Ophir – A small town in the Oquirrh Mountains of Utah that refuses to die

“Then you will place the gold like dust and the gold of Ofir like the stones of the streams”

Job 22:24

About 4 miles above a deep gorge on the western slope of the Oquirrh Mountains is a city that was very difficult to die and this city is called Ophir. In this article, I will give a brief history of the place and pay tribute to a city that truly achieves the old West and the spirit of a developing Nation. It all started in 1863 when General Patrick Edward Connor gave permission for a large number of his soldiers in Fort Douglas to go and look for golden mountains in Utah.

Mr Lineback, a soldier in Connor’s future army, made the first claim about 300 meters above Graveyard Gulch from what would become the city center. Shortly afterwards, many other allegations were made by soldiers who heard the stories of allegations as rich as those of King Solomon’s mines on the land of Ofir from the Old Testament. The soldiers were lured to the Oquirrh Mountains by the fact that the local Indians made long lead balls and raw ornaments of gold and silver from mines found in the mountains. Mr. Lineback, with the help of a Mr. Moore, presented the city of Ophir and continued to claim his claim, and although he never paid the dividend he expected, he ended up taking advantage of a lucrative property near the mouth of the gorge where he had several orchards. with fruit trees.

The population of Ofir began to swell with miners, candidates, merchants, gamblers, women with a bad reputation, and illegal invasions from California, Nevada, and Colorado. Many claims were made and many profitable mines were opened. The names of these mines were interesting in their own right, some of which were Ophir Hill, Cliff Mine, Chloride Point, Buckhorn, Montana, Hidden Treasure, Miner’s Delight, Pocatello, Wild Delirium and Velocipede.

The usual collection of buildings sprang up in the deep narrow gorge, spread out on a ribbon. Ofir had several lounges, 2 shops, 2 hotels, a post office, churches, a prison and all kinds of other facilities imaginable. A miner described the city when he saw it from above as a fantastic collection of huts, lounges, brothels and ballrooms. The leading company was Ophir Mercantile, which is said to have a more comprehensive range of general utility services. As mining grew, so did the business, and a businessman named Mack Gisborn opened a toll road from Stockton to Ophir and heavy, loaded heavy trucks swirled back and forth on this road almost all hours of the day and night. Some of the ore went to Stockton Smelters and some went to Lake Point, where it was placed in trucks and floats along Great Salt Lake to Corrine and Railroad.

In 1873 the traveler and author John Codman visited Ophir as part of his research on his book “Mormon Country – A summer with the Latter Day Saints”. As his scene ended in the steep gorge to the city, Contman was surprised to find the following hidden in the mountains of Utah. “As we approached the city, we saw a French sign in the desert stating that the CafĂ© et Restaurant was guarded by a Monsieur Simon. He and his wife were fresh from Paris and were trying to maintain the Parisian style in the mountains of Utah with a white apron, menu and white cap.

Several very prominent men made their fortune in Ophir and continued to become famous. One of those people was Marcus Daly. Daly was fired for some reason from the Emma mine in Alta and dragged away as the miners did in those days from camp to camp until he landed in Ofir. The Walker brothers decided to take a chance on Daly and hired him as an inspector of their “Zella” claim. With the money raised and saved from this rich mine, Daly went to Montana to open up a new perspective, which would later be known as the “Anonymous Mine” and become rich beyond the wildest dreams. of. Daly was eventually elected to represent the people of Montana as a senator in the United States.

Another person who hit it hard and probably did more for Ophir than any other person was Mr. William A. Clark. Clark made his fortune from Ofir Hill’s largest and oldest producer – the Ofir Hill mine, and played a key role in transporting heavy machinery and state-of-the-art mining technology to Ofir, including complex tram systems that will transport ore from the mines. in the hills below to a point where it could be processed and sent by wagon or train to very distant foundries. Mr Clark will also be of great interest to the US Senate on Montana. Even more interesting than this is the fact that Marcus Daly and W.A. Clark married both daughters of Mr. Evans of Ophir.

While these two gentlemen made their fortune and fame in Ophir and then went on to bigger and better things, some future immigrants, even when they made it rich, could not bear to leave the place. The following story comes from Codman’s book: “A poor German named Hirsch discovered what Kelly Consolidated claims would be. He worked tirelessly, starving himself so he could use the help he needed and then sell his ore for to further develop his income. He eventually sold his fortune to Colonel Kelly at a very high price that would allow him to live in luxury for all his other days. But now he insists that the small hut, half stone and half wood , in which he has lived the life of a hermit for so many winters and summers, will remain his property, because he cannot live anywhere else. Here he will remain, looking for another mine. He is mining in the brain. He can neither think nor talk about nothing else. Mines are the idols in which he unites and prefers to be left alone. “

Some of the hardest workers in the mines were not miners but mules. If you go to the site of Northwestern Utah, you can read the interesting story of the old “Jeff” of Ofir, who was definitely a tough mule. Another hard worker who loved mining in Ophir was a horse named “Old Charlie”. Charlie’s story is told by Mary Helen Parsons in “History of Tooele County – Vol I”. Charlie carries mining cars from the mill to the mill at the Ofir Hill mine. He worked in this job for many years with only the light of a candle placed in a gallon box to light his way. Although dark in the mine, Charlie knew all the stations along the runway. Charlie was very professional and knew where to go to load, how fast cars would have to go and he would use his hips as breaks if they started to get out of control. He slept in a barn very close to the entrance of the mine every night.

