Castle Gate, Utah – Coal Mining Queen

Castle Gate, Utah Miners

Castle Gate, Utah Miners

Scores of people came from the neighboring towns to render aid and offer support. One of these men, the leader of the rescue crew, died from carbon monoxide inhalation while attempting to reach the victims shortly after the explosion.

Recovery of the bodies took nine days and identifying the bodies was a daunting task. The miners were terribly burned and identification of some of the victims was only possible by their articles of clothing.

The amusement hall became a makeshift mortuary with rows of caskets awaiting funerals. The youngest victim was 15 years old and the oldest was 73. The majority of miners killed were immigrants. Fifty-seven of the miners were single, 115 were married.  They left 417 dependents, including 241 children and 25  expectant mothers. Most of the miners were buried in the Price City Cemetery, but the final resting place for others was the Castle Gate Cemetery.

Caskets in Castle Gate, Utah after the mining disaster of 1924.

Caskets in Castle Gate, Utah after the mining disaster of 1924.

It was the third-deadliest coal-mining disaster at that time. The Castle Gate mine disaster currently ranks as the 10th worst mining disaster in the country.

By 1947 the Castle Gate No. 1 mine had been closed because of a fire, and Castle Gate No. 3 had also been closed, leaving only the No. 2 mine in Willow Creek canyon as the only producer.

In 1950 Kaiser Steel bought the Utah Fuel Company and in November 1953 the Utah Power & Light Company began construction on a coal-fired electric generating plant at Castle Gate. Once opened, the $26 million plant employed about 100 full-time workers and produced enough electricity to serve the needs of over 300,000 people.

Carbon Power Plant at Castle Gate Utah by Loco Steve

Carbon Power Plant at Castle Gate Utah by Loco Steve

On February 4, 1960, the Castle Gate No. 2 Mine was officially closed and on the same day, the new Castle Gate No. 4 Mine was officially opened.

Afterward, the mine and its properties went through a series of owners and by 1974 it was owned by McCulloch Oil, who decided the town was in the way of mining operations. The town was disincorporated in June 1974 and the company then began to dismantle the town. The homeowners were given the choice of taking the fair market value for their home or the company would pay to move the home to another location. Sixty of the 72 homeowners took the option to have their houses moved to the Castle Gate subdivision west of Helper.

The former townsite, including the company store and other business buildings, were razed and replaced with coal-loading facilities along the railroad line.

Castle Gate, Utah in the 1970s, courtesy Genes Family Tree

Castle Gate, Utah in the 1970s, courtesy Gene’s Family Tree

On July 31, 2000, at approximately 11:48 p.m. an explosion and fire rocked the Willow Creek Mine taking the lives of Shane Stansfield and Cory Jordon Nielson and sending eight other miners to the hospital. The explosion marked the end of a short and troubled life for the Willow Creek Mine. Afterward, it was sealed and mining operations halted.

In 2015, the Castle Gate Power Plant was closed due to stricter environmental rules related to mercury. One of the oldest coal-fired power plants in Utah, the plant served the area for more than six decades. Over the next few years, it was torn down and today there are no remains.

Today, the cemetery at Castle Gate is the only remnant of this once bustling mining town. Its many headstones tell much of the town’s history. Graves from many of those killed in the 1924 mine explosion can be found, as well as evidence of the infamous “flu epidemic of 1918,” which struck Castle Gate in 1919. The ethnic and religious diversity can be seen in the names of those buried here, including people from Scotland, Greece, Italy, Japan and more. African-Americans, Mormons, Europeans, Asians, and Americans are buried here. There is a separate section for charity burials, Austrians, and even a Ku Klux Clan section. A monument sits at the cemetery that lists the names of the men who were killed in the mining disaster. The cemetery is 4.6 miles northeast of Helper. Head north on US-191 N/US-6 W for 3.3 miles and turn right onto US-191 N for 1.3 miles. The cemetery will be on the left.

Another monument to the Castle Gate Mine Disaster stands just off of Highway 6 about four miles north of Helper

The town of Castle Gate was located US Highway 6, 4.2 miles north of Helper, Utah.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated November 2019.

Castle Gate, Utah Cemetery by Melanie Coffee

Castle Gate, Utah Cemetery by Melanie Coffee

Also See:

Carbon County, Utah Ghost Towns

Lost Loot From Castle Gate

Utah Ghost Towns

Utah Photo Galleries

Sources:

Martell, SueAnn; Coal Camps of Eastern Utah, Arcadia Publishing, 2008
Utah History to Go
Utah Rails
Wikipedia

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