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History of Soldier Hollow

Jami Balls

Soldier Hollow at Wasatch Mountain State Park is a scenic recreational area in Heber Valley. Prior to the 1850s the Timpanogos Utes, who lived around Utah Lake, used Heber Valley as an important summer hunting ground. The first non-American Indians to visit the area were members of the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition in 1776. About fifty years later, trappers entered this back valley of the Wasatch Mountains to trap beaver. The first permanent settlers came from Utah Valley in 1859, establishing their settlement just north of present-day Heber City. Later that year, Midway and Charleston were also settled. The area is often called "Utah's Switzerland" because of the majestic beauty of Mount Timpanogas to the west, its climate, and a large population of Swiss that settled in Midway. In the 1870s and 1880s separate worship services were held for English-speaking and German-speaking Swiss townspeople.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Heber Valley experienced steady growth and became an important shipping terminal for wool and sheep. In 1922 the Union Pacific Railroad constructed a spur from mines in Park City to Heber Valley to ship lead, zinc, and silver ore. Also during this time, a group of Midway dairy farmers formed the People's Co-operative Creamery. Heber Valley is well endowed with water, but due to its very cold winters and short cool summers is not a highly productive agricultural region. However, livestock thrived in the area. The dairy industry proved to be extremely lucrative until the 1950s when the area turned its attention towards tourism.

With its highest peak rising to 10,000 feet and over half the land 7,500 feet above sea level, the climate and land impart multiple uses. In December 2000, an award-winning lodge surrounded by 16 miles of trails opened in an area of Heber Valley known as Soldier Hollow. It is speculated that this name comes from Captain James H. Simpson and his company of road surveyors and other soldiers who camped in the area in 1849. From 1858-1861, over 7,000 U.S. Army personnel and associated civilians occupied Camp Floyd, south of Heber Valley. They were ordered to contain what Federal officials perceived as uprisings against the Federal government by Mormons. Accordingly, they ordered Captain Simpson to locate a better and perhaps shorter route between Camp Floyd and Fort Bridger, Wyoming. His company camped at Torbet's Creek in Heber Valley and it is more than likely that Soldier Hollow is named after the soldiers of Captain Simpson's expedition.

Soldier Hollow will host eighteen Olympic events and competition will be held over approximately sixteen days. Along with its extensive trail system, the venue also has a beautiful lodge constructed out of salvaged wood from the Lucin Cutoff Trestle. The Lodge contains floor-to-ceiling glass windows that provide spacious views of the Wasatch Mountains and cross-country trail system. Soldier Hollow also boasts a high-tech competition center situated at the finish line of the events. The Competition Center is the hub for timing, competition, scheduling, video and sound production, and scoreboard operation. Sure to be the busiest of the Olympic venues, Soldier Hollow will be host to six biathlons, 10 cross-country skiing events, and two skiing portions of the Nordic combined.

Sources: Jessie L. Embry, The History of Wasatch County; (no author given) "Wasatch County" Beehive History 14; Becky Bartholomew, "John Watkins and Midway's Architecture" History Blazer September 1996.