Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ophir, Utah July 30, 2010

The historic Town Hall in Ophir

Location: Ophir, Utah, is an old mining community south of Tooele, Utah. The town is located 3.5 miles up a canyon, east of State Highway 73. A sign on Highway 73 shows the turnoff for Ophir. The canyons to the north and south of Ophur have mining history and ghost towns. I would not suggest going to Mercur because Barrick Gold has the road gated up the canyon. If you go, all the historic mines and much of the remnants are on private land. I did talk to some very nice residents who let me photograph on private property.
History: The mining boom in the Oquirrh Mountains began in the 1860s when tales of indians using slugs made with lead and silver reached General Patrick Connor of the California Volunteers. After some investigation the group found crude mines near present day Ophir.
In 1870 Ophir had a big mining boom. A town sprang up with saloons, a red light district, and crudely build shanty homes. Miners rushed in to mine primarily silver, lead, and zinc. The names of the mines in the area reflected the excitement: Miner's Delight, Wild Delerium, Ophir Hill. Ore mined in the area was sent to a smelter in Connor, Utah. In the mid 1870s, it was apparent that the boom would last and more stable buildings of stone and wood were built. In these years the town had its highest population of 6,000 people with drugstore, two schools, and a theatre. Production:1870-1900 $329,000 in gold and over $13 million in silver, lead and zinc.
By 1880 the easy silver was long gone and many of the miners moved on, however, a core group of miners resorted to vertical deep rock mining with shafts over 1,000 feet deep. The mines were profitable enough that a wealthy man W.A. Clark owned many of the mines in the area even building the St. John and Ophir Railroad which was active from 1912-1918. Some mining occured into the 1970s. Today, all seven of the silver mines are not active. (Information from Utah Ghost Towns By: Stephen Carr).

Remnants of the St. John and Ophir Railroad down canyon

Slag piles with old railroad tracks on top

Railroad tracks with ore bucket

Old shack in town