Troy Madsen


Denver, Rio Grande, Western Railroad laborers, Carbon County


When Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad laborers stumbled onto eastern Utah's coal deposits in 1881, they sparked the development of Carbon County's explosive mining communities. Known across the state for their rampant disorder and untamed energy, the volatile coal mining towns of eastern Utah departed dramatically from the ecclesiastical, agrarian societies dotting the rest of Utah's map. Raucous taverns and seamy brothels quickly surfaced along Main Street in Helper. Violent union strikes shook the foundations of the communities' coal companies. Dark clouds of imminent danger hung continually above the portals of the region's somber, murky mines. Deeply rooted ethnic distrust abounded. Yet beneath the pervasive chaos, miners and companies alike hoped for stability, and members of the coal communities eventually found a level of security through the steadying role offered by the camp physician.