If a picture paints a thousand words, this one certainly did. More than that, it painted memories.I had no idea of the flood I’d break loose when I posted this photograph to a group in Facebook four years ago. It’s just an old house that my family lived in for less than two years. My memories of it at the time were minimal. I turned eight a few days after we moved in, and we moved out when I was still nine.
But this post isn’t about me. It’s about the people from an old mining town overwhelmed by the encroaching ore dumps of the Bingham Canyon Mine, more commonly known as Kennecott Copper Mine. The town was Lark; named after one of the prospectors who laid claim to the land in 1863. Originally owned by the two miners who started two different claims, Dalton and Clark, the mine was merged and later bought out by the United States Smelting and Refining Company. By 1923 the company owned the whole town.
Lark expanded and hit its heyday in the decade following World War II. It boomed as the babies boomed. I can imagine spanking white houses, freshly paved streets, and a steady stream of traffic down the main road to the mercantile and post office. But that Lark only exists in my imagination and the memories of the remaining people who bonce built their lives there.
The mine had closed by the time my family rented the big house in the picture. Many of the old miners had already moved out when we moved in. By the time we left, the old mercantile with the only gas pump in town had closed and the town had come under control of the Kennecott Copper Corporation. In 1977, less than three years after we moved out, the people of the town were told to leave.
The town of Lark was set at the foot of the same mountain which housed the old Bingham Canyon Mine. It was a 45 minute drive around the edge of the mountain from Lark to Bingham Canyon. By 1972, the year we moved in, the mine had gained the dubious distinction of being the largest open pit mine in the world, and the town no longer existed at the foot of a mountain but the foot of an ore dump. If my memories serve me correctly, it was the encroaching ore dump from the Bingham Canyon Mine that forced Kennecott to close the town. The dump had nowhere to go except to the edge of the mountain it existed in, and Lark was right in its path.
So three years after my family moved out of the old Lark house, Kennecott announced the eviction of the remaining residents. It took a couple of years to get everyone out and resettled, but when the last resident in city limits left, every building within city limits was razed to the ground. By 1979, the only buildings left standing were a couple of houses on the way into town and the old Drift Inn (the local bar). Lark had become a ghost town.
Fast forward a few decades. Being the nostalgia nut that I am, I eagerly joined Lark, Utah’s Facebook Group and started conversing with some of my old classmates. I don’t remember if I posted much, and I visited the group only occasionally, but when I posted that photograph, something remarkable happened. People started commenting, not on the picture, but on their memories of Lark in relationship to the picture. It was really cool to learn so much about a town I didn’t think I had remembered much of.
I honestly don’t remember what my expectations were, but here is my original post accompanying the photograph:
This is the house I lived in while my family lived in Lark. Floyd Rasmussen’s family lived there for several years before we moved in. We lived here for two years before moved on to our property in the Oquirrh Mountains. I think we were the last family to live there.
Within the first few hours a flurry of comments flowed in, and the vibrancy of the old town of Lark immediately showed its face.
People were remembering:
and telling stories:
So many comments and conversations that had absolutely nothing to do with me appeared in my news feed, and this went on for more than a year. I went on with life and ignored the comments for a while. Things were quiet for at least a couple of years and I essentially forgot about it until a couple of weeks ago when someone randomly picked up the conversation just as if it had never ended. This is similar to all other posts. Just one photo, question or statement leads to all sorts of conversations in the comments.
I’m really not the greatest fan of Facebook but there are a few things I have noticed. If you’re a history buff or a displaced member of a community or family, Facebook is a great place to reconnect and gather stories that otherwise might not have been told. I’ve used it extensively for Stories From the Past, and thanks to Steven Richardson, administrator of the Lark, Utah group page, I’ll be using it a lot more.
You can look forward to more stories from Lark, Utah’s past in the upcoming year.
House photograph from BYU Digital Collections. Image #75. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/SCMisc/id/29062