The Wasatch Behind: Spud's local history
When Uncle Spud and I were talking last week about his adventures crossing the plains with Brigham Young, he mentioned that he was one of the first pioneers to see Castle Valley. Naturally, I was curious so I asked him to tell us all about it.
Spud: The history books say that Caleb Rhodes and Abraham Powell were the first settlers in Carbon County, but I got here first.
Those men built cabins here in 1877. When did you get here?
Spud: I first passed through here in 1830 on my way to California on the Old Spanish Trail. Most folks don't know it, but the northernmost branch of the Old Spanish Trail followed the Price River as far as Wellington before turning south to join the main trail again near Castle Dale. The main trail crossed Buckhorn Flat from the town of Green River then followed the path of modern Highway 10 to Salina Canyon.
Was it called the Price River back then?
Spud: No, it was known as the White River in the early days. It caused a lot of confusion, too, because there is another White River in the Uintah Basin. I have an old Utah map from 1870 that shows both White Rivers. I don't know why our river was named the White River. It might have been because of alkali deposits near the riverbanks. Today only the upper right-hand fork of the river below Soldier Summit is known as White River. It joins Fish Creek near Colton to form the Price River.
So how did the river get the name of Price River?
Spud: In 1865 the LDS bishop of the town of Goshen crossed the mountain and ran a trap line along the river. His name was William Price. In the 1870s people started calling the river after Bishop Price.
Was the town named after Bishop Price, too?
Spud: Well, sort of, I guess. When the railroad came through here in 1883 they set up a water stop at a place they called Price River Station. The old steam engines had to take on water often. The town of Price grew up around Price River Station. The town was incorporated in 1893 as Price city.
Did the coal mines get started to supply coal for the railroad?
Spud: No, it was the other way around. Originally the railroad was going to follow the Old Spanish Trail across Buckhorn Flat and up Salina Canyon. Part of the old railroad bed can still be seen in Buckhorn Flat. But when the railroad people found there was coal near Price and Helper, they moved the railroad up this way and took it over Price Canyon instead - sorry Emery County.
Were you the first resident of Price?
Spud: No, I was the first resident of Carbon County. I made a cabin near Wellington in the early 1870s. When Jefferson Tidwell arrived to settle Wellington in 1879 my friend Nathaniel Galloway was staying at my place while I was in 9-mile teaching Preston Nutter the cow business.
The history books say Nathaniel Galloway was the first resident of Carbon County.
Spud: Well, he beat Abraham Powell and Caleb Rhodes by a couple of years, but he was stayin' in my cabin, dognabbit. I ought to be the one in the history books.
Isn't Caleb Rhodes the guy who had the secret gold mine?
Spud: Yep, it's called the lost Rhodes mine. Everyone says it was over in the Uintah Basin, but I don't think so. If Caleb Rhodes had a hidden gold mine in the Uintahs, I don't think he'd spend the second half of his life in Price. Either there is no lost Rhodes mine or it's somewhere near here.
Is it true that Abraham Powell was killed by a bear?
Spud: It's true. In 1878 old Abe Powell took on a grizzly with a muzzleloader and finished in second place. Some say it happened on Mt. Nebo over in Utah County. Others say it was on Castle Valley Ridge. Utah had a lot of grizzly bears back then.
Did you know Butch Cassidy?
Spud: Everybody knew Butch Cassidy, even people who never met him. After he died there were more Butch Cassidy sightings than Elvis ever dreamed.
Do you miss the old days?
Spud: Are you out of your mind? Turn up the air conditioner and get me a cold Pepsi from the refrigerator. Bill O'Reilly starts in a few minutes.