The following is the first article in a series on Park City and Ketchum, Idaho.
Park City (UT) and Ketchum (ID) share a common heritage – they were once mining towns that became premier ski towns. Over a series of five articles, we will discuss their transformations, including the interesting similarities between these two communities: each town faced economic crises as their mineral reserves waned; Their respective natural endowments of mountains, snow and sun ultimately provided resurrection; Visionary leaders would define innovative and ultimately successful strategies to revive the local economies; And they would recruit like-minded people to their crusades.
For Park City, one of their own would harness the town’s natural “gifts” to liberate the local economy from its sole dependence on mining. For Ketchum, the town would play a major role reversing the decline of passenger rail revenue for one of the country’s largest railroads. Jack Gallivan would help save Park City. For Averell Harriman, Ketchum would revive his ailing passenger business. This is the tale of two ski towns.
The lure of buried treasure gripped both regions in the late 1860s. For one town, the “boom” would not last a generation. For the other, mining would underpin the economy for almost four generations. Ketchum was incorporated in 1880, Park City in 1884.
Their evolution as mining towns would result from the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862. The act, a private/public partnership between the Central Pacific Railroad, the Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP), and the Federal government would build a rail line connecting Council Bluffs Iowa with Sacramento California. The final track pieces would connect from east and west in Promontory, Utah in May 1869. The connection would forever transform the United States. UP rails would pass relatively close to each future community. For Park City, the distance would be 27 miles from UP’s main line in Echo, Utah; Ketchum, 70 miles from Shoshone, Idaho.
Prospectors began to arrive in the Wasatch mountains in the late 1860s. Their efforts were championed by the “Father” of Utah mining – Colonel Patrick Conner, though quietly usurped by Ephraim Hanks and others. In the Wood River Valley of Idaho, prospectors arrived at the same time. Early fortune seekers included Albert Griffith, Isaac Lewis, and David Ketchum. Their efforts would spark an invasion of miners and entities that catered to their needs and comfort. The town, originally called Leadville, later had its name changed to Ketchum by the US Postal Service, as the name Leadville was deemed too common in the western US.
Rails reached Ketchum in 1883, courtesy of the Oregon Short Line Railroad (OSL) – a wholly owned Union Pacific subsidiary (and remains so today). After 104 years, the OSL ended service in 1987. By the late 1880’s the Wood River Valley was one of the wealthiest mining districts in Idaho. Such prosperity would prove ephemeral. The UP entered Park City in 1880. Service continued until the summer of 1986. Both connected to UP’s transcontinental rail line, the spurs served as bidirectional conveyor belts for materials, people, and wealth. As a result, both economies flourished. Ketchum’s population approached 2,000 in 1890, Park City’s 3,000. Silver and lead were the primary commodities mined in both districts.
As 1892 drew to a close, residents in both towns toasted to their good fortune, unaware that calamity awaited them in the new year.
Stay tuned for part two of the article series. David Nicholas and Stuart Stanek are also giving a lecture on the similarities between Park City and Ketchum on April 3 from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Museum’s Education and Collections Center located at 2079 Sidewinder Drive.