Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ghost Town Tuesday - Emmaville rules them all!

Alright, today’s ghost town is a particularly interesting little place. Well, kind of. It WAS an interesting little place. Nowadays it’s not as interesting. Either way it’s too late to stop reading this. Even if you close this blog right now and vow to never return (which is what most people do), you will be plagued by curiosity as to what ghost town I could have possibly been talking about. And don’t think I’m going to help you out by just telling you right here at the start. No, you have to endure the whole post to get to the good stuff. It’s like how all those celebrity gossip shows promise pictures of bikini-clad ladies if you stay tuned through the story about how one of the little rascals just died.

Sadly, this post features no bikini-clad ladies. If that’s what you’re after, then perhaps you haven’t explored the internet enough. This post is about this ghost town…..



That’s a picture of granite block. It will make sense later on. Maybe. I don’t know if anything I write makes sense. Anyway, the town’s name was Emmaville.

Emmaville was a bustling little community established in 1868 at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon. In modern times, that would place it pretty close to Wasatch Boulevard, but back in the day this portion of the Salt Lake Valley was just as wild as any other part of the Old West. Gone were the traffic lights of today and in their place stood trees. Giant trees that may or may not have looked like traffic lights. Anyway, what the trees looked like is not important. What is important is that we realize that comforts of Salt Lake City had not reached anywhere near this portion of the valley back then. The canyons were still in the same place as they are today though. Canyons don’t move much. Here is a picture of Little Cottonwood Canyon as it appears from the Emmaville townsite.


As is the case with most ghost towns in Utah, the city of Emmaville is another colorful thread in the tattered saddle blanket that is mining. Now, if you are familiar with the Salt Lake Valley, you will realize that mining anywhere in the Valley is probably not a clever idea. The valley is filled with mud and goo left over from Lake Bonneville, and should you choose to dig a mine in the valley you should know that very few useful things come out of goo-mines. No, if you want valuable rock-based goods then you need to head to the mountains. Which is exactly what people did. The story of Emmaville begins largely with yet another ghost town named Alta, a booming little mining place located up Little Cottonwood Canyon and which in 1868 was filled with all sorts of prospectors and mules and whatever else people had back then.



A problem arose when the miners had filled up their mules with ore and headed out for Salt Lake City to go cash it in and buy some whiskey and some more of those crazy prospector hats that have the brim in front that sticks straight up. These ones…

You see, Alta is pretty far away from anything useful. This is especially problematic when you consider that the average prospector rarely had a nutritional input that didn’t end in “iskey” or “rostitutes”. In a good day you could drag your ore-laden mule from Alta to the bottom of Little Cottonwood Canyon, but you would still find yourself a good 20 miles from Salt Lake City. I’m not sure it’s 20 miles actually. It’s pretty far. It takes around 25 to 30 minutes to drive there nowadays, so I’m guessing that 20 miles is a pretty good bet. Don’t hold me to that though.

This same problem also existed for the folks working the granite quarry at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. If you ever wanted to work in a granite quarry, you should have been alive in 1870. Massive blocks of the stuff were being pulled out of the hillside in order to construct the Salt Lake temple, and it turns out that there just isn’t enough time in a day to run up the canyon, chisel out a huge block of granite, stick it on some sort of cart and get back to town.
So there you were, sitting at the bottom of the canyon with several big bags of rocks and no place to rest your sleepy prospector head. Thus, the community of Emmaville was created to serve as a place to stay, park your mule or granite block, and put your feet up. It was sort of a KOA campground, but with more swearing and mules. Or maybe less swearing and mules if you are staying at a particularly unfortunate KOA. Either way, it grew up fast, and soon the little community had three saloons, a blacksmith shop, a stable, a slaughter house and a healthy population of around 500 people. Things were really looking up for the happy little community of Emmaville. Luckily, good times tend to last forever…..right?

In 1871 everyone caught small pox and died. Also everything burned down. The fates had dealt a cruel hand to the jittery gambler that was the town of Emmaville. If it wasn’t enough that everyone was dead and the stuff was burnt to the ground, the cold grasp of industrialization had just arrived on the scene. The railroad built a line that made it possible to get your ore-mule and granite blocks from Little Cottonwood Canyon to Salt Lake in a day, thus cutting in on the profits of our little saloon-laden KOA.

