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Piute County Local History Resources

Piute County Reading Room

Piute's past and present

(Salt Lake Herald Republican, 23 May 1920)

(Note: This article is reproduced as written; its account of early history is not entirely accurate, however. AEP)

Little Journeys Into Utah History.

Piute Industrial and Picturesquely Scenic County.

By Albert F. Phillips

It was in 1864. The larger part of Utah was a frontier. Most of it had never been explored. In the central and southern part of the territory the red men held sway and the appearance of the white people was resented. To settle that section of country required men and women of courage. The pioneers of Utah were courageous. They had made the journey over the great American plains, had crossed the Rocky range of mountains into the unknown and finally settled in what was then as now a great empire. Wherefore, when it was deemed for the general good this great empire to do it with settlements and open it to the world there was no hesitancy upon the part of those who were designated to open up a new territory. They responded to the call.

It was in response to this call, made in January, 1864, that caused fifty families from the county of Sanpete to move southward into what is now Piute county (it was then spelled Pi-Ute) and located in circle valley, found the town of Circleville and open a new country. The settlement was made in March, 1860.

When the Fourteenth legislature met in December, 1864, a bill was introduced creating the county of Piute, named after an Indian tribe. The boundaries of the county extended to the Colorado line on the east and included what is now Wayne county and the legislature made an appropriation of $500 to construct a road between Circleville and Little Salt Lake valley in Iron county, and another appropriation of $1000 to construct a road "over the mountain dividing Piute from Sevier county."

The boundaries of the county, however, were not definite enough and the Fifteenth legislature on January 10, 1866, passed an act which clarified the boundary situation and placed the county with definite lines. The boundaries were fixed thus: "All that portion of territory bounded on the south by Iron county, west of Beaver county, north by an east and west line crossing the range on the summit of the dividing line between Marys 'Vale and Alma and east by Colorado territory is hereby made and named Piute County, with the county seat at Circleville."

Later the county seat was moved to Bullion, then to Marysvale and again, in February 22, 1878, the legislature determined a fixed habitation for the records and courts by naming Junction as the county seat, and it has so remained. In 1891 Wayne county was sliced off from Piute, taking 2475 square miles from the county and leaving but 763 square miles in Piute county. In area the county, as it was left, and is today, is about 32 miles in length and 25 miles in breadth. It is 189 miles from Salt Lake to Marysvale, the terminal of the railroad in that section of the state. William Black was the first settler in the county. He pioneered the way and blazed the trail for others.

Sevier River Traverses County

The Sevier river traverses the county and two miles north of Marysvale enters the picturesque gorge known as Marysvale canyon. The Tushar range of mountains on the west, which divides the county from Beaver, rises to an average altitude of 11,000 feet. The north limit of the range is guarded by Mt. Belknap and Mt. Baldy, whose bare domes away above timberline are 12,200 and 11,730 feet, respectively, in height and are visible over an area that, in its greatest diameter, is around 400 miles.

Wonderfully picturesque is Piute county, for its surface is largely mountainous, although there are many small valleys. On the mesas there are meadows with luxuriant growth and there are lakes and streams, cascades and waterfalls, canyons galore and scenic beauties that one never tires of seeing. The forest reserves, Fillmore and Fishlake, contain about 40 per cent of the acreage of the county and on the higher parts in the reserves are magnificent specimens of balsam and spruce, pine and fir trees, while the forests furnish magnificent range for live stock.

Earthquake Tossed Up Mountains

Scientists declare that the locality in which Piute county is situated was once a part of the ocean bed and that Devonian sandstone to a depth of more than 2000 feet formed the floor of this great inland sea. Superimposed was a bed of lower carboniferous limestone. Shrinking of the earth's crust caused a rent that reached downward to the melted interior of the earth and fissured Utah from north to south, lifted the Tushar range more than 2000 feet, builded Mounts Belknap and Baldy to a height of thousands of feet and the old earth wounds are not yet healed.

The earthquake of 1900, which rent the heart of the Tushar range, changed its aspect; rents were torn in the Marysvale gorge and rock slides tore down the mountain sides.

There are many beautiful valleys in Piute; the valley named after the county is broad, twenty miles by five and is one of the largest in the county. All are productive.

