Ok, so I won’t be cracking it open, but I’ll be there. If you’re a regular BonnevilleMariner reader, you know I love all things Iosepa. What is Iosepa? Just click on the Iosepa category link to the right to read all about it. The time capsule will be opened tomorrow, and I’ll be there to cover it. Stay tune for photos, video and a fresh TTB article next week!
Category Archives: History
This article originally appeared in the 11/12/13 edition of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin.
TOOELE, Any given day in 1968 – A young disc jockey sits in a small radio studio at the corner of Main and Vine, sorting through a stack of vinyl records. The station’s reel-to-reel automation block has ended and it’s time to go live. He unscrews the side of the massive belt-driven turntable, adjusts the gear speed and cues a Hank Snow track. When he drops the needle, Tooele Valley is bathed with the lo-fi sounds of classic country music.
The station is KDYL 990 AM, “The Country Gentleman.” The fledgling DJ is a high school student from Salt Lake City by the name of Doug Wright. At age 16, Wright also serves as program director, news reader and janitor for the bare-bones, 1 kilowatt operation. Being more of a rock and roll guy, he’s not particularly keen on the station’s country format.
But he’s obsessed with radio—and that is all that matters.
45 years later, Doug Wright is a mainstay at KSL Newsradio in Salt Lake City, and one of the best-known radio personalities in the business. He sat down last month with the Transcript Bulletin to reflect on his radio career and its humble beginnings in Tooele.
“I always loved radio,” Wright said shortly after signing off his daily topical program, The Doug Wright Show, at KSL Studios in downtown Salt Lake. “I was one of those geeky kids that would listen to those big old tube radios. The game was to see how far away your mom’s old set could pick something up. I remember thinking, if I could ever just be able to say that I was on the radio—just once—how cool that would be!”
Wright’s first turn behind a radio microphone, a volunteer gig at the University of Utah’s KUER, came when he was 16 years old. After only a few months spinning records there, he set out to begin his commercial career.
“At that age you think you own the world and you think you’re a whole lot better and hotter than you are, and I just couldn’t understand why anybody wouldn’t hire me on a commercial basis,” Wright laughed.
After failing to find work in the Salt Lake area, Wright turned his focus westward to Tooele’s KDYL.
Relatively little has been documented about the early history of Tooele’s only long-lived radio station. In fact, commercial radio amounts to only a side note in Tooele County history. For most Tooele County residents, clear signals pouring in from stations in the Salt Lake market were local enough. But that fact didn’t foil a significant run for Tooele’s AM station.
KDYL Tooele began airing in 1955 with the call sign KTUT, originally broadcasting from the Ritz Theater on Main Street. The station was renamed re-branded KDYL in the mid-1960s and was purchased by Wendell Winegar, who moved it across Main to the building that now houses the LA Hispanic Market at the corner of Vine. The cascading diamond shaped outlines of the letters K, D, Y, and L are still visible on the south face of the building. The studio itself was located on the second floor in the southeast corner. The station’s 200 foot tower still stands in a field at 600 N. 400 W. The station switched from middle-of-the-road (MOR) programming to country in 1966.
The late 1960s marked a period of transition and mild upheaval for KDYL. According to Wright, when Wright came calling in 1968, only the General Manager of the station remained.
“His name was Don Hall,” Wright recalled. “And he was so desperate that, instead of seeing this pathetic little kid who wanted to be on the radio, he saw somebody that maybe could actually help him. So I was hired pretty much on the spot.”
Together, Hall and Wright operated the small-town station using equipment that seemed ancient to Wright at the time.
“It was a great, great old station and everything was hand-me-down. We used to just keep that place together with spit and bailing wire,” Wright said.
KDYL was a daytime station broadcasting between sunrise and sunset, with Wright at the helm as often as his schedule allowed.
“High school was kind of a casualty, if you want to know the truth,” Wright said. “I was so in love with radio that high school, well…”
He commuted each day from Sugarhouse in his mother’s 1960 Plymouth. Because his pay at KDYL was negligible, he financed the commute by working a part time job at a Salt Lake grocery store.
The station’s Schafer 800 reel-to-reel automation system allowed Hall and Wright to fill in parts of the day. The format was country music, which Wright said was mainly geared to the adult population. KDYL hosted weekly live show on Saturday mornings called “Country Jamboree” (or Country Jubilee—neither Wright nor Winegar could remember exactly), which featured local artists. A block of Spanish language programming ran on Sunday. For several years, KDYL covered Little League baseball games. Surplus speakers from the Tooele Army Depot were installed on light posts along Main Street so listeners out and about could hear the coverage. Wright remembers providing live coverage of a parade on Main Street by stringing a microphone through the roof of the building.
“It was a mishmash of things. It was an eclectic place,” Wright smiled.
