Wednesday, September 16, 2015

1922: When Antelope Island was in the running for a Utah State Prison

                              The north shore of Antelope Island.

“State prison may be moved. Committee named to consider Antelope Island proposition” was a Sept. 28, 1922 headline in the Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner.
In 2015 there was a lot of controversy about relocating the Utah State Prison from Draper. Eventually the green light was given to move the Prison to west of the Salt Lake Airport – despite protests from Salt Lake City leaders.

Back in 1922, the State Prison was still in its original location – where Sugar House Park is today, 2100 South and about 1700 East. However, an expanding Sugar House residential neighborhood was not deemed as be compatible with a prison.

                   Sugar House Park looking west across its lake.

Antelope Island, an undeveloped island except for one ranch, was considered a possible prison site. Of course, this move never took place. Decades later, the  prison moved to Draper, then in the wide open spaces.
Still, if Antelope Island had been chosen as a prison site back then, it is a surety that Antelope Island State Park would not exist and that some kind of permanent road – likely to the southern tip of Antelope Island – would have been constructed from the S.L. side.
In the 1950s, Fremont Island was also talked about as a future state prison site and that didn’t happen either, likely because of its isolation and high road building costs.
-There was a big fire on Antelope Island in early September of 1917. According to the Ogden Standard-Examiner of Sept. 5 that year, lightning started a big blaze on the dry isle and it could be seen from both S.L. and Ogden. Back in that era, Antelope Island support not only a large herd of buffalo, but had 400 head of U.S. Army horses stationed there for training purposes, as well as some 1000 head of cattle.
-“Antelope Island’s coyotes wiped out” was a Feb. 3, 1924 Ogden Standard-Examiner headline. Because of the island’s importance as a cattle range, poison and some hunters was used starting in 1921 and by 1924  had wiped out all the coyotes living on the island. Now sheep could be safely ranged there too.
-“Fish driven into Great Salt Lake was an Aug. 14, 1911 headline in the Standard-Examiner. It was reported that carp were introduced into Mud Lake, north of an adjacent to Bear Lake, a few years earlier. The carp multiplied exceedingly. However, the electric power company had drained Mud Lake in the early summer of 1911 and that forced all the carp into the Bear River. The carp were reportedly rolling down the Bear River toward Utah and were eventually expected to reach the Great Salt Lake, where they would die in its briny waters.
The same report stated that Bear Lake had known bottom and that 1,000 feet of cable had been used over the lake and still found no bottom below. That myth was prevalent in the early 20th Century, but Bear Lake was eventually proven to be no more than 209 feet deep.

-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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