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Front Page » January 26, 2006 » Business Focus » 116 and Counting
Published 3,010 days ago

116 and Counting


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By TOM McCOURT
Sun Advocate reporter

One of the earliest photos of the Price Trading Company. The operation was actually incorporated before Price became a city and before Carbon County was separated from Emery County.

In 1890, Carl Valentine, Alpha Ballinger, Charles Taylor, and James Montgomery Whitmore, incorporated the Price Trading Company. The business began in a new settlement along the Price River that would soon be known as Price City. Carbon County was a part of Emery County back then, and the recently completed Denver and Rio Grande railroad promised an unlimited source of supplies to serve the far-flung settlements of Castle Valley and the Uintah Basin.

Price City was incorporated two years later, in 1892, and quickly became the economic hub of Eastern Utah. Though having a population of only 308 people at the time of incorporation, the town became a major crossroads, with several stores and many prosperous saloons. Freighters, miners, cowboys, outlaws, stockmen, sheepmen, railroad workers, hunters, trappers, and hopeful homesteaders, all converged on the small community. All roads led to Price.

A large campground and stock corral was established south of the tracks in the area near second west and second south to accommodate the many freighters and travelers who camped in town overnight. A few fine, brick hotels were built for the comfort of railroad travelers. Carbon County was split from Emery County in 1894, and Price became the county seat.

James Whitmore, one of the founding members of the Price Trading Company, was a famous stockman in the Castle Valley area. His holdings were extensive. Whitmore Canyon above East Carbon, and Whitmore Park on the road to Nine Mile, are named after him and his family. Emma Park on the road to Duchesne, above Helper, is named after his wife. The family owned a beautiful, old Victorian-styled home near where the K-Mart store is now located in the Creekview shopping center.

Price Trading Company as it looks today.

The Price Trading Company was established as a general mercantile company, and the first building was a large, wood-framed structure on the corner of Main and 100 West. The business was a success from the beginning, and for several years, large double-teamed freight wagons stuffed with goods, left the Price Trading Company yards bound for Fort Duchesne, Vernal, Castle Dale, Ferron, and points south.

Hard cash was a commodity in short supply on the Eastern Utah frontier in those days, and as the name implies, the Price Trading Company often traded with customers and took payment "in kind." Manufactured and dry goods were often traded for farm produce, hay, grain, potatoes, livestock, cedar posts, and other marketable items. For the first several years, company script, due bills, warehouse receipts, and coupons, were considered as good as cash in Eastern Utah.

The Price Trading Company also became a financial center at the turn of the 20th century. There were no banks in the area at the time, and the company branched into the finance and real estate business. At one time the company owned several choice properties in the area.

In the early years of the 20th century, the Ballinger family bought the other partners out and acquired all of the company stock. Unfortunately, at about the same time, Pete Jeanselme and Eugene Chatland opened a new store in Price that captured most of the retail business. Ballinger was soon in financial peril and a receiver was appointed to close the business and pay off the bills.

Mac Johnson sits in his office at the present day PTC and holds up a photo of the founders of the company.

To the rescue came a successful sheepman and banker, Wallace Lowry. Lowry felt that it was in the interests of the stockmen and sheepmen in the area to have their own retail store, and he convinced the ranchers to purchase stock in the failing company. He was able to convince the French sheepmen in the area to buy into the venture only by assuring them that Gomer Peacock, a man the Frenchmen knew and trusted, would be involved in running the company.

The Price Trading Company was reorganized in 1918 under the old 1890 charter, with Wallace Lowry as president, A.W. McKinnon as vice-president, R.J. Stayer as manager, Gomer Peacock as assistant manager, and with Henry Moynier, Elmer Alley, Charles Larsen, and J.W. Hammond Sr. as board members. Peacock would become a driving force in the company and remain in company management until retiring in 1960.

In 1918, the newly reorganized company bought out another company in Price called the Stockgrowers and Farmers Store, and moved the Price Trading Company to 39 West Main Street. Since most of the shareholders were stockmen, the company began what was known as harvest-to-harvest accounts. Stockholder ranchers like the Moynier and Leautaud families could draw credit at the store all year and then pay the full account at harvest time when the sheep were sheared and the lambs sent to market.

