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DEEP CREEK MOUNTAINS

By Ronald R. Bateman

Constructing Deep Creek Railroad

One of the lesser-known areas of Utah is in the west desert of Tooele and Juab counties near the border between Utah and Nevada. The Deep Creek Mountains form the major geographic feature of the region. The Deep Creek Mountains run in a north-south direction for about thirty miles. They are ruggedly steep and feature huge granite outcroppings, especially at the south end where the mountains reach heights of 12,000 feet in elevation. Ibapah Peak is 12,101 feet and to the immediate north, Haystack Peak rises 12,080 feet above sea level.

The Deep Creek Range supplies precious water to the surrounding communities of Callao, Trout Creek and Partoun on the east; Pleasant Valley and Gandy on the south; Gold Hill to the north; and Ibapah (or Deep Creek) to the west. Several crystal clear streams provide perpetual runoff from the high mountain slopes to the valleys below. The vegetation is consistent with desert and mountain ecosystems, depending on elevation and precipitation. One native plant worthy of note is the ancient Bristlecone Pine which is known to be several thousand years old. Wildlife is found in great abundance throughout the area. Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep and elk have recently been introduced to the Deep Creek Range. Considerable acreage on the mountain range has been designated as wilderness.

The area was first inhabited by Goshute Indians. Their descendants continue to live on a reservation immediately to the west of the Deep Creek Range. In 1827 the explorer Jedediah Smith was the first known white man to traverse the region as he searched for a direct route across the Great Basin. Major Howard Egan further explored the area in the 1850's, as he assisted George Chorpenning with a U.S. mail contract between Salt Lake and California.

By 1858, Chorpenning had built a mail station at Pleasant Valley. The following spring an Indian farm was established by the government at Ibapah. Simultaneously, LDS missionaries were called to colonize and do missionary work among the Indians at Ibapah. Major Egan's Pony Express station was headquartered at Ibapah in 1860 and another major station was located thirty miles to the east on the other side of the Deep Creeks at Willow Springs (later named Callao).

George W. Boyd operated the mail and stage line there and was assisted by Enoch Wallace Tripps and his wife, Julia Boyd Tripp. The Tripps became the first settlers in Callao in 1869. Other early settlers include Kearneys, Bagleys, Timms, Sabeys, and Morehouses. Callao has remained a small farming community, as have Trout Creek, Partoun, and Pleasant Valley. At the time of this writing, no private merchants were in operation, although Callao has had a post office, a school, a hotel, two service stations and a store at one time or another. Partoun has been the site of the West Desert High School in recent years.

Several hostile encounters between Indians and whites occurred in the Deep Creek area during the 1860's as the Indian's way of life began to be threatened. Indian attacks on Eight Mile and Canyon Stations near Ibapah in 1863 resulted from unprovoked massacres on Indians at Bear River and Skull Valley, Utah. Such Indian attacks were glamorized in media accounts as late as eighty years after.

A home station for the Overland Mail and Stage and a telegraph office were established at Deep Creek following the demise of the Pony Express in 1862. The Devine General Store was founded in the 1860's and has continually operated under different proprietorships to the present. There are two stores, one of which houses a post office in modern Ibapah.

The community grew during the 1870's through the 1890's as settlers homesteaded sheep and cattle ranches. Some of the early pioneer family names were Worthington, Hudson, Burrington, McCurdy, Bates, Skinner, Goldsmith, Ferguson, Felt, Bonnemort, Weaver, Gash, Snively, Symonds, Lee, and Kelley. After 1880, the Ericksons, Littledikes, Stewarts, Halls, Chastains, Hibbards, Cooks, Mulliners, Sheridans, Parrishs, Georgeattas, and Proberts settled at Ibapah. Other prominent early names after 1910 in Ibapah have been Hicks, West, Christiansen, and Calloway.

Around the turn of the century, as mining districts in the area prospered, Ibapah had up to five saloons functioning and two dances functioning on any given night. Prosperity was further enhanced when the Lincoln Highway was routed through Callao, Gold Hill, and Ibapah from about 1915 to 1927. Sheridan's hotel, gas, and store, along with Chastain's post office and store were prominent in that time frame. The Deep Creek valley has had a school at Broadway, Nevada in the 1920's as well as the Goshute Indian School from about 1915 to 1969, and Ibapah Elementary since 1883, where social functions such as dances, church weddings, and funerals have been held. The Goshute Tribal Council has a community center and the LDS Church built a chapel in 1981. The only large cemeteries in western Tooele County are the community and Goshute cemeteries, both of which are in Deep Creek Valley. Modern conveniences are of recent origin in the Deep Creek country. Electric power was installed in 1972. A paved highway was constructed in 1977 leading from the Ely, Nevada Highway to Ibapah, and private telephones followed in 1986.

Gold Hill and Goodwin townsites lie at the northeastern end of the Deep Creek mountains. It has been the scene of several mining booms and busts since the 1870's, when a lead-silver smelter was built at Clifton mining district near Gold Hill. The first large scale boom occurred in the early 1890's, when several hundred thousand dollars in gold was shipped out by Colonel James F. Woodman. Up to 1,500 people resided in Gold Hill from 1917 to 1925. The Deep Creek Railroad hauled out hundreds of tons of tungsten during those years. The Gold Hill Standard carried local news and advertisements for such establishments as the Hillcrest Hotel, Goodwin Mercantile, the Gold Hill Pharmacy and pool hall, Bertelson's grocery & clothing store, the Liberty Garage, the Home Restaurant and Bakery, plus two lumber yards. There was also a post office, a doctor, a dentist, an elementary school, and even a house of ill-repute.

Gold Hill was revived during World War II because the U.S. Government needed arsenic. Almost 100,000 tons of arsenic were mined from 1943 to 1945. Since then, Gold Hill has been a ghost town with only a handful of residents residing there.