The Daily Herald from Provo, Utah on February 24, 1974 · Page 132
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The Daily Herald from Provo, Utah · Page 132

Provo, Utah
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 24, 1974
Page 132
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Page 8C-THE HERALD, Provo, Utah, Sunday, February 24,1974 Ironton: Story of UtahValley's EntryIntoSteel-Making fl | s |! i i THIS WAS IRONTON during its heyday. Both the original No. 1 blast furnace (center) and the one later moved here from Joliet, III. and rebuilt (left) are visible. Ironton was important In Utah Valley's economy for about four decades, providing Jobs and payrolls for the people here. It also served as a pilot project for the valley in steel-making and operated for many years after Geneva Works was built in the 1940s. In recent years U.S. Steel donated the site to BYU for ultimate development of an industrial park. HISTORIC DAY AT IRONTON - This year marks the 51st anniversary of the historic occasion in 1923, pictured here, when the iron and steel industry of Utah Valley was born. This picture of ground breaking ceremonies for the Ironton Plant, shows the citizens from Utah County communities who gathered between Provo and Springville for this historic event signalling the start of what eventually was to become the valley's biggest industry. The Ironton Plant operated for about four decades and its buildings have been removed in recent years. Plant Was Vital Cornerstone In Economy for Four Decades By JOSEPHINE ZIMMERMAN Utah Valley's entry into the steel-making industry came about through the fortuitous combination of abundant raw materials, men with foresight and optimism, and the right timing for financing. An account written in 1951 by L.F. Rains who, undoubtedly, could be called the father of the Columbia Steel Company's Ironton plant, relates how he came to Utah in 1910 and invested in coal mining property, which he developed over the next few years, In 1919 he was contacted by partners in the newly-organized Utah Coal and Coke Co. which had signed a contract on 3120 acres of coal coking lands near Sunnyside in Carbon County/ Worried that they might forfeit the payments they had paid ($50,000 per year), and lose the property, they 'asked Mr. Rains take over and put the property to ' work, Major Hurdle , Mr. Rains realized there was insufficient demand for the coal locally, but there might be a market if it were made into coke. Another major problem was the need to construct 11 miles of railroad to the mining property "through very difficult and mountainous country" at an estimated cost of $1,500,000. Another $1,500,000 was estimated to be the cost of building a townsite, securing necessary water rights, and properly equip the mining property, Despite these disadvantages, Rains took, over the task of leading the projects. One of his partners tried for eight or nine months, without success, to raise the necessary financing. .. Rains' solution to the problem of developing the coal mines was to turn it into coke and make pig iron. He took an option on the Utah Coal and Coke Company's properties and on iron ore properties; then purchased townsite lands at both locations, secured water rights, and negotiated the many other details involved in building an iron industry from the ground up. Site Secured The Ironton site was secured through the efforts of T.F. Pierpont, owner of th Provo Foundry and Machine Co. of Provo, assisted by Ed Hinckley, secretary of the Provo Chamber of Commerce, and the people of Provo and Springville, who organized, the holding company which provided land and water rights for the new plant. The site at Ironton was chosen because it was the point at which the two railroad lines qonverged. The D&RGW railroad hauled the coal from Carbon County, and the Union Pacific railroad hauled the iron ore, from Cedar City. Ironton was the nearest point of assembly of the raw materials to the high population areas and markets on the Pacific Coast. Turned down by eastern financiers on the project, Rains went to Sim Francisco,, arid there interested officials of Columbia Ste^l Company in the. plant, and they agreed to join the venture. In his njiejiwiri RuN recalled that he} ; was hODgretj at a luncheon it . the Pacific > Union Club in l«3f , where many of the original directors and large • toastmaster iJUW'j 'F^tm,v^ i! 1 s L i Rains had ye^rwith could n$ have risked the venture because the federal tax situation would have mate gamble not worthwhile. Freight Rates The new company was incorporated in November, 1922, and construction got underway. Favorable freight rates provided by the railroads made the new plant a profitable producer of pig iron for the foundaries and open hearths at Pittsburg,- Calif., where steel, rod, wire, nails, and sheet metals were manufactured. The Ironton plant began making pig iron on May 1, 1024, according to Mr. Rains, who wrote that "Columbia was most fortunate in having all operations managed by men who were deeply interested and determined to make the company a success." 