History of copperton, Utah
Compiled by Scott Crump. (Links Added)

Copperton is a small community located at the mouth of Bingham Canyon approximately 25 miles southwest of Salt Laked City.

The canyon it is situated in was first settled in August 1848 by two Mormon pioneers, Thomas and Stanford Bingham. The two brothers were sent to the area by Brigham Young, who asked them to take a herd of horses and cattle belonging to himself, the Bingham Family and others to the high land around the canyon.

Bingham Canyon proved to be an ideal place not only for herding cattle, but also for cutting timber. While the Bingham brothers were engaged in these activities, they discovered gold in the canyon. However, they were advised by Brigham Young not to mine for valuable ores at that time. The discovery was soon forgotten after 1850 when the Bingham's moved to settle in Weber County, Utah.

Nevertheless, the canyon continued to be used for obtaining valuable timber. Archibald and Robert Gardner constructed a sawmill in West Jordan to cut timber from Bingham Canyon. In 1863, as logging operations continued, valuable ores were again discovered by George Ogilvic, Archibald Gardner and some soldiers stationed at Fort Douglas during the Civil War. Bingham Canyon was then organized into Utah's first mining district.

The rush for riches in Bingham Canyon began as people from throughout the world came in search of valuable minerals. One claim yielded more than $2,000,000 in gold by 1868. By the end of the 1800's, the small mining claims of individual miners were bought up by large mining companies. The largest of these was the Utah Copper Company which began open-pit mining operations in 1906 under the direction of Daniel C. Jackling. The formation of these companies not only required a lot of money but also created the need for many jobs. People came from all over the world to work in the Bingham Canyon mines. As they did, Bingham Canyon grew. By 1912, over 65% of its residents were born in a foreign country. Each ethnic group would settle in a different part of the canyon creating distinct communities.

The continued flood of immigrants in the carly 1900's and the limited living space within Bingham's narrow canyon walls created a housing shortage in the area. Employees of the Utah Copper Company (UCC) concerned about this problem, approached mine superintendent, J.D. Shilling, Jr., and suggested that additional company housing be provided. The UCC was more than willing to fulfill this request, for by keeping its workers in the area, it minimized tardiness and absenteeism, especially in bad weather. After some thorough investigation the land located at the mouth of Bingham Canyon, on a rise north of Bingham Creek, was chosen. This site, known address "Rattlesnake Flats," was chosen because the property was close to mining operations and was already owned by the UCC. In addition, its size and relatively flat terrain made it ideal for building a new community. It was decided early in the planning stages to name this new town Copperton after the UCC's old Copperton Mill which was located further up the Canyon or after the copper mine itself.

The Salt Lake City architectural firm of Scott and Welch was hired by the Utah Copper Company to design the overall layout of the town as well as the blueprints for the individual houses. Plans for the subdivision community included amenities such as a fully landscaped park, shade trees, graded and graveled streets and an improved ballpark which had been originally built on the site in 1923. Scott and Welch created over 85 different design variations for the houses in order to avoid the repetitive and uniform streetscapes that typified most company towns. E.J. Teague and Company was employed to construct the homes.

Construction of Copperton's first homes took place in 1926. Surveying of the first 18 housing sites began in the spring and construction of these homes was completed in December of that same year. The cost for all 18 homes was $111,739 with the nine five-room and eight four- room houses totaling $5,804 and $5,065 apiece respectively. The most expensive house in town was built for the mine supcrintendent at $18,983. These were bargain prices even in 1926, for from the thick cement foundations to the copper-shingled roofs, only the highest quality of workmanship and materials were used in construction. All homes were built with brick or stuccoed hollow-tile exterior walls, concrete foundations, central heating, indoor plumbing, detached garages and landscaped and fenced yards. In addition, all the plumbing, wiring, rain gutters, sheet metal work and roofs were made of copper from the mine.

Construction continued from 1927 to 1941. By 1930 Copperton grew to a total of 131 homes. This number would remain constant for the next seven years as the Depression halted construction until 1937. Home building resumed at that time and continued until World War II began in 1941. During this time Copperton expanded to a total of 204 homes with a population of over 861. Work on these homes would commence in the spring of each year and was usually completed about six months later.

