Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Echo in the past

I apologize for not blogging as much as I should have. Through relocating and beginning a new job as a newspaper reporter in Rock Springs, Wyoming, it has been a busy several weeks.

During the process, I have begun to explore the Mountain West region.

The first town that caught my eye is Echo, Utah.

Echo is approximately 50 miles northeast of Salt Lake City. It lies off Interstate 80, but at one time the community was a stopping point for people along the Mormon Trail, Overland Stage, Pony Express and Lincoln Highway. Before the Civil War it served as a military route for future Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston and the U.S. Army in their pursuit of Mormons during the Utah War. After the war, it became an important community along the Union Pacific Railroad.

What remains today are chunks of repaved asphalt, a few roadside memories, a Latter Day Saints church that once served as a Protestant place of worship and a cemetery whose souls remember when Echo thrived as a railroad community.

The rise of Echo

Echo has a long history of being a stop for many migrants heading west.

In 1846 the Harlan-Young party drove their wagons past this area before heading towards the Weber River.

In 1857, President James Buchanan sent the U.S. Army under General Albert Sidney Johnston to Echo Canyon to quell the Mormon Rebellion and enforce laws prohibiting polygamy. Fortresses, including the Echo Canyon Breastworks were built by the Mormons, led by Commander Daniel H. Wells, to help protect the people as best they could. 

They were not needed as a peaceful resolution came about ending the Utah Expedition.

A few years earlier, in 1854, the town of Echo was founded by James E. Browley, who ran the Pony Express stage station by Weber Station, just outside of town. The Pony Express ran mail on the Mormon trail from Echo Canyon to Salt Lake City. It was abandoned when the transcontinental telegraph was completed in the fall of 1861.

After the Civil War, Echo, which was halfway between the Union Pacific division points of Ogden and Evanston, Wyoming, was chosen as a stop due to it being located at the bottom of a steep climb up Echo Canyon. The railroad built a large coaling tower, water tower, turntable, four-stall engine house and other servicing facilities. It had a plentiful amount of water, which along with the UP's investment in the community, enabled it to become Summit County's center of commerce.

At one time the area had warehouses full of groceries, hardware and dry goods to go along with saloons, brothels and tents.

Further west silver was discovered in Park City and coal was uncovered in Coalville. This enabled Echo to further prosper as four to six engines were stationed in town and hundreds of men were needed to maintain the equipment and roadbed.

Brigham Young Jr,, the son of Brigham Young purchased the community from Browley and heavily invested in it. He felt Echo was not only an important railroad location, but was crucial to protecting Mormon colonies in the Salt Lake Valley. However, by 1868, it did not develop into the all-Mormon community that Young wanted.

Despite the disappointment, the town continued to survive well into the 20th Century.

A couple of businesses that saw plenty of traffic along the Lincoln Highway, US 189 and US 30S include the Cozy Motel and the Gas Café, which once served as a truck and bus stop.

The interstate veered traffic away from town, but today people can catch glimpses of other eras by  getting off exit 169 and driving segments of the Lincoln Highway while exploring Echo Canyon.

Echo Canyon, Summit County

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