Friday, December 26, 2014

Utah’s worst ever train wreck happened New Year's Eve of 1944

- From the book, "History of Ogden, Utah  in Old Postcards," by D. Boyd Crawford.

By Lynn Arave
SEVENTY years ago it was the holiday season with high hopes for an impending end to World War II. However, there was also Utah’s worst-ever train disaster that closed out 1944 with an unexpected calamity.
“Pacific limited crash claims 48 lives,” was a Jan. 1, 1945 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
“Reporter finds tragic horror at wreck scene” and “Wreck reminded me of war, says train crash victim” and “Screams, moans rend the air at wreck scene” were threw other somber headlines in the Standard that day.
A pair of westbound trains crashed shortly after 6 a.m. on Dec. 31, 1944, near Promontory Point, or about 18 miles west of Ogden, on the Lucin Cutoff.
Besides the 48 fatalities, another 79 were reported injured in the crash. Among the fatalities were 29 military personnel and nine railroad workers.
This was the worst-ever rail disaster in the Intermountain area and the nation’s worst railroad crash of 1944.
By Jan. 5, 1945, the death toll from the wreck would rise to 50 and disaster would be known as the Bagley Train Wreck or the Great Salt Lake Wreck.
                    A 1940s train in Ogden at a switching station.

The accident happened in thick fog when a mail express train failed to slow down for a caution signal and smashed full speed at 60 mph into the rear of the Pullman car of a passenger train, slowed down to 18 mph for a freight train ahead with mechanical problems.
(By some other accounts, the engineer of the mail train may have suffered a heart attack and died seconds before the crash happened.)
Seven of the railcars were hurled off the wooden lake trestle and into Great Salt Lake mud and shallow, briny waters. The wreck scene stretched for half-a-mile.
Fortunately there were two medical cars in the passenger train and so Medical Corps members helped the inured, as otherwise help had to wait until arrival by rail from Ogden.

--Switching subjects, here’s a cost comparison from seven decades ago, when obviously prices were a lot lower for most goods, according to Standard-Examiner ads of late 1944:
Ground beef, 25 cents a pound; oranges, 8 cents a pound; apples eight cents a pound; corn flakes, 8 cents; peanut butter 39 cents for two pounds; potato chip bag 22 cents; milk (1.5 pints each) four cans for 37 cents; men’s suits $18.88.
-In two other historical tidbits, “Snow Basin is ready to accommodate thousands of ski enthusiasts,” was a Jan. 17, 1945 Standard headline.
Apparently there was no Christmas, or holiday skiing in Snow Basin’s earliest of seasons.

-“Milk law takes effect Friday” was a Jan. 10, 1945 headline in the Standard, as raw milk could no longer be sold in the Ogden City limits.

(-Published on-line and in print on Dec. 25-26, 2014, by Lynn Arave 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:  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back when Cache Valley was isolated in winter

          Highway 89 today goes down from Sardine Summit to Dry Lake.

“The primary highway leading north through the Cache Valley to Idaho is at present a summer road, so far as through traffic is concerned , for the reason that the 10-mile section between Mantua and Wellsville is closed by winter snow,” an article in the January 1924 issue of Utah Highways Magazine stated.
“As a result the fertile and populous Cache Valley is virtually isolated, as far as travel by the highway is concerned, from the rest of the state, for approximately four months of the year. Interstate travel between Utah and points both is confined to the railroads during the winter months,” the magazine article, written by engineer K.C. Wright, concluded.
However, that seasonal isolation, which had existed for almost 70 years, finally ended in the summer of 1924 when a $200,000 new highway was constructed.
The road was completed by Sept. 9 of that year. Much of the new road was truly new and didn’t follow the former alignment.
For example, from Mantua to the Sardine Summit, a new dugway was cut out of the mountain with a maximum grade of six percent. At 24-feet wide, the new highway had ample passing room too.
Previously, the direct “pioneer route” by way of Dry Lake had been used to reach Wellsville. (Ironically, that’s also today’s highway route.)
That steep route, through what is officially named Wellsville Canyon (originally named “New Canyon”), suffered from 20-30-foot-high snow drifts, 10 to 20 percent grades, and wet clay soils at the bottom of the canyon.

                              The 1924 road alignment into the actual Sardine Canyon.

In the new 1924 alignment (that existed until about 1960), the highway curved northeast and winded through Sardine Canyon (the original version) and into Cache Valley. (Sections of the old road are still visible today from Highway 89, looking northeast shortly after Sardine Summit.)
“Sardine Canyon was finally chosen as the route of the new highway because it seemed to present the most feasible location for an all-year road,” an Aug. 15, 1924 story in the Box Elder News stated.
“Canyon road is nearly finished; Highway of crushed rock between Wellsville and Mantua, one of the best earth roads in the state,” was that story’s headline.
During the winter of 1924-25, a 10-ton caterpillar truck with a snowplow attached was used to clear snow on the new highway, a combination of gravel and rock.
In 1927, a combination of gravel and oil was used on the highway. The road was eventually paved and did work well in winter, until modern road building and snow removal came along in the 1950s.
However, the terrible winter of 1948-49 meant the road was closed for a full month during January of 1949.

