Friday, September 11, 2015

1891: A Second La Plata

             Ogden Valley with the Monte Cristo and La Plata area in the far background.

By Lynn Arave

MINING fever was at its height in the Ogden area during 1891. Not only had La Plata, northeast of Huntsville, gained regional attention, but rumors of other claims were rampant.
“A second La Plata” was an Oct. 20, 1891 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
This second claim was in the mountains northeast of Brigham City, south of Devil’s Gate (not to be confused with the Weber Canyon formation with the same name).
Mose Jensen of Brigham City made what appeared to be a rich strike of silver. “Prospectors are now out searching the mountains in every direction, north, east and south of Brigham,” the story stated.
History proved this second La Plata claim was way overblown, but it was typical of the mining frenzy of the early 1890s in the Ogden area.
Although La Plata was just over the border in Cache County, it had the best access from Weber County – and it was wrongly initially believed to be in Weber County. According to the Standard of Aug. 16, 1891, a  sheepherder, “Mr. Johnson” (first name unknown), in July of 1891 noticed an unusual rock after his horse accidentally chipped off a piece of mineral along an old sheep trail and thus started the La Plata boom. Originally called Sundown, a few more small pockets of silver ore were soon discovered there. The sheepherder’s interest in La Plata was soon bought out for $600 by J. Ney, owner of the 8,000 sheep in the area and Johnson’s employer. After Johnson had showed Ney the rock, he recognized its value and filed claims.
“Mines are being opened in every direction from the city,” the Standard reported.
La Plata (meaning silver in Spanish) was soon dotted with tents and wagons. Three log cabins went up in less than five days. Eventually, 60 buildings sprang up at La Plata – stores, saloons, post office, hotel and more. Three different springs supplied water to the area and miners were paid $3 a day for work there.
The Standard of Nov. 26, 1891 reported that despite winter, La Plata was still a busy place and some miners and even their families were well stocked and planning to spend all winter there.
A total of 1,500 people were believed to have lived and worked in La Plata during its heyday. Three summer seasons produced about $3 million, mostly in silver.
By the summer of 1893, mines were closing fast in La Plata, the small veins having been worked out. Come 1894, no one was left in La Plata and it became a ghost town.
-Mines were also scattered all over the mountains on Ogden’s east side. For example, the Standard of Feb. 9, 1881 reported that Strong’s Canyon was home to the Star Mine, some 164 feet deep, for gold and silver. The miners also had a water wheel built there.
The Little Quick mine was found at the same time in Waterfall Canyon. This gold mine was made at least 50 feet deep in solid rock and required no timber for support.

-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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