And so, Emmaville died and burnt to the ground. But don’t you worry! We humans are resilient little buggers. 75 years later we were back at the same spot building another town. One with better medical care and working fire hydrants. Nowdays the same area is known as Cottonwood Heights. Or it may possibly be part of Sandy. I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter unless you are really into city boundaries. And if you are then perhaps you need to reassess your life.

Finding Emmaville is a bit of challenge, what with it having all burned down and such. There is a marker that has been placed along Wasatch Boulevard that commemorates the townsite. I drove that road back and forth and all I could see was this thing…


That’s the same picture from before, but now it makes sense. Anyway, I thought this was the marker, but I was wrong. It turns out that the marker is somewhere else, but there were a lot of dogs walking around the day I was out there and there is no way I am dedicated enough to this to risk rabies. So this will have to do as a marker. The next step in getting to the townsite is to drive 0.1 miles south and find a street named Danish Road, or Lane, or something like that. Look! I found it!


We are close! Now to drive .4 miles down Danish, past the water treatment plant….



And bam! There you are! Right in the middle of Emmaville! Look! Here we are!





It’s now a street! Admittedly this is a disappointing turn of events. There really is nothing left that would suggest that there was once a town there. It’s not even that great of a street. The curb-work was horrible, and there were more than a few potholes. Maybe the potholes were created as pioneer zombies rose from their graves? Nope. It’s far more likely that the asphalt has simply worn away over time. I guess people do dig up skeletons from time to time which confirms that this was indeed the site of Emmaville. This is pretty neat, but not neat enough to warrant me driving all the way out there. The worst part is that I had this huge granite block in the back of my car and I was totally looking to rest for a while. Nah, that’s a lie. I can’t fool you guys.

So, there really isn’t much to report. Do you want to see more pictures of the street? Here you go.



There was a ditch off to one side of the street if that excites you at all. It was filled with various bits of trash. Nothing pioneery though. Just modern stuff. See?


There was one high point though. Look! A bunch of quail!


Perhaps the good people of Emmaville once looked upon these very same quail as they loaded up their granite or just got loaded. Makes you think. Oh, the town got its name from the Emma Mine, a mine located at the center of a nasty little incident that was summarized in the Gold Hill post. The Emma mine is located up near Alta and was a pretty big deal back in 1870, so I’m guessing people just thought, hey, what the hell. Let’s call this place Emmaville.

So that’s it. A lot of driving for some pictures of a street. I hope you are all happy.

7 comments:

Dan said...

Now I want to go dig around Emmaville for a while!! One time I was digging holes on the other side of the the creek from the water treatment plant and the hoe operator said he had a neighbor who was an assayer and he said to look out for cobble and boulders that had silver and gold streaks. So we looked real hard all the day long and found nothing, then right as we were to leave, he found one!! And took it home and I never heard from him again. Do you think he found something good? What a sporid idea!

Cheetah said...

I wanted to dig around too! But there were a lot of people walking around and most of the property is already owned by people who probably would be offended if I just started digging around.

I want gold! Do you think there is still some up there?

wow said...

Hey, I enjoyed this post. I'm new to Utah and have caught the gold bug too. I live close to little Emmavile so I might drive up there and have a look. Maybe even dig up someone's back yard while I'm there. Hopefully I don;t wake them. I was scouring Google earth for any ruins of EV and saw something at 40.587020, -111.789990. It's probably just someones old shed though. By the way, I like your Adams-esque writing style.

Cheetah said...

Thanks wow! It would have been interesting to have been around when they developed the current neighborhood. Who knows what they unearthed?? I'm betting it included a lot of rotted wood. I couldn't see anything that looked like it was still standing from the old emmaville days, but you never know.

Aaron said...

Explored the Emma Mine remains today above Alta. Enjoyed your post!

Unknown said...

I metal detect...I should seek out some permissions around there

Cheetah said...

Um....Yes. Most of Emmaville is very much nice new homes. You will need to seek permission to do anything there...