Sandy Smelters

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This page was last updated on June 19, 2022.

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At the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, east of the town of Sandy City, in an unincorporated area of Salt Lake County, Utah, in addition to the granite quarries, there were at least three smelters. Today, the area includes the remains of three: the Flagstaff, the Davenport, and the McKay. Remnants of two smelters (Davenport and McKay) are visible in the area of 3500 E. Little Cottonwood Lane (about 9800 South). The Flagstaff smelter was located less than a quarter mile to the north, near 9500 South Wasatch Boulevard, on the north side of Little Cottonwood Creek.

In Big Cottonwood Canyon itself, on the Silver Fork of Big Cottonwood Creek, on August 3, 1871, ground was broken for a new Gerrish-patent smelting furnace. The new smelter was owned by the Chicago Mining Bureau and was the first furnace in Big Cottonwood Canyon. ("The Year Of 1871", Our Pioneer Heritage, Volume 15, 1972, p. 56)

On September 6, 1871, Utah Southern reached Sandy. Two smelters were built at Sandy, near the railroad tracks; one of them was the Saturn Silver Smelter, the largest in the territory, with a capacity of 50 tons per day. (Reeder, pages 116, 117)

The original Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad 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, pp. 170-189)

Pioneer Sampling Works

(Also known as the Pioneer Sampler)

(Located a few hundred feet north of historic Second North Street in Sandy, adjacent to the main tracks of the Oregon Short Line Railroad)

Pioneer Sampling Works, in operation, 1871-1901. Operated by Richard Mackintosh. Mackintosh passed away in February 1900.

Richard Mackintosh was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1839 and came to America in 1858. He arrived in Utah in 1871 and became involved in the mining business. He had started the sampling works in Sandy by 1874, and added a new location at Park City by 1883. Also by 1883, the company milled and processed 200 tons per day, which was about 85 percent of all ore mined in the Territory.

The Pioneer Sampling Works began processing ore. (Salt Lake Herald, December 25, 1896, "24 years ago")

November 7, 1877
Pioneer Sampling Works installed a steam powered sampling machine, replacing the previous hand process. The machine was invented by Fred Day and William Silver, and was built by William Silver. The sampling machine was 8 feet by 6 feet in ground space, and was 40 feet high. The machine had a capacity of 20 tons per hour, and could take in a 30-ton (60,000 pounds) ore sample, and reduce it to 300 pounds. (Deseret News, November 7, 1877)

November 20, 1887
The Pioneer Sampling Works in Sandy was processing 150 tons daily. (Salt Lake Herald, November 20, 1877)

October 15, 1892
"The Niagara consigned several carloads of concentrates to the Pioneer Sampling Works, at Sandy, the first of this week." (Salt Lake Tribune, October 15, 1892)

January 30, 1901
"The Pioneer Sampling Works at Sandy have been closed down after many years of successful operation, and it is stated that Manager A. J. Cushing, owner of the plant, will keep his yards open for the reception of ore brought in by wagon, consignments thus made to be handled by the Taylor-Brunton Sampling Works at Pallas station." (Salt Lake Mining Review, January 30, 1901)

Leased to Taylor-Brunton for two years, 1901-1903. Reopened in February 1903 under new ownership and new name, remodeled, under supervision of A. J. Cushing. Manager was J. B. Jensen. (Salt Lake Herald, February 11, 1903; Deseret Evening News, December 19, 1903, with photo)

January 30, 1905
The remodeled Pioneer Sampling works handled 88 cars of ore during the first 15 days of January. Superintendent was A. J. Cushing; Manager was J. B. Jensen. (Salt Lake Mining Review, January 3, 1905)

(The last reference in online newspapers was in August 1909, noting that the Pioneer sampling works had accepted three cars of ore from Nevada. -- Salt Lake Herald, August 13, 1909)

The need for separate sampling works mostly went away as each of the smelters at Murray, Midvale, and Garfield added their own sampling works as part of their smelting process. This meant that mining companies no longer needed to pay the added expense of an independent sampling of their ore to determine each shipment's grade and quality.