                        The 1924-1960 Sardine Canyon road alignment on the hillside in the distance.

By the mid-1950s, plans were made to streamline the highway, now a popular scenic highway to Bear Lake and even Yellowstone National Park. In 1960, the revised road opened with its current alignment, abandoning the true “Sardine Canyon” and heading directly to Wellsville from the summit north of Mantua.
Technically, it is Box Elder Canyon from Brigham City to Mantua. Then, it is Wellsville Canyon from Mantua to Wellsville, though the old Sardine Canyon name is today affixed to the entire mountain road between Brigham City and Cache Valley.
The “why” the name “Sardine” for a canyon that’s not narrow is another story for another day.

(-Originally published on-line and in print on Dec. 18-19, 2014 by Lynn Arave 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:  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Weber’s mass student suspension of 1911 over a frolic

                                     Weber State College in the early 1950s.

ONE of the largest mass student suspensions in Utah took place just over a century ago in Ogden.
“Students of academy expelled” was a March 16, 1911 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
Fifty students of Weber Academy (forerunner of Weber State University) were suspended from school as a result of a “junior class frolic.”
“The students of that class took it upon themselves to have an all-day holiday, and accordingly went to the (Ogden) Canyon,” the Standard story reported.
“The faculty could not see where the joke was and decided to take disciplinary measures. The names of the offending students were read out in assembly this morning and the students were asked to leave the building and leave the grounds,” the story stated.
The students would only be reinstated with a letter from their parents requesting such action, backed up by assurance from the students that they will keep school rules in the future.
The majority of the students followed the procedure and returned to school the next day.
-Another historical item: “Tunnel through the Wasatch Mountains” was a January 24, 1903 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
In another ambitious early 20th Century plan that never quite happened, an irrigation tunnel was planned for a thirsty Wasatch Front, where crops had been suffering from a lack of water.
This 20-mile tunnel would have taken water from the Weber River, near Peterson in Morgan County, westward to what is now the Hill Air Force Base area, or back then John Hill’s ranch.
“Not only would a tunnel be a work of eternity and cost little for maintenance, but it would be an underground drain for the seepage of the mountain range,” The Standard story reported.
A new corporation, to be known as the Davis County Canal & Irrigation Company, was to organize this gigantic feat for an estimated $310,000 ($7.5 million in 2014 dollars).

                           The mouth of Weber Canyon.

The tunnel would also rely on two small dams on the Weber River, one near Peoa and another near Kamas.
This plan was believed to be less expensive than a nine-mile-long wooden flume and could help irrigate some 100,000 acres of farmland in Davis and Weber counties.
Fast forward 50 years to 1953 and the Weber Basin Project became a similar feat, though this far more complex water storage and delivery system required more than $57 million and 17 years to complete. The modern project also included a 3.3-mile-long tunnel through the rock of Weber Canyon.
-In yet another historical note, the communities of West Weber and Slaterville were united on March 1, 1891, thanks to the completion of an iron bridge over the combined Ogden and Weber rivers.
A Standard report from that date, stated that “after long years of mutual and patient tax-paying, after passing through much tribulation in their endeavors to be tied together,”   a superb iron bridge was finally built by Weber County.
James McFarland poured “a libation of wine” on the bridge to christen it. Then, Richard Slater, 80, the first of the settlers on the north side, advanced to the center to the bridge. He had a banner that stated, “Hurrah! This element is spanned. And may this bridge forever stand.”
Slater was there greeted by John Douglas, 76, senior settler on the south side, who had a banner that stated, “And may both sides be united in everlasting harmony.”
Carriages then carried area residents back and forth the new bridge. Then, a tame deer from West Weber ran across the span to the Slaterville side.

(-Originally published on-line and in print by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Dec. 11-12, 2014.)

-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:  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Oddities that never made the history books

