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1947: No disasters, but changes for Carbon County

The old courthouse was eventuually torn down in 1957.

Sun Advocate publisher

Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.

The Sun Advocate in the years during World War II and immediately after reflected a lot of death, destruction and disasters. But by 1947, the upswing of veterans coming home and the strongest economy in the world brought about a lot of optimism and positiveness. In the year's news were stories of a company town being sold and bought, the federal government finally (or as of then) putting to bed the idea of the Gooseberry Project ever going forward and probably the biggest story of the year, the state and local celebration of the 100 years since the original Mormon pioneers came to Utah.

In early January it was announced that Dragerton, a city built upon the war effort would be sold as a total unit and not broken up into pieces as many residents and others had hoped. The town, which had been constructed in 1942 for the cost of $5 million to house coal miners that supplied coal to the Geneva Steel plant in Utah county, had been a key element in the production of the strategic metal. Altogether there were 604 two- and three-bed room frame houses for sale, along with a store, church, school, hospital, playground and theater.

In mid-February the bids were opened by the War Assets Administration and Geneva Steel had offered $1,553,000 for the town while the Dragerton Homes Association (residents) had bid $1,100,000. While Geneva would pay in cash up front, the DHA was to pay a $200,000 down payment and finance the rest at 4.5 percent for 10 years. Homes would be sold to individuals who lived in them as soon as possible if the bid was accepted. In March the Geneva bid was accepted by the government because it was "considered to be the highest responsible bid submitted."

Interestingly the paper reported on March 6 that the DHA directors had voted and advised the WAA to accept the Geneva bid because "association officials were so impressed with the steel company's proposals and its outline of proposed town management..."

In the middle of the year, the large state celebration began (Days of '47) because it had been 100 years since the Mormon pioneers had pulled into the Salt Lake valley. Counties all across the state had planned huge celebrations for the centennial year and Carbon County was no different. The festivities began with a play that was produced concerning the history of Carbon County.

"The history of Carbon county from the time the Spaniards cross the Mexican border and looked upon the country now comprising southeastern Utah and Carbon county, the first settlements by Mormon pioneers along the banks of the Price River, and the subsequent growth and development of this area in harmony with the development of the state of Utah through its first 100 years of progress will be vividly portrayed this evening," stated the paper on July 17. Over the next couple of weeks the area was treated to a centennial parade, a three-day Robbers Roost Roundup rodeo and an air show at the Carbon County airport, which had just started receiving commercial air service in January from a company called Monarch Air. There were also dozens of lesser events that dotted the county during that summer celebrating the event.

In January a debate also raged of the building of a new county courthouse building. In 1946 the county had purchased land from Price City (now the lot where the Burtenshaw Dormitories at USU-CEU is located) and the county intended to build a new courthouse there. But public opposition was strong from residents of the Parkdale area and others. Sounding much like the debate that is presently going on about the construction site for another new county courthouse in 2011 to replace the one that was eventually built in 1957, many felt that the new facility would create a "new business district" within the city and would "be detrimental to the business of the city." Eventually by the end of the year the county planned to hold a bond election on the matter in January of 1948.

Towards the end of the year, after much debate and discussion, the Sun Advocate reported on Nov. 27 that the federal government had declared the Gooseberry Project dead.

At the time the project was projected to cost about nearly $4 million and in a letter to Utah Senator Arthur Watkins, the Bureau of Reclamation stated that "In view of the fact that the water users would be able to repay only a small portion of the construction costs the Gooseberry project is not recommended."

Gooseberry had been tied with the construction of the Scofield Dam (which was completed near the end of World War II). But by 1947 it appeared the BOR had lost interest in building. Of course that loss of heart was only temporary as everyone in the area knows, because the battle over whether to build the project or not still rages today.

While the Sun Advocate was always a fairly serious newspaper, every once in awhile a "Ripley's Believe or Not" moment slipped in.

In 1947 a story that measured up with anything that could be in many of today's tabloid papers showed up. It was the story of an eight legged, four bodied lamb that was born on a farm in south Price. The owner, Lewis Foote, brought the animal into the Sun Advocate office in a taxidermied status.

It was, to say the least, the most unusual story of the year in the area.

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