It was in the early '60s that Piute was invaded by the whites, and the pioneers of that time were harassed by Indians so much that many settlements had to be abandoned. It was in April, 1866, that Alfred Lewis and C. Christensen were killed and several others wounded in a battle with the redmen near Fort Sanford, a fort that had been built by militia under Silas Sanford Smith and midway between Circleville and Panguitch, which finally resulted in the settlers congregating at Circleville, abandoning settlements, and in 1870 there were, according to the census, but eighty-two residents in the county.

In 1880 the population had increased and on June 1, when the census was taken, the county had a population of 1651, of which 83 were males and 758 females, and this included 120 Indians and half-breeds. The voting population was 235 native, 136 foreign and 36 colored. In 1910 the population had further increased to 1734 and the present year it is estimated that the population is about 2500.

In 1866 the assessed valuation of the county was reported at $35,786, and the taxes raised amounted to $178.03, of which $20 was paid to the territory. At that time Edward Dalton was probate judge and William J. Allred notary public. Both were elected by the Legislature. The valuation of the county as reported to the state board of equalization for 1919 was $2,012,561, of which more than one-fourth was in live stock, and the total amount of taxes was $29,881.

Produces Cattle and Agricultural Products

While stock raising is the great industry of the county, there is considerable farming, and last year there were 1500 acres in spring wheat, with an average production of 19 bushels per acre; 13 acres of oats were harvested with an average yield of 30 bushels per acre; 200 acres of barley were grown, which harvested 25 bushels per acre; 6700 acres were in alfalfa and the yield was 1.75 tons per acre; the acreage in potatoes was 150 and the average yield 40 bushels. Good plow land in the county is valued at $65 per acre and poor land at $10, the average value being $50 per acre.

Great Piute Canals Are Constructed

The year after Piute county was created there had been constructed one irrigating canal in the county which was 800 rods in length, five feet in width, three feet in depth and with a mean inclination per mile of twelve feet. The cost of construction including dams, was $2000 and the number of acres irrigated was 1440 and an estimated cost of canal progress of $2500. This was in 1866.

At that time there had been constructed in the several counties in the territory 277 main canals, which were 1043 miles in length, with a mean width of 5 feet 6 inches and mean depth of 2 feet 2 inches, which watered 153,949 acres of land, the cost of the systems aggregating $1,766,939, and there was in course of construction additional canals at an estimated cost of $900,000.

In the previous year there had been grown in the state 81,317 acres of cereal crops, also 10,900 acres in sorghum and root crops, 551 acres of cotton and 65,044 acres of meadow. In horticulture there were 717 acres in apples, 962 acres in peaches, 179 acres in grapes and 289 acres in other fruits.

Of this acreage, Pi-Ute (it was spelled that way in the statistical reports) had 880 acres in wheat, which yielded an average of 15 bushels per acre 10 acres in barley, 50 acres in corn, 30 acres of potatoes, three acres in carrots, ten acres in sundry small crops, 225 acres in meadow, three acres in rye and one acre of hemp.

Compare the irrigation system of the date mentioned with that of today. In Piute county there is now a reservoir on the Sevier river which furnishes water for the irrigation of about 25,000 acres of land and the cost of which was almost as great as the cost of the entire irrigation system of the territory when the county was created. The project was recently sold by the state to a company of citizens of the section in which the project is situated for $1,250,000.

In the nonmetal mines Piute county is the only place in the United States that alunite with sufficient purity and in quantity enough to warrant development as a source of potash is found. Alunite is a hydrous basic sulphate of potassium and aluminum. When pure it contains 11.4 per cent potash. It is usually contaminated with silica and other impurities and often has parts of its potash replaced by soda. The find of alunite is in the Tushar mountains at the head of Little Cottonwood canyon, about seven miles from Marysvale, which is the terminal of the Marysvale branch of the Denver & Rio Grande railroad. It is found in a bedded vein that cuts the volcanic rock which forms the greater parts of the Tushar range. The industry is among the larger ones in the state.

