Remembering the historic mining town of Mohrland
The Emery County Historical Society made a trek to Mohrland Sept. 25, led by Lori Ann Larsen, the Emery County Historical Society secretary and Vernell Rowley. The group started out from the San Rafael Museum in Castle Dale. They continued to Huntington Park and were joined by additional members. In the park at Huntington, some members discovered the Volunteers of America were having a garage sale and several stopped to purchase items.
After leaving Huntington the trek caravan turned left at the Huntington State Park and then traveled west about 10 miles, passing the road to Hiawatha, to view the ghost town Mohrland. This town is completely abandoned and the houses have all been removed. The old rail line remains, but all of the houses have been moved to other locations. The buildings sold for as little as $50 per house to a salvage company. Some of the houses were moved for housing at the Hiawatha Mine.
Mohrland is located in Cedar Creek Canyon North and West of Huntington. At one time Mohrland was the largest coal mining town in Emery County with a population of nearly 1,000 in 1920. The mining of coal in Cedar Creek Canyon began some time before 1896 by William and Erin Howard. The coal at that time was mined primarily for the heating of homes in Emery County. The Howard's did not get a title to the 160 acre mining property and had to discontinue their mining operation.
Three Grange brothers Samuel, Ulysses and Ernest, together with Albert Gardner purchased this property and operated the mine for about 12 years. The coal seam was 17 feet thick. This allowed the miners to drive a team and wagon into the mine and load coal into the wagon from the face of the coal. Several mines in Utah operated this way and were called wagon mines.
In 1907, Castle Valley Fuel Company, an investment group,of Mays, Orem, Heiner and Rice, headed by Salt Lake City Attorney James Mays, bought the mine and the surrounding property. This group then established a railroad from Mohrland past the Hiawatha mine to a railroad connection at Helper. In April of 1910, the Mohrland Mine began shipping coal by rail. The town of Mohrland was named after the four owners by using the first letter in each of their names, Mays, Orem, Heiner and Rice.
Mohrland continued to flourish and by 1920 boasted more than 200 houses, a large amusement hall, a school, a hospital, the company boardinghouse, Errol Charlestrom's Wasatch Store that housed the post office, the grocery store and a butcher shop. There were also several saloons in operation. The town of Mohrland, like most mining towns in that era, was owned and controlled by the mining company for the benefit of the mine owner, the miners and their families. The mining company provided mine employees with benefits, which included medical services, dances, films, and other special events.
The company baseball team was popular and successful. In the spring of 1915 this team played an exhibition game at Price against the Chicago White Sox. The game had an audience of more than 10,000. The score was 17 to 1 in favor of the Chicago White Sox.
The United States Fuel Company which owned the town of Hiawatha to the north, purchased Mohrland and the mine in 1915. The company worked hard to make Mohrland a pleasant place to live on the edge of the desert. Streets were lined with shade trees and the stream of running water along the canyon bottom was brought by canal from above the town to provide moisture for vegetation and gardens.
A tram (a truck or car on rails for carrying loads in a mine) was installed to carry coal from inside the mine to the coal tipple (a structure used for loading coal into railroad cars) about a mile from the mine and East down the canyon. The tram used electricity and large electric motors and a large cable to move the coal from the mine to the tipple where it was loaded into railroad cars. The loaded tram cars going down the hill to the tipple helped pull the empty cars back up to the mine.
The best years for the sale of coal were the 1920s, but on March 1, 1925, US fuel shut down the mine without warning. This left Mohrland's residents without jobs and without credit at the company store. Most of the people had no money or food. Then in September 1926, the company reopened the mine and Mohrland struggled to get back on its feet.
In 1930 the population was 620. Coal continued to be less profitable and during the Great Depression US Fuel announced in 1938, they would close Mohrland and consolidate mining operations at Hiawatha, which had a shorter haulage route.
The Historical Society visited the area where the tipple used to load coal on railroad cars. There they saw the remnants of old worn out mining equipment, the abandoned rails and a layer of coal lying on the ground. Across the creek on the hillside can be seen the cement walls of the amusement hall and crumbling walls of the old store. Vernell Rowley pointed out the footers for the tram.
Mervin Miles took several people on a tour north up the hillside above the tipple area to show off some dugouts that miners and their families lived in. The tin roofs covered with dirt, held up by poles and stone foundations are still there. Miles said there was supposed to have been a small cemetery North of the tipple. The cemetery was not found.
Larsen told stories about her grandmother Beulah Ungerman. Beulah's father Vick Ungerman worked in the Morhland Mine. Beulah married a Peter Elvin McElprang.
Rowley had a book full of old photos of the Mohrland mine area. From this book and his own experience he pointed out where various buildings had been. One of those photos was of the boarding house with a fish pond in front of the building. Another set of photos showed a team of horses in the ragged entrance to the early mine. In a photo taken later the mine entrance or portal had walls and a roof of cement.
The community of Mohrland was divided into several ethnic groups. Just east of the tipple the town was called Center Town, across the canyon on a hill to the south was Gobblers Knob, up the canyon to the west was Tipple Town, the next town up the canyon was called Greek Town and the town nearest the mine portal in the canyon was the Japanese section. Not all the miners had houses many of them lived in dugouts in the side of the hills.
Gobblers Knob was on a ridge and it was reported that they used to raise potatoes up there. You may still see the remnants of buildings on Gobblers Knob.
A Mohrland resident, Edith Findley came back from a trip to Wisconsin with some yellow rose plants which she planted in front of her house. Those roses are still surviving, after 93 years, beside a narrow dirt road.
The large cement walled building with windows and doors that are gone was the old amusement hall. After hiking around and viewing the ruins where the tipple used to be, the group drove up the canyon to the closed and sealed mine portal. There they saw the building that was the hoist house for the tram and what was left of the mine equipment.
Over the top of the mine portal were the words USF Mohrland Mine 1909 and 1938. There was another mine portal close by that had the words Mohrland Mine 1910 USF 1916. This portal was also closed. However a stream of water flows out of an opening in the mine.
The 10 inch pipe line beside the road is used to transfer water to the Hiawatha mine. The road parallels Cedar Creek.
It was reported that there were 15 fatalities in the mine from 1909 to 1937.
Large electric fans were installed outside the mine in a long fan house to exchange the air in the mine. One of these large fans is still located near the mine entrance and the fan can be walked into for a closer look. There is a building on the side of the hill near the fan house called the lamp house. Each miner had his own numbered lamp and a lamp tag that stayed in the lamp house when he was not in the mine. When a shift was over if a lamp was missing a search was made for the missing miner.
A bore hole was drilled in the top of the mine to go into the mine about half way from the mine entrance and the coal face. The bore hole was used for electric cables to provide electricity in the mine. When the length of the electric cables got too long to carry sufficient electricity through the mine entrance, the bore hole was used to shorten the length of the electric cable and provide more electrical power.
On the way back down the canyon the group stopped for lunch in the shade of cottonwoods by Cedar Creek.
When the lunch was over, guided by Rowley, everyone crossed the canyon for a closer look at the foundations of the old store with its deep basement, the amusement hall, the foundations of homes and the yellow rose plants.
This was a great day of exploring in the ghost town of Mohrland. Much of this information was taken from Wikipedia free encyclopedia and A History of Emery County by Edward A. Geary and from what members on the trek told of their experiences with Mohrland.
Thanks especially to Vernell Rowley for his photos and great information.