Bingham Canyon (Utah)

Entity: 78
Entity Type: Municipality


The town of Bingham Canyon was incorporated on 29 February 1904 in order to provide the residents of the area with a general-purpose municipal government. As nearby copper mining activities expanded in the 1950s, the town began to shrink. By August 1971, the town had only 17 legal voters remaining. Disincorporation was affected on 22 November 1971 after an election earlier that month.

Biography/History Notes

Municipalities are general-purpose governments with broad authority for the health, safety, and welfare of their residents. This includes providing for police and fire protection, administration of justice through Justice Courts, provision of public works such as roads and water systems, establishment and enforcement of licensing requirements, and establishing building codes.

Municipalities in Utah are organized under the authority of Title 10, Chapter 3, Utah Code, and Article XI, Section 5, of the Utah State Constitution. Municipalities operate as political subdivisions of the state and, as such, are subordinate to the state. The rules for the creation, classification, and administration of municipalities are established by general laws (Utah Constitution, Art. XI, Sec. 5) passed by the State Legislature.

When organized in 1904, the Town of Bingham Canyon was governed by a Town Board, consisting of four members, and a Town President (Revised Statutes of Utah 1898, ??300; Compiled Laws of Utah 1907, ??300; Compiled Laws of Utah 1917, ??784; Revised Statutes of Utah 1933, Annotated, 15-6-4; Minutes, 29 Feb 1904). On March 8, the board organized itself into six committees: Municipal Laws and Claims; Streets, Waterworks, and Sprinkling; Licenses; Improvements and Finance; Sanitation and Sewage; and Police and Fire Department (Minutes, 8 March 1904).

On 23 May 1938, the town was reclassified as a city of the third class on petition of the Board of Trustees (City Seal; Minutes, 19 May 1938; Utah Revised Statute Supplement 1939, 15-1-2). With this reclassification, the governing structure of Bingham Canyon was required to change. Initially, the members of the Town Board of Trustees and the town president simply became the City Council and mayor, respectively. Under state law, however, the new governmental structure was to consist of a mayor and five city council members (see Revised Statutes of Utah, Annotated, 1933, 15-6-3; UCA 1943, 15-6-3; UCA 1953, 10-6-3). In 1939, the first election was held for the City Council. In January 1940, the first five-member City Council was sworn into office (Minutes, 2 January 1940).

As the city shrank throughout the 1960s, it became harder to maintain the city council at five members. After January 1970, there were, de facto, only three members of the City Council (Minutes, 1970-1971). After disincorporation in 1971, administration of the Disincorporated City of Bingham Canyon was in the hands of a court appointed panel of special administrators made up primarily of city officials, but also including one representative of Jordan School District (550) and one person selected by Kennecott Copper (see the petitions for appointment of administrators and the order appointing administrators in the Third District Court civil case no. 201144).

The first meeting of the Town Board took place on 29 February 1904. At its first meeting, the town board created the offices of town clerk, treasurer, town marshall, and health commissioner; approved a corporate seal; and organized a police department (Minutes, 29 Feb 1904; Ordinances, nos. 1, 2, 3, 4). At the second meeting of the town board, on 4 March, the office of supervisor of streets and superintendent of water works was created (Minutes, 4 Mar 1904; Ordinances, no. 9).

The first report of the Bingham Fire Department was received by the Town Board in March 1905 (Minutes, 24 March 1905). As early as October 1904, however, the Fire and Police Committee was empowered to purchase hose for the fire department (Minutes, 4 October 1904). In the following month, the Fire and Police Committee was authorized to move the town jail in order to make room for fire hose and ladders (Minutes, 22 November 1904). The exact date of the creation of the Bingham Fire Department is not determinant from extant records of the City, but it seems clear that the department was functioning by March 1905.

Also in March 1905, Bingham Canyon undertook its first special election-on the question of a bond issuance in the amount of $10,000 to construct a municipal water system (Minutes, 24 March 1905). The sale of the bonds was then approved through resolutions passed on 8 May. On 1 December 1905, the Town of Bingham Canyon approved the building of its first roads with the passage of ordinance 27 and resolution 5 (Minutes, 1 Dec 1904).

Ordinance no. 28, to establish a Police Justice Court for Bingham Canyon, was introduced on 24 January 1906. The minutes do not show passage or even consideration of the ordinance when it was scheduled for a final vote on 14 February. They do indicate, however, that on 28 March, the town marshall was instructed to invite "Justice Lee" to "occupy part of the Town building" (Minutes, February-March 1906). Ordinance no. 28 is missing from the Utah State Archives holdings; however, the earliest records for a Bingham Canyon justice of the peace are from 1906 (Justice of the Peace Cash Books, series 17459), suggesting that the office was probably created in 1906.

In May 1916, the Constitution and By-Laws of the Bingham Volunteer Fire Company No. 2 were approved, thus officially expanding the fire department from one to two companies (Minutes, 3 May 1916). There are indications in the minutes that two fire companies already existed (Minutes, 24 October 1906) as early as 1906.

The date of original creation of the office of town attorney is also somewhat unclear. In June 1914, a motion passed that D. W. George "be given the legal work of the town of Bingham Canyon . . . during the pleasure of the board, said D. W. George be required to subscribe the Constitutional oath of office. . ." (Minutes, 3 June 1914). This suggests the creation of the office of town attorney; however, no ordinance is enacted to do so. In January 1922, the office of "City Attorney" (sic) was abolished (Minutes, 1 January 1922). On 1 January 1924, however, the Town Board reversed itself and rehired A. C. Cole to act as town attorney (Minutes, 1 January 1924). None of these actions were done by passage of an ordinance, and the office of town attorney appears to be without basis on the ordinances of the town until 1930.

