Toward the end of September, the Matt Warner Chapter of the E. Clampus Vitus hosted yet another plaque dedication. This time, the dedication was for Utah’s underwater ghost town, Connellsville.
“The very first and least-known commercial coal mining operation in Eastern Utah took place in Huntington Canyon about 26 miles west of this [plaque] location,” the Clampers shared. “The Fairview Coal Mining and Coke Company was formed in 1874 and incorporated on January 1, 1875.”
Making the enterprise the coke capital of the west was the vision. The name of Connellsville was carefully chosen to help this venture, as the coke capital of the east also boasted that name. Connellsville was built at the mine site and featured a blacksmith’s shop, boarding house, bunkhouse, store, several cabins and an office building along with the 11 coke ovens.
The plan was to make the coke on site and then ship it to northern Utah smelters at a better price than the coke shipped from the east. After three years of continuous work, in 1878, the project was deemed economically unfeasible due to the coal being unsuitable for coking and transportation to the railhead being highly expensive.
“When the operation closed, many of the miners headed north about nine miles and found employment at the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in Winter Quarters,” explained the Clampers. “Peter Murning continued to operate the mine in the summer, supplying coal to heat homes in Sanpete County.”
It was said that the final blow to Connellsville came in 1972 when construction on Electric Lake began. The two-fold purpose of the lake was to supply water in times of drought and to ensure that there was adequate water for the Huntington Steam Power Plant.
The waters of the lake now cover the site of Connellsville and there is nothing that remains other than one coke even, which was rebuilt above the water line by Utah Power and Light Brigham Young University archaeologists.