Friday, September 26, 2014

When Devil’s Slide was really a slide and more


                                 Devil’s Slide today.

DEVIL'S Slide is a bizarre, giant-size limestone chute, located on the south side of I-84 in Weber Canyon, near Croydon, and about eight miles east of Morgan.
Composed of two parallel slabs of rock about 20 feet apart, some 40 feet high and about 200 feet long, this odd phenomenon has attracted the curious gaze of passerbys since Pioneer times.
The first pioneers through the area in the 1840s (and their maps) referred to the Croydon area of upper Weber Canyon as “Gutter Defile,” in honor of what would eventually become famous as Devil’s Slide.
Who named the rock formation Devil’s Slide?
James John Walker (1830-1896), an early resident of Croydon and a railroad worker, is very likely the first person to have called it Devil’s Slide.
A Walker family history states that James Walker was a contractor on the railroad, installing the first tracks through upper Weber Canyon. Probably around 1868, he was asked (being a local resident) by a railroad crew what to call this unusual rocky chute and his reply was Devil’s Slide and the title stuck.
The first official mention of that name for the rock formation in a newspaper was in 1875.
"Looking like a large playground slide fit only for the Devil, this site is a tilted remnant of sediments deposited in a sea that occupied Utah's distant geologic past," Carl Ege of the Utah Geological Survey explains on geology.utah.gov.
By 1904, limestone was found in abundance in the area of Devil’s Slide and soon a cement worker’s town sprung up there. Workers initially began calling the new community Portland, in honor of the Union Portland Cement Company.
However, railroad people objected to that name and insisted on a Devil’s Slide moniker instead. They won out and by 1907 the local post office was also called Devils Slide. (Note that there was no apostrophe to the town's name.)
The cement company’s packages even sported the startling image of the devil sliding down the rock chute on his pitchfork for many years. The company’s baseball team was also called the Red Devils.
The town reached its heyday in the late 1920s, before the Great Depression, when it boasted 529 residents. By the 1940s, its school closed and by the 1980s, only a few families still resided there. Soon after, the cement company closed the town and today a gravel pit and rubble mostly cover what remains of this ghost town.
      A 1947 photo of Devil’s Slide shows visitor Venice Carson Flygare of Grouse Creek/Ogden.                     Note how close the viewpoint to the Slide was back then, in the pre-freeway era.

Going back in time again, “Mystic Shriners at Devil’s Slide” was an Aug. 22, 1911 headline in the Standard, The Shriners held special ceremonies and initiations around the formation. Included was a hike to the top of Devil’s Slide, followed by an optional, daring slide downward.
Did this really happen? Perhaps, but the natural rock slide ends dozens of feet away from the Weber River, which is why a special pool of water was apparently set up at the bottom by the Shriners.
 “Devil’s Slide jinks success; El Kalah Temple Mystic Shrine holds unique ceremonial at that spot; Novices slide incline into fathomless pool” ” was a Sept. 16, 1910 headline in the Salt Lake Tribune, showing they had also used the Slide a year earlier.
Several hundred Shriners took a special train to the Slide and even set up tents in the area. Sliding down the Slide was also featured that year.
Ogden began promoting Devil’s Slide as a tourist attraction in the mid 1920s, with signs. Devil’s Gate, at the lower end of Weber Canyon, was also boasted of in numerous Standard-Examiner reports of the 1920s.
Today, there are posted turnouts to view the slide just off both directions of I-84. However, in the pre-freeway era, a 1947 picture of Devil’s Slide shows the viewing area much closer to the formation than it is today. Back then, the dirt access road (in front of Devil’s Slide today) may have been the main road before the Interstate came along.
Now, the slide’s bottom is choked with brush and some private land fronts the Slide.
Hauntingly, there are also "Witch Rocks" and the small "Goblin Slides" rock formations in the same area of upper Weber Canyon.
The Salt Lake Tribune ran a story on June 28, 1888 that told the tale of an out-of-stater fishing the Weber River in that area with an Indian guide. This Native American believed the area to be the Devil’s territory and even pointed out another nearby rock formation that was said to be the “Devil’s War Club.”
-As unusual as the Top of Utah’s Devil’s Slide may seem, it is not unique. There is a same-named and similar rock formation about five miles north of Gardiner, Mont. Just north of Yellowstone National Park, off U.S. 89, this Devil's Slide, though has a twist — a big curve in its slabs of parallel rock.
(-Originally published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Sept. 26, 2014 by Lynn Arave.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: lynnarave@comcast.net  





Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ogden Canyon’s trolley rolled from 1909-1932

                                                The mouth of Ogden Canyon today.

