Category Archives: Engineering

Murray Smelting

Published / by Greg Murray / Leave a Comment

Write-up by Gregory Murray 

Placed by: Murray Chapter of the Utah Sons of the Pioneers 

GPS Coordinates: 40°39’25” N 111°52’36” W 

Historical Marker Text: 

Gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc were found at Alta, Park City and Tintic in the years 1834 to 1869. Since no smelting was done in the state or the surrounding area, smelters had to be built. Billy Moran built the first smelter at 5189 South State Street on American Hill in 1869. The Woodhall Brothers built the first furnace on State Street by Big Cottonwood Creek June 1870. In 1871 the Germania Refinery & Wasatch Smelter were erected west of State Street on opposite sides of Little Cottonwood Creek. The Hanauer Smelter was built in 1872. The Horn Silver Smelter at 200 West 4800 South and the Highland Boy Plant 800 West Bullion came on stream 1880-1886. American Smelting and Refining Company took over the Germania Plant operations and later built a plant at 5200 South State St. which began operations in 1902. 

Smelting and ore refining grew from 0 tons to thousands of tons of ore per day. The need for smelting eventually decreased and in November 1950, the great smelting operation at Murray faded into History. Smelting in Murray had directly employed 10,000 people and indirectly thousands more, many of these people were pioneers who settled in the Murray community prior to the coming of the railroad. 

Extended Research: 

   The smelting industry developed in Murray, Utah, to extract metals from the ores produced by the mines of the Utah Territory. The arrival of the railroad in Utah greatly facilitated the development of smelting in Murray, which enabled miners to ship ore from mines such as Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd to smelters in Murray. After the ore had been smelted into bars of metal, the smelters could ship the finished bars out on the transcontinental railroad. In the 1870’s and 1880’s, industrialists built several smelters in Murray, including the American Hill, Woodhull Brothers, Germania, Wasatch, Franklyn, and the Hanauer smelters.[1] Many of these smelters were very unprofitable in the early years. In a report to the federal government, U.S. Commissioner of Mining Rossiter W. Raymond, commented on the smelters in Murray, when he wrote, “fortunes were there lost in slags, dust, and matte.” However, technological improvements were soon able to increase the efficiency and profitability of the smelters.[2] American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) bought many of Murray’s smelters as part of its efforts to consolidate the smelting industry in Murray.[3] ASARCO built its own smelter in Murray in 1902, which became the largest and most modern lead smelter in the State of Utah and became a major landmark in the city of Murray.[4] The ASARCO smelter could handle 1200 tons of ore per day through its eight blast furnaces and employed nearly one thousand five hundred people.[5]

    The ASARCO smelter attracted many immigrant workers from Southern and Eastern Europe to Murray. Many of these immigrant workers lived in slum-like dwellings near the railroads and around the smelter. Most of these homes lacked running water, and indoor toilets.[6] ASARCO tried to alleviate this housing problem in 1911 by building houses for some workers, and some Greek immigrants built boarding houses for the many workers employed at the smelters.[7] Smelter workers in Murray unionized in 1900 as part of the Western Federation of Miners and went on strike three times, in 1900, 1909, and 1912.[8] The 1912 strike in particular wracked the city with intense violence as some rogue strikers attempted to dynamite the smelter and assassinate one of the company supervisors.[9] These strikes generally failed to win the workers’ demands, and after the 1912 strike, the Murray local of the Western Federation of Miners disbanded.[10]

    The smelters also made an environmental impact on the valley. In the early twentieth century, critics of the smelters, mainly farmers, complained that pollution from the smelters was damaging their crops. In October 1904, farmers met in Murray to decide whether to take legal action against the smelters. One local farmer named George Gardner stated, “If we do not fight the smelters, they will impoverish us and kill us off. This valley will be desolated if the smelter smoke is not stopped. I believe we should go into court and fight them to the last ditch.”[11] The farmers won several court cases against the smelters which resulted in the closure of the Bingham Consolidated Smelter in 1907 and the Highland Boy smelter in 1908, but the ASARCO smelter was able to continue operations after paying a $60,000 fine. [12]

   From 1902 to 1931 the ASARCO smelter in Murray operated at near peak capacity, but as the Bingham, Park City, and Tintic mines began to run out of ore, the smelter in Murray declined. In 1931 the smelter shut down for seven months as a result of a shortage of ore. During the Great Depression, the smelter experienced many more temporary shutdowns. Production picked up during World War II, but in 1949, ASARCO announced the impending closure of the smelter, which was closed completely by November 1950.[13] The giant smokestacks of the smelter continued to stand in Murray for another half century. After voters rejected a $3.4 million bond to preserve the stacks in 1998, the city of Murray approved the demolition of the smokestacks of the smelter in August 2000.[14] The site of the old ASARCO smelter is now occupied by Intermountain Healthcare’s Intermountain Medical Center. 

[1] Brian P. Winterowd, “Murray Smelters,” in The History of Murray City, Utah, ed. Edna Mae Wilkinson (Murray, Utah: Murray City Corporation, 1976), 251-253.

[2] Thomas G. Alexander, “Generating Wealth from the Earth 1847-2000,” in From the Ground Up: The History of Mining in Utah, ed. Colleen Whitley (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2006), 41.

[3]  David L. Schirer, The Cultural Dynamics of Urbanization: Murray City, Utah, 1897-1919 (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah, 1991), 81-84.

[4] Brian P. Winterowd, “Murray Smelters,” 254.

[5] Brian P. Winterowd, “Murray Smelters,” 255, 257.

[6] Brian P. Winterowd, “Murray Smelters,” 255.

[7] Brian P. Winterowd, “Murray Smelters,” 255.

David L. Schirer, The Cultural Dynamics of Urbanization, 203.

[8] David L. Schirer, The Cultural Dynamics of Urbanization, 91.

[9] “Bullets and Dynamiting in Murray Strike,” Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT), May 5, 1912.

[10] David L. Schirer, The Cultural Dynamics of Urbanization, 95.

[11]  “Farmers Will Fight Smelters,” Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, UT), Oct. 21, 1904.

[12] David L. Schirer, The Cultural Dynamics of Urbanization, 67.

[13] Brian P. Winterowd, “Murray Smelters,” 257.

[14] Amy Joi Bryson, “Murray’s landmark smokestacks finally fall,” Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT), Aug. 6, 2000.

 For Further Reference: 

Primary Sources: 

“Bullets and Dynamiting in Murray Strike.” Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT), May 5, 1912. 

Bryson, Amy Joi, “Murray’s landmark smokestacks finally fall.” Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT), Aug., 2000. 

“Farmers Will Fight Smelters.” Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, UT), Oct. 21, 1904. 

Secondary Sources: 

Schirer, David L. The Cultural Dynamics of Urbanization: Murray City, Utah, 1897-1919. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah, 1991. 

Alexander, Thomas G. “Generating Wealth from the Earth 1847-2000.” In From the Ground Up: The History of Mining in Utah, edited by Colleen Whitley, 37-57. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2006.

Winterowd, Brian P. “Murray Smelters.” in The History of Murray City, Utah, ed. Edna Mae Wilkinson. Murray, Utah: Murray City Corporation, 1976.