Category Archives: Summit

Donner Hill

Published / by William Root / Leave a Comment

Placed by: LDS 38th North Ward Priests[1]

GPS Coordinates: 40° 45’5.76″N, 111° 48’3.28″W

Historical Marker Text:
Lured by Lansford Hasting’s assurance that his shortcut from the well-known trail to Oregon and California would save 250 miles and weeks of travel, the ill-fated Donner-Reed party reached this place August 23, 1846, after spending 16 days to hack out a 36-mile road through the Wasatch Mountains. Here at this narrow mouth of the canyon, they were stopped by what seemed impenetrable brush and boulders. Bone-weary of that kind of labor, they decided instead to goad the oxen to climb the hill in front of you. Twelve-year-old Virginia Reed, later recalled that nearly every yoke of oxen was required to pull each of the party’s twenty-three wagons up the hill. After this ordeal, the oxen needed rest, but there was no time. The party pushed on to the Salt Flats, where many of the oxen gave out. This caused delays, which led to disaster in the Sierra Mountains.

A year later, July 22, 1847, Brigham Young’s Pioneer Party, following the Donners and benefitting from their labor, reached this spot. William Clayton recorded their decision: “We found the road crossing the creek again to the south and then ascending a very steep, high hill. It is so very steep as to be almost impossible for heavy wagons to ascend…Colonel Markham and another man went over the hill and returned up the canyon to see if a road cannot be cut through and avoid this hill. Brother Markham says a good road can soon be made through the bushes some ten or fifteen rods. A number of men went to work immediately to make the road…After spending about four hours of labor the brethren succeeded in cutting a pretty good road along the creek and the wagons proceeded on.”

Donner Hill looking east towards Emigration Canyon

Among the lesson learned that day was one stated succinctly by Virginia Reed in a letter to prospective emigrants back home: “Hurry along as fast as you can, and never take no shortcuts.”

Extended Research:

In 1846 a wagon party led by George Donner departed Independence, Missouri and began a perilous journey from the United States towards Alta California in Mexico. The wagons were late in reaching the Sierra Nevada mountain range and disaster awaited the 88 members of the Donner Party. Extreme suffering and starvation followed, with 41 members of the group dying and eventually the incident drew national attention over reports that some members of the ill-fated party resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.[2] The Donner Party originally planned to travel to California via Oregon, but real estate speculator Lansford Hastings promoted an alternate route published in his famous Emigrants Guide to Oregon and California in 1845, and the Donner Party opted to try it.³

Hastings was not certain if he should promote the cutoff from Fort Bridger through the Salt Lake Valley and westward following John C. Fremont’s expedition in 1845, but he received support in favor of the cutoff from Fremont and Jim Bridger. Hastings thus advised the Donner-Reed party that they would save some 350-400 miles if they took his “cutoff.” One of his partners, James Clyman, however became convinced that the route was not suited for wagons and therefore tried to dissuade members of Donner-Reed Party from taking the cutoff. Joseph R. Walker, who successfully guided the first wagons over the California Trail by way of Fort Hall, also thought the route an unproven risk.[3]

Other migrant groups, which included the Bryant-Russell Party and Harlan-Young wagons, left Fort Bridger in mid-July 1848, following the Bear River into East Canyon where they passed through Devil’s Gate with difficulty along the Weber River. Hastings subsequently directed a group of German migrants from the Heinrich Lienhard party on a direct route through Echo Canyon into Devil’s Gate, where they caught up with the Harlan-Young party near the Jordan River. The Donner Party departed Fort Bridger two weeks later on July 31 and Hastings talked them out of going via Weber Canyon and Devil’s Gate, instead telling them to blaze a new path over to what would come to be called Emigration Canyon. On August 7, 1846, James Reed began carving a trail for the wagon train, chopping down bushes and trees in the Wasatch Mountains towards the canyon. Reed was joined by the remaining members of the wagon party who continued to hack and dig their way for 35 miles from present-day Henefer, Summit County, to Salt Lake City.²

Emigration Creek along Donner Hill

The Bryant-Russell, Harlan-Young and Lienhard parties would successfully pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains into California, while the time the Donner Party spent trailblazing in Utah foreshadowed later events. After the three week trek through the Wasatch Mountains, the oxen were already exhausted and their supplies began to run low.

