Agency History #3135


General Patrick Connor, mining entrepreneur and commander of a federal military unit sent to Utah, and his prospector soldiers organized the Ophir Mining District on 6 August 1870. Connor and his soldiers separated this southern section from the already organized Rush Valley District when they discovered a particularly promising lode in Ophir Canyon, in Tooele County, Utah. They named the canyon and the district, Ophir, in memory of the famed mines of King Solomon. True to this name, Ophir became the most productive canyon in the Oquirrh Mountains. Miners poured in from California and Nevada, and during the decade of the 1870s extracted millions from the canyon. Ophir mines predominantly produced silver, but also lead, zinc, and gold. Early productive claims include Silveropolis, Chloride Point, Shamrock, Mountain Lion, Liver Chief, Mountain Tiger, and Rockwell. The mining town, Ophir, became a thriving community with a population of more than 1,000 people. Ophir's big boom lasted only through the decade of the 1870s, and by the turn of the century all of Ophir's big mines had ceased operation. But, even as the town dwindled, small operators continued to hammer the ground, periodically making small strikes as they tried to revive past glory.

The Ophir 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 precedent that individuals had the right to claim mineral wealth in the public domain. Federal mining law also validated the authority of local mining districts to manage mining activity and keep records of claims. 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 Ophir Mining District only temporarily complied with this requirement. Ophir District recorders soon regained custody of their records and continued to keep records for the district until 1929.


Early Utah mining districts adopted by-laws to regulate local activity. By-laws adopted for the Ophir District required prospectors to place a legible notice stating the number of feet claimed, the names of locating parties, and the name by which the claim should be known. Original Ophir by-laws limited the extent of any claim to 200 feet along the lode, with a width of 100 feet on each side, with the exception that the original discoverer was allowed double. To hold a claim for six months, by-laws required that owners do at least one faithful day's work within thirty days of discovery and an additional day's work within sixty days. Holding a claim for one year required the removal of ten cubic yards of picked ground or two cubic yards of blasted ground. All claims had to be recorded within 10 days of discovery. When federal mining law was enacted in 1872, miners in the Ophir District revised by-laws to conform to federal regulations. Claims could be up to 1500 feet instead of the 200 foot limit previously imposed. Claims could be maintained with $100 worth of work annually, if $50 worth of work was completed within 90 days of discovery.


Miners in the Ophir District revised by-laws and elected recorders for the district at annual miners' meetings. Recorders served for one year terms. By-laws required recorders to personally visit the ground to inspect each claim before recording it, and to record claims in books they provided at their own expense. Recorders were entitled to collect $.50 for each name appearing on the claim. Beginning in 1872 by-laws also required recorders to keep a records of labor performed on district claims. District record books were open for public inspection


Ophir Mining District recorders appointed deputies to assist them in carrying out their responsibilities. In 1897 the Utah Legislature enacted a mining law which transferred responsibility for keeping mining records to county recorders, and the records of the Ophir District were transferred to the office of the Tooele County recorder (see Laws of Utah, 1897, chapter 36). However, by June 1899 an Ophir District recorder had resumed responsibility for record keeping in the district. Ophir District recorders continued keeping the records of the district until June 1929. Apparently, the Ophir District ceased to function as an independent agency before 1933 when the Utah Legislature reined in straggling district recorders who had not complied with the law. (See Revised Statutes of Utah, Annotated, 1933, 55-1-7).

Enoch F. Martin Aug 1870-Jul 1872
Lawrence A. Brown Aug 1872-Jul 1874
H.S.L. Bryan Aug 1874-Jul 1878
J.H. Walcott Aug 1878-Aug 1882
John Faunce Sep 1882-Feb 1897
A.O. Evans Jun 1899-Aug 1900
William E. Vowles Aug 1900-Jul 1902
A.O. Evans Aug 1902-Sep 1903
J.W. McFarlane Oct 1903-Apr 1904
G.S.X. Platt May 1904-Jul 1906
Arkie Warren Aug 1906-Nov 1907
G.S.X. Platt Dec 1907-Nov 1910
Joseph B. Osborne Dec 1910-Dec 1914
John Frank Jan 1915-Aug 1925
George W. BryanMay 1926-Jun 1929

COMPILED BY: Rosemary Cundiff , November 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. Utah State Archives (series 83155).

Murbarger, Nell. Ghosts of the Glory Trail. Palm Desert, CA: Desert Printers, Inc., 1956.

Ophir Mining District (Utah). Recorder. Mining records. Utah State Archives (Series 24165).

Revised Statutes of Utah Annotated, 1933, 55-1-7. Utah State Archives (series 83238).

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.