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Front Page » December 31, 2013 » Emery County News » Historical society learns about Winter Quarters
Published 1,152 days ago

Historical society learns about Winter Quarters

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Bernice Payne introduced Carla Kelly the guest speaker for the evening. She said Carla Kelly is a veteran of the National and International publishing world. She has written about the history of Indian Wars and other topics. Two of her books have won awards from Western Writers of America. She spent years writing for Regency Romances and for Signet. She received awards for best Regency writer of the year from Romance Writers of America. She received a lifetime achievement award from Romantic Times.

Venturing into LDS themes Carla Kelly received the Whitney Award for the book "My Loving Vigil Keeping", which is a historical fiction novel about the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster of the 1900s. Carla now writes for three publishing companies and has been published in at least 12 languages. She has written over 30 novels and many short stories. Carla loves to write combining history with fiction to make the story ring true. In her spare time she volunteers at the Helper Railroad and Mining Museum.

Kelly after thanking everyone for coming started her lecture by singing a mining song. Then she asked how many had worked in coal? How many in the audience were named Davies, Jones, Timothy's, Lewellyn and Royd were descendants from Wales? She commented that several of the miners in the Winter Quarters Mine came from Wales. She then pointed to her large flag of Wales and stated that some of her ancestors came from Wales.

Kelly and her husband moved to Wellington, Utah in 2009. Prior to moving to Wellington, her husband retired from teaching at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. She is a historian by training and trade. Kelly had been working for the Park Service at the Fort Union Trading Post, a National Historic site. They have been here four years and are enjoying their life here.

Kelly knew when she moved to Wellington that there had been a big mine disaster at the beginning of the 20th Century. Soon after arriving in Utah and learning a bit of the history of Carbon and Emery Counties Carla decided that she wanted to write about the Scofield or the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster. At that time she knew nothing about coal or about mining. She has since learned a lot about coal and mining.

Kelly spent two and a half years in research about the history of Scofield, about the Winter Quarters Mine and about coal mining. She went several times to the canyon where the mine is located and visited with relatives of that event in preparation for writing the book about the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster. Kelly also learned about the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster. When that event happened her bishop was the head of mine rescue at the Deer Creek Mine and he was seen on CNN TV most of the day driving a pickup truck into the Crandall Canyon Mine over and over again while the commentator talked about the collapsed mine. The Bishops wife said that was the longest day of her life. Kelly knew there was a story about mining at Scofield. She knew in her mind that there could be a story about the miners and their families.

Kelly was in the process of writing two other books when she started collecting information from a variety of sources about any mining and mine disasters. These she put into a special box about mining and mine disasters.

When the Sun Advocate issued a story about the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster. She read through the article. The article had a list of the dead and many interesting photos and stories. That article went into the box relating to mines and miners. She said when you write historical fiction, you collect everything. You never know what you are going to need. Sometime ago she found an old 1915 Rules For Teachers and an 1872 Teachers Rules. Kelly read some of those rules to the group. Women teachers whether married or single that engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed, after 10 hours at school teachers may spend their remaining time reading the bible or other good works. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and coal for the day's session. You must wear eight petticoats; your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankles.

Kelly said, I volunteered to work at the Western Mining and Railroad Museum in Helper. This was a gold mine for me. At the museum I found pictures and a lot of interesting stuff and I began a collection of stuff including coal. I am constantly adding to my file. One of the pictures I found was a photo of the 1899-1900 classroom in Winter Quarters Canyon School. With a magnifying glass I examined each face in the photo and learned the names of many of those in the photo. In January I started to write the book that was due in June. By then I had gathered a lot of information.

When writing historical fiction you have a framework. The framework for this book was the mine disaster. The only person in this story that knows what is going to happen May 1, 1900 is myself. No one else in the story knows that. So I put the mine disaster at the end of the book. Therefore I have to fill 300 pages with events leading up to the mine disaster.

I had to think through in my mind. What is this story actually about? So I decided the person that would tell this story would be a schoolteacher. This person would be a person from the outside. She had a little knowledge of mining. Her father a hard rock miner had a mine over in the Colorado Plateau and he died in a cave in. When the school teacher has a question about mining she will ask someone at Winter Quarters and that is how you get information included in the story.

A lot of writers will dump a lot of information in a book. It is better to distribute information throughout the book here and there so you don't lose your readers interest.

