Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Victor was a "twin-town" with Desert Lake that came about as some residents began looking for more land. Eventually most of Desert Lake residents moved over to Victor, but not all. They shared a cemetery  located between the two towns, and most of the graves from Desert Lake were moved to Victor, but not all. The towns are usually linked together in history, found in indexes as Desert Lake/Victor.

A couple of years ago the Pierce Family gave us some histories of people who lived in Victor--Martin Riley and Harriet Ann Peterson Pierce and their daughter Elda Pierce. I want to include some of Elda's history because with her words we get eye-witness view life in Victor. 
We left Hanskville on December 19, 1921 with a herd of goats, cows, and a buggy and two wagons holding what personal possessions we felt necessary for the move to Victor...Papa farmed raised animals, except lambs and chickens. This was Mama's department...
My memories of childhood were that of bare feet and hot sand. There was always
Claude and Elda Pierce
something to be herded like goats, cows, turkeys and pigs)...Mama made everything that we wore, including around-the-house-shoes. They were made from the backs of worn levis or seamless sacks. Our slips and panties were made from flour sacks. Mama was a beautiful seamstress. I wonder how many yards of material she sewed into something, for she made our clothes, men's clothes, temple clothes, and burials clothes too.
We were the first to have a phonograph, an Edison with cylinder records. To this music we danced, sang, and by it were lulled to sleep to the tune of the Blue Danube Waltz...  I was baptized in an irrigation canal in Victor. I attended the school in Victor which was also used as a church. My third grade teacher was Miss Lucille Gold. She boarded at our home, and it was my job to wash her dirty handkerchiefs. (We attended Victor until the 6th grade.) We rode a Dodge truck to Elmo for the 7th and 8th grades. High school was in Huntington. I boarded there and did housework for my keep and went home on weekends.
Victor School (Don Oveson Photo)
 School Children in front of School
Back yard of the Pierce home in Victor

When I think about Victor, I remember the fun we had dancing, skating, swimming, Easter on horseback, bonfire parties, ball games, sledding parties--of course after all the work was done. (Elda Pierce Throckmorton)
The following history is quoted from Thomas Wells' account published in Castle Valley, A History of Emery County, compiled by Stella McElprang, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1949. The photographs are from the Pierce Family  and the Don Oveson Collections in the Archives.
A Young school teacher, Manassa J. Blackburn came to teach (in Desert Lake). He remained to take up land and when the ward was organized he was sustained as the first bishop with Henry G. Mills, first counselor and David Powell as second counselor.
Mr. Blackburn, negotiated with Joseph Powell of Salt Lake, for the purchase of land about six miles below Desert Lake that he had taken up and surveyed...Water was brought in through the extension of canals from the Desert Lake Reservoir. Bishop Blackburn went to Huntington to teach school. Henry G. Mills was sustained as bishop in his place. The responsibility of establishing and building up the new settlement then fell to him.
Victor School behind the car
Elda Pierce age 15 in Victor, 1929
 The venture had been such a long hard fight that the people finally became discouraged (because of water) and left for more prosperous places. The ward was discontinued and joined to the Elmo ward and Victor became ghost town--Thomas Wells (McElprang, 130-131).

Victor School years after town was abandoned. (Don Oveson)
Martin Riley Pierce
Victor Cemetery (Don Oveson)

Pierce Home in Victor (Pierce Family photos)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Desert Lake 2001
I moved to Elmo in 1975. It was the smallest town I had ever heard of or seen. It was a long time after moving there that I heard about it's history and found out that there were other communities nearby at one time called Desert Lake and Victor. Desert Lake is still there; I knew it as a bird refuge, so it's a little hard to imagine a town there.