Three companies own valuable potash deposits in the Tushar mountains. The Mineral Products company owns, according to reports on file with the state board of equalization and assessment, twelve patented claims surrounded by a number of claims held by possessary rights, the ownership of the company extending over 218 acres which are valued at $56,000, with a plant that is valued at $136,277. The estimated tonnage of valuable potash blocked out is around 280,000 tons.

The ore of the Mineral Products company is stoped in a tunnel, hauled to the portal, sent down an aerial tram a distance of 6000 feet to the foot of the mountain and is then hauled by wagon to the mill. The mill uses 170 to 180 tons of raw ore per day.

The Bradburn company owns nine patented claims and is working assessment work on others. Its ownership is 148 acres valued at $47,600. Its plant is small with nothing but a shop. The company is made up of Pittsburgh people. The estimated tonnage of potash in the Bradburn group is 160,000 tons and in the sunshine fraction 125,000 tons.

The Florence Mining company own only fractions of claims patent having come to it, according to the report submitted to the state board, as a result of other grounds going to patent. The company has eighty-eight claims, the land being valued at $25,000, which have been surveyed for patent, but are now held by possessary rights. Its machinery is valued at $43,500.

Manganese ores, which are used largely in the manufacture of steel, or the making of ferro-manganese, which is used in the manufacture of hearth steel, and spiegeleisen [sic] the latter used in the manufacture of Bessemer steel and dry batteries, has also been found in ores near Marysvale. Shipments have shown ores carrying 40 to 50 per cent manganese.

Barytes, a mineral which is used in colored mixed paints, is also found in the range about Marysvale.

Minerals in Three Districts 

There are three districts in Piute county where metals are mined. The Kimberly, Gold Mountain district, which is fifteen miles southwest of Sevier. In this district is located the old and famous Annie Laurie property, which was the largest producer. It went into the hands of a receiver in 1906. It was great property then, the development being three tunnels, each of which was more than 3000 feet long; its equipment was a 250-ton ore crusher, amalgamation and cyanide mill. Leasers have worked the property in later years and small quantities of gold ore containing silver have been shipped.

The Mount Baldy district, among the oldest organized districts in that section of the state, dating from 1878. Lead sulphide ore is found in this section, the ore being found as bedded veins between quartzite and limestone, while fissured veins are found in granite or porphyry. From the Piute mine there has been shipped copper ore which runs high in silver. The Deer Trail property is equipped with a modern plant and there is also a stamp mill on the Sevier property.

The Ohio, or Marysvale, district precedes the Mount Baldy district several years, having been organized in August, 1872. Lead ore carrying gold, silver and a small quantity of copper is found there, most of the ores being at the contact between quartzite and stratified limestone. During the period from 1911 to 1918 the average number of producers in the county was five and their total output amounted to $411,459, of which gold value was $188,994 and silver $128,903. The value of the metal mines in real estate in the county as assessed by the state board of equalization and assessment for the year 1920 is $128,600; the value in machinery and improvements on the several properties at $391.291 and the net proceeds of the properties $8446.

First Gold Found at Marysvale 

It was in 1865 that the first discovery of gold was made in the region about Marysvale. John [sic] Hess was the discoverer and his discovery was placer gold on the glacier wave formed bench just south of and adjoining Marysvale. Hess, who was from Manti, had been a member of the Mormon battalion and was present with several other members in California at Sutter's mill, when Sutter found gold in the race which ran his mill. He was a prospector and he followed his lead tracing the gold up to the mouth of Pine canyon, where the precious metal ceased. As Pine creek was too rapid for bars, Hess continued on up the creek and canyon and five miles from where placer tracings ceased he discovered the ledge known as the "Bully Boy and Webster." And it was upon the discovery of this slide that Marysvale had its beginning.

Desultory prospecting in Pine canyon followed for a number of years. The south side of the canyon alternated with north-south contacts of quartzite, limestone and prophyry dikes and is regarded as one of the most wonderful and remarkable examples of mineralization. The ores found are gold, silver, lead and copper and the workings in the various properties disclose that the lead is a surface metal and that copper-carrying silver and gold replaces it at depth.