'Che of'those men, '• "Albert E. Terry, well-known Provoan, recalls that he was teaching , school and serving as a school principal in Milford when, at his- fiance's urging, he decided to Change occupations. He applied for work at the new plant, was hired by W.R. Phibbs, the first superintendent, and helped charge the first oven. Mr. Terry, who rose to become head of the coke plant at Ironton before transfering. to the same position and eventually to the general superintendency of Geneva, said the raw materials, .included good quality iron ore, a .plentiful supply of coal which was of only "passing quality" as coking coal, and lime rock available locally. Coking Problem Mr. Terry helped solve the problem of the poor coking coal, which contained too large a percentage of volatile materials, by drawing off the materials and recovering by-products, some of which were sold and some used locally. The by-products included gas, light oil, ammonium sulphate, tar, and quantities of benzol, toluol, and solvent. The tar was piped to Republic Creosote Co., now Riely Tar and Chemical Co. nearby, and tank cars of the other products left the plant for markets outside the state. Mr. Terry says he used some of the chemicals to manufacture paint at the plant for many years. Pea coke was sold for domestic use and to the smelters, and for many years th plant supplied gas to Provo City. The plant nearly closed during the depression years of 1931 and 1932, Mr, Terry declared, and he recalled that they worked long hours to keep it going. Long after Geneva was constructed, Ironton was still producing pig iron at a lower cost, until "eventually 'the antique equipment caught up with us," Mr. Terry says. Substantial Payroll When the plant opened, about 300 men were employed, and at the peak of production there were 450 employes. The earliest production was around 350 tons t&r day, but careful management and the dedication of the close-knit team of men wfio operated it brought the production up to 550 tons, and finally to a high of 674 tons in 1949. During World War II the Defense Plant Corp. shipped a Wast furnace from Joliet, III. to Utah to helpincrease the pig iron available to the West. This furnace was assembled at Irontoi) and was put into* operation ui June, 1943, but it proved to, be impractical, obsolete, and virtually impossible to operate continuously. It was idled in July, 1944. Kaiser Role In December, 1947, the Kaiser-Frazer Parts, Division of the Kaiser-Frazer Corp, • purchased the blast furnace from the government, along with 500 beehive coke ovens in Sunnyside. Pig iron was produced for approximately one year, when a shortage of Western markets forced another closure. In 1952 the entire plant became part of the Columbia-Geneva Division of U.S. Steel. After closure of the Ironton operation, the plant, lay idle for a number of years, although the raw materials division of Geneva used part of the office and warehouse space. Dismantling Project About four years ago the property was deeded to Brigham Young University, and the university let bids for its dismantling. After the removal of the steel-making facilities, the IDS Church did extensive studies concerning possible establishment of an industrial pack on the site, but later announced the cost would be unfeasible. Its prospects for industrial development are still being studied with a view to developing it on a smaller scale. Permanent discontinuation of ,the plant was announced by U.S. Steel on May 31,1966, although it had been inactive after closure of the No. 1 blast furnace in Feb. 1962. The importance of Ironton in" the development of Utah's iron and steel industry cannot be over-emphasized. It served as a pilot plant for World War II expansion in the use of Utah's borderline coking coals. Experience gained at Ironton was of incalculable worth to those who built and managed the Geneva Works of U.S. Steel. Story of Wood Set Forth In New Booklet Want to learn about wood in one easy lesson? About how it conserves energy and fuel, its environmental advantages, where it comes from, how much the U.S. now has, and how a lot more wood can be grown? You can — in a new booklet entitled, "Wood — The Renewable Resource," The colorful, highly, informative and easy-to-read booklet is issued by the National Forest Products Association. It explains that the timber supply shortages that have plagued the country during recent home building booms are artificial and avoidable, and that there are dozens of good reasons why the U.S. should not run out of wood. The booklet contains a positive message — that the U.S. can greatly increase tree growth and meet its future wood needs if forest management is intensified in all of the nation's commercial forests—public and private. It points out that fully a third of the U.S. land area - some 754 million acres — are covered by forest land, with 500 million of these acres .classified as .commercwl timberlands. Single copies of the booklet are available free from the National Forest Products Association, 1619 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036. • * ,<• »«*; 924 That was the year one could board a train in Los Angeles and "fly" to New York in just 48 hours! Holy cow! People flocked to see film idols Clara Bow, Ben Turpin, • Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, dressed in their very fashionable cloche hats, oxford bags, and open galoshes ... Or to flop into their keen $38.50 easy chair to listen to Amos 'n Andy, Paul Whiteman, or play the new broadway hit, "Rhapsody in Blue,"-on their 43.50 phonograph. That was also the year Chipman's celebrated their 52nd Anniversary, If we sound a bit nostalgic that's good, because thats what we're dedicating ourselves to. We're proud of our American heritage and pioneer past (Chipman's has been around for 102 years of it) .and are incorporating, a new image to honor the old. We are involved in an unique remodeling project that will bring a little nostalgia into your life to. Chipmans believes you will appreciate shopping for the latest spiffy apparal a,nd furnishings in an atmosphere far removed from todays celophane and computer world. Come in and relive the past. Whoopee - Huba, Huba! ^ i , Main at Center, American Fork

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