Home History This Short-Lived Town Fed the Union Pacific Locomotives

This Short-Lived Town Fed the Union Pacific Locomotives

by Enochadmin

Piedmont, Wyo., is understood much less as a ghost city and extra as a state historic website centered on a trio of enormous beehive-shaped charcoal kilns. The city, akin to it’s, lies a half mile to the southwest, partly on non-public cattle vary. Accessible by two-wheel drive on the agency filth County Street 173 (aka Piedmont Street), scarcely 7 miles south of Exit 24 off I-80, Piedmont presents ghost city aficionados the well-preserved kilns, a half dozen derelict buildings and slices of Mormon, transcontinental railroad and charcoal-making historical past.

Round 1867 English-born Mormon emigrant Moses Byrne—a polygamist, father of almost two dozen kids and serial entrepreneur—established a water- and wood-refueling station right here in anticipation of the approaching Union Pacific. The proud pioneer first dubbed the city Byrne, however confusion with the prevailing trackside city of Bryan, farther east, required the title change to Piedmont, the house area of his two Italian wives. Quickly after railroad crews laid observe by means of in late 1868, Byrne constructed six kilns—one to supply lime for mortar, 5 to produce charcoal to iron smelters farther west in Salt Lake Metropolis and the blacksmith again up the road in Fort Bridger. Piedmont quickly become a rising concern. In addition to the Union Pacific depot, roundhouse and water tank, it boasted a telegraph workplace, submit workplace, common retailer, schoolhouse, three-story lodge, newspaper, the requisite saloons, a smattering of houses and several other household cemeteries.

This trio of intact 30-foot-high charcoal kilns and the stays of a fourth stand a half mile northeast of the townsite. (Doug Web page)

Wooden was scarce alongside a lot of the Union Pacific line by means of Wyoming Territory, which had fashioned on July 25, 1868. However south of Piedmont, simply throughout the Utah state line, stretch the Uinta Mountains. Thus inside 20 miles of city was a dependable supply of timber to render into charcoal and provide lumber for development and railroad ties.

Byrne was not alone in recognizing the necessity. Fourteen miles west of city lay the corporate city of Hilliard, which boasted some 30 charcoal kilns, a sawmill and a 30-mile-long flume down which to drift timber down from the Uintas. Farther west nonetheless was Evanston, dwelling to 2 charcoal firms and a dozen extra kilns, whose lumbermen despatched logs down the Bear River from the Uintas every spring. Solely the Piedmont kilns stay intact and readily accessible.

By 1896 the Salt Lake Each day Tribune was reflecting in town’s waning fortunes: 

Piedmont, Wyo., within the early days of the Union Pacific was a energetic little city the place shops, saloons and playing rooms thrived and cash was plentiful with the denizens and its tons of of woodchoppers, lumber and timber males and scores of coal burners. As we speak there stay however just a few of the log homes, whereas the massive beehive-shaped charcoal kilns are all that stay to level to the previous flush instances of the city. When charcoal gave technique to coke within the smelting furnaces, wooden turned a factor of the previous to be used in locomotives and the lumber market had its backside knocked out by importations from Oregon, Washington and California, there was nothing left in enterprise in these traces, and residents turned their consideration to railroad ties and mine props.

What lastly sounded the dying knell for Piedmont was the Union Pacific’s choice to reroute its tracks farther to the north in 1901, bypassing city. The final retailer closed in 1940.

Amongst different attention-grabbing historic connections, Piedmont factored into the Might 10, 1869, golden spike ceremony, when the Central Pacific and Union Pacific linked up at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, to finish the transcontinental railroad. Initially scheduled for Might 7, the ceremony was delayed when Union Pacific highway crews looking for again pay blocked the prepare carrying firm dignitaries at Piedmont. It proceeded to Utah solely after Union Pacific Vice President Thomas Durant wired for the cash and paid off the irate crews. Rumor has it notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy frequented the realm and reportedly buried the loot from considered one of his financial institution robberies close to Piedmont. Treasure hunters nonetheless search it. Calamity Jane additionally frolicked in Piedmont as a teen orphan, taking no matter jobs she may to assist her 5 youthful siblings. Troopers from Fort Bridger partied on the town, and Jane quickly turned a infamous camp follower.

The corporate city of Hilliard, 14 miles west of Piedmont, boasted some 30 kilns, a sawmill and a 30-mile flume down which lumbermen floated timber from the Uinta Mountains. (Federal Freeway Mission)

What proves most attention-grabbing to modern-day guests are the charcoal kilns. Constructed of native sandstone stacked and layered with lime-sand mortar, every stands 30 toes excessive and 30 toes in diameter with partitions some 2 toes thick. Dealing with east at floor degree, away from the highway, are 6-by-5-foot arched doorways by means of which to load firewood and unload charcoal. Dealing with west close to the height of every kiln, seen from the highway, are different small openings by means of which to load wooden. Air flow was offered by offset rows of consumption holes across the backside few toes.

Simply how did the kilns work? Charcoal is the black carbon residue of wooden burned beneath excessive temperatures in restricted oxygen. As soon as every kiln had been loaded to the highest with wooden and absolutely fired, the loading doorways had been sealed off to create that just about airless surroundings. A neighborhood newspaper described the method: 

Every [kiln] held 35 cords, 4-foot size, all of the native woods—lodgepole pine, aspen and spruce—getting used. The ovens had been crammed from a door on the base and one close to the apex, fired from the previous after which each doorways sealed shut. A sequence of vent holes across the base furnished the one air and thus drew downward the hearth, which first shot to the highest of the kiln. As flames appeared at every of the vent holes, it was closed with a brick till it was smothered. After per week the kiln had cooled and was emptied and recharged.

The three intact kilns, the stays of a fourth, a close-by cemetery and a handful of tumbledown houses off the best aspect of the highway draw primarily these fascinated with ghost cities and our railroad previous. It’s effectively definitely worth the detour to listen to the wind whispering historical past by means of the ruins. 

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