When the company eventually installed an electric pump to replace Charlie’s job, the director of mines organized for Charlie to spend the rest of his days in a green meadow at the bottom of the gorge. The next day, after Charlie was taken to the pasture, when the miners arrived at work, Charlie stood tall at the mine, ready to go to work. He was then transported behind the gorge to the meadow. The next day he reappeared in the mine. This cycle was repeated until one day Charlie died, many of the miners believe of a broken heart because he loved his job and loved the mine from which he was separated.

However, miners and mules were not the only inhabitants of Ophir. There were also a lot of gambling and card sharks. One of the most notorious stories of Ophir’s wild days was that of a famous poker game where bets got very high. One night a man named Frank Payton sat in a poker game with a miner named Digger Mike. Digger started betting with a broken gold dust. Payton paid him $ 250.00. It was not a friendly game. Digger saw it and raised $ 500.00 in gold dust. This exchange continued until there were more than $ 12,000.00 in various denominations and collateral accumulated in the middle of the table. Digger, who had no cash, asked for the match. Until then, many people had gathered around the table. Payton had a bluff and put a “4” pair. Digger had run an even bigger bluff and angrily hit a crazy couple. Python rejoiced and longed for the spoon. Unfortunately for him, Payton was found several days later in a ravine outside the city with his skull being hit. It was dry and all his money was lost. It is said that no culprit was ever arrested.

As Ophir continued to grow, he calmed down a bit from the crazy days and men like W.A. Clark had serious problems making improvements to their properties. His main dream was to create a railroad in Ophir so that he could transport more ores for processing and make better profits. Finally, mainly through his hard work and capital, the St. John and Ophir were completed in 1912. In some areas its grade reached 7% and was very sharp. In order to deal with this type of tilt, two tops were used to transport trains twice a day in any way. This service lasted 16 years when in 1928 the railway ceased to operate. In 1938 the pieces were taken and an old combination car that was considered unsafe to travel on the rails, remained in place and its skeletal remains can still be seen on the south side of the road as you enter the city.

Throughout its life, Ophir mines have produced nearly $ 50 million in silver, lead, zinc, and gold. In those days the mountains were a wild place where magazines talked about how the inhabitants would hear the scream of Mountain Lion at night as they ran near the settlement looking for food. The large number of catamarans living in the area is the reason why Lion Hill has its name.

After the railway left the city, Ofir fell into a state of lazy rest for more than 70 years with weeds, and elements that recover old mining huts, houses and constructions one at a time. In recent years, however, Ofir has revived, largely due to the hard work and community service of many maintenance workers. Through generous donations from local citizens and in particular Mr. Leo Ault, a picturesque and picturesque small historic village revived the city center, not far from where Mr. Lineback made his first claim.

If you go there on Saturday before 3pm, you can usually find friendly people there who are more than willing to walk you through the collection of historic buildings that have accumulated there, including an original cabotage from St. John’s and his Railroad. Ofir donated by Mr. Ault. Strolling in this old train car is an exciting step back in time.

On the occasion of my visit, Mrs. Maxine Shields took me home # 5 and explained how generations of her family have lived for years. Then she told me a story about how in 1910, her grandfather, Patsy Vario, immigrated from Italy to America at the age of seven. It was a classic story of a young boy who could not speak English, he reached the shore alone and the people he had to meet never showed up. Somehow he got to Ophir and since then there have been generations of Varios in Tooele County. This story and many others were related as Maxine and my family and I walked through many other old structures, such as the post office. Several other family names have lived in the gorge since the early days of Ophir, including relatives of former camp pioneer George St. Clair, who worked and worked at the Chloride Point mine in Lion Hill.

I also visited Minnie’s which is the only type of store or shop in town. It is owned and operated by the current mayor Walt Schubert. He is a relaxed old man who is obviously enjoying his life in Ophir and has been working many, many hours making Ophir the wonderful place it is today. The city council continues to meet in the old city hall building that dominates the city center. This construction built around 1908 is picturesque and charming inside. Council members hold their meetings here every Tuesday, as they have done for many, many years, and there is an antique ballot box, and an old wood stove in the corner. On the way to the park you can see the old fire device housed in this building.

One article is not enough to describe the history of this place or the interesting things that can still be seen in Ophir to this day. As always, do a little research before you go there and your visit will be much more important. 90% of Canyon is privately owned, so you should respect this fact and always ask permission from landowners before entering such places. I have found that the people there are friendly and willing to answer questions about their beautiful little town.

To get there, take Utah Highway 36 36 south of Tooele via Stockton to the intersection with Utah 73. Turn left onto Highway 73 and in about 5 miles you will reach a sign at the edge of a gorge showing the road east to Ofir. Turn left onto this road and follow it for about 4 miles to the city. Along the way to the gorge, look for the old ruins of a racetrack that you can see in the wash.

As you stand in the center of town, looking at the towering limestone cliffs, think of all the Old Ophir stories. Visit the sites and get everything, remember the old saying, “pull nothing but pictures – leave nothing but traces.”