Eureka - Our Utah History under fire.


July 31, 2008
Our Utah History Under Fire

       As a child I was always fascinated by the small semi-ghost town of
Eureka. When we passed through it on our way to the latest family
adventure my imagination ran wild. The rustic landscape dotted with
tailing piles and giant wood headframes filled my mind with visions of
the past. I could imagine the hustle and bustle of  miners as they
chiseled away at a silver vein and I could almost smell the
locomotives as they hauled ore off to the mills. Eureka was a piece of
history right out of a wild west novel. Childhood dreams emerged into
teenage adventures as I continued to visit Eureka and many of its
prominent mines. I spent hours hiking around studying minerals in the
mine dumps, watching the owls and falcons native to the area, and
journeying deep into the workings of some of the west's most
historical mines. Today, even though I am much older I still continue
to explore many of Utah's mines and mining towns, but it was here in
Eureka that I found my love for Utah's dying history.

Eureka is located approximately seventy miles southwest of Salt Lake
City in Juab County. Incorporated as a city in 1892, Eureka became the
financial center for the Tintic Mining District, a wealthy gold and
silver mining area in Utah and Juab counties. The district was
organized in 1869 and by 1899 became one of the top mineral producing
areas in Utah. Eureka housed the "Big Four" mines -- Bullion Beck and
Champion, Centennial Eureka, Eureka Hill, and Gemini-and later the
Chief Consolidated Mining Company. Eureka's role as the central
financial point for the district insured its survival. It housed
business establishments, financial institutions, local and county
governmental buildings including Eureka City Hall (1899) and a Juab
County Courthouse (1892), various churches, and meeting places for
numerous labor, social, and fraternal organizations. Mining
entrepreneurs such as John Q. Packard, John Beck, Jesse Knight, Walter
Fitch Sr., and others loomed as important figures in Eureka and Tintic
history. In 1979 Eureka was placed in the National Register of
Historic Places as part of the Tintic Mining District Multiple
Resource Area, recognizing the importance of remaining buildings and

The Utah Department of Oil Gas and Mining's (DOGM) Abandoned Mine
Reclamation Program is charged with reclaiming abandoned mine areas
under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. It is
the AMR programs ultimate goal to backfill, gate, or blast every
abandoned mine opening in the state. This all sounds great doesn't it?
Sure it does, until you visit some of the sites that DOGM has finished
working on. Some of you may have visited Jacob City before the DOGM
destroyed it in the 80's. No one can deny how much damage has been
done to the structures and mines in the Jacob City area. Eureka has
seen its fair share of DOGM abuses in the past. In April of 1986 a
contractor working for DOGM was preparing the collar of the Bullion
Beck Headframe, a National Register Historic Site, for a steel
"safety" grate. In direct opposition to contractual guidelines and
federal law, the skip guides were smashed down with a backhoe. They
fell down and became lodged in the shaft, so the contractor doused
them with gasoline and set them afire. The cribbing around the collar
smoldered and burned for weeks. Does this sound like the type of
people we want responsible for working on and around our National
Register Historic Sites?

The latest DOGM proposal is to spend over $400,000 to destroy 116
mines in the Eureka-Mammoth area. This is a very real threat to our
mining history! I personally attended the pre-bid meeting and saw
exactly what they have planned for Eureka. How is one to study a mine
and its workings when 200 cubic yards of the mine dump have been
thrown down the shaft? What of the natural caves and other wonders
that are know to exist inside Eureka's mines? What about the owls that
nest in many of Eureka's shafts and portals? DOGM's solution is to
place a cement wall and hundreds of yards of backfill into all the
mine entrances, effectively sealing them off forever. I especially
have concerns about the Eagle-Bluebell lift, a National Historic
Register Site. In order to place the proposed gate on the shaft they
will have to disturb the lift itself. Are we going to see another
Bullion Beck type disaster? I hope we can all band together and make
DOGM rethink its actions in Eureka, especially in regards to all the
proposed backfills.

Don't let DOGM spend our hard earned tax dollars to erase one of
Utah's last historic mining districts! They have already destroyed far
too much of our precious history. Take time now to forward this to
everyone you think can help us save our mines and mining towns. For
more ideas on how you can help, visit our website at

Mojave Underground