On the eastern slopes of the Wah Wah Valley in Beaver County, if you know where to look, you’ll discover the decaying foundations of a number of buildings. A little more than 100 years ago an interesting experiment in mining towns was attempted here. That’s a tale we’ll relate at a later time, but at this point our attention is on the man who attempted the experiment – and many others in the late 1890s.
His name was Samuel Newhouse – a name familiar to most residents of Utah during 1890 to 1915. Newhouse was born in New York City, of European Jewish immigrant parents. He was a gifted young man and studied and practiced law in Pennsylvania for a number of years. Still, he also watched the movement of American dynamics toward the western states and territories. With no particular ties to the eastern United States he moved to Colorado in 1879. He settled in the most dynamic place he could find – Leadville. Newhouse believed that mining was not his forte, and he also knew, at least initially, that there was money to be made in commerce not the digging for tickled ore bodies. He went into the freighting business
In 1883, he married Ida Stingly, whose mother ran a local boarding house. She was 16 at the time – not an unusual age for a girl to marry in those days. While they ran a hotel in Leadville, Samuel couldn’t refrain from getting the mining bug. He acquired properties in Ouray, Colorado and later sold these for several million dollars. This allowed him to move Ida to Denver where he became a speculator and promoter. This provided him with wealthy contacts back east and in Europe. They would come in handy in later years.
Samuel and Ida moved to Utah in 1896 and with a partner, Thomas Weir, he secured interest in the fledgling copper mining operation at Bingham Canyon. His wealth sky rocketed.
In 1910 he invested approximately $2 million to open a mine, construct a mill, and build a whole new kind of mining town on the western slopes of the San Francisco Mountains in southern Utah. He named the town after himself – Newhouse.
To observers who look back today, the mine, named the Cactus, and the town were little more than a stock scheme to bring investors in the east and in Europe into what appeared to be a sure-fire money-maker touted by a promoter who had never missed. Actually, the Cactus had been worked, on and off, for almost thirty years by other owners. It was listed as a silver mine, but actually produced more copper than silver.
Newhouse coupled his mining adventures at the Cactus and Bingham into a larger empire including the Flatiron Building in New York City, the Newhouse Hotel at 4th South and Main and the Boston building just up the street in Salt Lake City. These two structures were attempts to shift the center of downtown four blocks south from Temple Square. Still, they were the city’s first skyscrapers.
All of this speculation and investment – especially the Cactus Mine and his adjoining town spread his finances too wide and his empire crashed in 1916.