I remember the house that used to sit there near the lake when we headed to the Dinosaur Quarry. Someone told me that it was part of the town that was once there. Since then I've been piecing in my head what that town looked like. I couldn't get a good picture of more than a few houses, but then I heard they had a school as did Victor. I also read that the community was not successful because of a shortage of water and eventually the town was abandoned.
Thomas Wells, one of first settlers in Desert Lake.
I was pretty excited when Theora Worley from Wellington called me and said she had some history about Desert Lake. She said that she was born in Desert Lake, and so was her father. I had no idea that it lasted for two generations. That's when I decided  to study up more on that little town. So I set out to visit with her and took my computer with me hoping to get her oral history. She was very generous as she shared her knowledge and memories of the area. She also shared precious histories and photographs that she has collected through the years for me to copy for the Archives and public use.

Thomas Wells 1925 in his blacksmith shop in Desert Lake
Here at the Archives we know how priceless photographs and family history are and only borrow them for a short period of time and take very careful care as we scan them into the computer which is called digitizing and then return them, usually in better condition with archival sleeves to protect the photographs. We then make CDs of all that we have digitized and will make as many as the donor wants--to give away to family. We then have them to share with the public for education and research purposes. These photographs are great!

Theora had a photograph of Thomas Wells (above) that I had never seen before. The 1949 Castle Valley A History of Emery County, compiled by Stella McElprang says that Desert Lake was settled by three men in 1888. Hans P. Marsing and Charley Winder had worked on the Cleveland Canal and had accepted stock in the canal for payment. They obtained land in the Desert Lake area. In Edward Geary's History of Emery County, we read:
Members of the Wells, Powell, Thayne, Winder, Marsing, and Pilling families took up land in this hollow between 1885 and 1888 and began work on an earthen dam...Their intention was to capture runoff from higher fields and also store the winter flow of the Cleveland Canal...The 1900 census showed a population of 127 in the Desert Lake precinct.(Geary, 114). 
The dam failed in 1896 and flooded the town, but it was rebuilt with help from the LDS church. And extension of the Huntington North Ditch, the town was able to continue until the 1930s.

We read from other historical accounts that there were many orchards, a nice school, store, post office, dairy, and good farms.The population was around 125. They raised children, attended church, had house parties, went sleigh riding, horseback riding, hay rack riding, ice skating, and of course there was dancing. "C.H. Winder developed a resort at Desert Lake featuring Saturday night dances and moonlight boat rides" (Geary, 246).

Wilford and Charlotte Pilling with Woodrow on the horse-- Desert Lake 1920
Theora said her grandfather, father and his brothers started a dairy--"The Modern Dairy." In 1928 they relocated the dairy to Big Springs Ranch. The photograph above is of the Pilling family home where he grandparents lived. It was taken many years after Desert Lake had been abandoned. On the back of the photograph there is a poem: 
The old house stands alone now. Where once a family lived and worked, now there is nothing but the wind blowing dust through the open door. Where once there was laughter and the sound of little children, now there is nothing...nothing but the rustle of a rodent that has set up light housekeeping in the wall of the house. The old windmill creaks in the wind to let one know it is still there.Once there were horses and cattle lowing in the fields, now there is nothing. The wind blows the dust, and all is still and ghostly.
The shortage of water during the drought-ridden depression years effected all communities but forced the demise of Desert Lake. Today there is nothing left there but a small cemetery and a few remnants that show it was once a living place. As you look at this forgotten place, it's good to remember that ghost towns are not sad; life did not die there-- it just moved on to a better future.
An old house on Desert Lake

Below are some people who lived in Desert Lake (If you know someone who lived there, leave a comment at the end of this blog) :

Frances Isabell Cooley

Maruice and Bell Mills
Emily and Thomas Wells

Monte Pilling
Ervin Pilling
John Wilford Pilling

Emily Wells and daughters Bertha, Luella, and Bell
William Pilling

Cleon Pilling
Clifford Smith
Kathy Hamaker from Price just sent me a picture of her husband Van's grandfather, Clifford Smith, who was born in Desert Lake along with three of his siblings. His parents were Joseph and Estella Holt Smith.  Their oldest daughter, Pearline Smith was married to Charles Albert Mills and their first two children where born in Desert Lake. 

Keep the information coming. Who do you know that lived in Desert Lake/Victor?

Also, check out Kathy Hamaker's work in preserving history for Carbon County at http://www.carbon-utgenweb.com and