                                         Joseph F. Smith

OLD newspaper archives are full of startling historic items that apparently never made the history books.
 Here are a few more of these oddities:
-“Joseph F. Smith was to have been kidnapped” was a July 23, 1915 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
President Smith, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time, was in a plot exposed by federal authorities, to have been kidnapped and held for $100,000 ransom.
Authorities said this kidnapping was no idle threat and “decided upon extraordinary precautions for the safety of the Mormon Church head,” according to the story.
The same bandits had already held up 125 passengers touring Yellowstone National Park and had also kidnapped a wealthy Idaho Falls cattleman, demanding $6,000 for his return.
These blackmailing thieves had extensive plans that came to light, showing how they would take President Smith to the “impenetrable passes of the Jackson Hole County in Wyoming. The robbers felt this kidnapping would have been their biggest prize yet, though the easiest to pull off.
The robbers were eventually caught and the planned criminal plot was never known by the LDS Church until the news media released it.
-“Gov. Mabey is arrested on fishing trip; Mistake in signs leaders Ranger to take executive party into custody” was a July 17, 1922 headline in the Standard.
Utah Governor Charles R. Mabey was arrested with a party of friends while they were fishing the Duchesne River back on June 29.
The Forest Ranger did so because the river had been posted for no fishing until July 15.
According to the story, the Ranger “asked them if they could not read printed English and was informed by one o f the men n the party that the notices were mistakes, that only the headwaters of the Duchesne River and of Rock Creek were mean to be closed.”
Still, the Ranger arrested the men and forced them to accompany him to the nearest ranger station. There, “he was surprised to hear Governor Maybe call up the state game warden and ask about the notices.”
The state game warden admitted the notices were a mistake and the group was released.
However, the ranger was “complimented by the Governor for doing his duty,” the story stated.
This was NOT Governor Mabey’s only  arrest. The story stated he was arrested for speeding in Layton the previous week. He was released, as his identity was made known. The arresting officer was reportedly relieved of his duties.

                   The Great Salt Lake looking south to Antelope Island.

-“He fished the Salt Sea” was a Dec. 2, 1911 headline in the Standard. Not even April Fool’s a “Dr. Green” (no first name given) took a young man on a three-hour fishing expedition to the Great Salt Lake, and had the youngster fully expecting to catch a lot of fish.
He didn’t catch anything and even left a pole set up overnight to try and get some fish. The young man apparently left, thinking he was a bad fisherman.

 (-Originally published on-line and in print in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Dec. 4-5, 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:  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Back when prep and collegiate players met on the gridiron

EVER wonder how Utah’s best high school football team would fare against Utah’s college teams?
Back in 1907, such games were a reality. Since there were few high schools around, grid contests were regularly played against prep schools from as far away as Montana and yes, sometimes even vs. college teams.
Ogden High had the best prep football team in the state 107 years ago. It lost to the University of Utah 19-0 and to the Agricultural College at Logan 6-0 that year.
“All Hallows defeated by Ogden” was a Nov. 19, 1907 headline in the Standard-Examiner, as the Tigers captured the state prep grid title for the second year in a row.
“My, what a surprise!!” the Standard story stated. “The boys with the tiger striped sweaters cavorted around Cummings field yesterday afternoon, while two thousand fans, dyed in the wool Salt Lakes, sat on the bleachers aghast. When finally the game was ended they filed out without making any noise, or comment. The score was 33 to 0.”
(All Hallows was a small Catholic college that existed in S.L. from 1886-1918 and that somehow was a member of the Utah high school football league in that era.)
After its impressive victory in S.L., it was hoped that Ogden High could play against the best team from Chicago, Ill., but that didn’t happen as travel costs would have been a pricey $1,500 (more than $36,000 in today’s dollars) for the visiting team.
Prep football fans in Salt Lake also had some sort of wild demonstration that season.
“High school rowdies in Zion.  They are to be severely dealt with. Worst of the disgrace has not been made public, it is said,” was a Nov. 8, 1907 headline in the Standard.
The story stated was that some Salt Lake High School students had paraded in a rowdy manner and were simply lawless before the start of the Ogden vs. Salt Lake High School football game.
 (Back in 1907, there was only ONE Salt Lake public high school and that was West High School, though many simply called it “Salt Lake High.”)
Ogden beat Salt Lake High 10-5 in one 1907 game.

-What was Thanksgiving Day like, back in 1907?
 “Thanksgiving Day, How it was spent, Ogdenites observe the day in the most elaborate manner – Union services held by churches –Students have the streets illuminated at night,” was a Dec. 3, 1907 headline in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
(The last Thursday of November, Nov. 28 that year,  was designated as Thanksgiving, until 1942, when the fourth Thursday became the current standard.)
Thanksgiving morning in 1907 was described as quiet, like a Sunday. The First Congregational Church did hold special services, with a large congregation.
The Salvation Army reported feeding many needy families and baskets of food were delivered to others.
“There is not a home in Ogden where there is found any poverty that is not remembered by the Salvation Army every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year,” the Standard reported.
The Weber County Jail served special chicken dinners to its residents. Meanwhile, inmates at the State Industrial School received turkey dinners.
Ogden area high school boys got street lights turned on, that had not been lit for weeks. There were also some bonfires, as many people headed to the theaters, parties, ice skating or dancing.
-Twenty years earlier, in 1887, Thanksgiving Day was on Thursday, Nov. 14, as designated by the Territorial Governor of Utah, as a day of “thanksgiving and prayer.”
-Utah’s first-ever Thanksgiving was technically celebrated Aug. 10, 1848, following the first harvest of wheat.

