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Carbon's identity complex came from a complicated beginning

Jasper Robertson

Sun Advocate publisher

Often people around Carbon County are heard grousing about how the area is ignored by the Wasatch Front and/or the county is the "Black Sheep" of the counties in the state.

There are a lot of reasons people feel this way, from being the only county in the state that was originally settled largely by non-Mormons to the fact that Highway 6 is still not what they feel it should be after so many years of promises from politicians that it will be a four lane highway from Spanish Fork to Green River.

But maybe it began over something else and was handed down generation to generation. Maybe it was because Carbon was almost forgotten to be included as part of the state when it entered the United States.

It all began with the fact that in the early years of the Utah territory, Utah officials displayed a tendency to lop off one side of a county to create another and even rename counties kind of at will. At times there have been counties with strange names, only to be carved up into two counties without using any of the same monikers. Sometimes they came up with creative names that didn't last very long, because other counties replaced them. For instance, much of the present Daggett and Uintah counties was once known as Green River County.

In the eastern and central part of the state the biggest changes revolved around Sanpete County. In February of 1880, territorial officials took part of Sanpete, Sevier and Piute county to create Emery County. Before that Sanpete, Sevier and Piute counties stretched from basically their present western boundaries clear to the Colorado line. Piute was also longer than it is today, so the very southern part of Emery was taken from that county.

In 1890, the eastern part of Emery county was cut off and that created Grand County.

But the northern part of Emery County was different from the rest of it. While in places the geography was similar, the people were different. Most of the settlers of Emery came over from Sanpete county originally, while most of the people who lived in the north were from other places in the United States and many were from foreign lands. The residents of this area became rather restless, being ruled by people they held little in common with from Castle Dale.

In 1892 the settlers along the Price River presented a petition to Emery County asking that Price be established as a town. A total of 308 people signed the petition. The petition was granted.

As more coal was discovered the area began to grow quickly and other small towns sprang up in the canyons. Helper began to thrive as the railroad put more and more traffic through Price Canyon. Because of this growth, at one point the people of the northern part of the county tried to get the county seat moved from Castle Dale to Price. That move failed.

Soon locals in the Price area were talking about independence from Emery County. Officials from towns in the north approached the territorial legislature and on March 8, 1894, Carbon County was carved out of Emery.

But this momentous event for the people of the new county would come back to haunt them a bit. At about that same time the United States Congress passed The Enabling Act, which helped to provide steps so Utah could become a state. While it was passed about four months after the proclamation that named Carbon a county in the territory of Utah, it was probably signed before Carbon could actually be organized and put on the books.

That November people from across the state elected delegates to the constitutional convention which would be held in Salt Lake City the next March. (It is interesting to note that up until that time women had the right to vote in Utah, one of the first states to allow it. However because of the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887, with statehood pending, only men could vote for the delegates). The states voters elected 107 delegates to the meeting. But because Carbon wasn't yet legally put together as a county it had no delegates elected to head to that convention. Instead, representing Carbon were three men, two from the now new Emery County (William Howard of Huntington and Jasper Robertson of Orangeville) and one from Castle Gate (W.G. Sharp). However, his residence was still listed as Emery County, because even though it had been a year since Carbon was formed, it was not recognized. Obviously all 107 elected to the constitutional convention were men. There was absolutely no racial diversity in the make-up of the session either. Republicans in the territory held a 59-48 numerical advantage over the Democrats. Non-Mormons were represented in numbers similar to their percentage of the territory's population. The non-LDS contingent included 28 men, which included one Methodist Episcopal minister. Occupationally, there was diversity. Represented among the delegates were 28 farmers and ranchers, 15 lawyers, 13 merchants, eight mining businessmen, six educators, five churchmen, four newspapermen, three bankers, three builders, a couple of photographers and clerks, and a couple of representatives from such diverse occupations as blacksmithing, masonry, brewers, and druggists.

The convention began on March 5, 1895 and was held in the Salt Lake City and County building.

Once the new state constitution was approved by the convention, the states voters also approved it.

By then Carbon was established. It was also time to form a state legislature.

Elections were held and the county's first State Senator was R.G. Miller of Price and the first State Representative was J.X. Ferguson of Helper.

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