The Stockton Jail, historic and no longer in use.
This area was first settled beginning in 1856. In 1934, a large area of some 33 square miles, comprising the settlements of Clover, St. John, and Vernon, was incorporated into a town called Onaqui. The incorporation was essentially a bureaucratic tactic to secure federal aid for development of municipal infrastructure, including from the Rural Electrification Administration. When the people of Vernon were granted a petition to incorporate separately on 22 February 1972, the remaining town was renamed Rush Valley.
The first Saltair, completed in 1893, was jointly owned by a corporation associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called Mormons) and the Salt Lake & Los Angeles Railway (later renamed as the Salt Lake, Garfield and Western Railway), which was constructed for the express purpose of serving the resort. Saltair was not the first resort built on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, but was the most successful ever built. It was designed by well-known Utah architect Richard K.A. Kletting and rested on over 2,000 posts and pilings, many of which remain and are still visible over 110 years later.
Saltair was a family place, intended to provide a safe and wholesome atmosphere with the open supervision of Church leaders. While some of the other resorts in the area were seen as “spiritually bleak”, a young courting Mormon couple could visit Saltair without worrying about gossip. Trains left from Salt Lake City every 45 minutes, and so long as the boy got the girl home at a reasonable time after the train arrived, parents weren’t worried – in part because, from the moment of arriving at the station before the outing until they left the station coming home, they were usually never out of sight of trusted members of the community. More than once, a couple on the way home found themselves in the same car as their parents, who themselves had been dancing at Saltair.
Intended from the beginning as the Western counterpart to Coney Island, Saltair was one of the first amusement parks, and for a time was the most popular family destination west of New York. Some criticism was pointed at the Church over the sale of coffee, tea or alcohol (all of which are prohibited by Mormon doctrine), as well as Saltair’s being open on Sunday. The church finally sold the resort in 1906.
The first Saltair pavilion and a few other buildings were destroyed by fire on April 22, 1925. A new pavilion was built and the resort was expanded at the same location by new investors (again, mostly prominent Mormons), but several factors prevented the second Saltair from achieving the success of its ancestor. The advent of motion pictures and radio, the Great Depression, and the interruption of the “go to Saltair” routine kept people closer to home. With a huge new dance floor – the world’s largest at the time – Saltair became more known as a dance palace, the amusement park becoming secondary to the great traveling bands of the day, such as Glenn Miller. Though Saltair showed motion pictures, there were other theaters more convenient to town.
In addition, the first Saltair had benefited from its location on the road from Salt Lake City to the Tooele Valley and to Skull Valley, which in the late 1800s was home to Iosepa, a large community of Polynesian Mormons. Being near a major intersection, Saltair also served as the first (or last) major facility on the road, making it a popular resting area for those travelling by horseback or wagon. When Saltair was rebuilt, however, this traffic was all but gone. Part of the reason was the advent of automobiles, bus and train service to the Tooele Valley, but the other cause was the abandonment of Iosepa, as Polynesians went to homes in the Salt Lake Valley or the community forming around the new LDS Temple in Laie, on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.
Saltair thus had to survive solely against strong competition, and in a dwindling market. Disaster struck in 1931, in the form of a fire which caused over $100,000 in damage, then again in 1933 as the resort was left high and dry when lake waters receded (forcing the construction of a miniature railway to carry swimmers between the resort and the water). Saltair was forced to close during the Second World War, which forced the rationing of fuel and other resources while it took many of the resort’s paying customers – and vital employees – out of Utah. Reopening after the war, the resort found the same situation that it had faced in the 1930s. There were so many other entertainment options, closer to home, and the public was no longer in the habit of going “all the way out there”. The resort closed in 1958, causing the railroad to cease passenger operations at the same time.
Attempts over the next decade to breathe new life into the resort finally ended in November 1970, when an arson fire was set in the center of the wooden dance floor, destroying Saltair.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 80, plus new population expansion into the Tooele Valley and the western Salt Lake Valley, prompted the construction of a new Saltair (Saltair III) in 1981. The new pavilion was constructed out of a salvaged Air Force aircraft hangar and was located approximately a mile west of the original. Once again the lake was a problem, this time flooding the new resort only months after it opened. The waters again receded after several years, and again new investors restored and repaired and planned, only to discover that the waters continued to move away from the site, again leaving it high and dry.
Concerts and other events have been held at the newest facility, but by the end of the 1990s, Saltair was little more than a memory, too small to compete with larger venues which are closer to the public. While there is occasionally activity now and then, through most of the early twenty-first century, the third Saltair was all but abandoned. In 2005 several investors from the music industry pooled together to purchase the building and are now holding regular concerts there. Bands, singers, & dj’s such as Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Bob Dylan, The Used, Dave Matthews Band, The Black Crowes, Deadmau5, Tiesto, DJ Baby Anne, Evanescence, Panic at the Disco, Children Of Bodom, and other notable hip-hop music and rock music acts have all performed there recently. On February 18, 2011, Kesha performed to a sold out crowd on her Get Sleazy Tour.