Sandy Smelter Locations

-- Davenport Smelter, mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon

-- Flagstaff Smelter (1st), located at mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon

-- Flagstaff Smelter (2nd), approximately 9200 South, on east side of Union Pacific tracks (site of Mount Jordan Middle School)

-- Sandy Sampling Works, approximately 8600 South on Union Pacific tracks

-- "Sandy Smelter Site", approximately 8600 South, two blocks east of Union Pacific tracks

-- Saturn Mining and Smelting Company, approximately 9000 South, three blocks west of Union Pacific tracks (closed by 1889)

-- Mingo Smelter (formerly Mountain Chief), adjacent to Saturn smelter (only operating smelter in Sandy by 1889)

Davenport Smelter

(About 9600 South Wasatch Boulevard, at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon)

From "Scorecard" website:

The Davenport and Flagstaff Smelters site is located east of the Town of Sandy City, Salt Lake County, Utah at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. A number of smelters operated in Little Cottonwood Canyon during the 1870s. Three of these smelters were located at the mouth of the canyon, the Davenport Smelter south of Little Cottonwood Creek, the Flagstaff Smelter on the north bank of Little Cottonwood Creek, and the McKay Smelter located immediately adjacent to the former Davenport Smelter site. The small town of Granite was built near the smelters and during its heyday (1872-1874) consisted of about 50 buildings serving the workmen at the smelters and the teamsters who hauled the ore from the mines. When the smelters closed, the town was abandoned. The Davenport Smelter was a lead and silver smelter located on the south side of Little Cottonwood Creek just west of the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The smelter was located on the property purchased by the Davenport Mining Company from S. J. Despain on March 7, 1873. Ores smelted at the site were mined primarily from the Davenport and Matilda Mines located in Little Cottonwood Canyon and were hauled by wagon from the mines to the Davenport Smelter. The ores contained more than sixty to seventy ounces of silver per ton and were by volume between 12 and 18 percent lead. The smelter operated from 1872 until 1875.

The Davenport Smelter site was listed on the EPA's "Superfund" list in April 1992 after a study of historic smelters in the Salt Lake Valley conducted by the state of Utah. The smelter site is west of the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, south of Little Cottonwood Creek and north of Little Cottonwood Road in an area that was known as the Beaver Pond Springs.

January 1, 1877
"The Davenport, at the mouth of Little Cottonwood canyon, is at present shut down. It was run by Mather & Geist the first nine months of the year, on Flagstaff and other Cottonwood ores, and during this time 200 car loads of bullion was produced, worth about $100,000, but when the firm leased the Flagstaff smelter, they closed down the Davenport." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1877)

The Davenport smelter site was removed from the EPA Superfund list on July 2018. After being added to the list in 1992, cleanup of the site began in 2004, and was completed in in 2012.

Flagstaff Smelter

(Flagstaff Smelter (1st), located at mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon)

(Flagstaff Smelter (2nd), approximately 9200 South, on east side of Union Pacific tracks (site of Mount Jordan Middle School))

June 3, 1877
The Flagstaff smelter, located on the Union Pacific tracks in Sandy, was processing the lead ore from the Spanish mine in Bingham. The price in lead had declined sharply, but the Spanish mine was still in operation because they had a fixed-price contract with the Flagstaff smelter. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 3, 1877)

September 17, 1891
"D. W. Brunton, of Taylor & Brunton sampling works, is in town; his company is to put up new works below the Germania smelter, the building to be 40 by 127 feet, the central part being 40 feet square and three stories high, and it will be located between the R. G. W. and U. P. tracks." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 17, 1891)

Saturn Smelter

(Saturn Mining & Smelting Company, approximately 9000 South, three blocks west of Union Pacific tracks (closed by 1889))

(Research suggests that this Saturn smelter may be the successor to the Buel & Bateman smelter moved from Bingham by the company's new English investors.)