(-Originally published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Nov. 20-21, 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:  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When 60 mph shattered the Ogden to Salt Lake speed record

                                        I-15 in Layton today, with a 65 mph speed limit.

ALMOST 90 years ago, the automobile had only been a prominent fixture in Utah about two decades. Of course, there was no I-15 and the Bonneville Salt Flats had not yet become a racing mecca. So, racing in record time from Utah’s second-largest city to its biggest city was a worthy speed challenge.
“Baker breaks Salt Lake-Ogden auto mark, Famous pilot shatters old record in marvelous dash” was an April 10, 1925 headline in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
Erwin “Cannonball” Baker of Indiana, who had set cross county speed records (including New York to Los Angeles in 71 hours and 33 minutes) had averaged 60.33 mph in traveling from Ogden to Salt Lake, a distance of 33.5 miles, in 36 minutes and 18 seconds.

                       "Death Curve" in Roy today, at 1900 West and Riverdale Road.

“The famous Death Curve” out of Ogden was taken at better than 60 miles an hour,” the Standard reported. (That might have actually been in Roy at today’s Riverdale Road and 1900 West junction.)
The Standard-Examiner sports editor, Warren Erickson, Baker’s mechanic and a man from Postal Telegraph Company rode in the record-setting Rickenbacker model car
Jenkins raced through Sunset, Clearfield, Layton, Kaysville, Farmington and Bountiful. His top speed was 87 mph and 35 mph his lowest (during a brief engine problem). He had police escorts on motorcycles as long as they could keep up.
The mark by Baker broke the previous record, set by Abe Jenkins of Salt Lake, at 39 minutes even.
“This almost unbelievable record may never be shattered,” the Standard story concluded.

                              1900 West Street in Roy today.

-Today, much of the speed limit between Ogden and Salt Lake is 65 mph and some drivers greatly exceed that.
MapQuest lists the distance from Ogden to Salt Lake at 39 miles, requiring 40 minutes. However, that includes a number of traffic signals, as well as 5.5 miles more than in the 1925 record run.
 Knock off that extra distance and no doubt the majority of I-15 drivers today easily exceed Baker’s speed record all the time.
(Note that the Bonneville Salt Flats first attracted world-wide attention about two months later in June of 1925. That's when Utah's Abe Jenkins outraced a Union Pacific train from Salt Lake to Wendover by five minutes in his Studebaker. A year later, Jenkins would set his own cross country driving records, though he was most famous for racing the "Mormon Meteor.")
-Baker’s record Ogden to S.L. run was only possible because in August of 1920, the state highway between the two cities had been completed after two years of construction.
“Completion of State Highway is to be celebrated at Lagoon by three counties on August 18,” was an Aug. 4, 1920 headline in the Standard.
Separate parades left Salt Lake and Ogden, meeting up at Lagoon, where Governor Simon Bamberger officially opened the new road.
William Haight of Farmington, a pioneer, also spoke of the trail conditions for the three counties in 1848, as he saw them while wintering cattle in Weber County.
Swimming races, baseball games, bucking contests and more were held to celebrate the occasion after the new paved road was open.
-Another historical note: “Runaway street car imperils many lives, dashed down steep hill; crashes into store,” was a Nov. 15, 1918 Standard Headline.
A Twenty-Fifth Street car going eastbound up the hill above Washington Boulevard, lost traction because of leaves and dust on the tracks. It rolled backward and became a runaway westbound, crashing into the Sims hat store, next to the Broom Hotel.
No one was hurt, including the four passengers, one of whom jumped out of the trolley at about Adams Avenue.

(-Originally published on Nov. 13-14 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:  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Monster bear encounters and a forgotten distillery

                    A bear statue at Ogden's Prairie Schooner Restaurant.

"KILLED a Monster Bear” was an Oct. 17, 1904 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
Frank Adams of Hooper came home with the hide of a 900-pound grizzly bear which he killed “in a desperate encounter in Black Bear Canyon at the head of Beaver Canyon.”
(Beaver Canyon is in the upper portion of today’s South Fork of Weber County, off Highway 39.)
Adams was on his way from camp to the bedding ground for sheep in the area, “when he was suddenly confronted by a huge infuriated bear that came for him open-mouthed. The beast was only twenty yards away and Adams had no weapon but his twenty-two,” the Standard report stated.
“With a nerve and accuracy which is astonishing under the circumstances, he began firing as rapidly as possible … The little missiles seemed to have no effect … Thirteen shots were fired while the bear was approaching, the last striking under the eye and penetrating the brain; but none too soon, for the brute literally fell at the feet of the brave hunter.”
Some eleven years earlier, the Standard had reported “A Narrow escape. A close encounter with a monster cinnamon bear” in its Oct. 25, 1893 issue.
Ogden City Councilman A.I. Stone, Joseph Ririe, R.H. Froerer, George Froerer and David Johnson were climbing in the mountains west of Huntsville, where a bear had been sighted earlier in the week.
They spotted the huge bruin and commenced shooting at it, amidst thick brush. It got within six feet of the men, before falling. It weighed 258 pounds and was put on display in Ogden. The men believed it would have killed one or more of them, had it not been brought down.

