History of Cache Junction, Utah

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A HISTORY OF CACHE JUNCTION by Larry D. Christiansen

Today it is a mere skeletal reflection of its prosperous days when it was the most important railway point between Ogden and Pocatello. Only a few railroad buildings or structures remain of the once busy railroad junction plus the grain elevators and a business or two supplied by the railroad. Gone are the stockyards, coal chute, ice house, roundhouse, "Beanery," loading dock, station and connections to Western Union Telegraph or Pacific Express. No longer does it have a line of houses occupied by important railroad workers or gangs of workers maintaining the trains, rails, signals, switches, buildings and bridges of the railroad. Still a few freight trains go by each day, all without a caboose. But no passenger trains not even one now and then. In the past there were several each day going both north and south. It has been several decades since the Yellowstone Special made its summer runs, and the famous "All aboard" call has not been heard in over a generation. There is no school, hotel or numerous other businesses which once thrived here. The old Cache Junction baseball field was ploughed up long ago, and has seen more grain and weeds than games, players and fans in the last fifty years. Now days there is seldom a delay for people wishing to cross to the eastern side of the tracks, and just seeing a train is more unusual than common. The wail of the locomotive whistle has become indeed lonesome and almost gone.

After a false start in the 1870s railroad tracks did not come to the area of Cache Junction until over a decade later. Contrary to the surveyor’s recommendation the first railroad into Cache Valley came via the Collinston-Mendon divide. The narrow gauge line ran to Logan then north and eventually to Franklin, and then finally across Idaho and into Montana. In the late 1880s the narrow gauge rails were replaced by the standard gauge except for the portion of the route between Brigham City and McCammon. Here a new line was constructed that altered and shortened the original line. It passed Collinston and followed the river through the Bear River Narrows as the Utah Northern surveyor had recommended back in the 1870s. After entering Cache Valley the new standard tracks crossed Bear River and then turned northward and continued up the western side of Cache Valley and connected with the old route to Montana. This new line was constructed during the summers of 1889 and 1890, and an important railroad junction was located and appropriately named Cache Junction. From the main line a 42 mile branch was later constructed that swept southward and around to the eastern side of the valley connecting Wellsville, Hyrum, Logan and Preston with the in between towns to the junction. The first railroad was the Utah Northern Company which built the line from Ogden to Franklin between 1871 and 1875, and then professional railroad operation took over and turned it into the Utah & Northern and pushed it through Idaho into Montana. By 1878 Union Pacific officials had acquired the Utah & Northern and it functioned as a subsidiary of the parent company. In the following decade in a series of mergers and seeking new rights-of-way the Union Pacific formed another subsidiary-the Oregon Short Line Railroad-which would be the company which built the new line.

By 1895 Cache Junction had become important enough to be located by name on many of the maps of Utah. Among the facilities at the new junction were a water tank, coaling location plus the depot or station house and other buildings. There also was constructed a railroad bridge over Bear River. By June of 1890 a letter from a Newton man stated that the bridge over the river had been built two miles below Newton and the trains were expected to be running by the first of September. While a bridge for the trains was essential also needed was one to provide easy access to the junction by residents of middle and northern Cache Valley. As soon as the railroad construction began in the area the citizens wanting access to Cache Junction began requesting the Cache County Court, who had the authority on roads and bridges, to construct a bridge across Bear River between Newton and Cache Junction.

The court failed to respond so in June of 1891 a businessman proffered $1,000 toward the building of such bridge and an influential resident informed the court that the citizens of Cache Junction, Newton and Clarkston would contribute between $300 and $400. The court took the matter under advisement, but the inevitable mounting pressure forced action. In November of 1891 a new wooden bridge was finished over the river providing access to Cache Junction "a railroad on the Oregon Short Line Railroad." But the county court, and later the Cache County commissioners, thought small and failed to see the impact of the new railroad center. Before long the bridge was inadequate, and again requests for a new bridge came in. Finally in the summer of 1908 a new "great bridge" spanned Bear River near the old bridge. But the "great bridge" was insufficient within five years, and in March of 1913 the county commissioners agreed to replace it with a new steel bridge. They also agreed to work with the railroad to provide an underpass so the railroad tracks did not have to be crossed. The complaint had been that teams had been held up sometimes as much as half a hour at the crossing of the tracks by trains the past harvest season. There was some delay in construction but by late June of 1914 both the new steel bridge ("Best Bridge in the State") and the railroad underpass were completed and ready for use. The present day bridge over Bear River is the fourth bridge in this same area.

