Utah History Encyclopedia
HOME ABOUT PREFACE

UTAH CONSTRUCTION COMPANY

By Gene Sessions
Utah Construction Company, founded at Ogden in January 1900 by three brothers, Edmund O., William H., and Warren L. Wattis, became a major statewide, national and even international construction firm. Early investors in the company include David Eccles, Thomas D. Dee, and James Pingree. Railroad building comprised much of its early activity, including the construction of lines throughout the West and in Mexico. The company also became involved in ranching, purchasing 600,000 acres of land in Nevada upon which it ran cattle and sheep. By the end of the 1920s, the company had branched successfully into dam building, its most important early project being the Hetch Hetchy Dam on the Tuolumne River in California.

In 1931 Utah Construction joined five other companies to create the combine that would erect the massive Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Other dam-building projects followed, some such as the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington, developed as joint ventures with other firms, while more came to Utah Construction alone. Some of its most notable dam projects were in the state of Utah, to include Pineview Dam on the Ogden River and Wanship Dam on the Weber. Related activities such as tunnels and canals also occupied much of the company.

During World War II, Utah Construction engaged in numerous war-contract activities, often in partnership with such firms as Kaiser and Morrison-Knudsen. In the postwar period, and under the guidance of Board Chairman Marriner Eccles, the company expanded its activities into mining (mostly coal and iron), dredging, and land development, and transferred its corporate headquarters to San Francisco. Changing its name to Utah Construction and Mining Company, and eventually to Utah International, Inc., it moved rapidly into international mining and construction operations, principally in Peru and Australia, becoming in the process one of the largest and most successful multinational mining companies in the world. In 1976 the company merged with General Electric in a friendly takeover that led eventually to its sale in 1983 to Broken Hill Proprietary, an Australian mining concern, for $2.4 billion.