-In separate historical note, Carla Vogel of Ogden, 82, said in the early 1940s she recalls finding an old distillery, not anywhere near 25th Street, but on the land that is today’s Mount Ogden Junior High School.
About 100 feet up from 32nd Street, she and a Polk School classmate were digging around the area and discovered this great underground room.
“It was full of barrels, buckets, wood stoves,” she said.
Even at elementary school age, she said they knew what it was, though they never told anyone about it at the time.
Vogel said she later rode horses all around the east bench area of Ogden. She moved away in 1953 and Mount Ogden Junior opened in 1958.
“They probably didn’t know it was there,” she said of the still and the school builders. She’s convinced it was left over from the Prohibition of the 1920s and today is located under grass of the playing fields behind the school.

               The old St. Benedict's Hospital today, senior housing.

-Vogel also said she recalls her father saying the eventual site of St. Benedict’s Hospital (top of 30th Street) was the specific place where the Clark Family wanted the LDS Church to build an Ogden Temple back in 1921. That was the top of a hill above Harrison Avenue on land the Clarks were going to give the LDS Church, if it would construct an Ogden Temple there. (News reports of 1921 had stated the land donation address as 30th Street and Tyler Avenue, at the base of the hill and perhaps the last developed eastward street at the time.)
The Church declined the donation and it would be another 50 years before Ogden received a temple.

(Written by Lynn Arave and published on-line and in print by the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Nov. 6-7, 2014.)

-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:  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Back when Halloween meant pranks, not candy …

                           Inflatable Halloween decorations are very popular today.

OGDEN, Utah area residents didn’t have to buy candy for Halloween a century ago, as trick-or-treating was an undiscovered pastime back then. Instead, they had to guard their gates, wagons and livestock from the most common of pranks.
Yes, in 1907, such pranks ruled Halloween.
“Halloween observed in Ogden. Boys committed their usual pranks” was a Nov. 5, 1907 Standard-Examiner headline.
Just over a century ago, gates of any size or fashion that could be removed, were, and moved to the top of buildings, trees, or hung from telephone poles.
“In many places small delivery wagons and vehicles were placed upon the roofs of barns or sheds. An unusual sight was that of a cow tied to the pillar of a front porch,” the Standard reported of Halloween 107 years ago.
Another prank in Ogden included a dummy placed across the tracks on Washington Avenue (Boulevard). Pranksters watched as terrified drivers ran over it.
There was also a strict curfew of 8 p.m. for all children “of any age” on Halloween night. Any kids caught outside alone after that time could be taken to the police station.
There were some Halloween-oriented attractions at the movie theater and some private parties and gatherings at  local LDS Wards, though.
“A genuine Halloween spirit was observed by many of the merchants, who decorated their show windows with jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and other articles appropriate for the occasion,” the Standard reported.
Four years later, in 1911, some Ogden youth were caught by the police putting soap along the trolley tracks of the Ogden Rapid Transit Company. That was considered a serious offense, as it meant cars could lose control.
That year, it was reported that some parents dressed up their children as ghosts and goblins (thanks to white sheets) and let them parade around the neighborhood.
It was far worse in 1927. The Standard reported the year on Nov. 1 that “Halloween pranksters ‘did everything but commit murder,’” the police stated.
Windows were broken throughout town; train tracks were dangerously greased; porch furniture was stolen; street lights were lowered; rotten tomatoes were thrown; and paint on automobiles was ruined.
“Deputy (Weber) Sheriff Fred Tout, head up and chest out, headed up 28th Street, on foot. At Jefferson Avenue, he stumbled over a string across the sidewalk and fell to his knees, while boys and girls snickered and giggled.”
A gang of 50 youth at Five Points jeered, hooted and cursed at police, who tried to rout the vandals.
(Yet, it had been much worse in 1923 when rowdy boys had set fire to the Farr West School House and it almost burned down.)
-Widespread trick-or-treating door-to-door didn’t begin as a U.S. tradition until the late 1940s, following World War II.
That’s partially because the end of the war also meant a halt to sugar rationing.
In any event, Halloween is a lot tamer these days – and giving “treats” meant less “tricks” over time.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Oct. 30-31, 2014.)

          "Trunk or treat" is a new Halloween trend today.

-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:  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

From a ‘Lakemobile’ to a stroll to Fremont Island

  The "lakemobile" that Charles Stoddard used to cross the GSL to Fremont Island in.