Copperton houses were in great demand due to their reasonable rent and high quality construction. Additionally, living in Copperton afforded its resident a high quality lifestyle. Since there were many more employee applications for Copperton housing than there were available houses, policies were established for assigning them. First priority was given to head company officials; the superintendent, assistant superintendent and company doctor all of whom had special homes built specifically for them. Then came other top level management officials. Most all the homes in the town's early years were initially occupied by upper or middle level management personnel. Only married workers could qualify to live in the town, and they were rated according to seniority, department, date of application for housing and previous record of taking care of company property, if applicable. The mine superintendent took these factors into consideration and then made the final decision as to who would live in the houses. His personal feelings could often influence a person's ability to obtain a house. If a worker retired or quit the company, he was no longer eligible for a company home and had to move out of town. Widows too, were not allowed to remain in their Copperton homes after the death of their employee-husbands. Because of these housing restrictions, most everyone who lived in Copperton was either an employee of Utah Copper Company or family member of an employee.

Copperton was intended to be a showpiece community. As such the UCC went to great lengths to maintain high standards of appearance. The copper company kept the houses in good condition with regular cleaning, painting and repairs. Interiors were washed annually by company-hired work crews and repainting and wall papering were done every five years. Even many minor repairs were made by the company upon request of the renters. Louis Buchman, the mine superintendent from 1930-1946, was famous for his habit of driving slowly through the town to inspect the homes and yards to make sure they were in top condition. If he saw something that was not to his liking he let the occupants of the house or the UCC maintenance personnel know about it. Maintenance of each yard was the responsibility of the renter, so if he spotted an overgrown lawn he would dispatch a company employee to do the mowing and deduct the cost from the renter's next pay check.

Recreational facilities were an important part of the Copperton lifestyle. An eight-acre town park was immaculately maintained by the Utah Copper. Established in 1927 it featured numerous varieties of trees, flowers, winding gravel paths, a pavilion, rest rooms, tennis court and a children's playground. A greenhouse was constructed in 1937 to provide flowers for the park and there were full-time UCC gardeners responsible for park maintenance. A company ballpark was built on the site three years before the town was started. It was used for community sporting events until the Bingham High School stadium was completed, with WPA labor, north of the school building. The old ball park was then filled with houses. Other facilities for recreation which included the Gemmel Club were found in the City of Bingham.

Copperton was established not only as a showpiece community intended to enrich the lifestyles of it employees, but it was also built as a show place to advertise the Utah Copper Company and to promote the use of its chief product, copper. Not only was copper used extensively in all the company houses, but starting in 1936 the UCC developed and promoted prefabricated all-copper homes. Copper Houses Inc., a subsidiary of Utah Copper Company, was established to promote and distribute these homes. Four of these experimental houses were erected in Copperton, This venture had limited success throughout the nation and was brought to an end by the outbreak of World War II.

As Copperton grew and developed so did its educational business and religious facilities. The Copperton Elementary School was erected in 1928 just south of the park. It served as an elementary school until the early 1970's when it was closed and the children of Copperton were bussed to the valley. The structure was later used as an annex to the Bingham High School and then a mine office building until it was demolished in 1981.

The Bingham High School, which was established in 1908, moved to Copperton in 1931 from its former location in the town of Bingham. It was housed in a structure located on the north side of town. Designed by the architects Scott and Welch, it was patterned after the recently completed South High School in Salt Lake City. The high school was to use this building for the next 44 years at which time it moved to South Jordan. The Bingham Middle School was established in 1975 and continued using the building until 1996. In 1996 the structure was evacuated and Copperton students were bussed to Western Hills Middle School which was located across the Bingham Highway from the Copper Hills High School in West Jordan. Ownership of the school then reverted to Kennecott Copper which owned the land on which it was built.

A few businesses were established in town along he Bingham Highway. These include some gas stations, a grocery store, post office and a hamburger restaurant. Because of its close proximity to the city of Bingham, Copperton never developed a large business district. The LDS Church building was the first church in town. Constructed on Hillcrest Street it was completed in 1942. The Methodist Church building was moved to Copperton in 1948 from its orignal location at Camp Kearns, a World War I army post situated a few miles east of Copperton where it served as the base chapel. The third and final church erected in Copperton was the Catholic Church which was completed on the Bingham Highway in 1949.

