During the early
1880s the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad,
seeking a route from Denver to Salt Lake City,
discovered and opened up the vast coal lands of Carbon County. Coal
mining became the major catalyst for development in the county. Coal
companies often built and ran towns in Carbon County and imported many
southern and eastern European and Japanese laborers to work in the coal
mines and on railroad gangs. Helper became known as the town of "57
Varieties" because of its ethnic diversity. Mine explosions near Scofield in 1900 (200 killed) and at Castle Gate in 1924 (172 killed), as well as major strikes in 1903-4, 1922, and
1933 brought tragedy, violence, and eventual unionization to the mines.
Coal mining continues
to play a vital role in the county's economic and social development,
with ups and downs in the industry creating periods of boom and relative
bust. Utah Power and Light built a main electric generating plant near
the former town of Castle Gate; in 1980 the Carbon plant generated 171
megawatts of electricity. Ninety-eight percent of UP&L's power comes
from thermal steam plants that burn coal.
The College of
Eastern Utah, established in 1937 in Price, promises to become a more
important facet of the county's economic and social development in the
future, in a county already noted and celebrated for its rich cultural
diversity and tradition as well as its importance to Utah's economy.
Philip F. Notarianni