After entering the Salt Lake Valley, the first member of the party died of tuberculosis near the Great Salt Lake. A site near Grantsville, Utah provided temporary relief with underground water springs, their last source of water until reaching the Humboldt River. In the Salt Flats, Reed’s thirsty oxen ran off and were never seen again. Upon reaching Iron Hill, a fight broke out between one of Reed’s teamsters and John Snyder, a driver for the Graves wagon. Reed stabbed Snyder in the chest and was banished by the Donners after Snyder died. Reed thus avoided being pinned down by the early winter storms which trapped the rest of the party. His departure in October towards Sutter’s Fort allowed him to organize a rescue party in Sacramento that arrived in February 1847. Along the Humboldt River a band of Paiute Indians killed 21 of the Donner Party’s oxen and stole another 18, with more than 100 of the party’s cattle now gone. Two Indian guides assisted the Donner Party in reaching the summit of the Sierra Nevada, but turned back with the first sign of snowfall in early November.1

Donner-Reed Party burial remains discovered in the Salt Lake Desert

The delayed timing and trek through the west desert led to the party becoming snowbound in the Sierras. Malnutrition was a common cause of death, and Irish immigrant Patrick Breen wrote in his journal on Christmas Eve that he was living in a “Camp of Death”. 1 Some of the members of the party camped along the banks of Alder Creek and frozen Truckee Lake, now Donner Lake, where most of the cannibalism occurred. The first rescuers arrived at Truckee Lake in February 1847, composed of soldiers from the U.S. Army stationed in California during the U.S.-Mexican War, among them were members of the Mormon Battalion. One week after rescuers arrived, other isolated camp sites were still using the corpses of the dead for food. Breen wrote in his diary on February 26:

Martha’s jaw swelled with the toothache: hungry times in camp; plenty hides, but the folks will not eat them. We eat them with a tolerable good apetite. Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen. Mrs Murphy said here yesterday that [she] thought she would Commence on Milt. & eat him. I don’t [think] that she has done so yet; it is distressing. The Donners, 4 days ago, told the California folks that they[would] commence to eat the dead people if they did not succeed, that day or next, in finding their cattle.1

Patrick Breen’s diary entry describing the routine cannibalism in the encampment

Three additional relief efforts occurred in April in an attempt to find members who had become separated while camping along Truckee Lake. In the last effort they found only one survivor, Louis Keesberg, who was surrounded by half-eaten corpses. As the survivors departed with the rescuers, members of the Mormon Battalion were ordered to bury the dead bodies inside the main cabin on what is today Donner Pass and then set fire to the cabin.[4]

The Donner Party, in essence, blazed the trail into the Salt Lake Valley which Brigham Young and the Mormon Pioneers used the following year. Young left Winter Quarters, Nebraska with his encampment and passed through the mouth of Echo Canyon by mid-July 1847; he then picked up the Donner-Reed trail and followed it into the Salt Lake Valley. Instead of three weeks, it took Young’s party one week, a matter of great importance since it enabled the Mormons to plant wheat and potato crops in time for their first harvest in the fall. In the last quarter-mile, rather than hauling their wagons over Donner Hill, the Mormons decided to hack through the brush and go around Donner Hill. The Mormons emerged four hours later at what is now This is the Place State Park.[5]

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Breen, Patrick. Diary of Patrick Breen of the Donner Party, 1846-7. Berkeley: University  of         California Bancroft Library, 1910.

Secondary Sources:

Campbell, Eugene. “The Mormons and the Donner Party.” BYU Studies Quarterly, Vol. 11 no. 3 (1971).

Miller, David. “The Donner Road through the Great Salt Lake Desert.” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 27, no. 1 (February 1958): 39-44


[1] Originally installed by “Mormon Explorers” Y.M.M.I.A. In 2010, the original plaque was stolen and re-erected in 2016 by the LDS 38th North Ward High Priests

[2] Campbell, “The Mormons and the Donner Party.”

