The town of Lark, Utah was located 3 miles south of Copperton and about 3.5 miles west northwest of Herriman along the eastern flank of the Oquirrh Mountains (Van Cott 1997). In 1977, Kennecott Copper Corporation bought the town from UV Industries Incorporated, with plans to expand to mine into the Lark area. By 1980, Lark was deserted and nothing remains of the town today save several brick buildings and the original water tower (2022) (Jordan Valley Sentinel [JVS] 3 January 1980:3).
The story of mining in Utah, more specifically the Salt Lake Valley and bordering mountain ranges, begins with the coming of Colonel Patrick Edward Connor and his 700 to 750 troops, who established Camp Douglas (later Fort Douglas) on the east bench of the Wasatch Mountains overlooking Salt Lake City. To keep his men occupied, Connor sent them up into the Oquirrh Mountains to do some prospecting. That the Oquirrh Mountains contained valuable ores was not a secret to Brigham Young, the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and top political figure in the Salt Lake Valley; however, Young wanted to keep this knowledge a secret (May 1989; Sadler 1979). Young knew the Oquirrh Mountains contained valuable ore as early as 1848, after he sent the Bingham brothers, Thomas and Sanford, with herds of horses and cattle to graze in the upper reaches of the canyon now known as Bingham Canyon. The Bingham brothers soon informed Young about the ores they had discovered in the canyon and Young advised that they remain silent about their discovery. Young thought labor was better spent in the establishment of a viable community in the Salt Lake Valley, and he was also concerned that mining would attract Gentiles (non-church followers) and the rowdy population typically associated with mining and mining towns. He feared that their presence would have a negative effect on the society he was trying to establish (Crump 1994).
Camp Douglas, 1866 (National Archives).
In 1863, after his men discovered silver in Bingham Canyon, Connor organized the first mining district in what would become Utah (West Mountain District), which included the entire Oquirrh Mountains (May 1989; Sadler 1979). On January 3, 1866, the first claim in the Lark area was made and it was not long until claims had sprung up across the mountainside. It is likely the hillsides were covered with tent structures and hastily constructed wood-frame structures (Sandstrom 1978).
The largest and most successful mines in the area were the Brooklyn and Old Lead Mines that extracted hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars worth from the rich silver and lead veins riddling the hillsides. These mines eventually closed due to the decline of silver and lead prices during the difficult economic times of the 1890s. A few years after the mines closed their doors, the area mines were consolidated under the Dalton and Lark Gold, Silver, and Lead Mining and Milling Company. Times were tough for the new conglomerate as silver prices remained low, a fire destroyed one of their concentrators and much equipment, and the company was unable to acquire pumps that could remove the water from the lower levels of the mines (Anderson 1980).
The solution to the water problem was the construction of the Mascotte Tunnel. The tunnel was constructed by Bingham Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (Bingham Consolidated) between 1901 and 1902 to help drain the Brooklyn and the Dalton and Lark shafts (Billings 1952). In addition to alleviating the water problem, the tunnel also served as an ore-hauling corridor. The Mascotte consisted of three components: the tunnel, the water drainage ditch, and a pond that received water from the Mascotte Tunnel via the Mascotte Ditch (Hoffman 2005). The Mascotte Ditch served as the water source for the town of Lark. Early on, Lark inhabitants drew water directly from the ditch. Eventually, Bingham Consolidated piped water from the Mascotte Tunnel to a tap near the tunnel entrance. As the town of Lark expanded, Bingham Consolidated constructed a formal water system which included a water tank (McDonald 1946). The Mascotte Tunnel was originally 8,000 ft long and was later lengthened to 14,000 feet to intersect the Ohio Copper ore body. Near the eastern outlet of the tunnel was the Dalton and Lark Railroad (D&L), on which ore and supplies could be transported. The D&L connected with the Rio Grande Western Railroad (Hoffman 2005).
