Springtime a great season to visit Summerville
Carbon and Emery counties certainly have no shortage of mining relics and other reminders of a bygone era, as ore extraction has been a part of the region for most of its existence, especially in the north end of the Castle Valley. Many mining camps and shanty towns sprang to life during the latter part of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth, only to fall into decay a relatively short time later. But one of them that is often forgotten is the small community originally called the Morrison-Knudsen shanty town. It would later be known as the Summerville Mining District.
Today, much of the shanty town is gone, and what little remains is largely in ruin. But it continues to be a great place for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs to visit. It's easily accessible with a 2WD truck or SUV.
From Wellington, the drive to Summerville starts at a point on US Highway 6 just five miles south of Woodside, where a dirt road (often referred to as the "Green River Cutoff Road") leads west towards Cedar Mountain.
After a drive of about 12 and a half miles, the road leads to four-way a intersection. At this dusty junction, the drive to this old shanty town turns right, to the north for another four and a half miles.
Unlike many communities of the era, the Morrison-Knudsen shanty town was very decentralized and spread over a large geographical area composed of rocky, arid hills dotted with cedar trees.
It can be difficult to visualize this small, fledgling community during its early years when, according to the July 14, 2009 edition of the Emery County Progress, the town was comprised of tents, which were likely spread out and distant from one another.
The inhabitants would have found themselves in a high elevation desert where dry, sultry afternoons and chilly nights were the norm.
Just as it is today, food and water would have been scarce, and shelter would have been far from perfect. It would have made for some very unfriendly living conditions.
But those that made their way to this remote little community were undoubtedly prepared for many of the difficulties, and hoped that they would reap great rewards from deep inside the ground.
Unlike many mining communities of the day, the miners at Summerville were not after uranium. Instead, according to the Emery County Progress article, they mined primarily for silver and copper. Lead and zinc were also mined - but only in very small amounts.
Many likely left the little shanty town with very little to show for all of their hard labors. One can only wonder what become of the people who lived here.
A number of the rocky shelters that were later erected (probably during the first two decades of the twentieth century) still stand - at least the walls do. The roofs have long since disappeared along with the occupants of the long departed little community.
Today, many that visit the area step inside these weathered walls and imagine what things must have been like when these structures were in use. Conversations took place and stories were shared. But what was said, and what happened from day to day, can only be left up to the imagination.
Although many things about this community will remain uncertain, the many things that these people left behind in the middle of the desert will continue to be a source of interest and entertainment for future generations.