[3] Miller, “The Donner Road through the Great Salt Lake Desert,” 39-44

1 Breen, 18

1 Breen, 28

[5] Campbell, “The Mormons and the Donner Party.”

Bogan Boarding House

Published / by Peter Lewis / Leave a Comment

write-up by Peter G. Lewis

GPS Coordinates:

            Latitude: 40.6410322

            Longitude: -111.49453919999999

Marker Text (Placed by the Division of State History for the National Register of Historic Places):

“The Bogan Boarding House, built in 1904, was established as a boarding house for miners after the passage of the mine boarding house bill in 1901. Prior to 1901, single miners were required to live in the company owned boarding houses close to the mines. After passage of the bill, finer accommodations such as this boarding house were allowed to be built in Park City proper to accommodate the influx of single miners. None of the boarding houses that were built close to the mines have survived and this is one of only four existing boarding houses in the entire Park City area to have survived to the present. Known for many years as the Imperial Hotel, this building served primarily as a boarding house for miners, but during the 1918 flu epidemic it was used as an emergency hospital.  Marker placed in 1985.”

Picture of the historical marker itself. Captured 1/19/2019.
The structure in present day. Captured 1/19/2019.

Extended Research:

Publication of The Boarding House Law in the Park Record, 3/30/1901.

In 1901, a law was passed in Summit County that would improve the living conditions of Park City miners.  Prior to 1901, miners could be forced by their employers to live in boarding houses near the mines if they were not married or had family living with them in town. Employers could even force their workers to do business exclusively at shops that they owned. Around March 30th, 1901, the Boarding House Law was put into action in order to prevent mine owners from putting a stranglehold on miners’ lives outside of the mines.  The Boarding House Law (displayed on the right) made it so that if an employer were to intimidate or coerce an employee to board at any particular boarding house or do business at any particular store, that employer would be charged with a misdemeanor.[1]

By the start of 1904, living conditions in Park City had greatly improved for miners.[2]  Around January 2nd, John and Anna Bogan had their old Bogan Mining Company boarding house torn down after the company was absorbed into Silver King Consolidated Mine.[3] In its place, a more convenient boarding house was built for them on Main Street in Park City: The Bogan Boarding House.

John Bogan came to Utah from Illinois in 1877 to work in the mines at Alta and Dry Fork. Park City became his home in 1879. He died in 1907 at age 62 and his wife Anna passed in 1919. The Utah Historical Society claims that their sons, John T. and James F. Bogan, retained ownership of the Bogan Boarding House until 1925[4]; however, an article from the September 22nd, 1916 issue of the Park Record states that Stevens Brothers purchased the Bogan Boarding House that year.[5] Stevens Brothers was a Park City store that acquired various other businesses in town that year, including St. Louis Bakery[6] and a cigar and candy shop named Stanley Rolley.[7]  Stevens Brothers ended up returning the property to the Bogan family at some point.  Evidence of this transfer of ownership is found in a classified ad that appeared in the July 1st, 1921 Park Record wherein James F. Bogan listed the Bogan Boarding House for sale at $2,500. The same ad appeared weekly in the Park Record through August 19th, 1921.[8]

The outbreak of influenza in the state of Utah in 1918 caused Park City to shut down. School and church services were cancelled and social gatherings were prohibited.[9] Park City would not let outsiders into the town without a signed certificate from a doctor stating that they showed no signs of flu symptoms.[10]  With no influx of people needing a place to stay in Park City, it’s no wonder that the Bogan Boarding House was used as an emergency hospital during this time.

Park Record obituary of Bernard Larzaro, former owner of the Imperial Hotel. Published 3/4/1937.

