The Cottonwood Paper Mill / Granite Paper Mill / Deseret Paper Mill was built in 1880 in Butlerville (later Cottonwood Heights) as a mill for the paper for the Deseret News. It provided for the newspaper for 10 years before a fire broke out. Later it was used as a dance hall and after that a haunted house and other things.
Property for the $150,000 Deseret News Paper Mill, built between 1881 and 1884, was purchased from brothers Philander and Leander Butler. The Granite Paper Mills Co. took ownership of the mill in October 1892. Local resident Nathan H. Staker was foreman of the mill when it caught fire on April Fool’s Day 1893. For thirty-four years the mill lay in ruins until 1927 when J.B. Walker, a trucking contractor, renovated it into the “Old Mill Club.”
A small community grew up in the vicinity of the paper mill. It included the four houses built by the Deseret News Co., a brewery, an ice pond where ice was harvested three times each winter, and a post office that operated from 1890 to 1900 with William McGhie, Jr. as the postmaster. Free rural delivery from the Sandy Post Office, using a horse and buggy, continued until 1920 when the first automobile was put into service.
Several factors help explain the Granite Paper Mill. First of all was the Mormon Church leaders’ desire for independence. Secondly, their policy of record keeping and extensive publication, and finally the Mormon isolation.
Mormons first hoped for paper making in Utah when Thomas Howard,
English paper maker, arrived as early as 1851. He and Sidney Roberts built
a mill on Mill Creek but had little success during 1851-1852. Later in
cooperation with Thomas Hollis, Howard produced the first paper at his
Temple Square Shop in 1854.
In 1860 Brigham Young purchased a Gavits 36″ cylinder paper machine,
which Thomas Howard and Z. Derrick installed in the old Sugar House sugar factory. Paper was produced in quantities up to 500 pounds per day in
this mill. However, supplies were difficult to come by, even though appeal
were made to the bishops of the Wards for rags and even though George
Goddard travelled from Ogden to Payson collecting them.
In 1867 Michael Grace was employed to run the plant. Since his idiosyncrasies made him rather independent of mind and action, the Deseret News employed George C. Lambert to learn the trade as his apprentice. However, the mill was at best only a stop-gap paper supplier. Competition from eastern factories increased with improved transportation.
L.D.S. Church leaders reviewed their options in 1879-1880 and elected
to expand production and independence. No doubt the “heating up” of the
polygamy issue was an influential factor. The mill site was selected and
the mill constructed between 1880-1882. In December of that year, the
machinery from the Sugar House Mill was moved to the new plant, which with the new machinery, made a rather impressive mill. Operations began in April 1883.
Thomas S. Taylor was manager of the Deseret News. The mill was managed
by Charles, J. Lambert. The power to the mill came from water forced into
the three separate power wheels through a 50-inch penstock. When operating at normal capacity, the plant employed 24 people and produced up to five tons of paper in 24 hours.
Still production was intermittent due to supply problems, inadequate
skilled help and eastern competition. In 1890, the mill was leased to a
Mr. Skewes who operated it for only a few weeks. In 1892, the Granite
Paper Mills Company leased the property, which was run by George C. Lambert. The following year proved one of the best in the history of the plant. By the last of March 1893, a surplus of paper was on hand due to the soft roads caused by the spring thaw. Superintendent Lambert gave his employees an extra day vacation, April 1st. That night a fire broke out destroying the plant and the machinery, and ending the major thrust by Utah and the Mormons to produce their own paper.
The building remains today, partially reconstructed, as a reminder of the most significant effort made to produce paper for an independent supply.
Those parts of the structure still standing are the oldest remnants of this
important venture in Utah.