In January 1930, Bingham Canyon adopted the Revised Ordinances of the Town of Bingham Canyon, codifying the ordinances of Bingham Canyon and revising them as the Town Board deemed appropriate (Minutes, 8 January 1930 includes text of enacting ordinance). At the time of the adoption of the Revised Ordinances, the Town of Bingham Canyon had 13 officers. These included the elected positions of trustee (of which there were four, Revised Ordinances, ?????? 22-26) and town president (????9-20). Appointed officers were the town clerk (????27-28), town treasurer (???? 29-31), justice of the peace (???? 32-37), town attorney (????38-43), town marshall (????44-48), superintendent of streets and waterworks (???? 49-50), and town physician and health commissioner (????51-52).

With the passage of the Revised Ordinances and the reclassification of Bingham Canyon as a city in 1938, the city reached its full maturity. No major structural changes to the government of Bingham Canyon occurred until the gradual dismantling of the city leading to disincorporation in 1971.

By 1959, Kennecott Copper Corporation was purchasing large tracts of land within Bingham Canyon. Purchase of the whole city, in order to provide for the expansion of copper mining operations, was discussed frequently in the records of the city (e.g., Correspondence, Everett Cooley, 15 December 1959-11 March 1960; Minutes, 9 March 1960). Though Bingham Canyon was clearly winding down in the early 1960s, as witnessed by the closure of the Public Library (Minutes, 15 June 1960), the City expanded its role in overseeing the health of the population by adopting a resolution uniting with Salt Lake County (908) and other municipalities in creating the Salt Lake County Health Department (0 Minutes, 30 June, 13 July 1960; Ordinances, no. 83).

In 1960, Kennecott Copper was negotiating with a property owner's committee to buy all of Bingham Canyon (Minutes, 27 July 1960; Correspondence, Property Owners Committee, 7 December 1959-19 April 1961). Kennecott had purchased most of the land in Bingham Canyon and removed the majority of the buildings by 1963 (Carr, The Historical Guide to Utah Ghost Towns, p. 44). As Kennecott purchased the land, the company frequently pursued litigation to have the property separated from Bingham Canyon, thus shrinking the geographic scope of the City of Bingham Canyon. They also sought to use the power of eminent domain to take land from within the city limits (Utah Code Annotated 1953, Title 78, Chapter 34; Kennecott Copper Corporation v. City of Bingham Canyon, Third District civil no. 198308). By 1971, it was clear that the property in the city would eventually all be purchased by Kennecott Copper, and most of the city's population had moved to other locales, including Copperton.

By January 1970, the City Council had shrunk to three, though required to be made up of five members according to state law. Many members of the City Council in the late 1960s had resigned or moved away. Elections had only a few more than 100 votes cast, as the city and its government continued to shrink.

The number of legal voters in Bingham Canyon was 17 on 31 August 1971. On that date, a petition signed by five citizens of the city was filed in the Third District Court asking for the disincorporation of the city (Petition for Disincorporation of the City of Bingham Canyon, Third District civil no. 201144, hereafter cited as Petition ). The question of disincorporating the city was placed on the ballot at the 2 November 1971 municipal election (Minutes, 15 September 1971). The Mayor announced on 20 October that he had appointed three election judges for the 2 November election. On 8 November, the City Council tallied the election results. On the question of disincorporation, the "result . . . was eleven votes for disincorporation and two votes against disincorporation."

Upon certification of the results of the special election, the Third District Court (275) disincorporated Bingham Canyon on 22 November 1971 (see Utah Code Annotated 1953, 1972 Replacement Volume, 10-5-1; "Judgment of Disincorporation," Petition ). Administrators were appointed to wind down the business of the now defunct city (UCA, 10-5-2; "Order Appointing Special Administrators," Petition ). November 27 was set as the date to move the city hall to the post office building, and the city attorney was consulted on the disposition of the city's records (Minutes, 17 November 1971). The secretary for the administrators contacted State Archivist Harold Jacobsen to determine "what will be saved and what will be destroyed" on 7 June 1972 (Minutes, 17 May 1972).

One major project near the end of the city and throughout the administration of the disincorporation was the Bingham City Cemetery (see Minutes, 1971; Status Report of Administrators to Judge D. Frank Wilkins, 23 October 1972, Petition ). In the final status report to the court, Robert Campbell reported that substantial renovation of the cemetery was done. Renovation included ornamental iron work, fencing, masonry work, and construction of a water line. The water line was to be completed by Kennecott Copper Corporation. The rest was done by DeMass and Associates. The administrators turned over the responsibility to care for the cemetery to Jordan School District (550), but acknowledged "that the records relating to burial plots are threadbare; indeed, there is no master plot plan of divisions within the Cemetery" (Status Report, p. 6). The cemetery was originally created in 1913 by action of the Bingham Canyon Town Board (Minutes, 22 October 1913). The administrators also commissioned a memorial marker for the City and a printed history of Bingham Canyon [Dunn, Marion. Bingham Canyon . Salt Lake City: Publisher's Press, 1973].

A final request to Utah Power to shut off street lights stated, "This is to advise that as of June 30, 1972, there will be no more office in Bingham Canyon; it is finished" (Correspondence, Utah Power, 22 June 1972). On 30 June 1972, the street lights in Bingham Canyon were turned off for the last time. The remaining property, real and personal, and debts of Bingham Canyon were transferred to Jordan School District ("Order & Decree Approving the First & Final Account & Report of Special Administrators Distributing the Assets and Property of the Disincorporated City of Bingham Canyon & Discharging the Administrators," pp. 11-12, 4 December 1972, Petition ).


Public administration