Primitive Methods Caused Deal of Work

It was a long way in those days to a railroad, for the Union Pacific did not reach Utah until 1869, but when it did come a company made up of Chicago people who had investigated the finds in Pine canyon imported a two-stamp mill and donkey engine, had it hauled overland to Marysvale, and installed it up the canyon. It was primitive in that the stamps had to be started with a pinch bar, with the result that the process was unusually slow, and the product declined to yield to the pan-amalgamation process of extraction. Then a homemade furnace was erected. It was constructed of boulders and charcoal was made from pinyon pine, but it like the mill, failed to produce results, and the effort at smelting in Marysvale was abandoned.

Several years later the late Robert C. Chambers, afterward superintendent of the Ontario property at Park City and still later one of the owners of The Herald, with the late E.U. Colbath, bought the Bully Boy and the Webster properties. The product of the mine had to be hauled to Salt Lake, a distance of 200 miles, and even with the high-grade ore that the properties produced the obstacle of transportation could not be overcome, and this proved true even when the railroad started southward had reached Juab county. After smelters had been erected in the Salt Lake valley, ore to the value of several hundred thousand dollars from the properties were shipped to Salt Lake, but it was not profitable and the property was virtually abandoned.

Expert White Depicts Situation

It is declared by oldtimers, as also many of those today, that on more than 100 square miles of the mountain range in which Marysvale is located that in the range and gulches can be found more pay float of ores of gold, copper, silver and lead than can be found in any other known mining region. This is the declaration of William E. White. In a recent letter Mr. White depicts the situation in and around the famous old camp thus:

"Up on the top of the range of the Florence mines is what is locally called the Edna crater. From this apparently radiate like spokes from the hub of a wheel the splendid veins of alunite that make this the greatest alunite camp in the world.

"How Mother Nature in her busy hours in this her chamber of alchemy found time and patience to pick up a tiny atom of potash here, an atom of alumina there, and an atom of sulphuric acid, founder and mold them all into these world's greatest alunite veins, this deponent sayeth not, because he knoweth not, and you are hereby referred to the high-tops and high-rows.

"The men of little faith said the alunite was worthless, but a hundred-ton-per-day plant for five or six years has poured a stream of the world's purest potash into the channels of commerce, and millions of other tons of alunite seam Marysvale's hills."

Another 'Old Timer' Expresses Views

Then comes J.F. Gibs, likewise an old-timer, likewise a natural geologist, one of the best informed men on the Marysvale section, who compares the district with that of Bingham. Says Mr. Gibbs:

"The intensely rugged and picturesque topography of the Marysvale region is the result of stupendous faulting -- the vertical displacement in many localities being more than 2000 feet and of which the Gold Hill and Deer Trail escarpments are conspicuous evidence of the changes of level that accompanied the great north-south fracturing of the earth's unstable crust.

"According to locality, that gigantic earth-mound, extending from near the Utah-Arizona boundary north to the Idaho state line, is in Salt Lake valley known as the Wasatch fault and in the Marysvale valley government geologists have named it the Sevier fault. Paralleling the Sevier fault, a few miles distant to the east, is another line of faulting. The north-south tract of bottom land, known as Marysvale valley on the north and Circle valley to the south, is the surface of an enormous "block" fault that segregated on both sides and ends, settled down to a position between 1000 and 2000 feet below the original position as a part of the vast sandstone and limestone beds that in the remote age occupied all of eastern Utah. Sevier valley, Sanpete valley, Utah valley and the Great Salt Lake valley are examples of deep block faulting.

"Through contact with the intense heat of the intruded dikes and beds of extrusive igneous, aided by hot subterranean water, the original semi-crystalline sandstone was transformed into the now familiar quartzite. Being more permeable, the limestone was subjected to greater alteration, and in many localities to a series of metamorphic agencies. In the Bingham canyon district metamorphism was complete--the crude and unlovely limestone emerged from the altering process as white as tinted marble, or coarsely-crystalline calcite--a twin-sister of marble.

"Until a few months ago calcite had not been encountered in the Marysvale district. In the exploration tunnel now being driven by the Tushar Range Metals Mining company into the pine canyon division of the giant spur that separates Pine creek from Cottonwood creek, an extensive bed of calcite, overlying the bed of quartzite, was encountered."

Deer Trail Mine Located by Smith

Calcite, it might be remarked, is calcium carbonate, or carbonate of lime. It is rhomohedral in its crystalization and is thus distinguished from aragonite. It includes common limestone, chalk and marble.