Hall and Wright integrated news into the programming where possible, but since a traditional news wire service proved too expensive, they occasionally lifted stories from newspapers (including the Transcript Bulletin). Even so, Wright remembers the particularly jarring experience of going to a murder scene near the Tooele Post Office to gather details on the crime, then breaking into programming to provide updates over the air.
Particularly memorable to wright was the need for careful timing—especially when it came to the Tooele Valley Railroad, which used to run down Vine Street.
“You had to be really careful of what you were doing when the [train] came down,” he explained. If you had a record on, it would just shake the needle right off. If you heard that whistle blow as it would cross Main Street, you better not have a record on!”
In time, Winegar allowed Wright to break format on Saturday afternoons to play rock and roll. This, according to Wright, was refreshing to younger listeners who began to visit him in-studio on Saturday nights. He maintains friendships with many of them to this day.
“The kids just gravitated to it,” Wright recalled. “I say ‘kids,’ but they were the same age that I was. They kind of tolerated the country station, but it was so exciting to them to have something [of their own].”
Wright paused to point out that despite his initial aversion to the country genre, he acquired a taste for it while at KDYL.
“I used to joke with my friends, saying all I do out there is play Hank, Hank, Hank, and Hank. Hank Locklin, Hank Snow, Hank Williams, Hank Jr. But it got in my blood,” he said.
It was also during his time at KDYL that Wright became fascinated with mining history. After signing off the air, he would frequently take excursions to local ghost towns and historic sites. While venturing further south into Juab County with a girlfriend from Tooele, he fell in love with the small town of Eureka and later bought a home there.
After about a year at KDYL, Wright returned to the Salt Lake market, finally landing at KSL in 1978. Originally working as a fill-in host, he became Program Director and began hosting his own show. The Doug Wright Show airs from 9:00 to noon on weekdays. According to KSL Program Director Kevin LaRue, Wright’s show is heard by some 50,000 listeners each day.
Winegar sold the station in 1979 and KDYL continued broadcasting as such until 1982 when it released the call sign to a Salt Lake station, assumed call sign KTLE, and switched its frequency AM 1010. The station switched ownership and formats several more times until 2009, when it was purchased by IHR Educational Broadcasting. The station, now KIHU (for Immaculate Heart Utah), broadcasts Catholic religious programming.
The seasoned broadcaster looks back on his KDYL days fondly and said his experience broadcasting from Main and Vine helped shape his career. He lamented the demise of small-town, community focused media like Tooele’s KDYL:
“When we lose that small town newspaper, that small town radio station, we lose a little bit of our soul.”
But channeling Mark Twain, he posited that the reports of radio’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It must adapt and evolve, but the need for local radio will always remain.
“There’s something to tuning in and knowing that person’s right there too, that they’re in the same time frame that you are in, that the weather you’re experiencing, they’re experiencing too,” Wright explained. “The core of it is that friend on the radio.”
Last week the Tooele Transcript Bulletin reported that the staff of the historic Benson Grist Mill in Stansbury Park had been laid off due to county budget woes. According to the piece (the online version of which is behind the TTB’s pay wall), the mill complex will remain closed for a 30-day “timeout” period, during which the Tooele County Commission will decide its fate.
The mill’s temporary closure and uncertain future are alarming to those of us with a passion for Tooele County history, especially those who so diligently restore it from shambles in the 1980s. I haven’t spoken directly to County Commissioner Shawn Milne about the mill, but I gather he understands the site’s historical value and will do his best to see that it re-opens under capable oversight.
But whose oversight? Milne reached out to local residents today via Facebook to solicit feedback:
My take? It’s a no-brainer. Assuming the LDS Church is interested in acquiring the complex, it would be the best steward hands-down. Here’s why:
1. Private ownership means tax dollars can be used elsewhere.
2. The mill plays a major role in LDS Church history in the county. It was built in 1854 by LDS apostle Ezra Taft Benson to serve the predominantly LDS population of the region. The construction of the mill and the relics surrounding it (including the ruins of the Grantsville Woolen Factory) are archetypical of classic Mormon Pioneer architecture. Who better to care for these old structures than the organization that originally built it, and whose heritage it so perfectly encapsulates?
3. The LDS Church very capably oversees numerous historic properties. And it’s the whole deal, too– preservation, maintenance, public tours, and…
4. Archaeology. The mill and surrounding structures are an archaeological treasure trove. For everything you see above ground at that site, there’s triple that underground. Tooele County never had the resources to fund true archaeological research at the site (example: in 2008 a portion of the original miller’s residence was accidentally unearthed by a Stansbury Park maintenance crew. A photo or two was taken and the site was promptly paved over). The LDS Church, however, has a full archaeological arm. The mill has been dubbed the most significant historical structure in western Utah. Just imagine what lies beneath!