While government officials thought slow and small, many entrepreneurs and businesses moved fast. In January of 1891 the county court received requests for a lunch counter, a boarding house and retail liquor store for Cache Junction. The following month there was a request for another "Boarding & Lodging" house. The court approved the requests and upon payment of business fees were licensed by the county. Within a short time buildings were constructed, and the businesses were operating. Grain elevators were established almost as fast, and farmers brought their grain to them. In July of 1895 forty railroad cars of wheat were shipped from Cache Junction, and the following year for a similar period fifty cars of wheat were shipped. In 1908 the Logan newspaper estimated that the elevators in Cache Junction would ship out a half a million bushels of wheat. In 1907 construction started on a new steel elevator which was finished in June of 1909, and it held 100,000 bushels of grain in eight "spiral bins."

In 1905 the railroad began work on the branch line connecting the southern and eastern communities of Cache Valley north to Preston, Idaho. A completely new road was constructed south to Mendon. Much of the old Utah & Northern line was used on the eastern side of the valley, and in 1907 the final link was a line from Hyrum through Wellsville and on to Mendon. With time new and better facilities were made in the junction. A round house to work on the locomotives, a bigger water tank, a huge coal chute, a stockyard, a wye to turn the trains around, section maintenance buildings, an ice house and building for the water service plus houses for many railroad workers. More sidetracks were added as needed plus spur tracks to elevators and other business which needed special train services. By 1903 Bell Telephone installed a line from Logan to Cache Junction, and then were slow to extend the lines to communities like Newton and Clarkston. The reason was the importance of the railroad and the business it generated. With the coming of the trains Cache Junction had a post office, and the mail came in six days a week for Newton and Clarkston.

In 1904 Cache Junction had a population of 100, and advertised businesses as follows: Cleaveland Commission Company merchants, John H. Barker, Jr. serving as postmaster, operator of a general store plus being a Livestock Breeder and Dealer, J. Briggs had a restaurant as did Mrs. B. F. Hottle. There were two saloons listed operated by a Peter Clawson and an E. Haskel. There were the elevators, a boarding house or two and a few other businesses not listed. In 1905 the population was placed at 150 and Cache Junction had its own one room school. The Cleaveland Commission Company continued while John H. Barker, Jr. dropped to being postmaster and operator of a general store. Only one saloon was listed. The Griffin Brothers had a store dealing in general merchandise, and Mrs. Hottle still had her restaurant. The railroad connected enterprises were the Pacific Express Company and the Western Union Telegraph Company. Then there was for the first time the "Oregon Short Line Railroad restaurant" which was positioned in a building on an island between the various tracks to serve the trainmen, passengers and others. A pool hall had been established earlier, and in 1910 a billiard hall opened. In 1909 a special train brought President William H. Taft through the area and he had a short stop at the junction. In 1916 another special train brought the Liberty Bell to Cache Junction where a large crowd gathered to see the symbol of liberty. In January of 1912 the Cache County commissioners approved and ordered recorded the "Plat of Cache Junction Townsite." It was a center of economy and a hub of activity being engaged night and day. So busy and noisy that tragedy was inevitable. In 1907 William F. Rigby, Jr., returning from a business trip, got off his train and while on a side track conversing with a friend was struck and killed by an unnoticed switch engine in the normal hustle and bustle of the freight yard.

