Sego, Utah 2009
Located north of Thompson Springs, Utah is Sego Canyon. This side trip off of I-70 west of the Utah/Colorado line provides view at prehistoric rock-art, and the remains of the old coal-town of Sego, a once-thriving coal mining camp. At the end of May, 2009; I took a small group of science students to explore Sego, Utah. (part of the Book Cliffs).
In the late 1890s, Thompson Springs began when E.W. Thompson, who lived near the springs, operated a sawmill to the north, near the Book Cliffs. Soon a small community grew up called Thompson Springs, made up of small-scale farmers, sheepherders, and cattlemen.
A successful sheep and cattleman, Harry Ballard, began to buy up much of the property that surrounded Thompson Springs, and before long, owned a hotel, store, saloon, a several homes in the small settlement.
Soon, the little community was large enough to convince the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, which had been completed through the region in 1883, to add a stop in the settlement, which soon became a small shipping point for their stock.
About 5.6 km north of Thompson Springs, on Sego Canyon Road, are the petroglyphs and pictographs left by several different cultures.
Pictured above, the Fremont culture thrived from A.D. 600 to 1250 and was contemporary with the Ancient Pueblo culture of the Four Corners area.
Pictured above and below, there are also rock art from the Archaic period dating from 7000 B.C., the Barrier Canyon period from around 2000 B.C., and the Ute tribe dating from A.D. 1300.
Eventually, Ballard, who was a successful sheep and cattleman, discovered a large vein of coal on land adjacent to his ranch in Sego Canyon about 8 km north of Thompson Springs. Keeping his discovery quiet, he soon bought the surrounding property and started coal operations on a small scale. Before long, he owned a hotel, store, saloon, and several homes in the small settlement.
I Pictured above, the small community that sprang up around the coal mine was first called Ballard, for its owner. Ballard’s mine was sold a couple of times, and the town changed names to Neslin, then Sego after the sego lily, the Utah state flower.
Pictured above and below, as commercial development of coal mines in Sego Canyon occurred, the company began to develop the area in earnest. With aggressive plans for long-term coal production they built the American Fuel Company Store, a boarding house, mining buildings, the first coal washer west of the Mississippi River, and a tipple.
Almost immediately, the Sego mining camp was plagued with water problems, which continued throughout the life of the camp. On numerous occasions, the water table was so low the coal washer could not be operated. The camp also experienced problems with the trains, which often derailed, (pictured below).
I Commercial mining progressed at Sego, producing high grade coal. Though the coal was in high demand, the mine continued to suffer financial difficulties, due to lack of water and poor management. In 1947, the company’s financial struggles came to a head, when the mine was ordered closed and the property offered for sale at a Sheriff’s auction in Moab, Utah.
In 1955, the Utah Grand Coal Company sold all its holdings for $25,000, to a Texas-based company who had no interest in the coal mines, but rather in the 700 acres of land that showed promise for both oil and natural gas.
At its peak, the Sego mine employed about 125 miners and the town supported about 500 people in the 1920s. The Sego Ghost-town site continues to display numerous signs of its prosperous past. The stone walls of the old American Fuel Company Store continue to stand, though its windows and roof are long gone. Nearby, are the walls of another stone building, as well as the two-story, crumbling wood American “boarding” house. Throughout the canyon are other crumbling structures, mine shafts, foundations, and the old railroad bridges that crossed the creek. The cemetery provides an overgrown look at the past in its few marked and unmarked headstones, (pictured above and below).