                    Fremont Island with a dry eastern bay  

By Lynn Arave

LIKE its larger cousin, Antelope Island to the north, 
Fremont Island isn’t always truly an isle at all.
A huge natural sandbar, during low lake levels, can offer dry land access to the somewhat mysterious, privately-owned “island.”
Growing up in Hooper, directly east of Fremont Island, I had heard tales of a man from West Point who years earlier – when the Great Salt Lake was at very low levels – used to drive a special truck all the way to the Island over only six or so inches of water.

                     The Fremont Island Sandbar, far left, as seen from Fremont Island.

Later, I found out his name was Charles Stoddard. He leased Fremont Island in 1932 and began ranching sheep there.
However, not wanting to rely completely on boat travel, Stoddard put caterpillar-like chains on the rear wheels of a Model “A” Ford Truck and created what others called a “Lakemobile” to access Fremont Island for several decades.

This natural sandbar, that Stoddard first discovered, was large, but not straight. So, during the low lake levels of the early 1930s, he put upright railroad ties along the shallowest part of the sandbar, from west of Syracuse – some 10 miles -- to Fremont Island, to mark its course. Then as the lake level rose, he had what David E. Miller in “The Desert Magazine” of May of 1949 referred to a “Salt Lake Trail on the Desert” to follow.

               The "Lakemobile" arrives on Fremont Island for the first time in 1934.

So, he basically drove a truck in the middle of the Great Salt Lake!

  The Fremont Island sandbar,from Fremont, as it snakes to the Antelope Island Causeway.

His only major problem was an ice floe that struck his truck in March of 1942. Although the lake’s briny waters do not freeze easily, the incoming fresh river water can and thus a small iceberg hit his truck and knocked it on its side.

  Charles Stoddard fixing the Wenner graves on Fremont Island. --Photo courtesy of Stoddard Family. He used rock from the old Wenner home to create part of the rock memorial.

Stoddard managed to upright the truck and get the ice away, but the Lakemobile ended up in a bog and wasn’t freed until more than eight months later -- the following November. Even then, he had to replace the truck’s salty motor oil and spark plugs and use kerosene to loosen the cylinders. Then the old truck started up and moved again.

                   Charles Stoddard's boat pulled by horses to reach Fremont Island in 1947.

Stoddard was also known to use a small boat, mounted on a two-wheeled trailer, and pulled by a team of horses to access the Island. He even told Miller that some youths once rode bicycles to the Island, while riders on horseback and even a touring car had successfully made the trip too.

                  Sheep travel the sandbar to Fremont Island in the 1940s.

By the early 1940s, the sandbar was briefly, but almost completely above water late one summer season. So, instead of having to boat sheep to and from the Island, Stoddard was able to herd them on mostly dry ground. Only the south end of the sandbar was then under water, just a few inches deep.
By 1948, the GSL had risen two feet in seven years and Stoddard had to use boat travel his remaining years of ranching.

  Horses used to traverse the sandbar to Fremont Island in 1943 to go on the Phantom Coyote hunt.

Twenty years later, in the late 1960s, as a teenager, I noticed two black posts and a gate sticking up in the water when traveling the newly built dirt road causeway to Antelope Island. I surmised that marked Stoddard’s “road.”

     The "black gate posts" circa 1980, as they marked the start of the sandbar to Fremont Island.

In the summer of 1979, a friend, Mich Oki, and I tried wading out to those black posts and found the water not only 4 feet deep there, but very muddy ground to try and wade through. The Great Salt Lake kept rising for another seven years.
 June 1982: Steve Hubbard and Larry Saunders as they prepare to explore Fremont Island after landing on its southeast tip after about a seven mile paddle in a canoe.

In June of 1982, two friends (Steve Hubbard and Larry Saunders) and I canoed about 14 miles roundtrip from Antelope Island to Fremont Island. We also had permission and visited the island at length. Wild ponies roamed the island back then, amid some exotic sheep.
(John C. Fremont and Kit Carson used an inflatable rubber boat when they visited the island in 1843. I also took a motor boat trip there in the late-1990s.)
The causeway soon washed out and was later rebuilt higher.
I tested the water around the gate post several more times over the years. They were completely under water in the mid-1980s, as the Great Salt Lake reached a historic high mark.

                                The ride to Fremont Island.

My parents too were fascinated by Fremont Island and they hired a boat and its captain in the early 1990s and we visited Fremont Island and waded to its shores for a brief visit, lacking permission to roam the isle.

       My family on Fremont, Mark, Norma, Gene and Wayne Arave, with boat off shore.

             Taylor Arave near the Fremont Sandbar in about 2002.

               Taylor Arave and what's left of the back gate posts in 2002.

 Enter the 21st Century and the lake was receding again and now the posts were barely under water. But, again bogs near the causeway were hard to wade through.