I don’t know whether or not the County Commission has approached either Stansbury Park or the LDS Church about taking ownership of the mill, and these are just my initial thoughts spurred by Milne’s Facebook Post. But I’m obviously concerned about the mill’s future, and given the two choices, this is the best way to go.
What are your thoughts? Commissioner Milne’s Facebook question was posed specifically to Stansbury Park residents, but I’m sure the Tooele County Commission would appreciate your thoughts regardless of where you’re from. Contact them via their website here. I’ll post updates as I learn them.
My previous posts and articles about the Benson Grist Mill:
Historical discoveries still await in old E.T. City area
Preserving History: Stansbury couple’s work provides a look into county’s past
A Glimpse into the Past: Investigating Tooele Valley’s Most Visible Pioneer Relic
The following originally appeared in the October 9, 2012 edition of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin.
If you drive the northern stretch of SR-36 with any regularity, you’ve seen the remains of that old stone building. That’s right, the picturesque, castle-like edifice off the highway’s west side, about a mile north of Stansbury Park. Chances are it catches your eye most every time you pass it. And even if you’re not a history buff, chances are you spend at least a moment of your commute wondering about it.
It’s got to be old, you tell yourself — pioneer era probably. But what was it? Who built it? And why was it abandoned?
Every old building has its story, and the Grantsville Woolen Factory is certainly no exception. Situated near the Benson Grist Mill in the historic heart of Tooele Valley, the 143-year-old building is one of the county’s most significant cultural treasures. But like the structure itself, the factory’s story isn’t completely intact.
The factory was a product of pioneer ingenuity in an era of extreme independence, when Mormon leaders encouraged pioneer communities to become as self-sufficient as possible. In the early 1850s, LDS Church President Brigham Young began counseling towns to build woolen factories. By 1857, several factories had been established in Salt Lake and Utah valleys. The most notable was the Provo factory, which was the largest woolen factory west of the Mississippi River.
Young brought the same counsel to Tooele Valley in 1867 when he encouraged a Grantsville congregation to improve their sheep breeds by building a factory of their own. Construction of the Grantsville Woolen Factory began the next year, financed by several prominent Tooele County citizens. The building was located in old E.T. City along Adobe Rock Creek, a sizable waterway fed by a network of brackish springs.
Bishop John Rowberry was president of the company, with James Wrathall as factory superintendent and John Forsyth as machinery consultant. Various staff, including Forsyth, settled at the adjacent Lone Rock Ranch across from Adobe Rock.
The one and a half story factory measured 49-by-89 feet. Its walls were constructed of fitted blue limestone boulders cut from the nearby Oquirrh Mountains. Its upper room featured louvered windows and was supported with thick beams hewn from Oquirrh timber. It was accessed via two outside staircases. Twenty-five large windows on the lower story facilitated natural lighting, and machinery would be powered by a dam built across the creek.
The Deseret Evening News reported that the building’s completion was marked on Aug. 20, 1869 by an epic, all-night party featuring talks from local leaders, a substantial supper and dancing. Music of excellent quality and in any desired quantity was provided by bands from Tooele and Grantsville.
The factory was officially dedicated on April 29, 1870 by Elder John Taylor of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In the highlight of the event, the factory’s 350 spindles were briefly set in motion. The future of the Grantsville Woolen Factory couldn’t have looked brighter.
But according to the 1961 publication of the “History of Tooele County” by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, the factory operated only 10 months before closing. That’s also when the details get sketchy.
Some blamed a scarcity of raw materials for the factory’s failure. Some blamed the muskrats that constantly bored through the dam, hindering water wheel operation. Others, including Forsyth, said parts of the structure were built on quicksand. Each of these factors seems plausible. The “History of Tooele County” notes that pioneer sheep flocks were indeed small and their fleece light. Muskrats still menace the waterway today, and the soil along the entire channel is generally loose.
Whatever the reason for the decline in production, it was the quicksand that ultimately proved fatal. It happened, of all times, during a visit by the LDS church’s first presidency and other church leaders in late 1870. According to the book, the dam gave way as the men were feeding their horses, unleashing an “avalanche of water, seething, boiling, foaming and lashing with terrible fury from either bank of the yielding dam, in its rapid passage down the heavy grade.”
The dam was never rebuilt, and the factory’s machinery was transported to the Provo factory in 1872. Little is documented about the history of the factory after it closed. The “History of Tooele County” briefly mentions that the structure was later repurposed as a fishery, a dairy, a factory manufacturing overalls and even apartments.
Eventually the structure was completely abandoned. The roof was removed and used to remodel the historical adobe house still standing at Lone Rock Ranch. The wooden columns gave way and the narrower tops of the walls began to crumble. The Forsyth cabin was moved to the Benson Grist Mill complex in 1986, and E.T. City itself was eventually absorbed into Lake Point.