Initially the school children from the Cache Junction area went to school in Petersboro. In April of 1904 the trustees of the Petersboro school district petitioned the county commissioners to divide their school district at a designated location in the north. They gave two reasons for their request, the first being that Cache Junction had the number of children that entitled them to their own school district, and second, "the people of Cache Junction do not attend our school meetings. . . ." Beginning in the fall of 1905 Cache Junction had their own school in their own school district with one room and one teacher-Anna Briggs. The 1911 school census listed 34 students in the Cache Junction school while Newton had 176 students and Clarkston 205. When all of the Cache County school districts outside of Logan were consolidated in 1908, the new Cache County Board of Education began looking at consolidating some of the smaller schools. They considered sending the Cache Junction students to the Newton school, but Junction residents strongly opposed the idea. When the one room school was not adequate Cache Junction petitioned for a "new two room modern school building." At end of the school year in May of 1914 the county school board decided to close the Cache Junction school at the end of term. Then in June, whether bowing to pressure or unsure of what growth the junction would continue to experience, it reconsidered and decided to continue the Junction school during 1914-1915. In March of 1915 the county school board decided to close the Cache Junction school again, but in May they changed their minds and chose to erect a new two-room school building at Cache Junction.

In the new building the school of eight grades continued for 18 years. When the population of the area dropped the school was a bit thin. In the late 1920s the lead teacher at the Cache Junction school went to the Newton school and told them he had a problem. His school had scheduled a football game with the Mendon school and he needed to borrow some of the Newton boys to field a team. When the Newton principal inquired as to how many he needed the answer was "ten." The Junction school had only one boy in the football playing age, but they were determined to play no matter what. In May of 1930, Ralph Jones, the principal of the Cache Junction school, conducted the commencement exercises on the 13th for the three graduates-Merton Jensen gave the welcome address, Emma Elwood gave the valedictory address and Ellen Hardy gave the class prophecy. The following day Principal Jones and his class motored to Logan and had a class picture taken. The school closed in 1933, and thereafter the students went to school in Newton.

In October of 1910 the Logan newspaper declared "Cache Junction is booming." The newspaper went on to explain that the Anderson Hotel was completed and the Farmers Union Bank had been operating a short time. The David Robin Grain & Produce Company had recently built a large warehouse, and the Dahle Brothers, backed by Milwaukee capitalists, had started to erect a large flour mill to be powered by electricity from a power plant in Bear River Canyon. By 1915 the population was listed at 175 people with a bank, hotel, general store, post office, two-room school, lumber yard and modern hotel plus one elevator company and two milling and elevator companies. Cache Junction had about reached the zenith of its growth. The other restaurants found they could not compete with the "Beanery," and they passed from the scene. A saloon and pool hall were available much of the time. In 1920 a pumping station was established on Bear River not far from the automobile bridge. The water pulled out of the river was pumped into a canal which carried it to the fields south of Cache Junction as far away as Petersboro. The opening ceremonies of the pump operation was held July 3, 1920, and thereafter the water was pumped during irrigating season until the depression in the1930s. In 1921 a sugar beet dump was established at Cache Junction, and the sugar beets hauled by the railroad to nearby sugar factories.

During the boom times the residents of Cache Junction found time for play. They early formed a baseball team and created a ball field in the village. By the second decade of the Twentieth Century they were called the Cache Junction Giants, and during the late spring and through summer they played numerous games both at home and away. Frequently they played at least two games a week with Sundays and holidays being the choice times. They played for more than fun for in the July 4th week of 1911 they engaged the Garland team for a purse of $100, and then the Richmond team for $125. In late July of the same year they traveled to Wellsville and suffered a bitter loss of 7 to 2. As soon as they could they had an article in the Logan newspaper decrying their situation. As they saw it, their pitcher George Ecklund had put Wellsville down with only three hits but wobbly fielding "due to the fact that the Giant fielders are not used to cellar diamonds nor sage brush outfields." Then in a final jab at their opponents they, perhaps with tongue in cheek, offered to help Wellsville--for "Cache Junction will donate a lawn mower if Wellsville will mow its sage brush, and furnish ground and shovels if Wellsville will fill up its infield so that its ball plot will look like a real diamond."

