Monday, August 1, 2011

Ghost Town Tuesday - Dividend, Utah

Ghost towns are frustrating.

The works of humans are amazingly short-lived. Say you woke up one day and somehow you were alive in the year 1880. I don't have the energy to think up why this has happened. Maybe you've had a stroke and just think you are in the year 1880, I don't know. Either way, what is the first thing you do? If Back to the Future III has taught us anything, it's that you first need to dump a large load of manure on the town bully to establish yourself as the hero.

After that, we don't really have a script for what to do next. It is my opinion that the first thing you should do is build some sort of store out of wooden planks (as is the style) and sell overpriced, watered-down whiskey to filthy people with bushy beards wearing those ill-fitting suspenders. Like this guy.


(I just needed a picture of an old prospector. I don't know why he is panning for little multicultural human torsos. Ignore that part). Expect to do this for a good 6 or 7 years until you get shot, drink some bad water and get a gut worm, or until the nearby mines run out of ore. After that, what you do is none of my concern. But what about your store?

Without maintenance, your average wood-plank structure will probably last a good 30 years before the weather or gravity or teenagers finally destroy it*. If it was built by some sort of legendary wood-plank builder company, it may even last up to 90 years. But that's about all you are going to get. After that, it will fall down and re-enter the food chain and that will be that. And therein lies the problem with ghost towns.

The ghost town of dividend has largely re-entered the food chain. In fact, it looks much like a field that has never been populated.



That, my friends, is the town of dividend. While it may not look like much now, it was once a place where things were much less....field-like.

The story of Dividend begins in the grand old year of 1916. Woodrow Wilson was president, cars still made that amusing "Ah-ooo-gah" sound, and deaths from digestive diseases were down while World War I related deaths were way up. But these things don't concern us. Our story centers on this guy....



That kindly-looking gentleman is EJ Raddatz, and it was his dream that gave rise to the town of Dividend. Mr. Raddatz was a prospector (despite the overall lack of beard and blood-alcohol level of 56%) and he had a hunch about a plot of previously unproductive land in the East Tintic Mining District in north-centralish Utah (here)...



Look at that! An old-timesy image of Utah! Taken straight out of an old government document written about the very subject we are covering! I feel it adds an air of professionalism to what is otherwise a pretty lightly investigated post. Go ahead and look at that map whenever you think things are getting too stupid. Anyway, that map was prepared in 1919, so let's update it a little bit....



There. Now we've brought it to the 2000's. That little square in the middle is the area we are looking at, by the way. Let's zoom in....



That last picture got all blurry. Maybe it will be better if you click on it. Anyway, that's an aerial photo of the townsite. You can still see the roadways! What's unusual is that you can't see them from ground level. Ahh, technology. Let's get back to Mr. Raddatz.

Mr. Raddatz knew there were minerals under his feet. We don't know how he knew that, but he knew that he was standing on a great spot for a mine. The year was 1907, and mining was a great way for anyone with a little capital to strike it rich (or lose everything trying). Mr Raddatz was no exception, so he created the Tintic Standard Mining Company and released a million shares of stock in an attempt to raise the funds he needed to find the good stuff deep within the earth. To help him with the actual digging, he hired this man....




That there is John Westerdahl, an experienced miner and first foreman of the Tintic Standard Mine. Mr Westerdahl and crew dug and dug and dug this shaft.....






(That shaft has since be reclaimed, so this may be the only time you ever get to see it. Bask in the glory!) For months they dug blindly into the hillside until the money started to dry up. The miners started to get paid in shares of stock instead of money, which wasn't great at the time as the mine had yet to produce anything of value. Most miners sold these shares or traded them for booze. Then one day they noticed a weird gas coming out of the shaft....



The government geologist inspected the site and determined that the gas was coming from some large sulfur-rich ore body! At last some good news! In 1916 the miners finally found the big pay day. At a depth of 1,200 below the very place that Mr. Raddatz was standing years before existed a massive lead-silver deposit that would prove to be one of the largest strikes in the Tintic District. It was named the Tintic Standard Mine.





(Look close, you can still see the words "Tintic Standard" written on the tanks). By 1918, a town had sprung up around the mine. At first it was just housing for the miners, but soon it also featured a school house, a store, barber shop, pool hall, a post office and hotel. A newspaper, The Standard, even showed up from 1924 to 1925. A population 350 men, women and probably some children called this land home, and anyone who had kept their stock certificates were rewarded with over one and a half million dollars in dividends from the mine by 1922. As was usual for such a town, the mine towered over everything....



The town was to the east of the mine and consisted of a few streets of nicely organized houses.



The mine complex consisted of the shaft (actually 3 shafts. Shafts are an important part of any mining venture), the assay house....