The entire area, including the factory, the ranch, and Adobe Rock, is believed to have been acquired by Kennecott Utah Copper in the 1960s, although the exact acquisition date is unknown. Erda resident DeLaun Blake and his wife Wilhelmena said they leased the ranch to Kennecott from approximately that time to the mid-1990s. They were the last occupants of the adobe ranch house. Blake, 91, has fond memories of living next to the factory and is still amazed at the design.
“[The walls] are beautifully straight,” he said. “The amazing thing about it is they didn’t even have a cement foundation. They put mortar on the ground, put rocks in a maze with mortar that wasn’t straight cement. You look at it today and its absolutely straight walls—no bends or bows in them at all. You’ve never seen such great walls in your whole life.”
Blake recalled planting rainbow trout in the springs, lending credence to the creek’s viability as a fishery.
“It seems like they grew an inch per month,” said Blake. “I used to throw the line in the morning, catch about a 12-inch trout and eat it for breakfast. Boy, it was nice.”
Kennecott — now Rio Tinto — continues to lease the land for agricultural purposes. While the company has no specific plans for the factory ruins, Kennecott Asset Manager Jeff Lachowski said the company is mindful of history and is interested in preserving the site. Public access to the ranch and factory site is restricted. However, the restored Forsyth cabin at the Benson Grist Mill is publicly accessible.
Large carp have now taken over Adobe Creek. On a clear afternoon last week, dozens of them cruised the shallows on both sides of the broken dam. The factory’s vacuous rectangle was empty, save for the fallen beams. Wooden frames lined many of the glassless windows. Walking along the thick stone perimeter, one laments the factory’s premature demise.
Would the factory have continued to operate had the dam not broken? Would it be occupied by some other enterprise? Would there be more of it left? No one will ever know, but one thing is certain. The stately skeleton of the Grantsville Woolen Factory remains a solid testament to Tooele County’s pioneer spirit.
Stay tuned next week for a video tour of the ruins.
Today is the official release of my book, Ghost Towns: Lost Cities of the Old West. It is available direct from the publisher, most all online booksellers, in major bookstores, and at museums and national parks. If your bookseller doesn’t carry it, they should be able to order it in. Just give them ISBN # 0747810850.
If you’d like to order through my Amazon.com affiliate link, click here:
Ghost Towns: Lost Cities of the Old West (Shire Library)
Thanks to those who have already picked up a copy, and for the kind words from those who have already read it. Thanks also to the Tooele Transcript Bulletin for the nice profile in last Thursday’s edition. Enjoy the book and spread the word!
I’m ecstatic to announce the upcoming release of my first book, Ghost Towns: Lost Cities of the Old West, from Shire Publishing. The book is available for pre-order now and will be released on April 17. An e-book version is expected to be released by June.
This quote from Chapter 25 of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has captioned this website since its inception. The raging desire of which Mr. Twain speaks came upon me early in life, and has sparked several passions. Among them is the study of abandoned places. My somewhere was the great American West. My hidden treasure, ghost towns.
The dialog that follows the quote in Tom Sawyer is priceless. It goes something like this:
Huck: Where’ll we dig?
Tom: Oh, most anywhere.
Huck: Why, is it hid all around?
Tom: No, indeed it ain’t. It’s hid in mighty particular places, Huck – sometimes on islands, sometimes in rotten chests under the end of a limb of an old dead tree, just where the shadow falls at midnight; but mostly under the floor in ha’nted houses.
Huck: Who hides it?
Tom: Why, robbers, of course…They always hide it and leave it there.
Huck: Don’t they come after it anymore?
Tom: No, they think they will, but they generally forget the marks, or else they die. Anyway, it lays there a long time and gets rusty; and by and by somebody finds an old yellow paper that tells how to find the marks – a paper that’s got to be ciphered over about a week because it’s mostly signs and hy’roglyphics.”
Like Tom’s treasure, ghost towns can be found most anywhere, especially in places that seem odd and secreted. There they remain, mostly forgotten and in various states of decay, waiting for a couple adventurous kids with an old yellow paper.
There are many guide books available that list ghost towns by region. This is not one of those books. This book is a primer to the ghost town phenomenon and the ghost-towning hobby. It’s the book you read before you pick up a guide book. Ghost towns are best experienced with as much context as possible. What exactly is a ghost town? How did they rise? Why did they fall? What can their remains tell us about the people that once called them home? And how can they be experienced today?
Ghost Towns: Lost Cities of the Old West answers these questions, and then some.
Pre-order yours today!
- Pre-order direct from the publisher (this earns me highest royalties): Link [make sure to set your location to USA in the top corner]
- Pre-order from Amazon.com (use this link and I get a small kick-back): Ghost Towns: Lost Cities of the Old West (Shire Library)