Pioneers, Miners and Loggers
Men on the American Fork Canyon Railway, 1870s.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (LDS), also called Mormons, became the first Europeans to settle in Utah Valley. The LDS people migrated to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, and by the end of the year, more than 17,000 people resided in the Salt Lake area.
In late 1847, LDS President Brigham Young sent Parley Pratt south to explore Utah Valley for expanding settlements. By 1850, families were settled along the American Fork River. These settlers ventured up the canyon in search of building materials and established a road for transporting timber. Rich mineral deposits of silver, lead, and zinc were soon identified in the Wasatch Mountains.
Many people knew of the ore deposits in the canyon, however, the high cost of shipping the ores for processing slowed mine development. Once rail lines running up the canyon connected to the transcontinental line, mining development rapidly followed. As mining claims and activity increased in the canyon, so did the need for lumber. Approximately eleven sawmills operated in the canyon to supply lumber to mining operations and nearby cities. By 1876, the veins of ore began to decrease, though people such as George Tyng still flocked to the canyon to try their fortunes. Tyng did stike it big, but wasn't immune to tragedy in the raw environment.
Sawmill in American Fork Canyon.