Saturday, April 22, 2017

Soldier Summit - A Ghostly Site

Soldier Summit, Utah

Up out of Price, Utah as you head into the high country, there's an expansive meadow that's funneled into a natural passageway through the rugged Wasatch Mountains. Extreme weather shaped this beautiful landscape and provoked its tragic history.

In 1776, an expedition led by two Franciscan Priests stumbled upon this remarkable place and called it Grassy Pass. Fathers Dominguez and Escalante were searching for an overland route from Santa Fe to their Catholic Mission in Monterey, California.

The small party of Spanish explorers got as far as Utah Lake but travel hardships made it impossible to continue so they returned home to New Mexico. The attempt may have failed but their stories, maps and documentation would help guide future travelers as their route became part of the Old Spanish Trail.

In July of 1861 after the Civil War had begun, a group of 40 southern officers and enlisted men stationed at Camp Floyd, Utah were released from duty so they could join up with the Confederate Army in Texas. The soldiers lit out immediately and at the pinnacle of Grassy Pass, they got caught in a terrible Blizzard.

Unprepared to handle a mid-summer snowstorm, the troopers made a desperate camp near the natural, freshwater spring. As night fell, their precarious situation was soon plunged into a maelstrom of heavy snow and freezing temperatures.

By the next morning, exposure to such brutal elements had caused the deaths of eight men and several horses. The weary survivors hastily buried the deceased in shallow graves and promptly marched their way down out of that frozen hell.

Twenty years later when the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad was surveying a route over the pass, they rediscovered the graves and learned about the harrowing story. The Railroad officially named the high point Soldier Summit in honor of those who had perished during the disheartening storm.

Incredibly by the 1920s, a town had sprung up at Soldier Summit and was prospering due to Utah's mineral wealth. At its height, the population may have reached 2500 persons. After the mines played out and the harsh reality of life at 7,700 feet had set in, the community gradually disappeared.

Today, there's an open gas station, a couple of ramshackle cabins and the old, two-room jail. As a testament to how successful the town once was, you can still see the concrete foundations laid out in such an orderly fashion as to suggest the once bustling city blocks.

Last month as the cold wind swept down from white peaks, a locomotive chugged its way up the winding Price River. At the summit, most people drive right by but if you take the time to stop, you'll discover that this ghostly site is still haunted by the souls of eight, unlucky soldiers.

An expansive meadow

Extreme weather has shaped the landscape

A tragic history

First called Grassy Pass

Soldiers perished during a mid-summer storm

Life at 7700 feet

Ramshackle cabins

The old jail

Concrete foundations still exist

The place is still haunted

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos. Love the skies up here. Your blog was recommended to me by Courtney Turner at Maui Jungalow.
    http://thebookwright.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks, it's a dramatic landscape up there as you approach the Wasatch Mountains. I'll bet a winter storm could be really nasty on top of that pass.

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  2. At least it wasn't those heretic Mormons killing them this time.

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    1. Unfortunately, bad weather and bad luck were the main cause of the tragedy.

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