Sometimes the Junction team was a combination Newton-Cache Junction baseball team, and before long many of the Newton players found it was more rewarding to either play for Cache Junction or at that site where gate receipts or passing of the hat brought a few dollars to the players. Up through at least 1930 Cache Junction had a baseball team in one of the Cache Valley baseball leagues. But they also shared their field and some of the gate receipts with neighboring teams. In mid-July of 1930 in a Sunday doubleheader Newton beat Paradise in the first game, while Richmond defeated Cache Junction in the last game. In 1931 Clarkston, Weston, Trenton and Newton formed a new baseball league and invited other towns to join them. Thereafter most of the games described in the newspaper were Newton teams-they formed two-playing mostly on Sunday at Cache Junction. Probably Cache Junction players participated on the Newton team but Newton was the controlling element now. In early June of 1931 at a Sunday game at the junction Newton defeated a Logan team. In July Honeyville defeated Newton in a Saturday game, and the following Sunday in a doubleheader the Newton first team beat Mendon while a Logan team won over the Newton second team. Then in August the Newton first team traveled to Bear Lake for a Sunday game, while the Newton second team played in Cache Junction and defeated Clarkston.

In 1912 Cache Junction organized a gun club and established a shooting range. They welcomed the nimrods from Newton to use their range until a dispute broke out. Newton claimed it was all due to their gun club defeating the junction club in a shooting match. Cache Junction denied this and told Newton shooters they were no long welcome to use their facilities. The Junction residents were adamant sportsmen and did not look kindly on losing.

While many watched or played baseball on Sunday others went to church services. For the Mormons there was the nearby church at Newton. In April of 1896 two teachers were selected to serve the "Cache Junction Precinct . . . a branch of Newton Ward." In November of 1897 that was changed to the Cache Junction Sunday School functioning under the direction of the Newton Ward. Mormons could and did go to Newton for other church meetings but continued with home Sunday School meetings at the school house until late 1933. In April of 1933 the Cache Junction Sunday School held a dance in the new amusement hall at the unfinished Newton church to help the building fund. In October of 1933, Leroy G. Salibury asked to be released as superintendent of the Sunday School at Cache Junction on account of the closing of the school there and the removal of the school stove. Thereafter, Cache Junction Mormons were invited to go to Newton for all religious services.

The only other religion to make a concerted effort in Cache Junction was the Baptists. This religious group entered the area in 1916 as part of the Utah Home Mission Worker Council. The latter organization had the purpose to reduce the competition among the various Protestant churches in the predominantly Mormon area, and they did this by assigning certain areas for various sects. The Baptists established a church at Tremonton. Then they decided they could expand their operations by using the trains. The minister at the base in Tremonton could travel via the train to and from two nearby railroad communities. They established services as Cache Junction and Trenton with the Baptist preacher visiting them on an assigned schedule. But the real problem was lack of a consistent attending congregation for the traveling minister; one week he had several in attendance, the next time almost no one. The outbound Baptist ministry in both communities did not last long.

In 1929 the Great Depression struck the country and the railroads were not immune. They felt the economic hard times and tightened their belts. The boom times were definitely over, and by 1930 the population of Cache Junction had dropped to 80. While all suffered, those receiving checks from the railroad were generally better off than the farmers of the area. The latter thought it was a blessing when snowstorms hit and men could get temporary work clearing away the snow for the railroad. In July of 1930 there was a wash out in Weber Canyon which forced the railroad to route all eastbound traffic through Cache Junction. Although much effort was made to expedite the trains, the congestion caused delays. On one of the delayed passenger trains at the junction were the black faced actors who portrayed "Amos n’ Andy" on the radio and stage. During their delay they stepped on the station platform and performed some stunts. The depression dragged through the 1930s, and by 1938 Cache Junction’s population and businesses were greatly reduced. There was no long a school or a hotel. A couple of buildings were removed to Newton and others dismantled. Besides the railroad and associated businesses there were only a post office, the Deseret Honey Company warehouse, Farmer’s National Grain Coop, Husler Elevator Company and a Utah State Road Commission warehouse.