In Piute county is located the Deer Trail mine, regarded as one of the great mines of the state, with a plant that is modern and with a mill that is said by experts to be one of the most complete in the state in that the provisions made for the safety of employes as also for the rapid handling of ore is by gravity.

The Deer Trail mine was located in 1878. It was found by Joseph Smith, who was subsequently known as the Utah pioneer of the cyanide process. The veteran prospector was trailing a deer and when about six miles south west from Marysvale at the base of the range he discovered what has since been known as the Deer Tail mine and from which was produced many tons of high-grade galena, carrying large values in gold and silver. The ore is lead carbonate. The production in 1919 was 15,801 ton of ore, from which was obtained 4244 fine ounces of gold, 26,107 fine ounces of silver, 332,092 pounds of lead and 3136 pounds of copper.

In the old days there was a great deal of wildcatting in the Marysvale district and this extended from Gold mountain on the northern extremity of the Tushar range and the district west of Marysvale in the same range.

Did Part in World War

Sixty men from Piute county were inducted into service in the world war. The records show that all but two passed through unscathed and have returned home. The two who made the supreme sacrifice were:

Otto Beebe of Circleville, died of pneumonia at Fort Logan.

Leander Olson of Koosharem.

(Note: This omits Peter D. Pitts of Thompsonville, who was killed in action. AEP)

In the three registrations for the classified service the names of 576 were recorded. The number in the registration of June 5, 1917, was 254; June and August, 1918, registration was 26. And the registration of September 12, 1918, was 296.

Of this total, 60 were inducted and accepted at camp. In physical groups there were: General service, 38; remediables, 4; limited service, 6; disqualified, 7. Deferments were: Dependency, 149; agriculture, 2; individual, 2.

The selective service board of Piute County showed its patriotism by serving without pay. In cost of service the country ranks third in the state for minimum cost, Rich being the lowest, with a total cost of $12.15; Grand second with $46.15, and Piute third with a total cost of $297.05, of which $277.50 was paid to employes.

The county council of defense was headed by Thomas Black of Marysvale as food administrator; Benjamin Cameron, Jr. of Circleville, was fuel administrator, and Mrs. D.H. Robinson of Junction, chairman of the war history committee. Other members of the council were: W.E. Bay, secretary and finance committee; D.H. Robinson, sanitation and medicine; Joseph Ipson, food supply and conservation; W.H. Luke, survey of man power all of Junction; A.F. Haycock, chairman industrial survey, of Circleville, Earl Willis, military affairs; Reuben DeWitt, state protection; James Garfield, transportation, of Marysvale.

County Promotes Education

The year that Piute county was created the school authorities in the state experienced the same difficulty that confronts them today in the securing of competent teachers, and this had existed for some time previous, for in 1863 the state superintendent had recommended that an appropriation be made from the territorial funds to defray the expenses of a limited number of pupils, to be divided equably among the counties, who had mastered the elementary branches of education and who were willing to declare in writing their intention to further qualify themselves to become teachers in the territory, one county superintendent, H.T. Miller of Sevier, suggesting to the state official that in every city and settlement there be erected a school building, and in addition ten acres of land be set apart for the use of the school teacher.

The enrollment in the schools of the county this year is 665. In grade one to six there are 264 boys and 290 girls; in grade seven to nine the boys number 55 and the girls 50. There are five male teachers and sixteen female employed. The resources of the schools are $28,114, with no liabilities.

D.H. Robinson of Junction is superintendent of the school district, which comprises the county. His office is in Junction. The members of the board of education are: A.F. Haycock of Circleville, president; James K. Anderson of Kingston, vice president; Richfield Commercial and Savings Bank, treasurer, Richfield; William H. McIntosh of Junction; Mrs. N. Gross, health supervisor, and James Long, Jr., of Marysvale and James Brindley of Greenwich.