OGDEN area residents loved their Ogden Canyon enough to warrant a railroad there. And, at one time it was hoped the rails there would access Utah’s “summer capitol,” had that suggested building been built.
An electric railroad trolley from Ogden to Huntsville opened in July of 1915.
A partial Ogden Canyon railroad had already been operating to the Hermitage Resort since 1909, since the canyon and its resorts were viewed as great possible revenue producers.
For almost a quarter of a century, this electrified rail line offered reliable transportation into Ogden Canyon and for 17 of those years it traveled from the Ogden Depot to Huntsville, by way of Eden.
There was no Pineview Dam in those days to detour around, but the line required five steel bridges. It was also quite the engineering marvel, having to hug the canyon walls through the “Narrows” in the lower canyon and rock cliffs further up the canyon – some up to 100 feet high – had to be removed for rail construction.
Just three rugged miles of railway construction in Ogden Canyon cost $100,000 (that’s the equivalent of $2.4 million in 2014 dollar value). Concrete and steel helped hold the rail grade in place, often running next to the wagon road in the canyon.
According to the Standard-Examiner, some 100 men were employed constructing the line in 1912.
There were also complicated right of way issues to deal with. 
By July of 1912, the Standard on July 18 reported that the Ogden Rapid Transit Company had decided to change its route in the upper canyon. Instead of following the south side of the river, it switched to the north side – even though that meant abandoning some of the old line and conducting new surveys.
“This is one of the most important trolley line extensions undertaken …” the Standard reported. “This opening of Ogden Valley to beet culture and more intensive cultivation in every way, promises to build up a much larger farming population, which directly must benefit the city. It will not be many years when beets, hay, grain and dairy products will be shipped to Ogden by the trainload,” the 1912 story concluded.
Early on, Simon Bamberger, who owned the Bamberger railroad (and who would later become Utah’s fourth governor) and who also owned the Heritage, desired a rail line to his resort.
Ogden Rapid Transit wanted such a line too and had the much earlier start, but for a time, both railroads were creating separate grades in Ogden Canyon. Eventually Bamberger withdrew and his section of completed grade became part of the public road though Ogden Canyon.
The trolley line carried some 7,000 passengers during the fourth of July holiday of 1910.
By May of 1913 and through the warm weather season, the Trolley to the Hermitage offered cars once an hour. The first car left Ogden at 10:30 a.m. and the last one at 7:30 p.m.
The first trolley cars used carried 46 passengers and had both smoking compartments and toilets.
Besides high hopes for farming and shipping with the trolley line, there was also an effort afoot in 1911-1912 to try and convince the State of Utah to have a “summer capitol” in beautiful Ogden Valley, about three miles southeast of Huntsville.
Of course, that never happened, but the Ogden Rapid Transit Company was prepared to extend its trolley line there.
P.L . Orth, secretary of the Huntsville Improvement Club, was pushing the summer capitol drive and declared in a Feb. 28, 1912 Standard story that, “Huntsville no longer sleeps.”
Orth also wanted to utilize warm spring waters in the valley to encourage more development there.
Back to the trolley line  -- By 1913, several trolleys used were modified to be open roof observation cars. 
The line also weathered lots of snowslides over the years. For example, the Standard on Feb. 18, 1926 reported that three avalanches had buried the tracks in Ogden Canyon. It took almost two full days to clear the tracks and restore full service again.
However, it wasn’t snow or even the advent of the automobile that doomed the Ogden Canyon line. It was the severe flooding in the canyon during 1932 that badly damaged the tracks. 
In September of 1932, regulatory approval was given to halt rail service and remove the tracks. Buses and trucks now used the canyon highway to compensate for the lack of a trolley.
The old rails in the upper section were removed during 1934, when Pineview Dam construction began. The rails in Ogden Canyon were initially used to transport material to build Pineview. Then, they too were removed to end the era of iron rails in Ogden Canyon.
-Some source material came from utahrails.net, by Don Strack.

(-Originally published on Sept. 20, 2014 in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: lynnarave@comcast.net  







Friday, September 12, 2014

From Ogden's ‘Utah University’ to an Alternate Ogden LDS Temple Site

                       30th Street and Tyler Avenue sign today.

THE intersection of 30th Street and Tyler Avenue, Ogden, is now just southeast of Ogden High School's stadium. However, 124 years ago, when the area was mostly open land, “Utah University,” a Methodist College, was being constructed there in 1890.
Jump ahead in time to 1921 and the same land was offered to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a possible site for a future Ogden Temple.
Neither a university, or a temple ever came to fruition and today the land to the south of Ogden High (built in 1937) is filled with homes all the way to Mount Ogden Junior High School.
Joseph Clark owned this land, just east of Harrison “Avenue” (now Boulevard) and he entered into an agreement with a Methodist Education Board, according to multiple reports in the Standard-Examiner.
The plan was for 43 acres of land to accommodate the so-called "Utah University" and some 164 residential lots to occupy much of the remaining 250-plus acres of Clark’s 320-acre tract.
“Methodist University is slowly progressing,” was a Sept. 28, 1890 report in the Standard.
Indeed, almost a year later, the first story of the University’s main building was nearly completion, according to an Aug. 26, 1891 Standard story.
However, shaky and insufficient financing plagued this project, as did some national controversies in the Methodist Church.