It was an arrangement that worked well for everyone involved.

In 1923 the company constructed a new building on West Main Street, and in 1949 bought a second building on Carbon Avenue. For many years an underground tunnel connected the two buildings. It was a big adventure for the children in town to walk through the quiet, dimly lit and carpeted tunnel, and then re-emerge into a completely different store and surroundings.

Over the years the Price Trading Company also operated branches of their store in various parts of the county. At one time they had the general store in Latuda and Mohrland, along with the store in Hiawatha , as well as the Miners Trading Post in Sunnyside.

In 1935, the Price Trading Company was contracted to take over the U.S. Fuel Company stores at Mohrland and Hiawatha. The Mohrland mine and town were shut down in 1938, but the Hiawatha operation continued for many years. In 1942, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, PTC took over the company store at Latuda and ran it for a few years too.

With the Second World War came the opening of the Horse Canyon Mine by the U.S. Defense Plant Corporation. The government also established the town of Dragerton to help support the new mine and the war effort. Price Trading Company contracted to run the Dragerton store, and did so until the mine and store were sold to the U.S. Steel Corp. after the war. Clifford Woodruff managed both the Hiawatha and Dragerton operations, and eventually bought the Hiawatha store from the PTC stockholders.

In 1951, the Price Trading Company took over the company store in Sunnyside when the Kaiser Steel Company bought the Utah Fuel mine.The Sunnyside store had been managed by Oscar Carlson, and was named the Miner's Trading Post. The Miner's Trading Post was an extensive operation in its heyday and boasted a general store, a miner's drug store, a service station, garage, and one of the nation's first cable TV companies. At it's peak in the mid-1950s, the Miner's Trading Post employed 50 people.

In 1958, the Price Trading Company was re-incorporated as five distinct companies: The Price Trading company with the two stores in Price City, the Hiawatha Trading Company with the Blackhawk Store in Hiawatha, The Miner's Trading Post in Sunnyside, the East Carbon Television Company, and the Price Trading Finance Company which handled all of the financial accounts of the other four companies. It worked well for a while, but in 1964 all five companies were re-merged back into one company that was once again called the Price Trading Company.

By 1967, Price Trading was operating three stores in Price. PTC Sports, PTC apparel, and PTC Furniture. The corporation still owned the Miner's Trading Post in Sunnyside too. The cable TV company in East Carbon had been closed by then, and the Hiawatha store sold. Through the late 1960s and early 1970s, the company flourished.

Hard times came in 1976 on the heels of economic recession, inflation, and the oil crisis of the mid-70s. Company stockholders decided to divest. The Miner's Trading Post was sold to Donald Leonard, and PTC Sports was sold to a Salt Lake company named Sunset Sports. The clothing store was sold too.

The tunnel between PTC sports and PTC home furnishings was closed and sealed forever.

Employees of Price Trading Company's Miners Trading Post pose for a photo on Sept. 4, 1951. PTC sold the store to Donald Leonard in 1976.

Mack Johnson bought the furniture store on 33 North Carbon Avenue in 1977. He was a long-time PTC employee, a World War II veteran with a degree in banking and finance from the University of Utah. He first started working for Price Trading in April 1951. His family owned stock in the company as early as 1919.

As a part of his purchase agreement, Johnson was able to secure the Price Trading Company name, and he ran the PTC furniture and appliance store until 2000.

In 2000, Johnson turned the furniture business into the Price Trading Company Parts Plus Store. The business now offers a wide variety of auto parts and accessories.

Johnson says he is proud to have been a part of the long, colorful history of the Trading Company, and he is proud to have carried the name into the company's third century of doing business in Price.

A wide range of interesting characters have been stockholders, managers, clerks, and customers for 116 years so far, and Mack Johnson and PTC have a ways to go yet.

Like an old newspaper ad in the November 1891 Eastern Utah Advocate said: "Price Trading Co. We are still in it! And always expect to be."


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