Teachers in the public schools of the county are: V.F. Bradley, principal; Claudie Hall, Fern Morrill, Gladys Morrison, of Junction; J. Sorengo Kinder, Mrs. J.S. Kinder, Pansy Nickle, Gladys Parry, Alice Thomas, of Marysvale; Heber O. Anderson, Petrear Larsen, of Koosharem; Leslie Christensen, principal, Sylvia Christensen, Edith Hall, of Alunite; Laura Elder, Hugh Fox, Jean Haywood, Bertram W. Kuna, principal, Christie Larsen, Laura Tuttle, of Circleville; Vida Prince Moore of Angle; Burton O. Rust, principal, Mrs. B.O. Rust, of Kingston.

Bees Buzz Busily Live Long Day

Regardless that the average elevation is high, Piute is one of the honey producing counties of the state. The nectar that is gathered by the 408 colonies of bees in the county from alfalfa blossoms and the product of these busy workers during the year 1919 was 24,480 pounds.

Appraisements of state lands in Piute county have aggregated 39,261 acres and the value at $48,634, while the value of the improvements is given at $6218. The total acreage of land offered at public sale by the state is 36,261 acres and the number of acres sold 164. There has been but one public auction of lands in the county.

Commercial Club Seems Tireless 

Marysvale, which now claims a population of 14,00 [sic] including the Alunite district, has an energetic Commercial club. Its president, R.C. Wallace, has faith in his community and in a recent address to the people said:

"It has now become a recognized fact that the people as a whole throughout the country are approaching an era of nation-wide turmoil, dissension and restlessness which has been created from various sources, but in view of such a condition, the attitude assumed by the residents of Marysvale and Piute county is noticeably optimistic.

"The people of these vicinities are closely co-operating along all lines, viz., socially, economically, commercially, for the betterment of civic and sanitary conditions, for the improvement of road and highways, for the encouragement and development of all natural resources and, above all, for the accommodation and comfort, to tourists and visitors.

"The possibilities in Piute county are unlimited and it is generally believed that the current year will reveal many surprise to our western people and also which will prove to be very inviting and entertaining to eastern capital."

Marysvale has one bank, which was incorporated in November of last year. It has a capital of $20,000. Its officers and directors are: J.W. Robinson, president and director; Heber J. Meeks, vice president and director, M.S. Saville of Salt Lake, secretary, cashier and director; John Sandberg, director; James P. Nielsen, M.H. Sowles and W.V. Lay, directors. Its resources on the close of business on March 23, the date of the last report to the state bank commissioner, amounted to $80,000; loans and discounts were $34,015; individual deposits, $53,954; cashier's checks, $1731; savings deposits, $2899, and time certificates, $550.

The county has outstanding an indebtedness in road bonds amounting to $20,000.

Road Program is Big One.

The road program for the current year contemplates construction of the Marysvale-Panguitch road, a federal-aid project which includes three miles of hard surfaced road from Marysvale south and the remainder of earth construction which contemplates an expenditure of $148,000, of which the federal government pays $74,000 the state $50,000 and the county $24,000. The hard surface paving will begin at "The Old Pine Tree" and will run over the dugway to the Deer Trail ranch and from this point on to Junction the road will be straightened. The construction of these roads, it is believed, will mean an expenditure of several hundred thousand dollars in the development of mining properties in beautiful and picturesque Bullion canyon.

Directory of County Officers

Sixth Judicial District

Judge -- Henry N. Hayes, Richfield

District Attorney -- Samuel L. Page, Marysvale

Terms of Court -- February 4, May 27, September 23.

Tenth Senatorial District

Counties of Garfield, Kane, Piute, Sevier and Wayne.

Senator--Quince Kimball, Winder.

Twenty-first Representative District

Representative--J.L. Sevy, Junction

Commissioners--Charles R Dalton, Erastus S. Anderson, Edward H. Vest

Clerk and Auditor -- Walter Scott Price

Recorder -- Josie B. Sprague

Sheriff -- William F. Carson

Treasurer -- Isabelle Luke

Assessor -- Wiley Dalton

Attorney -- Edgar R. Larsen

Bee Inspector -- H.F. Lowe

Ecclesiastical Directory

(Panguitch Stake, comprising Garfield and Piute Counties)

Wards -- Bishops

Circleville -- James O. Meeks

Junction -- Joseph Ipson

Kingston -- M.D. Allen

Hillsdale Br. -- George H. Wilson (Panguitch)

Copyright 2006 by Ardis E. Parshall

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