The mine at Winter Quarters was started in 1875-1876. The coal miners originally were LDS. They joined the church in Wales. That is where David O McKay's mother came from. These miners came to Zion or Utah. Some never went back into the mines. They came to Carbon County and the Winter Quarters Mine the earliest paying coal mine in Utah. There were four mines at Winter Quarters. Two of which were active. The active mines were number four and number one. They were operating from about 1878 to 1928. When these mines stopped working there was still plenty of coal there but it became too expensive to mine that coal.

The early miners were Welsh, British, Cornish and Scottish. They are British Isles miners. All of the original American knowledge of mining comes from the British Isles.

I am going to have a lot of Welsh people in the book. I like the Welsh and I have Welsh ancestors. I like them because they like to sing and they are good at it. So in my book I have Welsh singers. At this time I was a chorister and choirmaster in the Wellington 2nd Ward. So as the writer of this is fiction, I am going to put the best choir of the church in the Pleasant Valley Ward in Winter Quarters Canyon.

I have visited the canyon where the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster took place three times. The entrance to the Winter Quarters Canyon is through a bared and locked gate. It is on private property owned by a family named Sorenson. The canyon is very narrow and twists and turns many times. In 1900 there were 768 people living in that canyon. Many lived in boarding houses. Many of the miners were single or their families were living somewhere else. The houses clung to the sides of the canyon walls. They were just shacks for the most part. As a writer I wanted to know what they sang in the Pleasant Valley Ward. So while researching I discovered and received a 1909 edition of the Deseret Sunday School Hymn Book from In the book it says Huntington Sunday School, "Come Home to Roost."

Sunday School was usually held at ten in the morning and by 1900 they also had lessons for adults. They had Sacrament then too. Then the adults came back in the afternoon. The children didn't go to the afternoon service. It was quiet. I wanted the hymn book because these were people that sang.

There were more than just LDS people living in the canyon. There were a lot of Finns from Finland living there too. Some of those Finns went to Rock Springs to mine coal while others came to the Winter Quarters Mine.

The Finns lost 61 men in the mine disaster. The total loss of life was 200. In 1900 it was the worst mine disaster in the United States. It is still Utah's worst disaster. Now it is ranked number 5 in the United States. There were Finns in the canyon. There were a few Italians, no Greeks, no Slovakians, no east European miners, a couple of German miners and some French miners. Most of the miners were from the British Isles or Finland. The heroin in the story on a whim goes to Winter Quarters to teach school and meets these wonderful people. I am often asked how many of the people in this story are real. Most of the people in the story are real. I mention Jessie Knight and Amanda Knight. Jessie Knight was one of Utah's first millionaires. He established the first mining district. His first mine was called the Hum Bug Mine.

In my story Jessie Knight is an interesting character. Samuel Auerbach came to Utah and started a department store with his brothers. It finally closed in the 1970s. The choirmaster in my story is Richard Evans. He was called the Swiss singer of Israel. He and his family came to Utah in the 1880s with his brothers. They had a little band and performed in Price and other areas. Holly Jones and Levi Jones are other real people in the story. In my research I use and Family Search just to learn about these people.

The Evans and the Joneses, the first thing they would do when they arrived in Utah, was go to Salt Lake, go to the temple to be sealed to their families and then they would go to the mines.

So I have a canyon full of Mormons a canyon full of Finns and other people. I want to be fair to everybody and that is part of the fun of the story.

Another interesting real person in the story is Thomas Parmely. Thomas Denison Parmely was from Durham which is Northern England's great coal mining area. He went into the mines at the age of 10.

This was not unusual back then. He joined the church in 1869 at the age 13. Thomas was 26 when he and his family came to the United States. He was already a 16-year veteran in the mine. He worked his way across the country and ended up in Coalville. In 1885 he was named superintendent at the Utah Pleasant Valley Coal Company. Three years later he married Miriam Staret. She was also English. As soon as he married her, he became the Bishop of the Pleasant Valley Ward in 1889. He was the Bishop until 1919 when his wife died. She is buried there in Scofield along with two or three of their children.

Thomas Dennison Parmely is a well-known name in the State of Utah. His brother William was the foreman of the number four mine. He died in the mine disaster. William had a son whom he named Thomas. Thomas went to school at Cornell University and became a physicist. He was hired by the University of Utah and married a woman by the name of Laverne. Laverne Parmely was the head of the LDS Primary Organization for many years. The Parmely's in my story are real.

