Friday, January 17, 2014

When German spies/bombers invaded the Ogden area

             The mouth of Ogden Canyon today.                                        Photo by Whitney Arave.

By Lynn Arave

THE Ogden area suffered a pair of serious bomb planting incidents almost a century ago during the final stages of World War I.
“Attempt made to blow up water system of Ogden, Bomb discovered at 8:30 last evening by Watchman at City Reservoir –Six sticks of giant powder with fuse attached, placed near water main – Horse tracks indicate dynamiter had ridden to scene,” was the key headline in the Aug. 14, 1917 Ogden Standard-Examiner.
The bomb was placed so that if it would have exploded, it would have cut off Ogden City’s entire water supply. Then, the water main could not have been turned off, except from up Ogden Canyon, at Coldwater Canyon – and by then, at least an hour later,  “untold damage would have been wrought,” according to the newspaper report, by flooding water.
Police officers noted that a crimp in the fuse had been taken out, making the powder burn unevenly, as the only reason why the rather simple bomb had not gone off.
While some Ogden residents believed the bomb was simply an effort “to stir up the guards at the reservoir and create some excitement,” others feared it was the work of an agent of a foreign government.
Ogden officials responded by adding searchlights to the water reservoir property, on the city’s east side, plus more guards.
While no later newspaper reports ever indicated the bomber was ever found, a separate article in a different newspaper – less than a month later – reveals a probable connection.
“Dancing master proves to be spy; Man who taught dancing at The Lagoon tried to blow up pavilion on Soldiers’ Day,” was the headline in the Sept, 7, 1917 Davis County Clipper.
“The professor who had been teaching dancing at Lagoon has turned out to be a German spy,” that article stated.
Luckily, that bomb didn’t go off either.
It was reported that the professor disappeared, but was later captured and imprisoned in the prisoner’s camp at Fort Douglas.
The newspaper stated that rumors were also circulating that the spy had already been convicted and executed.
The article also reported that another German, who had been living with a family in Centerville, had also been arrested as a spy and sent to Fort Douglas.
A century ago, there was apparently no correlation reported between the two bomb-planting incidents, but it does appear likely the same German spy, or spies, could have been involved in both incidents.
Later, in December of 1917, another bomb with a fuse, was reported found near Ogden. In May of 1918, “Five bombs discovered in carload of coal prove to be harmless when saw is used” was another Standard-Examiner headline, about the Ogden rail yard.
A year later, in May of 1919, the Ogden Post Office was on the lookout for bombs in packages, after federal warnings were received. In this same era, a bomb went off in the Avenues of Salt Lake City and nationally the U.S. Congress was looking to make bomb materials less easily purchased by criminals and terrorists.
None of these bombing incidents seem to be documented in local history books, again showing the brevity of their reach.

(-Published Jan. 17, 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:  


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