Exploring the former town of Soldier Summit, Utah there are a lot of foundation ruins and other old buildings to look at.
- Soldier Summit, Utah
Soldier Summit: A Failed Experiment
In 1919 the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad decided to move their operations from Helper to Soldier Summit to cut their operating costs. This proved to be a horrible idea. The first housing provided by the railroad was nothing more than thin wood framed canvas tents on cement foundations wrapped with tar paper. Eventually the housing would become the well-known company “half salt box houses” or “squat boxes,” most of which were not much more than an 850 square foot shed divided into smaller “rooms.” It was common to have between 6 to 16 feet of snow for up to 6 months of the year. The 2500 residents would have to dig actual tunnels between buildings, including their outhouses, to get around. This continued until 1929 when the equipment and buildings were moved back to Helper because of the costs associated with the harsh conditions. A few hardy souls remained to keep the town alive for many more decades. By 1979 complaints from passing motorists about a speed trap caused the state to legally dissolve the police force. This took away the towns revenue source and effectively ended Soldier Summit as a town.
Today there are a few residents and a gas station/convenience store.
Around 1891 after the D & R G W railroad replaced the narrow gauge, with standard gauge track. The division point was consolidated in Helper. At this time a 15 stall roundhose, a new depot and other accommodations were built. In 1919 the division point was relocated to Soldier Summit. The roundhouse was moved piece by piece to the new location. In 1929, adverse weather conditions at 7,700 feet forced the railroad to move operations back to Helper.
The roundhouse was again dismantled and moved back to its original location. The roundhouse operated until the steam locomotive was phased out and replaced with diesel electric power in the 1950’s.
Driving highway 6/50 between Price/Helper and Spanish Fork, in Price Canyon not too far from Helper, Utah you can see an area to pull off the highway with a lot of history to read.
The first of five markers, coming from the South is placed in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Carbon Plant a coal fired power plant at Castle Gate, Utah.
This monument is dedicated to the Carbon Plant, located SE of this site, the fourth coal-fired facility built by Utah Power. Construction on the $26 million plant began the summer of 1953, in cooperation with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 57, the local community and many other organizations. Unit 1, as 66,000 kw unit, was completed in 1954 and Unit 2, a 100, kw unit, was completed in 1957. Operation continuously longer than any other steam plant in the Utah Power system, the “Castle Cate Plant” burns around 1800 tons of coal daily to produce steam which spins turbine blades to generate 4.248 MW hours of electricity, serving the needs of over 300,000 people. The plant employs approximately 100 full-time workers. Over the years, union and management at the plant and the community have worked hand in hand through cooperation, compromise, and support to make this facility a great success in this area.
Next we have a marker for the Willow Creek Mine Explosion.
On July 31, 2000, at approximately 11:48 p.m. an explosion and fire rocked the Willow Creek Mine taking the lives of Shane Stansfield and Cory Jordon Nielson and sending 8 other miners to the hospital. The explosion marked the end of a short and troubled life for the Willow Creek Mine. It was sealed and reclaimed following this tragic accident.
Then we have the Castle Gate Mine Disaster Memorial.
At 8:30 a.m., March 8, 1924, ans explosion occurred in the Castle Gate No. 2 Mine, located one half mile to the southeast of this site, instantly killing 171 miners. Rescue teams were rushed to Castle Gate from the surrounding mines. Wearing oxygen breathing apparatus, the crews initially made explorations in the main haulage road, but no bodies were found. Repairs were started on the caved haulage road portal, this being necessary on account of gas issuing from this point. During one of these exploration trips, George Wilson, aged 29, married, Captain of the Standardville No.1 Rescue Team, was killed by inhalation of carbon monoxide, caused by the removal his nose clip on the breathing apparatus.
The majority of miners killed were immigrants. Fifty-seven of the miners were single, 115 were married. They left 417 dependents, including 241 children and 25 expectant mothers. Nearly all of the miners were buried in the Price City Cemetery.
Then we learn of Utah’s Coal Industry.
The name Carbon County appropriately suggests the importance of carbon products to the economy and history of this area. The first commercial development of coal occurred in this vicinity in the 1870’s and soon out-distanced production in other sections of Utah. The great impetus to the industry and settlement of the area came with the extension of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad from Colorado through this canyon to Salt Lake City in 1883. Particularly during World War II, coal from Carbon County placed Utah among the leading coke and coal producers of America with vast reserves still to be developed. In addition oil shale and tar sands offer a rich potential as a source of petroleum. A major use of coal is destined to be in the production of electricity as occurs in the Utah Power and Light Company steam plant near this site.
And finally, a marker telling of Butch Bassidy’s robbery nearby.
Near this site stood the Pleasant Valley Coal Company office and store. On April 21, 1897, in of of the most daring daylight robberies, Butch Cassidy, Elsa Lay and Bob Meeks robbed paymaster E.L. Carpenter and made off with over $8000.00 in gold and silver of which only approximately $1000.00 was ever recovered.
Pleasant Valley Junction about 1/2 mile south of this site, began in the early 1880’s when the Rio Grande Railroad extended the main line from Tucker over the summit into Carbon County. A round house was built and a branch line extended to the Pleasant Valley Coal camps. All coal shipped from Pleasant Valley used this new route. The area, renamed Colton in the late 1890’s, was important as a railhead for livestock shipment, general freight and a thriving ice industry. Another part of Colton’s economy was the mining and milling of ozokente, a mineral wax found only here and in Austria. The store behind this monument was moved from the original townsite in 1936. Dedicated July 13, 1991.
On September 11, 1776. Two Franciscan Priests, Father Escalante & Father Dominguez entered what is now the State of Utah, and several weeks later camped in a mountain pass.
It is believed that the fathers gave the pass its first name, calling it Grassy Pass. The name was changed to Soldier Pass when Johnson’s Army at Camp Floyd was ordered east in 1861, about 40 officers & enlisted men from the Southern States were given permission to leave the U.S. Army & go south to join the Confederate Army. They arrived at Grassy Pass in a blizzard, six or seven men & a fourteen year old boy were frozen to death & were buried by a spring near the summit of the pass. The Rio Grande Western Railroad Company in 1880 named the pass Soldier Summit in its first time table.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, soldiers from the South who were stationed at Camp Floyd were released from the US Army. General Albert Sidney Johnson marched eastwards in April. In July, a second group of 40 men, led by General Phillip Cooke marched east to join the Confederate Army. When they reached this spot, they were caught in a freak snowstorm, and six men and a 14-year-old boy froze to death. They are buried in this cemetery. The flag is the first style flown by the Confederacy in 1861.
Located at: N 39.92339 W 111.08221
Soldier Summit is the name of both a mountain pass in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and a ghost town located at the pass.
A cool and sad memorial to the confederate soldiers who died here and who this place is named after can be seen here.
Another cool historic marker can be seen here.
I stopped by the Hilltop store at the old site of Colton, Utah a few years back, I got some cool pictures and some pictures of old pictures. The guy who runs it talked about growing up there and told cool stories, like Butch Cassidy coming in to see his grandpa, , he had a picture of them together.
It’s pretty cool and worth a stop if you are driving through Spanish Fork Canyon.
It used to be called Pleasant Valley Junction, changed to Colton in 1898.
The photos below are taken by me if in color, and the black and white photos are pictures the man in the store had that I took pictures of with my camera.