In 1940 the national economy and the railroad business picked up considerably primarily due to the war in Europe. Then after Pearl Harbor the railroad had more hauling to do than they could handle under normal situations. There were war materials and equipment to haul and troop trains along with regular traffic. Railroad workers usually worked at least six days a week and the busy times reminded many of the boom times twenty years before. After the war the good times seemed to continue but there were ominous signs as in 1941 the Union Pacific introduced diesel power in some of its freight service. In 1944 the railroad purchased its last steam engine. Still to the casual observer the problems were bad weather like the blizzards which struck on the plains of Nebraska and Wyoming and the deep snow in northern Utah in 1949. A snow slide in Bear River Canyon hit a train and a couple of men were killed. Railroad crews spent days digging out the snow slide and putting the train back on the track. Then in the 1950s more and more diesel engines came on line until finally the UP retired its steam locomotives. Steam engines need coal and water on a regular basis and could cover little more than a hundred miles before refueling and taking on more water. While diesel locomotives needed only diesel and could travel much farther and needed less service and maintenance. As changes came to the front of trains they also effected the back. The beloved caboose disappeared being replaced by the "End of Train" electronic devise which by 1984 made the caboose an anachronism. The improvements in railroad rolling stock made places like Cache Junction much less important.

At the same time a more serious problem was building for the railroads. Soon after Henry Ford’s Model T took to the roads in large numbers the automobile began a negative impact on the trains’ passenger volume. Coupled with this, airplanes started getting bigger and better to the point where they carried more passengers than the trains. In 1971 the Union Pacific ended its passenger service. The freight train had for almost a hundred years been the primary freight carrier, but after World War II trucks became a competitor and by the mid-1950s they were serious challengers. Then in the late 1950s and early 1960s the nation’s railroad had series of good years in large part by hauling cement to build the nation’s interstate highways. But the new highways put the trucks in the dominant freight hauling position.

Thus technology and the changing times brought a decline in the railroads. Its direct impact on Cache Junction should have been noted in 1955 when the steam railway icon was taken down piece by piece. The giant coal chute had stopped being used a few years earlier and was torn down. It was a sign of the declining times and that more was to come. Railroad jobs were lost and buildings fell into disuse and eventually were either moved or torn down. The ice house was moved to a farm in Petersboro. The railroad houses were removed. Then in February of 1986 the railroad eatery-the "Beanery"-closed its doors for the final time in eighty years. A short time later the "Beanery" building plus the station were taken down. It was almost the "end of the line" in Cache Junction. A newspaper article on this coup de grace stated that at the time there were only nine families still living in Cache Junction. All that remains of the railroad portion of the settlement are the tracks, a couple of small buildings and the train that services the branch line out of Cache Junction which still makes daily runs. The rapid rise and then decline of Cache Junction all came in a hundred year period.

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Sources:
Merrill D. Beal, The Utah and Northern Railroad (Idaho State University Press, 1980), 45, 57, 71.
Letters of John H. Barker to Jenny Barker in England, June 15, June 25, 1890.
Cache County Probate Court Record Book "C", p. 28 and Book "B", pp. 629, 639 .
Newton Ward Quarterly Historical Report, Nov. 1891.
The Journal (Logan, Ut.), Aug. 1, 1908, March 20, Nov. 20, 1913, June 4, 1914, May 15, 1930, Oct. 22, 1910. June 27, July 4, July 27, 1911, May 21, 1912. May 1, 1929, July 15, 1930.
Cache Valley Daily Herald, April 6, June 10, July 13, 14, Aug. 19, 1931.
Cache County Commissioners Minutes Book "H", 256.
Cache County Commissioners Minutes Book "F", 227.
Cache County Board of Education Minutes, by dates, May 16, 1914, June 6, 1914, Mar. 20, 1915, May 27, 1916. Newton Ward Historical Record Book "K", October 1933.
Logan and Cache County Directory 1904
Logan and Cache County Directory 1905-06
Logan and Cache County Directory 1915-16 (Salt Lake City, Ut., R. L. Polk and Co.).

 

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