Agency History #3193


Mining prospectors in Skull Valley met at William Orr's ranch on 18 November 1895 to organize a new mining district. The new Mercur District encompassed all of Skull Valley in Tooele County, but did not include Mercur, the thriving mining community of the same name. Gold mining and prospecting flourished in the Tooele County area during the decade of the 1890s. The development of the cyanide process and the construction of a cyanide mill greatly enhanced the profitability of gold mining during this period, and prompted the organization of several new mining districts. These districts were organized according to federal law which states that mineral deposits in the public domain are free and open to exploration, and locators of the same have exclusive right of possession (Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations, of the United States of America, vol. 17, 1872, chap. 152). 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).


In accordance with federal guidelines, mining districts adopted by-laws to regulate mining activity within the district, and claim holders elected district recorders to keep records. Mercur by-laws emphasized that claims should be well marked with posts or stone monuments, and with a notice of location prominently posted at the point of discovery. Prospectors were required to file the same notice of location with the district recorder, and to commence work on the claim within four months after filing. Work was to continue until $100 worth of labor had been completed. A sworn certificate validating that this work had been completed was to be filed with the district recorder at the end of each year.


At the organizational meeting the claim holders in the Mercur District elected John R. Middlemiss district recorder and specified that recorders should serve two year terms. District by-laws outlined that his responsibilities included keeping minutes of all meetings, a copy of the by-laws, and a record of all claims, transfers, protests, and certificates of work done. He was commissioned to provide copies of documents to the persons involved or to their attorneys. Before Mr. Middlemiss's term was up, the Utah Legislature transferred responsibility for keeping mining records to county recorders.


Immediately upon being elected, John Middlemiss appointed William Orr to be deputy recorder and asked him to take charge of the books and the office which was located at Mr. Orr's ranch in Skull Valley. Apparently, Orr and Middlemiss kept concurrent records which are volume 1 and volume 2, respectively. In 1897, when the Utah Legislature enacted a mining law transferring responsibility for keeping mining records to county recorders, (Laws of Utah, 1897, chapter 36) these books were transferred to the office of the Tooele County recorder.

John R. Middlemiss 1895-1897

COMPILED BY: Rosemary Cundiff , February 2003


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

Mercur Mining District (Utah). Recorder. Mining records. Utah State Archives (Series 24849).

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.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.