The Ghost Towns of Spring Canyon
Updated: Jun 12, 2019
By definition, a ghost town is essentially an abandoned village, town, or city. Most ghost towns usually contain visible evidence of former dwellings and buildings. Spring Canyon, near Helper is full of memoirs from the past.
In the early 1900’s, many communities were established in Carbon County with the sole purpose of mining for coal. Through the change in energy needs and decrease in demand for coal over the last century, most of those communities were abandoned. In the 1970’s much of what used to exist in Spring Canyon was demolished. I suppose there are many reasons that one would want to demolish abandoned buildings, but the unfortunate result is that so much history of Coal Country has been lost.
That being said, there is still plenty of evidence of those once bustling and important communities. As one drives up the notorious Spring Canyon, located west of Helper, one can discover the remains of multiple ghost towns.
Driving west on Canyon Street, past the Castle Gate Subdivision and under the famed “haunted” Jacob’s Bridge, will lead you to the mouth of Spring Canyon. It is here, in Spring Canyon, that the following Ghost Towns may be seen: Peerless, Storrs/Spring Canyon, Standardville, Latuda, Rains, Little Standard, and Mutual. Each community had their own mine and were fairly distinct. Here is a brief bit of information regarding the now-extinct communities:
Peerless: This little town was located about a mile past Jacobs Bridge. The Peerless Mine was established between 1916 and 1918. The most evident ruins are located on the right side of the road-- though some foundations can be seen through sagebrush on the left. At its height, Peerless boasted a population of about 300 people. It used to have around 30 homes, a store, school, mining office, post office, and a pool hall. It was in Peerless that the “gravity tramway” was developed. Miners would use gravity to propel the mining carts up and down a hill. The mine was located on the hillsides and cliffs above town. As miners filled train carts with coal, they were--through gravity--guided down the track towards town, emptied, and then being lightened, the carts would then move back up the track towards the mine. Peerless was abandoned around 1954. Like all the other towns, most dwellings have been demolished.
Storrs/Spring Canyon: With the mine opening around 1912, the community of Storrs was founded and began to thrive. Nearly 1100 people called Storrs home. The land around Storrs was initially bought by Jesse Knight, a man notorious for opening successful mines. Jesse Knight was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon). The church disapproves of alcohol consumption and gambling. As such, Knight insisted that Storrs ban all saloons and gambling houses from being built. Due to the majority of the population being Mormon, a church was immediately built. Storrs was named for George Storrs, the mine’s super intendent.
However, in 1924, George Storrs was indicted for mail fraud. Members of the town decided to change the name to Spring Canyon. George Storrs was eventually cleared of his charges, but by then, the name Spring Canyon had stuck. Spring Canyon had a number of four-room cottages. Most of which had hot and cold water--a big deal back in the early days. There was a store, hotel, school, and hospital. They even built a heated swimming pool. In January of 1914, a large avalanche occurred, killing 3 and destroying 4 houses. Spring Canyon Mine closed in 1954. By 1975, all of the buildings were demolished. Most all evidence of Spring Canyon is gone. It was located about 4 miles west Helper.
Standardville: Though not as large as other communities, Standardville was organized in such a way that they set the “standard” for other mining towns to follow. They had a company store, many apartments, a butcher shop, barber shop, hospital, recreation hall, tennis courts, and an elementary school. At its peak, there were roughly 200 children attending the school. The mine opened in 1912 and closed in 1950. Despite the exodus of most citizens, two families remained in Standardville until the 1970’s. There is a rumor of “lost treasure” in Standardville. Apparently, a large, but undisclosed amount of silver dollars was lost by a local child and never found.
Two important events took place in Standardville. The first being a mine strike. Though common in occurrence, the strike of 1922 turned violent. Miners went on strike, and attacked a train of replacement miners at the tunnel near the current Castle Gate Subdivision. Mine guards chased the attackers. During the ambush, a mine guard was killed. The mine superintendent and another miner were injured.
The other event was the tragic explosion in the Standard Mine. The explosion, caused by firedamp gas, killed 20 men (29 men were in the mine at the time). A cave-in occurred during a rescue operation, killing 3 more. Five of the surviving men survived due to the wisdom of one of the miners, who at the sound of the explosion, quickly wrote a note informing any reader where they would be hiding. He left the note in the pathway and then quickly guided his fellow miners to a secure area. Without that note, they would have never been found.
One can still see a large coal shoot (it’s the massive building) in the canyon. If you look carefully at the road, you’ll see the remains of former train tracks. Parking near the large coal shoot, and walking up the dirt road, one can find the old bath house. Though, unfortunately, covered in graffiti, it gives the viewer an idea as to what other buildings from that era must have looked like.
Latuda/Liberty- Initially, Latuda was called Liberty. When the post office was built, the name of Liberty caused so much confusion because there were so many other communities with the same name that it was hard to know which “Liberty” to send mail to. In 1923, per the request of the post office, Liberty changed its name changed to Latuda--in honor of Frank Latuda--the man who first opened the Liberty Fuel Company. Latuda had a population of around 300 people. Drinking water was brought in from Helper City to Latuda. The mines accessed their water from a nearby spring in the cliff. Like all the other towns, the community dissolved after the demand of coal dropped. By 1967, the town was completely abandoned.
Latuda was home to the infamous mining office that has been the basis for legends regarding the White Lady. Though the mining office is no longer there--thanks, in part, to being blown up with old dynamite in the 1970’s by trespassers--one can still see a set of stone stair cases leading to where the building once stood.
Set so close to the canyon wall, the town was devastated in February 1927 when a massive snow slide occurred. A number of homes were buried, killing two miners.
Rains/Little Standard/Mutual- I’m going to clump these three little communities together because they were so entwined in their day-to-day business that they may as well have been the same town. Today, there are a few dwellings visible--a testament to their former days.
As one drives towards the end of Canyon Road, the ability to continue up Spring Canyon is blocked by private owners.
However, at the end of the road is a large building. Up until a few years ago, there was no graffiti, and it was a fun building to explore--but, as is common anymore, vandals have left their mark on this piece of history. The building used to be a large company store for the community of Mutual.
Mutual was known for its pretty and well-kept homes. At the time, Little Standard was no more than a tent city. As the mines closed in Mutual, and the locals left, many of the residents from Little Standard took over the nice homes--I’m sure to the relief of the wives who had had been living in the tents for so long.
It is clear that Spring Canyon is a treasure trove of history. So many lives were affected by the building and tearing down of those communities. Driving through the canyon provides prospective on the roller coaster ride that is coal mining.
Disclosure: Most of the land in Spring Canyon is privately owned. As such, much of the access has been blocked off. Please be respectful of the private owners when driving up the canyon.