Ada Duhigg: The Angel of Bingham Canyon

Ada Duhigg dedicated 36 years of her life as a Methodist Deaconess and Minister in Bingham Canyon, where she transformed the Highland Boy Community House into a beacon of support, unity, and resilience.

Ada Duhigg: The Angel of Bingham Canyon - A Life of Dedicated Service

Ada Duhigg was born on March 1, 1905, in the small town of Missouri-Valley, Iowa. From a young age, she sensed a profound calling from God to pursue the path of divine service. Embracing her mission with unwavering dedication, Ada embarked on a transformative educational journey at the prestigious Kansas City National Training School for Christian Workers in Missouri, before venturing further afield to her first assignment in 1932. Her destination was none other than the town of Highland Boy, nestled in the hills of Bingham Canyon.

By this time, Ada had already proven herself as a licensed and consecrated Methodist Deaconess, and was an ordained Methodist Minister. As the Superintendent of the Highland Boy Community House, affectionately dubbed the 'House of Joy,' and the appointed minister of the town’s Community Methodist Church, Ada assumed a prominent role in the residents’ lives. She also extended her care to the neighboring towns of Bingham and Copperton, and was renowned throughout the canyon for her empathy and support.

The Highland Boy Community House served as the heart and soul of the community, particularly for the immigrant families who had flocked to Bingham Canyon in search of employment in the mines. Within its welcoming embrace, people of all races, denominations, and nationalities mingled harmoniously. A tapestry of faiths, including Catholics, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Protestants, converged and intertwined, becoming not just work mates but also firm friends. Each day, the House put on a diverse range of activities - from roller skating, to Bible study, Boy Scouts and woodwork classes - aimed at nurturing attendees' personal growth, and aiding their physical, social, and spiritual well-being.

But the House was about more than social events. During the years of economic depression and copper strikes, social welfare support was a key part of its program and it also helped take residents to offices, hospitals and food stores in Salt Lake City.

Ada's years of service weren’t all easy going as the community was tested by several huge natural disasters. In September 1932, a devastating fire broke out in an old theater building and swept down the canyon, destroying the homes of three hundred residents in one massive event. But Ada and her devoted congregation leapt to the rescue. In collaboration with the Red Cross they transformed the Highland Boy Community House gym into a place of solace, providing meals and filling classrooms with essential clothing and furniture for those who had lost their homes. Many workers saw the Community House for the first time as a source of comfort and help, as well as a place to play, socialize and learn.

As the latter part of the 1930s unfolded, the community endured  rock slides, flash floods and snow slides, which caused further damage and heartache. The perilous conditions in the mines also resulted in many tragic fatalities, including "Miners Con" - lung tissues hardened by the ore dust. Ada nursed the dying and comforted the sick and sorrowing, sharing in their pain. In 1939 a huge snow slide caused six deaths and Ada worked all night to comfort the families and help the rescue team and the first aid groups.

Ada served Bingham Canyon tirelessly for twenty-eight years, and later joined the Utah Protestant Mobile Ministry for eight more, totaling thirty-six years of dedicated service in Utah. She became known as the 'angel of the canyon.' In 1976, a plaque was presented to her in front of over 2,200 people as a symbol of sincere appreciation for her years of selfless service.

Miss Vern Baer, well-loved teacher of countless Bingham children for 32 years, said of Miss Duhigg, ‘Miss Duhigg was a saint, if one can use that word for anyone it should be used for her. In the 1926 snowslide when thirty-nine people were killed and houses destroyed, Miss Duhigg worked without thought of herself to bring relief to the families. In the Highland Boy disaster of 1932 when the entire area was burned to the ground with stills blowing up, Miss Duhigg united the town to provide clothing and bedding. In tragedies and in the ordinary incidents of everyday life Miss Duhigg was indispensable. She was the intermediary between us at the school and the children’s parents. No one did more to unite the immigrants and the native Americans and make Bingham a closely knit community than Miss Ada Duhigg.’


Topham Guerin Ltd


The Joy in Mission: Compiled and Sketches by Ada Duhigg. November 1978