Relics of the age of the Great Salt Lake resorts are nearby, and can be seen from the highway. Until recently, the most noticeable of these was the skeleton of car “502”, one of the Salt Lake, Garfield & Western’s interurban rail cars which sat beside the ruins of an old powerhouse. The powerhouse once fed lights and roller coasters at the entrance to the original Saltair. The rail car was removed on February 18, 2012 by the property owner for safety concerns. Rows of pilings snake outward toward the lake, all that remains of the railway trestle and pier which once led to the earlier Saltair resort. The surviving buildings of Lake Park, one of Saltair’s neighbors, were moved to a new site thirty miles away, where the Lagoon Amusement Park has grown around them.
The Salt Lake, Garfield & Western still exists as a common carrier shortline railroad, providing switching service in the Salt Lake City area. However, the tracks no longer reach to the resort itself.
William Ajax Underground Store
William and Emma J. Hughes Ajax The unique two-story undergound building was established in 1870. Shortly thereafter a post office called “Centre” was added. The building was 80 x 100 feet, in some places the lower floor was 20 feet below ground. The excavation was done by William Ajax using a shovel and wheelbarrow. The building’s support timbers were cut from juniper and pine trees. These trees were located in the mountains west of here where he walked to and from each day to cut the timbers. The roof was constructed of poles covered with juniper boughs, sod and clay. The store was illuminated by sunlight coming through south-facing windows in the roof. Shoppers were offered a wide variety of merchandise, food, clothing, housewares, hardware, tools and medicine. Goods were arranged in department store style. It was estimated the value of the merchandise was in excess of $70,000.
Patrons came from the mining camps, sheep and cattle ranches and the communities of Rush and Vernon Valley. Meals and lodging for travelers were provided. Their livestock was also cared for in sheds and corrals located west of the present highway. Wild grass-hay was cut in nearby meadows. It was sold to miners in Stockton, Ophir and Mercur. The coming of the railroad through Rush Valley made supplies and travel more accessible, thus ending much of the need for a store in the area. William Ajax died in 1899, his family operated the store until 1914 when they liquidated the merchandise.
The building was abandoned, and later it was burned, (perhaps railroad transients camping at the building). All that remains are the mounds of dirt just east of the monument.
(Inscription under drawing) This illustration depicts the living quarters where meals and lodging were provided. A portion of the underground store was under this building.
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Richville was located between Lake Point and Tooele near the former site of E. T. City. Saw, woolen, and flour mills were built nearby and subsequently names were developed: Mills, Milton, Millvale, and Milltown. For a short period of time Richville was the county seat. After the county seat was moved to Tooele and the mills shut down, the community was abandoned. Today it is Mills Junction.
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The U-138 exit from I-80 leads into a brief corridor of gas stations and convenience stores and continues through present-day Lake Point and Mills Junctions, two adjacent communities whose borders essentially overlap. This corridor was an important meeting place in pioneer times.
Near here, Adobe Rock, a large outcrop at the northwest point of the Oquirrh Mountains, was a favorite pioneer rendezvous spot. Its name came from a small adobe house Captain Howard Stansbury (a U.S. surveyer of the area) had built nearby to house his herders. It was the site of many travelers’ camps and a familiar point of reference. The Donner party camped near Adobe Rock in 1846. On July 27, 1847, apostle Orson Pratt and two other men climbed to the top of the rock to get a view of the Tooele Valley. Later, when Brigham Young came to visit the settlements, this was where he was greeted.
Mormon Pioneers quickly took advantage of mountain streams in the area to power their gristmills. The mills were eventually closed, and by 1889 the town of Mills Junction was abandoned. The Benson mill, constructed in 1854 by the grandfather of Ezra Taft Benson, and LDS apostle and two-term secretary of agriculture under President Eisenhower who later became LDS Church president, has been restored and operates as a museum. The mill is open from April through October.(*)
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Ophir is a small mining town, named for the nearby canyon and mining district, where gold was discovered in the 1860s. The mining district was named for the biblical Ophir, from where King Solomon brought back gold to Israel. The population was 23 at the 2000 census, a decrease of two from the 1990 figure of 25.
Look north, see trees that mark site of TOD PARK, which was home for civilian employees of Army Depot (1943-1960). Look northwest, see the 10,000 acres of Tooele Army Depot ammunition storage, warehouses, mainenance shops and administration buildings. Look west, see the water mark on South Mountain made by Old Lake Bonneville at the 5200 foot level. Look south, see the geologic wonder of Stockton Bar which was created by wave action of Old Lake Bonneville. Look down west, see the trees that mark the site of the Ghost Town of Bauer (private property), the Honerine Tunnel adit, and the terminix of the old Utah Nevada Western Railroad (1885-1905). Look east in gully, see Soldier Bridge on old road built by Steptoe’s Army in 1854. Look northeast, see bench across Silcox Canyon which was created by an earthquake that happened before the last Ice Age. Glaciers cut through the bench and created a wide flat bottom canyon.
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Stockton has a lot of “firsts,” it was the hone of the First Electric Light in the State, the First Smelter Center in the West, and the First Mining Camp in the State, first town in the Utah Territories to have its streets surveyed and named and the first town to get a telephone.
Here’s a post about the old jail in town.