Colter Wilson is a Helper native now living in Denver. He is also a podcaster, and this week released an episode reflecting on the coal camps of Spring Canyon. Within six miles six company towns once existed, with over a thousand people estimated to have been living in the canyon during the town’s peak years in the 19-teens and again in the 1940s.
Here is a link where you can hear it: https://prototyperadio.studio/2021/02/21/spring-canyon-coal-camps/
In the early and mid 2010s I spent much time in Spring Canyon, exploring the ruins and ridges phyiscally on off days during research visits to Price, where I spent several weeks reading the Sun Advocate, Helper Journal, and Emery County Progress on Microfilm at the College of Eastern Utah / USU – Eastern library. It was an honor to be interviewed and get to share some of what I’ve learned about this place for this episode.
“Back in 2014 my mother dropped off a old cedar chest just after my grandfather’s funeral. In it was a VHS tape called “Spring Canyon Coal Camps” It was my Grandpa Chuck and Frank Latuda doing a walkthrough of the history of Spring Canyon in 1990. Starting with this tape and a few phone calls I made a audio documentary inspired by the canyon’s history. We talk about the coal camps of Spring Canyon, Coal Mining, and Unions in Carbon County and Helper. Please have a listen and this is a “headphones on” kind of experience as we weave through music, the tape, and interviews. I would love to hear your thoughts as well.”
“Thanks to Colleen Wilson, Mike Dalpaiz, and Christian Wright for the interviews.”
I first visited Spring Canyon in 2010. That May I had ended my apartment’s lease in Denver, put most of my belongings in a storage unit, loaded up the subaru with most of my camping equipment and outdoor gear, and driven across the rockies to start my first season as a full time boatman in eastern Utah. After my last trip over labor day weekend, I had a completely open schedule, with no professional committments beyond a vague notion that working at a ski resort might be interesting. With over two months off between seasons, I drove around the state in a big circle, photographing abandoned mining camps, hiking, exploring, and discovering. I was hooked, and repeated the circut for the next two autumns.
This may have continuned indefinately, but greater opportunities came knocking in regard to writing than photography. In August 2013 I moved to Flagstaff where I became a graduate student in History, whenced I emerged two years later as part of a new public history emphasis’ first graduating class. The two years there were highly productive, and greatly assisted by the fact that I already knew upon arriving what stories I wanted to explore and what questions I wanted to answer.
What happened to the coal camps? Why did everything shut down in the fifties and sixties and what happened to all those people? And what happened to the unions and class struggles that had, during the thirties and forties, so dramatically been a part of coal camp life?
You can almost smell the history out there in the sage and blooming rabbit brush. You can taste it in the dust. Stumble across it along a cliff or in the shade of a juniper.