Ogden City had also been accused earlier that year, as somehow not living up to its commitments for this ambitious educational project (June 7, 1891 Standard).
Soon , all work stopped, the project was abandoned and the land legally came back to the Clark family.
In the 1890s, Thirtieth Street was a popular thoroughfare, with promising commercial potential. By 1920, the street was sometimes nicknamed “Sperry Boulevard,” because the Sperry Flour Company had a large mill and grain elevators on the extreme west end of the road (in pre-31st Street Expressway days).
Next, in early 1921, the Clark Family approached the LDS Church about receiving a donation of land, near 30th Street and Tyler, with just one condition – that an Ogden Temple be erected on the property one day.
(This land was often called "the old university grounds" for many years.)
According to the Deseret News of May 16, 1921, LDS Church President Heber J. Grant and his then, Second Counselor, Anthony W. Ivins, visited that property on May 15.
President Grant said they could not accept the donation, since the LDS Church already had more than $2 million in existing projects on application and there was no telling when a temple could be built in Ogden.
(One of those planned church projects was the Ogden Deseret Gymnasium, completed in 1925.)
Furthermore, Grant identified Lester Park (663 24th Street, where today’s Main Weber County Library sits) as better suited for a temple site.
More than three years later, on May 7 1924, the Standard reported that the Associated Clubs of Ogden had written to President Grant about trading Tabernacle Square Park (site of today’s LDS Temple/Tabernacle) for Lester Park. Purpose of the trade was to provide “a suitable site for an Ogden temple.” That proposal was also turned down by the LDS Church.
In conclusion, there are simply a lot of “what ifs” to contemplate for today’s Ogden High area and the many homes nearby.
Any way that history implies things could have turned out in that area, it was still destined to be a focal point on Ogden's east side.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave on Sept, 12, 2014 in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: lynnarave@comcast.net  














Friday, September 5, 2014

The brutal gridiron of yesteryear

                               Rice Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah.

FOOTBALL was truly a violent game lacking adequate protection and padding for players during its early years.
For example, football in Weber County back in 1885 was plain brutal.
The Nov. 24 Standard-Examiner that year reported a game scheduled between boys living on the Ogden bench and those in the lower part of town.
“The boys have laid in a good supply of shin plaster, and for a week or past, they have had a carpenter busily engaged in manufacturing crutches,” The Standard reported.”Several competent surgeons have been retained for the occasion and will be in attendance.”
Indeed, all Utah schools operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also banned football completely in the early 20th Century.
"Opposed to the game of football” was a headline in the Deseret News on Dec. 8, 1905.)
Thus, football was played at BYU, when it was named Brigham Young Academy, from 1896-1903. But, about the same time as the Brigham Young University name came along in 1903, the sport of football was discontinued, for almost 20 years, until 1922.
This also meant there was no football at Weber Stake Academy (forerunner of Weber State University) during that same period.
(Of course, no one dreamed back then that BYU would ever be the national champion in college football, as it was in 1984, some 62 years after the ban was lifted.)

                          Liz and Daniel Hafen at the U. of U. football game at halftime.

This wasn't just an LDS Church stand against football in that era. Institutions all over the U.S., like Harvard and Columbia, were also against the sport for its brutality.
"Not for gentlemen" was a common belief at school's which banned football.
"Football is a hospital feeder," was another slogan of those against gridiron play.
Nationally, there were at least 45 deaths and hundreds of serious injuries reported from college football in 1905, according to a Standard article that year.
President Theodore Roosevelt that year met with sports officials from Harvard, Yale and Princeton to try and get football injuries reduced.
Roosevelt’s sons played the game and he wasn’t out to ban the sport, just make it safer to play.
-Ogden High also seemed to enjoy playing football truly “out of its league” a century ago. The Standard of Oct. 12, 1912 reported “Ogden High is defeated 56 to 0” in a headline.
The victor of that game? The University of Utah freshman team, which Ogden played annually in that era – despite being outweighed by an average of 25 pounds and facing superior experience.
-The year 1912 was also a pivotal one in rules for the sport of football. Nationally, according to the Standard of Aug. 30, 1912, the number of downs increased from three to four and the value of a touchdown was raised from five to six points.
-Football also wasn’t just for males in its early era. The Standard of Nov. 1, 1911 carried a report that girls in Indiana high schools had been regularly playing the game that year. However, a girl playing the sport in Evansville got injured, the first reported injury to a female player that season.

-Finally, it wasn’t just the injuries that were a concern for early football. Gambling on the gridiron contests was rampant and considered a vice to many.

(-Originally published on September 5, 2014, by Lynn Arave and in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.)


-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: lynnarave@comcast.net