Castle Gate, Utah in 1913, photo by F.A. Todd Photo Co.
got its start in 1886 when the Pleasant Valley Coal Company began mining
operations. This company town of miners was surrounded by rock formations,
cliffs, mountains, and valleys, as well as another interesting element –
outlaws. The remote region was a perfect hideout for cattle rustlers and
train robbers, including one of the Old West’s most famous characters –
Butch Cassidy and his gang of bandits.
On April 21, 1897, the train from Salt Lake City
coasted into Castle Gate carrying the payroll for the Pleasant Valley Coal
Company. Shortly before the train arrived, a lone
cowboy had hitched his
horse in front of the saloon and sat inside waiting for the sound of the
train whistle. When he heard it, he left the saloon and made his way down
to the train. As the lone
sat watching, another
cowboy was loitering near the stairway of the company office.
As the baggage was unloaded from the train, three men, including the
company paymaster and two guards, gathered the payroll, consisting of
three bags, estimated at $8,800, emerged from the Baggage Room and headed
to the Company office some 75 yards away.
However, before they reached the office, the lone
held the three at
gunpoint, taking the largest bag from the paymaster. In the meantime, the
other man also approached, relieving them of another bag. In broad
daylight, the two men had stolen the company payroll, with only one
person attempting to interfere. When a customer at a nearby store tried to
interlude, he was met with a gun.
known to have been
Elza Lay, got on their horses and rode south, pursued by two citizens, one
in a buggy, and the other on horseback shouting,
"Bring that money back!" But it was too late,
the pair were gone, along with an estimated $7,000.
Immediate attempts were made to reach the Sheriff by telephone, only to
find the lines had been cut.
Lay fled to Robbers
Roost, cutting telegraph lines along the trail
to prevent the news of
the robbery from spreading to lawmen along their escape route.
The outlaw loot was
never recovered and many believe it was hidden by the gang somewhere near
located along the Outlaw Trail, in southeastern Utah.
Officially incorporated as a town in 1914,
Castle Gate would become news again years later, when on March 8, 1924, an
explosion at Castle Gate Mine #2 claimed the lives of 172 miners. At
the time it was the third worst mining disaster in the United States, and
is still the tenth deadliest to this day.
The town of Castle Gate was dismantled in
1974. All that's left today is a historic marker along the highway north
of Helper, Utah.
of America, updated June, 2017.