In memoriam: the wild past of old Park City remembered
Rachel Beulah Urban, known to her neighbors as "Mother Urban," became an owner of a popular brothel on Heber Avenue in Park City. Yet, at her death in 1933, she was honored with one of the most impressive funerals in Park City history, according to Gary Kimball, author of "Death and Dying in Old Park City."
After losing her battle with stomach cancer, Kimball uncovered records that show the final price tag of her funeral amounted to $515 an amount equal to thousands of dollars today.
In his book, Kimball writes that he hopes to tell "the stories of the forgotten ones: the people who were buried in the cemetery in Park City who, for a variety of reasons, were soon forgotten after burial They came from all walks of life, social status and nationalities."
Kimball’s diligent research and Park City Historical Society and Museum archives hold a wealth of tales about the lives of the Parkites buried at Park City and Glenwood cemeteries.
Some died in mining accidents or from miners consumption, and others over arguments about a $3 debt that ended in bloodshed. Many traveled from Austria, Finland and Croatia to Utah to become prospectors or build railroads.
For Memorial Day Weekend, the Park City Historical Society and Museum welcomes the community to remember the colorful lives of past Parkites by decorating their graves.
"Memorial Day is traditionally about honoring members of your family, but if your family is buried in another state, this can be a way for you to celebrate your new community," suggests Sandra Morrison, the executive director of the museum. "We’re hoping this new program helps to connect Park City locals with their community history that’s just so interesting and so diverse."
Mother Urban, for instance, might capture the imagination because of her dual persona. According to Morrison, while Urban was the town madam, she was also philanthropic, helping many of the struggling families of the community during the depression. "She was very giving," Morrison says.
Then there’s the trial of Patrick Coghlin, a man who was executed by a firing squad after stealing a bushel of berries.
"Coghlin and two friends decided to steal strawberries from an abandoned wagon to give to some of Urban’s ladies in the red light district," Morrison explains. "It led to a chase across Summit County that ended in a standoff in Echo."
During the standoff, Echo constable Thomas Stag was killed, says Morrison. When Coghlin and a friend attempted to escape across the Nevada border, they were caught and returned to Park City, then sentenced to death.
Dong Ling Hing Grover, one of Park City’s most successful businessmen is also buried in Park City Cemetery. Born in China, Grover accumulated real estate and became a property manager. Morrison surmises that he adopted "Grover" as a last name to assimilate into American culture. Grover Cleveland would have been president during his lifetime.
According to Morrison, "Old Grover" died in 1926 at a time most Chinese were not permitted burial in town cemeteries. He left behind a wealth of property to his son, Joseph, who came to Utah from China after his mother died, she says. (The "Oriental Exclusion" a law prohibiting any Chinese from bringing a wife to the United States was passed in 1882 and not repealed until 1943, Morrison notes.)
Joseph left sometime after the Great Depression, when property values fell, and many tenants could no longer afford rent. Morrison says he went to Colorado, to mine.
"You read a news article and formal reports about things that happened, and then you read between the lines and discover the emotions behind the stories," Morrison reflects. "It adds to your understanding of history."
The museum invites the public to peruse the profiles and choose a grave at either of the town’s cemeteries.
Directions to grave sites and files will be available this week at the Park City Historical Society and Museum at 528 Main Street. Summer hours are in effect: Mondays through Fridays the museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from noon to 6 p.m. For more information, visit the museum’s Web site at http://www.parkcityhistory.org or call 649-7457.
A critic of a Park City workforce or otherwise affordable housing project in Old Town said he is considering an appeal of the Park City Planning Commission’s approval of the development.