          Mike Spencer, September 2004, resting after a 6-mile walk to Fremont Island.

Then, in the late summer of 2004, the lake was almost lower than it had ever been. Myself and two different friends, Mike Spencer and Ryan Layton, walked about 13 miles roundtrip on 100 percent dry ground to the edge of Fremont Island and back. We found a huge old anchor, antique bottles and even tires along our stroll of what used to be under up to 18 feet of briny water in the mid-1980s during the lake’s historic high mark.

              Taylor Arave in a dry bay around Fremont Island.

Again, in 2008, with permission to access the Island, I and my youngest son, Taylor, again walked the same dry sandbar route and roamed the isle. Then, we also ATV tracks and evidence of their visit to the island over the sandbar.

                       ATV tracks across the usually underwater GSL.

(As a sidelight: there is evidence too, that Kit Carson may not carved his cross on the island’s north end out of boredom, but rather as testimonial of his conversion to the Catholic Church.)

  Our bicycles, a few hundred yards off the Antelope Causeway. We rode them to the sandbar, as parking on the causeway after my first walk to Fremont is now prohibited

Thus, people have boated, floated, driven, bicycled and even ridden on horseback to Fremont over the years. There’s even a rugged airstrip on the island’s western side.
Fremont Island, though mostly barren, is a magical place that somehow always beckons you to return.

 Taylor pointing upward to show that the water was more than 12-feet deep here in the mid-1980s around Fremont Island in the bay off the island.

(-Originally published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Oct. 23-24, 2014.)

-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:  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Big N. Utah Optical Illusion: Ben Lomond Peak Higher Than Willard Peak (not)

         Ben Lomond Peak  (center) and Willard Peak (second bump to the left of BL). Ben Lomond         looks taller here by some sort of illusion, as seen from near Weber State University in Ogden.

  BEN Lomond Peak is NOT higher than nearby Willard Peak.
  It just often times appears that it is taller, in some sort of geographical optical illusion, perhaps one of the biggest such cases in all of Northern Utah.
  Ben Lomond stands at 9,712 feet above sea level.
  Willard Peak is 9,764 feet above sea level, or 52 feet HIGH than Ben Lomond Peak is.
  However, look at Ben Lomond from the south, near Weber State University (top photo) and it appears much taller than Willard Peak is.
  Even look at Ben Lomond and Willard peaks from I-15 coming southbound near the Utah-Idaho stateline and the former appears taller by far than Willard Peak (a southeastern view).
  The only 2 places where Willard seems taller are:
1. From atop either Willard or Ben Lomond Peaks.
2. From Cache County, the south side of Utah State University OR from the south side of the Logan LDS Temple and looking straight south (bottom photo).
  I have no idea why this common illusion is in place, but at least from the straight north is not in play.

 Willard Peak (center) is 52 feet higher than Ben Lomond Peak (left of Willard Peak) and actually appears taller in this viewpoint from the north, as seen from near the Logan LDS Temple in Logan..

-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:  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

From ‘Disappointment Island’ to Fremont Island

                                The famous Kit Carson cross on Fremont Island.

FREMONT Island almost became a “Buffalo Park,” several decades before Antelope Island even received its first herd of transplanted bison.
“The ‘Buffalo’ Island. That is what Fremont Island is likely to become. A government appropriation anticipated. An important feature which will be a great addition to Ogden’s many attractions,” was a lengthy May 9, 1890 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
C.J. “Buffalo” Jones wanted to create a buffalo preserve on the island and supposedly had a promise of $30,000 in aid from the federal government to get his project started.
In addition, Jones had talked with the Rio Grande Railroad about the possibility of building a track from its main line, across the Great Salt Lake, to Fremont Island. (This was many years before the Lucin Cutoff was constructed across the GSL.)
Of course, Jones’ plan didn’t happen, but his was one of many dreams for the western Weber County Isle.
The Davis County Clipper reported on Oct. 20, 1899, that there was a plan to develop Fremont Island into a sanitarium. That didn’t happen either. Neither did a proposed dyke ever connect Antelope and Fremont islands as part of a fresh water reservoir plan, first envisioned in 1910.
The first recorded white men to visit Fremont were explorers John C. Fremont and Kit Carson, who visited it on Sept. 9, 1843. Fremont called it "Disappointment Island," for its desert nature and lack of game. Carson was so bored there he chiseled a cross in a rock at the island’s highest point.
Albert Carrington and other Mormon pioneers first visited Fremont on April 22, 1848 and labeled it "Castle Island," for the palace-like rock formation on its north end, where the cross was carved.
By 1859, the Henry Miller family decided it was a perfect place for grazing animals and it was then nicknamed "Miller's Island" until the Fremont name took over permanently
Jean Baptiste, a notorious Salt Lake City cemetery worker/grave robber, was banished by Brigham Young to Fremont Island in the early spring of 1862. He later disappeared and was never found.
In 1886, Uriah J. Wenner, a Salt Lake City judge, bought the island and moved there with his wife, Kate, and several children for five years to hopefully improve his health problems with the salty, fresh air.
                                  The Wenner gravesite on the south end of Fremont Island.

