ton capacity, 500 tons per day would have been about 16 carloads per day, and 4,000 tons per month would have been a total of about 133 cars per month, or just four carloads per day, averaged out over the month. This ore was all moving over the Copper Belt line to Bingham, then by RGW to Midvale.
Billings wrote, "The Yampa smelter, located on the west slope of the main canyon below the town of Bingham, started operations in the early part of 1904, producing a copper matte which was shipped to one of the Salt Lake Valley smelters for converting into slab copper preparatory for refining."
The company was first organized as the Winnamuck Silver Mining Company. (London Times, June 19, 1873)
The Seventh Annual Report of the Statistics of Mines and Mining in the United States, prepared in 1875 for the 43rd Congress, pages 409-414, stated that the Winnamuck smelter used many ground-breaking processes in the treatment of lead-silver-zinc ore in Utah. Alfred Wartenweiler was the metallurgist at the Winnamuck and introduced the matte-roasting process to Utah. The 1875 report summarized the findings that the smelting processes used were successful for the earliest types of ore, but as different ore was encountered lower in the mine, it became difficult to process the ore unless ore with different metallurgy from other mines was purchased, or the mines themselves purchased. The greatest difficulty was obtaining coke of sufficient quality to be used as fuel during the smelting process. The best coke had to be shipped in from Pennsylvania, which increased to overall costs and made the operation unprofitable.
April 19, 1871
"Messrs. Daggett [Taggart] and Bristol are clearing off the ground and excavating for the foundation of a large smelting works at the base of the mountain below their shaft on the Winnamuck Lode. They have traced this mineral vein to the depth of 318 feet, with what results your correspondent is not informed for Messrs. D. and B. are reticent." "April 17, 1871" (Salt Lake Tribune, April 19, 1871)
(William B. Bristol, Bingham Canyon, and Ellsworth Daggett, Omaha)
June 5, 1871
"Bingham Canon, June 5th, 1871. - The Winnamuck Smelting Works commence operations to-day." (Salt Lake Herald, June 7, 1871) (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p.90, shows that the Winnamuck smelter was built in Autumn 1871.)
April 1, 1872
"The Winnamuck Smelting Works are in successful operation. One of these furnaces has been in running since the first of April, turning out an average five ton of bullion per day, the assay value of which is 520 oz. silver per ton bullion. I understand the company intend starting their other furnace in a few days." (Utah Mining Gazette, April 13, 1872)
July 11, 1873
"Winnamuck Mine, Elllsworth Daggett, superintendent. This is the most extensively developed mine in Utah. The shafts, inclines, tunnels, drifts and levels, that have been run on the mine, amounting in the aggregate to over three thousand feet. the property was incorporated in London for two millions. Most of the stock is held in Holland. One of the largest smelters in the Territory is built at the mine. A tramway, about one hundred feet in length, runs from the mouth of the tunnel to the smelter below. The ores of this mine, owing to the facilities which they have for working them, can be reduced at a less expense than those of any other mine in the Territory. The works are now reducing about 500 tons per month. The Superintendent has commenced the publication of a series of interesting articles to the Engineering and Mining Journal, on the "Economical results of smelting in Utah." We would commend their perusal to some of our Utah smelters." (Salt Lake Herald, July 11, 1873)
December 6, 1873
"The Bingham Canyon narrow gauge railroad now being completed as far as its terminus, near the Winnamuck smelter,..." (Utah Mining Gazette, December 6, 1873)
April 16, 1874
Morris & Evans, contractors, were building a reverberatory furnace for the Winnamuck company at Bingham. The same company was set to build a similar reverberatory furnace for the Sheridan Hill company at West Jordan. (Deseret Evening news, April 16, 1874)
January 22, 1875
It was reported that the smelter, with over 500 tons of ore on hand, had been shut down due to difficulty in obtaining coal and coke. (Salt Lake Herald, January 22, 1875)
Chip Hughes' Thesis -- "The Development of the Smelting Industry in the Central Salt Lake Valley Communities of Midvale, Murray, and Sandy Prior to 1900" by Charles E. Hughes, Brigham Young University, 1990 (PDF; 124 pages; 8.2MB)