Historic Parley’s Hollow

Historic Parley’s Hollow

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 1980 issue of Pioneer Magazine, prior to the construction of the current headquarters building at 3301 E Louise in Salt Lake City

by Edson Packer, Assistant to Historian

I am standing on the rim of Parley’s Hollow at 3300 East and 2800 South. This is the future site of the headquarters building of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers. I am first conscious of the hum of traffic going it seems in all directions over the earthen fills which cross the Hollow to the East and to the West, blocking from view the natural course of Parley’s Creek or “Big Kanyon Creek” (sic) as the pioneers called it. As one looks at the panoramic scene from this point one is conscious of the results of 133 years of population growth and industrial development.

Just above the freeway fill to the west one sees the Salt Lake Country Club House. To the northwest we see the outlines of some of our taller buildings in downtown Salt Lake City. The Salt Palace, the State Capitol and the L.D.S. Church office building are easily spotted. Big airplanes are overhead, either making their approach or departure from our International Airport west of the city. As we gaze out toward Great Salt Lake we are conscious of the fact that the boundaries of business and industry are ever reaching toward its shores. On the north slopes of the Oquirrh Mountains one sees the gentle rising plume of smoke from the new high rise smokestack of Kennecott’s smelter.

From the time of the landing of the pilgrims, rivers and streams have been the lifeblood of any community: so when the pioneers first became acquainted with Big Kanyon Creek they quickly recognized its potential value. They also recognized the possibility of Big Kanyon providing an easier route to Echo Canyon by way of Silver Creek. and went up through Big Kanyon (Parley’s Canyon) in May 1846 when on their way east from Sutter’s Fort in California, but in August 1846 the Donner Party scouts deemed the mouth of Big Kanyon impassible for their wagon train.

Historic Parley’s Hollow
Parley P. Pratt

In 1847 Parley P. Pratt explored Big Kanyon with the idea of building a road around suicide rock in the mouth of the canyon and on up the canyon to what they called the Dell Fork. In his autobiography, p. 407 for March 18, 1848, we read:

“I devoted the fore part of the summer to farming, but my crop failing, I commenced in July to work a road up the rugged canyon of Big Kanyon Creek. I had the previous year explored the canyon for that purpose, and also a beautiful park and the passes from Salt Lake to the Weber River eastward—in a more southerly and less rugged route than the pioneer’s entrance into the valley.

“I soon so far completed my road as to be able to obtain a large amount of fuel and timber. In November I ceased operations in the canyon and broke up my mountain camp and returned to the city.”

The road that Parley P. Pratt built was a toll road and was also known as the Golden Pass road. Big Kanyon and Big Kanyon Creek became known as Parley’s Canyon and Parley’s Creek and the hollow formed by the creek from the mouth of the canyon to Sugarhouse was called Parley’s Hollow. The road opened up the hollow and the canyon to industry, farming and recreation. At one time as many as 20 families lived in the canyon mostly near the area called the Dell where there was a store, an inn called Roach’s and a schoolhouse.

Later, just east of Suicide Rock, Salt Lake City built a reservoir. Suicide Rock which was a proud landmark in the mouth of the canyon has now suffered the ignominy of becoming a public sign board, bearing at its crown, a message in bright red paint, “I love you Joy.”

Suicide Rock today

As I focus my attention on the hollow between the Wasatch Boulevard and the freeway fill in front of the Country Club, I can see the old dugway road coming down into the hollow from the South at 27th East. It crossed the hollow and over the north rim. One sees the path of the old railroad that went to Park City, first as a narrow gauged track and later standard gauged in 1900 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The railroad was abandoned in 1946. The remains of the old dirt road going up the hollow into the canyon can still be seen.

About in the center of the hollow is a foundation of the old Dudler saloon and inn. It was a stopping place for the travelers going up and down the canyon. It was the site of some rather rowdy times. A story is told that two men traveling in a wagon stopped there and soon a violent argument ensued and the men stormed out of the saloon, jumped on their wagon and started up the team. Part of the harness had come loose and scared the team which ran away tipping over the wagon, killing the two men.

After the saloon was closed down a daughter of Dudler’s still lived in the place. Her name was Luretta but she was called Rett. She was rather tall and slender and generally dressed in dark clothes. It is said that she was an accomplished musician and had a baby grand piano in her small living quarters. She lived alone in the hollow until some boys playing in the hollow set it on fire. She was called crazy Mary by the people who lived in the area.

After one passes the part of the hollow by the west of the Country Club and goes toward Sugarhouse, he comes upon the former sites of varied industrial activity. W.C.A. Smoot, an early resident of the Sugarhouse district, states: “A hum of activity has always surrounded the sugar mill property. Even in the old days the region was known as the Canyon Creek milling center and had probably twenty mills of all descriptions along the stream above and below it.”

The following is a partial list of some of the mills:

  • 1852 Sugar Mill later became the Paper mill;
  • 1854 Match Factory;
  • 1856 Federal Penitentiary built Nail Factory;
  • 1858 Iron Foundry;
  • 1858 The Tannery;
  • 1863 The Woolen and Carding Mill;
  • 1863 The Cotton Mill;
  • 1870 A Glass and Button Factory;
  • 1875 A Chemical and Powder Works;
  • A Grist Mill built by Brigham Young (now in Liberty Park);
  • Lumber Mill where Southeast Furniture now is.
  • The first Cacoonery and Mulberry Farm was on Parley’s Creek.

Most of these enterprises were short lived but nevertheless filled an important need in the pioneer economy. The main problems were the lack of materials and processing technology.

More on Hollow will follow in future issues.

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