From being a major stop along the original Pony Express to hosting many Bonneville Salt Flats events, Tooele County is notable for several reasons. One of its less known but very worthy distinctions is its extensive mining history. If you enjoy exciting stories of old mining towns and learning about the history of the mines, the Oquirrh Mining Museum is a must to visit.
Inside The Oquirrh Mining Museum
The museum is located at the Deseret Peak Complex. Displays are set up in a way that you will not only read about the history of this county’s mining boom but also be able to visualize it better.
Mining operations started in the area in the mid to late 1800s. There are photos of mines that once existed but no longer do, and you can also see better quality photos of mines that still exist. Efforts were made to restore old mines.
They were not all successful, but you can still see photos reflecting these efforts. While touring the museum, you will also see original mining artifacts and equipment. Additional items from the era collected from camps and nearby towns are displayed to show and tell the stories of the difficult lives miners and their families endured. The museum is appropriate for all ages and provides a superb educational experience.
A Quick History Of Mining In Tooele County
To better appreciate the Oquirrh Mining Museum, it is important to know a little more about the county’s mining history. General Patrick E. Connor arrived in the area in the 1860s with his troops for mineral prospecting. At the time, the territory was mostly inhabited by Mormons and Native Americans. However, Connor wanted to bring non-Mormon settlers to the area as well, and he thought mining would be a good way to accomplish this. His men found zinc, lead, silver and gold deposits in Tooele County just before 1865.
On the western side of the Oquirrh Mountains, the Rush Valley Mining District was set up by soldiers from Fort Douglas. During the first year it existed, over 500 claims were recorded. There were two nearby towns called Lewiston and Ophir, which grew rapidly to population sizes exceeding 5,000 in a short amount of time in the 1870s. At the time, they were larger than the entire population of the remainder of Tooele County and its neighboring settlements. A smelter was built in 1910 in Tooele County, which was responsible for processing ore via an aerial tramway for about 60 years. Tooele developed a very diverse population at the time with immigrants from many different countries coming to work there. A railroad completed around the same time brought even more jobs to the area.
These are just a few quick facts about the glory days of Tooele County and its mineral mines. Visit the museum for a better visual picture of what life was like then, and learn about mining activities.