But, Mr. Wenner died there on Sept. 19, 1891 and the family soon moved away.
“Island home is left by owner … Cozy little cottage abandoned on island,” was an Aug. 17, 1906 story in the Salt Lake Tribune about the deserted Wenner home.
Jump ahead in time almost 40 years, to March of 1944 and an Associated Press story told of a “phantom coyote,” who was still unable to be killed or captured on Fremont Island.
This "phantom" coyote, believed to have reached the island a few weeks earlier aboard one of the rare icebergs that sometimes float the Great Salt Lake in late winter, had already killed at least eight sheep there.
                  A trio of hunters with the dead "Phantom Coyote" in 1944.

It required four hunting parties and dozens of hunters on the Island to finally vanquish the critter. Wounded after more than 200 rounds were fired at it on April 2, 1944, the animal was swimming toward Promontory Point and had to be apprehended by boat.
Leap ahead yet another 15 or so years and the State of Utah was looking to create a new state park on either Antelope or Fremont Island. Antelope was chosen and eventually accessed with a newly built causeway.
Fremont Island’s owners then, the Richards Family, who also owned Granite Furniture, still had hopes the state might make their island Utah’s “Alcatraz.” That never happened either.
The island was leased in part over the years to sheepherders and brine shrimpers.
By 1997, the Richards Family felt no long-term use for the island had been found and tried unsuccessfully to sell it for $3 million. "2,943 acres. Lots of history on this island. Great rec. property in green belt," was what the for sale ad highlighted.
By the early 21st Century, Hooper City included Fremont Island in its official boundaries.
Fremont Island, the third-largest isle in the Great Salt Lake, is still privately owned today and various private horse, wildlife and hunting preserve ideas have been experimented with for the Island.
(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Oct. 16-17, 2014.)
MORE Fremont Island and Great Salt Lake information:

-Blanche H. Wenner buried her mother’s ashes on Fremont in June of 1943.

-Charles Stoddard of Hooper built the fence around the Fremont gravesite. He used rocks from the old Wenner house to create the memorial with the plaques on.

-Large icebergs reported on GSL in March of 1942.

-From St. Examiner March 13, 1956, Southern Pacific had signed a $49 million contract to replace the wooden trestle of the Lucin Cutoff with rockfill/dirt causeway, 12 miles long and to start in 1960.  High maintence costs and redecking being needed for millions as the reason for the change; plus no fear of fire.

-Only 1 tree on Fremont Island in 1940s.

-Ranchers called Castle rock “Haystack Rock.”

-The first trip of the Lakemobile to Fremont Island was in 1934.

-Phantom Coyote killed 6 or more sheep on Fremont Island. Took 20 hunters and 3 trips to kill it it. Finally Orville Harris of Ogden wounded it and it plunged into the lake. The hunters had to jump into a motor boat to pursue it and kill it. It had lived in the rocky areas of the island. Hunters went by lakemobile, horseback across the sandbar to hunt the critter.

-On Fremont, Stoddard had as many as 700 sheep.

-Stoddard also bought a L.C.V.P. war surplus landing craft to use to reach Fremont from Promontory Point too.

-Stoddard was nicknamed “Utah’s Flying Shepherd” by Western Livestock Journal, because of airlifting in supplies food to his sheep. He would drop a 200-pound load of corn-bean pellets from his plane daily for 2 months to bring 800 sheep through a critical period.

-He also lost horses in the lake’s quicksand:  “To stand there powerless and watch those helpless horses disappear into the quicksand. After that I used a boat,” Stoddard once said.

-Arrowheads, platters, plates and a tablet with strange writing wee all found by Earl Stoddard, cousin to Charles Stoddard, on Fremont Island.

-In 1960, the grass on Fremont gave out and Stoddard had to fly food in 120 straight days by plane.

-By 1961, the lake had dropped so low that 100 lambs waded out in the lake  waters and were lost. Soon after a windstorm at the Ogden airport destroyed his airplane, tethered there.

-Another time a lightning storm caught Fremont Island on fire and he had to move his sheep to Carrington Island for a season.

-In one of the “Phantom coyote hunting photos, 1844 to 1944 is painted on rock above and below the Fremont cross.

-May 4, 1956, fire damages Lucin Cutoff trestle and closed it for several hundred feet. Charles Stoddard’s barge was used by firemen to spray water on the smoldering trestle.

-Feb. 27, 1969. High winds damaged the causeway tp Antelope Island and cut a breach 200 feet wide 3-4 feet deep

 (All this information from Jewell Kenley’s scrapbook of Stoddard, a relative of hers.)