By 1900, the town of Lark had been laid out below the small settlement of Dalton (Anderson 1980; McDonald 1946), centered around the site of the new Mascotte Tunnel. Straightaway, the tunnel became the chief focus of mining operations. This would result in the closure of the hillside mines surrounding Dalton. Eventually, Dalton itself ceased to exist as buildings were gradually moved downhill to Lark and converted into residences (McDonald 1946).
By 1907, Bingham Consolidated had constructed a steam power plant, a steam compressor, and an electric generator in Lark. Around 1907, Bingham Consolidated was bought out by the Ohio Copper Company who had plans to expand the Mascotte Tunnel and build a gravity-concentrator mill in Lark. The mill was near completion when the economic Panic of 1907 forced mining operations to shut down. Operating as the Bingham Mines Company, the mines in Lark recommenced operations again in 1909, with Lark serving as the company headquarters. By 1908, Lark contained a church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), a post office, two saloons, a dance hall, a boardinghouse, a schoolhouse, store, and a livery stable (Logan Simpson 2016).
In the early days of mining, miners were an itinerant population who moved from job to job. Boardinghouses were an integral part of any mining community where miners could find a place to sleep and eat. The first boardinghouse in the area was at Dalton, which was operated by Leo Erdman, a Colorado miner, and his wife. As the population of Dalton gradually dwindled, a new boardinghouse was erected in Lark, which was operated by Mrs. Fuge and her daughter. The Fuge boardinghouse was known for their splendid meals. The daughter (Mrs. Walker) took over the business in 1908 and carried-on the tradition of serving an excellent meal. In 1911, the Erdmans bought out Mrs. Walker and eventually sold the boardinghouse to Mrs. Herrenger. She would eventually sell the business to Mrs. Peterson, a widow with four children, in 1927. Peterson was known for her fine food and motherly affection toward the miners who boarded at her house. In 1946, the boardinghouse was operated by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Carlberg. The tradition of good food being served at the Lark boardinghouse continued since Charles was a chef who had worked on ocean liners and some of the best hotels and restaurants in the country (McDonald 1946).
The first schoolhouse in the area served both Dalton and Lark and was located halfway between the two settlements. Grades one through eight were taught at the one-room schoolhouse, which was heated with a coal stove. One unnamed female teacher taught all the children. After the completion of the Mascotte Tunnel, and as the town of Dalton began to fade away, the schoolhouse was moved downhill to Lark. As the local mines prospered, so did the town and eventually Lark outgrew the small schoolhouse. (McDonald 1946; Sandstrom 1978). A larger schoolhouse was built around 1910 (McDonald 1946). A third schoolhouse was built around 1943 by John Bowen and Carl Madson. The school had three teachers and taught grades one through six, with the seventh and eighth graders being bussed to nearby Bingham High School in Copperton (Sandstrom 1978).
Lark prospered during World War I as the demand for metals increased. The annual production of the local mines increased from 63 million tons in 1910 to 143 million tons in 1917. In 1929, the United States Smelting, Refining, and Mining Company (USSR&M) took over operations from the Bingham Mines Company. Under USSR&M management, the Lark mine became Utah’s leading producer of lead and zinc (Logan Simpson 2016; McDonald 1946). The mine survived the Great Depression of the 1930s by modifying their work schedule to where the employees worked 10 to 15 days straight and then had 10 to 15 days off. Ore production at the Lark mine would continue to increase and in 1941, USSR&M moved its headquarters from Bingham to Lark. The advent of World War II (WWII) caused a manpower shortage at the Lark mine as men were shipped overseas for the war effort. In response, the women and teenagers of Lark stepped in to fill the labor shortage. Despite these labor shortages, the Lark mine continued to maintain ore production, with production as high as 323 million tons of ore in 1943 (Logan Simpson 2016; Sandstrom 1978).
