Colton - Railroad Mining Ghost Town
was a railroad town and came into existence as a result of the coal mines
in Pleasant Valley. The old
ghost town sits
almost on the line separating Carbon County from
Utah County along US
Highway 6 just south of SR 96.
The town existed for
several years not as a town but as a siding. It was a railhead in 1882 as
the railroad was finishing the line through Price Canyon. Soon after that
was completed in 1883, a spur was built along Fish Creek up to Pleasant
Valley (near Winter Quarters, another
ghost town) so coal could more easily
be hauled out of the high mountain valley. The old route, the Calico Road,
over the mountains and down to Tucker, was abandoned.
Pleasant Valley Junction first, in 1898 the town's name was changed to
Colton after a railroad official, William F. Colton. By then the town had
expanded from just a railroad town with roundhouse, turntable, depot and
had two large hotels and a regular business district along the tracks. On
the other side of the rails, a huge corral was constructed and many
ranchers from the area used Colton as a place from which to ship their
cattle to market. A large stone school was built for the residents'
children and nearby springs supplied more than enough clear, fresh water
to the town.
loaded coal from a large loading facility built there and then came the
discovery of ozokerite in the fall of 1904.
gunfighter, erstwhile member of the Wild Bunch and Price city
butcher turned mining entrepreneur found the waxy substance.
"Gunplay" Maxwell and his lawyer, Mark P. Braffet, formed
Utah Ozokerite company and soon were mining the waxy substance from the largest
known ozokerite mine in the world.
end of November that year, they were down more than 70 feet with several
150-foot long drifts away from the main shaft. They hired H.H. Miller to
be the superintendent and Miller set up two shifts of miners.
March, 1905, the new mine had a mill and installed a 40-horsepower boiler
to operate the hoists and pumps. It had gone public and thousands of
shares had been grabbed up quickly at only 25 cents a share.
Utah Advocate in Price reported the advancement of the mine on its
March 9, 1905, front page and concluded the article with this:
Inside an Ozokerite
"Ozokerite is a very rare mineral, never having been
discovered in the United States outside of Utah [several deposits are
found in the Mexican Bend area of the San Rafael River]. Its very
extensive uses in this country have heretofore been supplied from Bohemian
mines." Ozokerite was used, among other things, to make the new phonograph
"Gunplay" Maxwell was "in the catbird
seat" as a mining officer, but could not leave well enough alone. He liked
even more than money.
1896 he had robbed the bank in Springville but was captured the same day
and sent to prison. His sentence was commuted for helping stop a prison
break in 1903. In 1904-05 he found the ozokerite at Colton and some at
September, 1907, he was involved in a
gunfight in a saloon in Helper and
was wounded and arrested. He later was freed. In January, 1908, he married
California widow, without the benefit of a divorce from his other
wife in Vernal.
in June, 1908, he and another man held up a
Wells Fargo stage at Rawhide,
Nevada, and were captured. He was released on bond and never brought to
March, 1909, he shot up a saloon in Green River and was again arrested. He
was again released.
August, 1909, he picked a
gunfight with the wrong man, Deputy Sheriff
Edward Johnstone, in the streets of Price. Johnstone shot him down and an
autopsy showed him as a heroin addict. He was buried in Salt Lake City but
a tombstone in the Price City cemetery gives the impression he is buried
end of World War II, Colton was nearing its end as a town. Buildings
remained until the mid-1970s and even today part of the school remains.
The old general store was moved up the hill from the town and sits along
U.S. Highway 6 today.
has produced many old, rare bottles over the years and undoubtedly more
will eventually be dug. It is just .8 of a mile south of the highway's
junction with SR 96, heading to Scofield.
©Chuck Zehnder, added September, 2007
Colton, Utah today, courtesy Utah -
City by City
About the Author: Chuck Zehnder,
who now works as the Dean of Campus
Ministries at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout,
Missouri, lived in
Utah several years ago. In 1984 he published the book
A Guide to Carbon
County Coal Camps and Ghost Towns (now out
Castle Gate Lost Treasure