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Morgan Valley Memories - Devil Slide History of Devil Slide

Article Date: 
1 June, 2012 (All day)

In 1904 a mountain of limestone was discovered by Aman Moore. Several prominent area men recognized the value of limestone in the production of Portland Cement (an ingredient used in the making of concrete). They formed a corporation named The Union Portland Cement Company for the purpose of quarrying the limestone. A short list of the founders included: Reed Smoot, M.S. Browning, Joseph Scowcroft, and James Pingree, with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints subscribing $10,000 worth of stock. A company town soon sprang-up a couple hundred yards down stream from the plant site. The town was named Devil’s Slide after an interesting nearby rock formation. The Crofutt’s New Overland Tourist Guide, 1878 describes the rock monument as, “This slide or two serrated rocks is composed of two ridges of granite rock reaching from the river nearly to the summit of a sloping grass-clad mountain. They are from 50 to 200 feet high, narrow slabs, standing on edge as though forced out of the mountainside. The two ridges run parallel with each other, about 10 feet apart, the space between being covered with grass, wild flowers, and clinging vines.” The town quickly grew with the success of the cement plant. At one time the population of the tiny village exceeded 250 people. As with many mining towns of the era many of the workers were foreign born. The countries of origin included Italy, Austria, Greece, and Japan. The largest structure of the town was the hotel. This two-story building contained 20 bedrooms on the second level with each room accommodating two men to each room. The first level contained a dining room large enough to seat 40 men at mealtime. Other notable buildings located in the town were the combination drug store/ post office, railroad depot, mercantile, two schoolhouses, and a company clubhouse. The company laid cement sidewalks, built a baseball diamond, and planted 100 trees throughout the village. Early in the history of the village a tragic event occurred. Some of the men of the town were working in a one 100 foot tunnel placing kegs of black powder for the next explosion. They sat cross-legged with their backs together one behind the other, the chain reaching the rear of end of the tunnel. Once the men were in place the powder kegs were handed to the front man in the mouth of the tunnel. One by one the kegs were passed over the head to the man back of him. Somewhere along the human chain a keg was dropped, and a terrible explosion roared across the valley. The blast acted as a shotgun shooting men across the valley onto the surrounding hills. Seventeen men were killed in the catastrophe; seven Japanese, seven Austrians, two Italians, and one Irishman. As the years passed many people wanted to own homes of their own instead of renting the company owned houses. These men moved to the near-by communities of Henefer, Morgan, and Croydon and commuted to their jobs at the cement plant. During the middle part of the 1980s only a handful of families remained and by the end of the decade, the company decided to close the village altogether. All the families had moved on with the exception of the railroad section foreman who lived in a house owned by the railroad. The railroad demolished this house not long after the town was emptied. Currently the land where the bustling village once stood is mostly under large piles of crushed rock. A company is using the land for a gravel pit. A few out buildings and garages may still be visible. Much of the information in this synopsis came from the book Remember Devil’s Slide?