Copperton continued to grow with the addition of some housing constructed by the Jordan School District for its teachers. District policy at the time required teachers to live within the boundaries of the school where they taught. Since housing was difficult to obtain in Bingham, new housing in Copperton proved to be the ideal situation. A ten-unit apartment building was erected in 1931 directly west of the new high school. Two sets of duplexes were built west of the apartments in 1939. The apartments were mainly for single teachers and the duplexes were for teachers with families. These new accommodations allowed teachers as well as miners to live in Copperton.

The 1950's brought major changes to Copperton. One of these changes involved the sale of all the homes in town to their occupants. This sale had its origin in 1947 when the UCC was taken over by the Kennecott Copper Corporation. Kennecott Copper had different priorities than the Utah Copper and although Kennecott had initially constructed duplex housing in Copperton in 1949 and 1950, by the mid 1950's it decided to divest itself of all residential real estate. The copper giant felt that it needed to concentrate its efforts entirely on mining. Kennecott turned its rental operations over to Galbreath and Company which then handled the sale of the 231 housing sites. A plan was worked out whereby the occupants were given the first opportunity to buy their own houses. The average selling price for a typical home in 1956 was $4,173, with prices ranging as low as $3,249 to the high of $6,839.

The sale of the homes in Copperton proved to be a major milestone in the town's history. Residents were now free to make whatever modifications they wanted to their houses and property. Common modifications in the homes* interior included removing the breakfast nook in the kitchen, remodeling the bathrooms and digging out the basement's unfinished "dirt room." Landscaping was altered, small additions were added in the attics or backs of houses and garages were enlarged. In addition, since the KCC no longer had complete control over Copperton's maintenance, a few of the new homeowners were not as diligent in keeping up their home's appearance as the UCC had done before. The KCC greenhouse was torn down and the Copper Company discontinued its maintenance of the park and the gardens on Hillcrest street and other places in town. Still another change came in the town's demographics. Private ownership of the homes allowed families who didn't have a miner or a teacher as their primary breadwinner to live in Copperton. Gradually, families of many different occupations moved into town and commuted to the valley each day. Copperton's economic prosperity was now not entirely dependent on mining. (This would prove providential when the mine closed down in the mid 1980's for modernization.) Retired people and single member families could also live in the community. As a result the average age of a resident of Copperton increased greatly over the next few decades.

The development of some forms of local governance also came about as part of the transition of Copperton from a company town to a privately-owned community. KCC had originally planned to have Copperton become a part of the city of Bingham and even agreed to donate land adjoining the Bingham Highway between the towns to make Copperton contiguous. When Bingham rejected this option, Copperton came under the governance of Salt Lake County, The county took over garbage collection, street maintenance, police and fire protection and the maintenance of the community park. The Copperton Improvement District was founded to oversee water and sewer services. (These sewer services were taken over by the Salt Lake County Sewer Improvement District in the 1990's). In the 1980's Salt Lake County allowed for the formulation of a local community council.

By the mid 1990's Copperton appeared much the same as it did in the 1950's. None of the houses had been torn down nor destroyed and few had been significantly altered on the exterior. Since Kennecott Copper owned all the land surrounding the community, Copperton was excluded from the growth experienced by the rest of Salt Lake Valley in the 1980's and 1990's. However, a few new buildings were erected during this time. Homes were moved from the town of Lark to a new street created east of town, a new KCC office building and county fire station were constructed in the 1980's and new homes were built on privately owned land on the east side of in 5th East in the mid 1990's.

As a result of expanded mining operations in Bingham Canyon during the last half of the 20th Century all the mining towns in the area, except Copperton were demolished. Copperfield, Highland Boy, Bingham, Lark and Leadmine were all victims of the mining boom. This left Copperton an isolated residential community. However this isolation was diminished somewhat by the building boom in the southern part of Salt Lake County in the last decades of the century. Homes and businesses now came up from West Jordan and South Jordan a few miles from Copperton's boundaries. Copperton had become more fully integrated with the rest of the valley as children attended valley schools for all twelve years of their public education at West Jordan Elementary, Western Hills Middle School and Copper Hills High school, all located in West Jordan, and virtually all business was conducted at valley locations. Still Copperton, which became a historic district in 1986 when the whole town was added to the National Register of Historic Places, afforded its residents a pleasant place to live away from the problems that troubled the rest of the valley.

Scott Crump

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