At some point, the Bogan Boarding House was renamed the Imperial Hotel.  This was done somewhere between 1925, when John T. and James F. Bogan last had it, and 1937.  An obituary in the Park Record on March 4th, 1937 lists the most recent owner of the Imperial Hotel as Bernard Larzaro, a Spanish man who came to Park City the same year as John Bogan.[11]  Larzaro may have purchased the Bogan Boarding house from James F. Bogan and he may have been the one to rename it the Imperial Hotel. Larzaro’s obituary is the first time the structure is referred to as the Imperial Hotel in the Park Record.

Imperial Hotel ca. 1968. Credit Park City Magazine.

In January of 1940, a fire caused damage to the Imperial Hotel, claiming the entirety of the original roof.[12]  The structure was restored and used as an apartment building in October of 1940.[13] Pictured on the right is the building circa 1968. In the fall of 2015, the building was yet again repurposed and renamed. That fall it was dubbed Riverhorse Provisions and it continues to hold that name to this day.  Inside Riverhorse Provisions is a small food market, a coffee shop, and a high-end restaurant known as Riverhorse on Main (pictured below).[14]

Interior shot of Riverhorse on Main, currently located in the building. Credit riverhorseparkcity.com.

The Bogan Boarding House is a landmark that stands as a testament to the personal advancement of miners and other residents in Summit County. It was built by a miner to help improve the quality of life for other miners. John Bogan went from mine worker to mine owner to boarding house owner and, thusly, a caretaker for miners. Surely Mr. Bogan wanted other miners such as he had been to have more comfort than he had. Today his former boarding house still operates within the field of hospitality, continuing to serve both locals and visitors in Park City over 100 years after John Bogan did so.

[1] “The Boarding House Law,” Park Record, March 30, 1901, 3, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[2] “Resume of 1903,” Park Record, January 2, 1904, 1, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[3] “Mining Matters,” Park Record, May 11, 1907, 3, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[4] Utah State Historical Society, “Structure/Site Information Form,” May 29, 1984.

[5] “News About Town,” Park Record, September 22, 1916, 2, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[6] “New of the City during the Week,” Park Record, August 18, 1916, 1, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[7] “News About Town,” Park Record, September 29, 1916, 1, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[8] Park Record, July 1 – August 19, 1921, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[9] “To Ward Off Epidemic of Influenza,” Park Record, October 11, 1918, 3, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[10] Twila Van Leer, “Flu Epidemic Hit Utah Hard in 1918, 1919,” Desert News, March 28, 1995.

[11] “Bernard Larzaro Dies,” Park Record, March 4, 1937, 3, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[12] “Hotel Destroyed by Fire,” Park Record, January 25, 1940, 5, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[13] Park Record, October 10, 1940, 4, Utah Digital Newspapers.

[14] Melissa Fields, “Dine with a Ghost at Riverhorse Provisions,” Park City Magazine, December 14, 2016.

Primary Sources:

“Bernard Larzaro Dies.” Park Record, March 4, 1937. Utah Digital Newspapers.

“The Boarding House Law.” Park Record, March 30, 1901. Utah Digital Newspapers.

“Hotel Destroyed by Fire.” Park Record, January 25, 1940. Utah Digital Newspapers.

“Mining Matters.” Park Record, May 11, 1907. Utah Digital Newspapers.

“News About Town.” Park Record, September 22, 1916. Utah Digital Newspapers.

“News About Town.” Park Record, September 29, 1916. Utah Digital Newspapers.

“New of the City during the Week.” Park Record, August 18, 1916. Utah Digital Newspapers.

Park Record, July 1 – August 19, 1921. Utah Digital Newspapers.

Park Record, October 10, 1940. Utah Digital Newspapers.

“Resume of 1903.” Park Record, January 2, 1904. Utah Digital Newspapers.

“To Ward Off Epidemic of Influenza.” Park Record, October 11, 1918. Utah Digital Newspapers.

Secondary Sources:

Fields, Melissa. “Dine with a Ghost at Riverhorse Provisions.” Park City Magazine, December 14, 2016.

Utah State Historical Society. “Structure/Site Information Form.” May 29, 1984.

Van Leer, Twila. “Flu Epidemic Hit Utah Hard in 1918, 1919.” Desert News, March 28, 1995.