Ethnic & Mining Museum of Magna

Brief History

From a brochure by Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation, July, 2002

Bingham Canyon

Bingham Canyon was first Settled in August, 1848, by two brothers, Thomas and Sanford Bingham, who drove cattle and horses to a canyon in the Oquirrh Mountains west of Salt Lake City and set up camp.  They thought it was a great place to quietly raise herds and cut timber.  But the rich deposits of metals, and later the coming of the railroads, dramatically changed the future of the canyon.


In 1883, Colonel Patrick Conner sent soldiers of the Third California Infantry, stationed at Fort Douglas on Salt Lake City’s eastern foothills, to the oquirrhs.  His soldiers, many of them ex-miners, are credited with discovering the mineral wealth of Bingham Canyon and Connor with organizing the areas as a mining district.


Before 1869, fewer than 100 miners, mostly Irish, Welsh, Cornish, and Anglo-Americans, lived in crude cabins and dugouts along the canyon walls.  By 1870, the population in the canyon had more than doubled, to 276.  In 1871, Bingham Canyon’s population was large enough to be organized as a voting precinct of Salt Lake County.


News of the mineral-rich Bingham Canyon reached the world in 1873 and beckoned immigrant miners.  An underground mining boom was on!  Griffin House, the first boarding house, was built that year to accommodate the growing number of miners.  A year later, the population had grown to 1,400, with 800 living in what was called Bingham City.


The town of Bingham Canyon was incorporated in 1904.  That was the same year the Bingham Merc opened.  The Merc became the central point of the canyon, and it flourished until it closed in 1956.


With the introduction of large-scale, open-pit mining methods in 1906, immigrants from all over the globe came to Bingham Canyon to seek their fortunes and find the “American Dream”.  Houses were stacked on the canyon’s slopes and gullies wherever they could fit.  The onset of open-pit mining destined “The Hill” to become the site of what one day would be the largest man-made excavation on earth.


By 1912, Bingham’s population was 65 percent foreign-born, with each nationality patronizing its own stores, restaurants, lodges. Coffeehouses. Churches, bath houses. Saloons and pool halls.

The mines employed 5,000 workers; 4,000 of them foreign-born.  Among the 40-plus nationalities who worked in the mines, were Albanians, Armenians, Austrians, Basques, Bulgarians, Chinese, Croats, Czeches, Danes, Dutch, English, Finns, French, Germans, Greeks, Hungarians, Irish, Italians Japaneses, Koreans, Macdonians, Mexicans, Montenegrens, native-born Americans, Norwegians, Poles, Russians, Scots, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovanians, Spaniards, Swedes, Swiss. and Turks.


In 1924 the population had grown to 10,000.  Growth brought schools, churches, newspapers, banks, community, gambling parlors, and brothels.  At their peak, the towns of Bingham, Copperton. Highland Boy and numerous smaller mine camps had between 15,000 and 20,000 residents.  In 1927, the Utah Copper Company started to build a planned residential community called Copperton at the mouth of Bingham Canyon.  Copper was used extensively for the homes’ roofs and plumbing.  The homes were sold to employees in 1956.


Though they had survived many adversities---floods, snow slides, labor disputes, ethnic conflicts, fires, and world wars, the canyons communities, with the exception of Copperton, could not survive the ever- encroaching mine.  On November 22, 1971, with only 19 of the townspeople still living there, the town of Bingham Canyon officially ceased to exist.


              MAGNA AND GARFIELD


 The Magna area changed from a quiet ranching and farming area---originally called Mill Stone Point, then changed to Pleasant Green in 1863--to a bustling community of copper processing workers by the early 1900’s.  Other communities, Rag Town, Snake Town and Shanty town, sprang up as people came to build, and work in, the mills and smelter that processed the ores from Bingham Canyon.



 By about 1909, the area housed several thousand workers from Utah Copper Company’s Magna Mill, the Boston Consolidated Mining Company’s Arthur mill, and the Bingham and Garfield Railroad.  About 1915, the old town name of Pleasant Green was changed to Magna, the name chosen for Utah Copper’s Mill by Daniel Jackling.  The name is from the Latin, meaning “Great”.  Around 1913, the Hercules Powder Company built a plant and company town at Bacchus to make blasting powder for the expanding mining operations.


Smelter Camp and Garfield were established after the turn of the century primarily to house American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) smelter workers and their families.  Garfield was a true company town, built and operated by the Garfield Improvement Company, which was owned by ASARCO’s Garfield Smelting Company, the Utah Copper Company and the Boston Consolidated Mining Company.  With time, Smelter Camp and Garfield gave way to expanding copper operations.  In 1956, Kennecott sold the Garfield homes to their residents and moved them to other locations in the valley.


All of the towns in the Magna and Garfield area on the northern slope of the Oquirrh Mountains showed the same ethnic diversity and wide variety of business establishments as Bingham Canyon but on a smaller scale.


Thank You!

Many friends of Kennecott contributed to this brochure, including the Utah State Historical Society and numerous private photo collections.  Thank you for helping us preserve this glorious past.  

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