The people in my story that are not real are the main characters. Census records are invaluable. The 1900 census was taken after the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster. When a miner quit or died the family was given five days to vacate their home. The land belonged to the coal company. Some of the houses also belonged to the coal company. This bothered Parmely a lot, but he was also a businessman. Being a superintendent and a Bishop could be considered a conflict of interest today.

The Pleasant Valley Coal Company knew that Parmely as Bishop could control his miners. A lot of the mine owners were prominent in the church. They did not want work stoppages or strikes. They knew that these men would probably do what Bishop Parmely said and they did. I did some research at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City and I was looking at some of the minutes from the old priesthood meetings. I came across one in 1883 that fascinated me. The issue was that some members were talking about striking and they were told if they struck their church membership would be called into question. That is the way it was. Some of the minutes are in the Welsh language. You could control your miners in this way.

At the mass funeral in Scofield, Joseph F. Smith, Teasdale and George Albert Smith, General Authority's spoke at the funeral. George Albert Smith said, don't let this be an excuse for a strike tomorrow.

The first actual strike in Utah came because the miners wanted better wages, working conditions, checkers and weigher's paid by the miners instead of the company. The first strike came in February 1901 about six months after the mine disaster. The strike began at Winter Quarters, spread to Clear Creek Mine about eight miles away. The strike petered out because they were not organized. It was a kind of Wild Cat Strike. That is where it began.

After the mine disaster 200 men had to be replaced. Some of the men that were there and were not involved in the mine disaster did not want to go back in the mine so they quit. Many of the miners kept working. They had a lot of trouble reopening number four mine because the ones that died were really good miners. There followed a series of deaths that occurred and that was the reason why they struck the company, as conditions were not very good. The strike petered out, but there was a series of strikes up though the 1930s. The company finally recognized the Union as a bargaining agent. Strikes continued. All of this is factored into the story in its own way.

The mines at Winter Quarters were called family mines, because these mines appeared to be safe. They had none of the Methane problems as occurred in the Castle Gate Mine. So you get cousins, uncles and in-laws working there. Every one is related. Mining was a family occupation back then and it still is today. I stress that a little bit in the story.

I have written a story about the community of Coalville. I am telling the story through the school students and the teacher. The heroin is teaching the students and that is how she gets to know the parents. She is also working part time in the amusement hall library. The library was the most popular place in Coalville.

I have here a photo of the Wasatch Store. Only two walls remain today. There are some foundations of other buildings to be seen in the canyon. I believe the amusement hall and the library were on the second floor of the Wasatch Store. I got permission to go into the canyon and take pictures. Writing is kind of like painting. I like to see what I am writing about. That makes the project fun. The first thing that I did was to go to the cemetery. That is an experience that one will not forget. There were row upon row of tombstones with the same death date.

In 2000 they had the Centennial of the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster. I became acquainted with Ann Carter who is related to the Finns in that valley. She has the only working sawmill in Scoville now. The head stones in the cemetery were made out of wood. A few of the originals are still standing. Some of the families that had been there longer have their own private plot. I finally found Richard Evans grave. He is the choirmaster in the story and he died in the mine disaster.

In the Helper museum on the second floor there is the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster room. There is a great big 1903 map made of linen of the mines in the area. The number four mine was up a canyon and the number one mine was on the level.

When I write I want to know where the houses are, I want to know where the hospital is, where the school is and where the mine is. I want the story to be as real as I can make it. Some things you never find out.

My main source was the book of the Scofield Mine Disaster of May 1, 1900 by P. W. Gilley. He taught at the Scofield School and was a town councilman. After the mine disaster Gilley compiled a story about the mine disaster. He includes first person accounts. The town of Scofield sold the book to raise money for the widows. Copies of this book can be obtained through It is a very interesting book because it came out just a few months after the mine disaster.

Danny Price's parents and grand parents lived up there in Pleasant Valley. They had a little ranch and a little mom and pop coal mine for their own use. Danny said his folks, on the day of the mine disaster, were working in the field. Someone came running and asked if they could come and help the miners. His father and grandfather dropped everything and ran to the mine and they ended up pulling out bodies. That is about as close as you can get to an eyewitness account. Danny's father told what they had found in the number one mine.

When the number four mine exploded from a spark in the coal dust it was connected to the number one mine. That is against the law these days. The firedamp came into the number one mine through the connection. The men working closest to that connection died. Those that dropped their tools and ran got out. But those that took time to put down their tools before running died. I let all of these things tie into my story to make it seem real.

A short detailed account of the Scofield or Winter Quarters Mine Disaster can easily be found on the Internet.

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