The 1940s and 1950s was a prosperous time for Lark as the population grew from 485 inhabitants in 1930 to 800 (US Census 1930). During WWII, Lark Heights, a multi-family housing project, was constructed at the edge of town. Between 1948 and 1951, the USSR&M constructed the Bingham Tunnel to replace the old Mascotte Tunnel and in 1949, Lark was selected as the location for new mining facilities that included shops, offices, and a medical clinic (Logan Simpson 2016).
Lark was thriving in the 1950s, to the extent that Lark was able to sponsor an annual field day at the Lagoon amusement park in Farmington. Known as Lark Day, the event was held during the summer months and sponsored by the Lark Athletic Association. The day was open to all Lark mine employees and their families, encompassing virtually everyone living in Lark. The day consisted of free rides, races with prizes for the winners, and cash drawings. Events included the sack race, the three-legged race, and 50-yard races divided into men’s, ladies, and teenagers. Free rides included the merry-go-round, lake shore express, flying scooters, rockets, tilt-a-whirl, Ferris wheel, and baby boats. Lark Day continued into the 1970s (The Bingham Bulletin (BB) 20 July 1956:2; Logan Simpson 2016).
The Lark Athletic Club, established around 1928, played an important role in the Lark community. Each mine employee contributed one dollar to the club, 75 cents of which went to wages for the mine doctor, Paul Richards, and 25 cents of which went the Athletic Club, which funded the town’s entertainment. The Lark churches also played an important role in sponsoring events. Dances for both children and adults were held on holidays, and of course Santa appeared on Christmas Eve. On New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight, Mr. Tabolla would blow the mine whistle. Costume dances were held on Halloween and pranksters ran rampant. A favorite prank for the older children was tipping over outhouses. One Halloween Tom Walker happened to be in his outhouse when it went over and unfortunately for Walker, it fell on the door side, trapping him inside. On Easter Sunday, a large Easter egg hunt occurred after church services. Five to six cases of eggs would be cooked and colored by the Boy Scouts and then hidden atop a sagebrush-covered hill near the schoolhouse. After the Athletic Club was discontinued, the Lark Lions Club took over responsibility for town events. Unlike the Athletic Club that had a general fund to draw from, the Lions Club had to raise money by conducting fundraising drives and often had to dig into their own pockets to support an event (Sandstrom 1978).
In 1971, USSR&M closed the Lark mine, putting a large portion of the Lark population out of work. Ex-employees sought work at the mine in Bingham Canyon or in the valley. A large proportion of the population remained, choosing to become commuters (Logan Simpson 2016). Being the resilient town that it was, Lark survived, and things returned to normal until 1977, when Kennecott Copper Corporation (KCC) acquired ownership of the town and announced that all residents needed to vacant the town within a year. Originally KCC stated they would not buy any of the homes nor would they pay moving expenses since “Kennecott is not in the housing business” (Unknown newspaper clipping 14 December 1977a). The residents fought back, and their fight caught national attention. Inevitably, KCC was cast as the villain, but Lark residents admitted KCC had the right to do whatever they wanted with the town (Unknown newspaper clipping 14 December 1977b). After much back and forth between the Lark residents and KCC, a settlement was achieved. KCC agreed to pay 120 percent of a houses value, based on the State Tax Commission’s assessment of value. These amounts ranged from $2,000 to $14,839, with the average payout being $7,913. In addition, a relocation fee of $1,500 was allocated to those who moved out before August 31, 1978. Renters were afforded the same relocation fee if they were out by the end of August (Jordan Valley Sentinel 3 January 1980:3; Salt Lake Tribune [SLTRB]12 May 1978:17; Unknown newspaper clipping 11 May 1978). Today (2022), the majority of the Lark townsite has been reclaimed with the exception of the large brick Lark Hospital, the remnants of the Bingham and Mascotte Tunnel portals and associated mining infrastructure, and the large green water tower.
*Sandstrom (1978) captions this same picture “Ralph Jenkins Delivering Groceries To Dalton Boarding House. Bert Rindlesbach (Brother of Carrie Reed) Standing in Door.”