This past May the 85-foot-tall head frame of the Daly West Mine collapsed. This “hoist” was the last significant evidence of the Daly West. There have been a series of articles in the Park Record recently detailing this calamity and efforts to salvage the tower.
Let’s use this incident as a portal to learn about the person who built the Daly West Mine – John J. Daly.
The Daly West was founded in the late 1880s by John Daly. He was born in 1853 to Irish immigrants who’d settled in the village of Morris, Illinois. At twelve years old he was orphaned when his parents died. Politely declining assistance from family and friends, John headed west by himself in pursuit of fame and fortune.
Though he had less than two years of formal schooling, John possessed an extraordinary intellect. By his early 20s he was considered a “subject matter expert” in geology, mechanical engineering and mining.
The booming mining town of Park City beckoned John in his search for fame and fortune. Over a period of time, John accumulated forty mining claims in the area we now call Empire Canyon. In the early 1890s, when he was in his late 40s, John opened the Daly West Mine. It quickly became one the three richest mines in Park City – the other two being the Ontario and Silver King.
The worst mining disaster in Park City’s history occurred at the Daly West in 1902 when thirty-four miners were killed in an underground explosion. However, at its peak, the mine employed over 300 workers working three shifts, seven days a week. Pictures of the complex show an extensive mining and milling operation.
The present day ruins of the Silver King Mine provide a hint of what the Daly West may have looked like. Regrettably, the surface structures at the Daly West were consumed by fire in 1974. Only the head frame survived as the sole reminder to a legendary mine and business person.
In 1907 at age 57 John Daly retired a multimillionaire, having achieved his dream of fame and fortune. He moved to Los Angeles for unspecified health reasons and died in 1927 at age 74.
I encourage you to take a ride to view the Daly West head frame. It’s in Empire Canyon behind the Montage Hotel. It lies on its side like some pre-historic road kill. It serves as a stark reminder that without concerted and coordinated efforts involving private land holders, local government and Park City residents, the remaining mining structures may be just a memory for our next generation.
Thank you for reading this article. I would like to acknowledge the research of Hal Compton, Judy Dykman, and Mahala Ruddell – and thus their contributions to this article.