(Read more about the Buel & Bateman smelter at Bingham)

November 27, 1871
"The Saturn Silver Mining Company of Utah, have in the process of erection at Sandy station, three smelting furnaces, and when completed will be able to smelt 50 tons of ore daily. The company are composed of English stockholders, and are preparing to go into the reduction of base ores on an extensive scale. The point selected for their furnaces is one of the very best in the Territory, accessible at all times by railroad, and convenient to the several mining districts, will be in successful operation about the middle of next month. S. C. Raymond is their general superintendent in the Territory." (Utah Mining Gazette, November 27, 1871)

December 21, 1873
"Saturn Smelter -- It is rumored that the Saturn smelter at Sandy station,now under attachment,is about to be fired up again. It is to be hoped the rumor is correct, as every smelter that is kept running will put money into circulation, give employment to men and aid in developing the mines. Both the Mountain Chief [Mingo] and Saturn works have been closed for weeks, and it would be good news if both were again started up." (Salt Lake Herald, December 21, 1873)

January 1, 1877
"The Saturn is situated at Sandy station, and is one of the oldest smelters in the country. It is running only one stack, but since it as been under the control and management of Mr. John W. Kerr and other Salt Lake parties, it has been well conducted. One hundred and sixty car lots of 42,000 to the car, is its product of base bullion for the last year. The old dump of slag is being overhauled for the [unreadable] in it, and will be put through the furnace with ore. At present the works are shut down for repairs and improvements, but they will be started up again in the course of a few days. This smelter is under the immediate supervision of Mr. A. A. Gauschat, who is a capable and energetic gentleman." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1877)

Mingo Smelter

(Mingo Smelter (formerly Mountain Chief), adjacent to Saturn smelter (only operating smelter in Sandy by 1889))

From Daughters of Utah Pioneers Marker 470, erected in 1993:

The Mingo Smelter was the largest single producer in Utah of metals such as gold, silver, and lead. When it began in 1873, it was known as the Mountain Chief Smelter and was renamed the Mingo smelter in 1876 when it was expanded. By 1881 it produced 19,000,000 pounds of unrefined metal which was shipped to Pennsylvania. The rich ores came from Little Cottonwood Canyon, Bingham Canyon and Lark and provided work for 500 to 1,200 men. Power for the smelter was provided by water traveling through a network of canals to Allsop's Pond on the south side of Locust Street. From there, it was channeled through wooden pipes to Mingo. In 1877 the plant consisted of Blake crusher, one pair of Cornish rolls, two reverberatory furnaces for ore, matte, and flue dust, three blast furnaces, two boilers, three blowers, and one 35 horsepower horizontal engine. The iron flux came from the Tintic District, the limestone was bought in Salt Lake City, and the fuel used was coke. Using all four of its furnaces, the Mingo Smelter could produce enough metal to fill sixteen railroad cars each week. It was destroyed by fire in 1887 and was rebuilt in 1888. The Mingo closed in April 1901 when the ores were depleted. This was one of the most successful of the old smelters that operated in Utah.

The following comes from "Department Of The Interior, Statistics And Technology Of The Precious Metals," published in 1885.

Mingo Furnace Company. Two stacks were built in 1872, and were known as the Mountain Chief furnaces. They ran a few months, and then were idle until November, 1876, when the property came into the possession of the Mingo Company, a branch of the Pittsburgh Lead Company. The old stacks were repaired, and two others were erected in October, 1877. One or more furnaces have been run quite steadily upon ore purchased in the Salt Lake market. The works are situated a half a mile south of Sandy, on the Utah Southern railroad, are complete, clean, airy, and well managed.

January 1, 1877
"The Mingo Smelter, or the Mountain Chief, which adjoins the Saturn, and has been lying idle for several years, has been leased by a Pittsburg company and put into repair. Two large furnaces have been built, from the ground up, new machinery put in and other extensive and substantial improvements made. It is now one of the most convenient smelters in the country, of a capacity of fifteen tons of bullion daily, and is under the management of men who have had life long experience in the business. It begins operation with the new year, under most flattering prospects for a continued and successful run." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1877)

July 1, 1891
The Mingo Smelting Company was incorporated in Utah "yesterday" (July 1), with James E. Schwartz of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, holding 4,970 of the 5,000 shares. Schwartz was also president and director. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 2, 1891)