(You may be saying "Hey! How do you know that's the assay house? That could be any pile of rubble! I hate this blog so much!" Well, I know because the ground is littered with these little assay cups....



(And where do we find assay cups? Why, in the assay office. So that's how I'm guessing this was the assay house. So get off my back already.) Also included was a warming house, where the miners could warm up after being down in the mines....






(The warming house also made it difficult for miners to "borrow" pieces of rich ore for themselves. You see, if rich ore was struck and you could sneak it out of the mine without that jerk of a supervisor seeing you, then you could trade that ore in for all sorts of whiskey. This practice was known as high-grading, and mine owners hated people who did it. Almost as much as cave-ins and the environment).

Also included was the company store....



One of these things....



A railroad to get the ore from point A to point somewhere else....






And a variety of things that fall into the "misc" category....









Look! Here's an old mine elevator! This little bugger made countless trips up and down and back up again before being forgotten on a heap of waste rock. There's a lesson here kids. No matter how hard you work, everyone ends up sitting on a pile of waste in the end.




Ore from the mine assayed as high as 80 ounces of silver to the ton, and 22 percent copper. These are good numbers for a mine. It's like having a blood pressure around 110 over 70, or getting 40 miles to the gallon. The ore was chased down to the 1,600 foot level, with galena, tetrahedrite, pyrite and sphalerite forming the most valuable ore. This little guy showed up from time to time too....



That is a mineral named argentojarosite, and if you love silver, then get this mineral drunk and take it home to bed. It's basically silver with some yellow mixed in. The Tintic Standard Mine was the first place this mineral was ever discovered, and as such it has become the "Type Locality" for it. It's an honor to be considered a "type locality" for a mineral. It's like being the kid who finally breaks the pinata, or getting a seat on the bus that isn't covered in urine stains. Pretty great.

And so, the mine pumped kept pumping out minerals. For a while it was the leading silver producing mine in the United States, and gained a relatively high degree of fame for being so. In order to process this ore, a large, state of the art mill was built on the western slope of the mountains to the east of the mine, and was named (not surprisingly) the Tintic Standard Reduction Mill.



That mill lasted from 1921 to 1925 before it shut down due to the whole thing going from innovative to obsolete. Kids love painting things on other things, so now the mill looks like this...



At some point during the operation of the mill someone managed to steal a 50-ton ore car of high-grade ore (in an epic example of "high grading" as described above). The ore car was found 6 months later in Mexico, but was as empty as chubby kid's self-esteem. I didn't steal it, but I certainly can see why someone did.

In 1920, the town decided it needed a name. It had been going by the name "Standard" (if you don't know where they came up with that name then you need to read things more closely). The problem with that is that there is a town named "Standardville" in Carbon County, and it was messing with the postal service. So a contest was held to come up with a new name, and the name "Dividend" was selected. Again, you should be able to figure out where this came from too.

I hate to have to remind you, but we are dealing with a ghost town. This means that at some point things have to go down-hilll for the town. Prosperous towns don't just suddenly wrap up shop and go on their way. Only loser towns. And sadly, Dividend's term as a place that exists was nearly up. In 1949, the mine ran out of paying ore and the last shipment was made during that year. Don't feel bad though! During the period it was worked, the mine produced 2,327,148 tons of ore valued at approximately $80,000,000. A tasty $19,000,000 of this total was paid out to lucky mine shareholders who didn't use their shares as toilet paper during the rough times.

With no mine, there was no need for a mining town. And so, as we've seen before several times, the town got flushed down the big ol' history toilet.




The majority of the buildings were removed in the 50's cus if they don't exist you don't have to pay taxes on them. Any houses that weren't removed suffered a teenager-based end (lit on fire). So that leaves us with this....










That is to say, not a whole lot. A few concrete foundations, a few stone walls and probably a whole bunch of ghosts. The mine is really the only item of interest in the area (unless you really like concrete foundations and a few stone walls). It is because of this that I made that rant at the start of this post. Ghost towns never seem to last.

So we leave the once busy town of Dividend. Perhaps one day new mines will be discovered in the area and the town will be re-built and the mines will roar back to life. It's not very likely though. I'm going to go trade my shares in for some whiskey.








*If you have really chased this Astrix all the way down here from that first paragraph, I just wanted to make sure that you all know that I have no idea how long wooden structures will last if they aren't maintained. I hope this was reward enough to justify worrying about it.

3 comments:

Moonery said...

That prospector panning for diversity was way ahead of his time.

Juliet Preston, State AIM Chair said...

Thank you so much for your information. My children and I came across this today and tried to get to it. Fascinating to look at, but we were at a loss as to what it was.

Chalese Felt said...

My grandpa was born in Dividend and has a few pictures of actual human civilization living there. This was a neat story, thank you!