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Moab Historic Happenings June 2003

Early Moab Newspaper Archives now available on-line
by Jeff Richards

Just a few mouse-clicks away for Internet users is a treasure trove of Moab history, thanks to the recent electronic archiving of over 25 years worth of early newspapers. In just over an hour, I was able to glean many interesting tidbits from the pages of the Grand Valley Times issues printed 100 years ago (June and July 1903). Some of the articles may seem trivial to today’s readers, but they provide an interesting snapshot of what life was like here in Moab a century ago. A complete searchable archive for the years 1896-1922 is available for free at the following website: Each page (and individual article) is downloadable in PDF format that preserves its original appearance. The project was done by the University of Utah’s Marriott Library, and funded via the Library Services and Technology Act.

The Grand Valley Times newspaper was founded in 1896 by Justus N. Corbin, who was an attorney from Colorado. In 1919, it merged with the Moab Independent and became The Times-Independent, which is still published weekly today. Here are some of the highlights from the issues that I sampled:

In the Grand Valley Times’ June 5, 1903 issue, a scathing letter from local fruit grower Charles Miller appeared on the front page, opposing Utah Gov. Heber M. Wells’ appointment of Mons Peterson of Moab to the State Board of Horticulture. In his letter, Miller said that Peterson was not qualified to hold the position, and called him “a crafty office seeker” and “a sycophant.” In the following week’s issue, however, it appears that Miller’s harsh words of criticism had backfired. “Citizens who have been unfriendly or neutral to Mons Peterson have flocked to his side in his defense of the article published last week,” the paper said, noting that Peterson had traveled to Salt Lake City to attend his first board meeting in the earlier part of that week.

The agenda for the town’s upcoming Fourth of July celebration was also featured prominently on the front page of the June 12 and June 26 issues. A giant “powder salute” at sunrise was to kick off the day’s events. Parley P. Christenson of Salt Lake City was to be the “Orator of the Day,” and his speech was scheduled during the 10 a.m. to noon program, which featured several other performances of “Music, Singing and Recitations,” including the reading of the Declaration of Independence by J. P. Miller. After lunch, children’s races were to be from 1 to 3 p.m. ($15 in prizes to be awarded). At 3 p.m. a baseball game (married men vs. single men) was scheduled, to be followed by a “Basket Ball” game for the “young ladies” and finally, a Tug of War after the games ended. The last three events each featured a $20 prize for the winning team. Free lemonade barrels were to provide refreshment.

A couple of weeks later, the July 10, 1903 issue provided an account of the Fourth of July celebrations went. The brass band parade and drill team performance each received special mention, as did the noontime feast. “The program for the day was given in the order announced by the committee in charge. There were no accidents to mar the pleasure of anyone,” the paper noted. However, mention was made of an incident that occurred at the celebratory dance later that night: “At the dance in the evening an incident occurred which marred for the moment, the pleasure of the evening, Thos. Trout stuck Justice A. M. Robertson on the head with his gun, and until our plucky little sheriff Wilson appeared on the scene, was having things all his own way. He was quickly qualshed[sic] and the dance went on merrily.”

The June 5, 1903 issue proudly announced the formation of the La Sal Mountain Telephone and Electric Company, for the purpose of building and operating telephone, electric light, and power lines.” Noted the article: “The first step of the company is to construct a telephone line from Moab to Castleton and thence to Miner’s Basin and the camps of the La Sal district.” It added: “It is the intention of the company to put in a local exchange at Moab, so that telephone communication may be had in all parts of the valley. A number of citizens have already announced their intention to have a ‘phone at their residence.” The company (headed up and managed by Corbin, the paper’s editor) said that it was also looking into bringing electric lights to Moab in the near future.

Here are a few other items from the pages of the Times a century ago:

• J.N. Corbin, the editor of the Times while riding on the mountain was thrown by his sorrel horse and his foot became fastened in the stirrup. Mr. Corbin was dragged quite a distance over the rough ground and was kicked by the horse. The shoe that was caught in the stirrup broke in two and released Mr. Corbin’s foot. Outside of a few bruises and a bad shaking the editor escaped uninjured; had the foot not been released a different story would have to be told. (June 12, 1903)

• About 4,000 head of mutton sheep passed through Moab today, en route to Marshall Pass, Colo., from San Juan county. They are owned by the Goodman Green Company and were in charge of R. F. Roberson, of Moab. (June 12, 1903)

• Dr. J. W. Williams resigned his position as town Trustee at the Town Board meeting Monday night. (June 26, 1903) [NOTE: Dr. Williams was a founding member of the board of trustees of the town of Moab, first incorporated Dec. 30, 1902].

• The construction of the La Sal Mountain telephone line is well under way. This week the line was completed several miles from the Moab end towards the mountains. (June 26, 1903)

• Lester Taylor, L.L. Crapo, L.H. Eddy, John H. Shafer, O.W. Warner, A. Larson, L.B. Bartlett, J.P. Miller, John T. Loverage[sic], R.H. Stewart, and others have been rusticating at Thompson Springs this week. While enjoying seeing the cars go by, drinking at the spring, etc, they have been giving due attention to Justice Ballard’s court as prosecutors or defendants over Moab water. All are expected back by the end of the week. (July 10, 1903)

• On last Saturday, Albert, the five year old son of John Tangreen, while playing about the stacker, caught his hand in the machinery and was severely and painfully injured. The second finger was taken off at the first joint, and others were broken and lacerated. Dr. Davis dressed the hand, the boy undergoing the operation bravely, with the exception of the loss of part of one finger his hand will soon be not much the worse for the accident. It was a narrow escape from the loss of the arm or perhaps his life. (July 10, 1903)

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