Agency History #3133


The richest mineral deposits in Utah Territory were located in the Oquirrh Mountains west of the Salt Lake Valley. Federal military personnel organized Utah's first mining district in this area on 17 December 1863. The West Mountain Mining District originally included the entire area of the Oquirrh Mountains, but when prospectors discovered silver deposits on the western slopes, they divided the district. The Rush Valley District, organized 12 June 1864, included all the western slopes of the Oquirrh range, and the original West Mountain District included the eastern slopes.

Federal military personnel under the command of Colonel Patrick E. Conner were stationed in Utah and commissioned to protect the Overland Mail and keep the Mormons under surveillance during the Civil War. Connor and many of his troops were from California and were seasoned prospectors. Since there was no need for active duty in carrying out their military responsibilities, Connor encouraged his troops to prospect the mountains. They surveyed and established a mining town and called it Stockton in remembrance of Stockton, California. The Rush Valley District is alternately called the Stockton District.

In August 1870 the original Rush Valley District was divided into three districts. The northern part became the Tooele City Mining District and a southern section became the Ophir District. Mines in these districts became some of Utah's major suppliers of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc. The Rush Valley Mining District was already well established when Congress passed a federal mining law in 1872, (Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations, of the United States of America, vol. 15, 1872, chap. 152) legitimizing the already established practice of claiming mineral wealth in the public domain and organizing local mining districts to manage mining activity. In 1897 the Utah Legislature enacted a mining law which transferred all responsibility for keeping mining records to county recorders. After that date, records for the Rush Valley District were kept by the Tooele County recorder (Laws of Utah, 1897, chapter 36).


At organization miners in the Rush Valley District determined that they would adopt the West Mountain (Bingham Canyon) rules. Rush Valley and West Mountain by-laws limited the extent of any claim on any mineral vein to 200 feet along the lode, with a width of 100 feet on each side. No person was allowed to hold more than one claim by location on any one vein, with the exceptions that the discoverer was entitled to an additional claim for discovery. Anyone could hold any number of claims by purchase. All claims were to be recorded within 10 days of discovery, and claim owners were required to do at least one faithful day's work each month to maintain the claim. In 1865 revised by-laws added the requirement that the claimant mark the ground at the site and permanently post a notice. More importantly, the 1865 revision accommodated the interests of military personnel by waving the labor requirement when military activity prevented doing the work. All soldiers' claims were to be held without penalty until six months after their discharge from U.S. military. An 1870 revision removed the limit on the number of claims individuals could locate.

A district recorder recorded all claims presented to him and collected a recording fee. District law established that the recorder should keep separate sets of books for location notices and transfers. The recorder became responsible for keeping a record of work done on claims and for personally examining each claim to validate that the labor had actually been performed when by-laws were revised in 1870.

After federal mining law was enacted in 1872, miners in the Rush Valley District revised by-laws to conform to certain differences between practices in the district and federal standards. Claims could be up to 1500 feet instead of 200 feet as previously imposed. The new labor requirement became $100 worth of work annually. Beginning in 1873 the recorder was required to personally examine each claim and write a description of it before recording.


The miners of the district regulated mining activities and elected a recorder. All voters at miners' meetings had to be claim owners, and the recorder was elected from among them for a one year term.


Rush Valley Mining District recorders appointed deputies to act under their direction in carrying out their responsibilities. In 1897 the Utah Legislature enacted a mining law which transferred responsibility for keeping mining records to county recorders. (Laws of Utah, 1897, chapter 36). The mining records of the Rush Valley District were transferred to the office of the Tooele County recorder.

Archibald Gardner 1863-1864 (West Mountain Mining District)
Andrew Campbell 1864, Jun-1866, May
John Frank 1866, Jun-1871, May
John McPherson 1871, May-1871, Dec
J.C. Reynolds 1872, Jan-1876, Apr
R.J. Moore 1876, May-1878, May
James G. Brown 1878, May-1882, May
R.G. Legg 1882, May-1885, May
E.P. Mitchener 1885, May-1886, May
David W. Stover 1886, May-1889, May
E.P. Mitchener 1889, May-1892, May
James B. Hickman 1892, May-1895, May
Henry Booth 1895, May-1897, May

COMPILED BY: Rosemary Cundiff , August 2002


Arrington, Leonard J. "Abundance from the Earth: the Beginnings of Commercial Mining in Utah," Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 3, p. 192-119.

Laws of Utah, 1897, Chapter 36, "Mining Claims." Utah State Archives (Series 83155).

Blanthorn, Ouida. A History of Tooele County. Utah Historical Society, 1998.

Revised Statutes of Utah, Annotated, 1933, 55-1-7.

Rush Valley Mining District (Utah). Recorder. Location Notices. Utah State Archives (Series 24160).

Sadler, Richard W. "The Impact of Mining on Salt Lake City," Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 3, p. 236-253.

Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations, of the United States of America, vol. 17 chap. 152. Published by authority of Congress, Boston: Brown, Little and Company. United States. General Land Office.

Mining District By-laws. Utah State Archives (Series 3651).

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.