BALLY SACKETT’S WATER WAGON

Bally Sackett came to Frisco, Utah in 1880.  He had no intention of joining most of the other men by working in the Horn Silver Mine.  He was a blacksmith by trade so he built a shop on the corner of Horn Silver Avenue and Main Street and went into business.

            Bally’s shop quickly became the center of group discussions around Frisco, and every out-of-work man in town made it a point to stop by Bally’s blacksmith shop and spend whatever time he wanted visiting, lying, bragging, or arguing about events of the day.  Bally didn’t mind, he was usually busy at the forge or banging away at the anvil in the center of the building. 

            Bally Sackett’s shop was in the center of town and Bally also became the central character of the mining camp.  Since there was little question about who was the strongest man in town, Bally became the unofficial bouncer at community gatherings.  At formal town dances at Burke’s Hall for example, upstairs from Pete Lawrence’s Saloon, Bally could be seen near the door helping highly inebriated miners and other citizens, back down the stairs, and into the alley behind the building never to return. 

            T.N. Sackett was his formal name, but because of his lack of hair on his pate he took on the name “Bally” and seemed not to be insulted in any way when townspeople called him that.  By nature this village blacksmith was rather retiring and seldom spoke harshly or loudly to anybody.

            This was not true early every morning when he and his brother Frank would hitch up two mules to a small wagon on which a large tank was mounted, and drive to the train station south of town.  There they would fill their unit with water brought by a tank car from Black Rock north of Milford along the Southern Extension railroad line.  The springs near Black Rock supplied clear, cold, lava-rock filtered water to the mining camp. 

Frisco, like most mining towns of the west, had no drinkable water of its own.  There were wells there, all right, but the water they yielded was heavy with minerals and undrinkable by humans. It was common for townfolks to warn freight wagon drivers to keep their horses and oxen away from the water troughs when they arrived in town. After a long drive from the mining towns of eastern Nevada to the railhead in Frisco, the teams were usually extra thirsty. Many a draft horse had been found dead in the middle of Main Street after consuming a large amount of the well water. 

But the town was built near these wells because the mills and smelters serving the Horn Silver, Carbonate and other mines, needed large supplies of water, and these operations didn’t care how bad they tasted as long as they were wet and handy.

           But, when the “Southern Extension” rail lines reached Frisco in 1882, the local mills and smelters closed shop. The ore was shipped north to the Franklin Smelter in Salt Lake Valley, where the ore was milled and smelted. When the ore trains left Frisco, they would add the water tank car and take it to Black Rock for its weekly filling of potable water. The car would be pulled onto the siding rails, filled with water, then returned to Frisco on the next empty ore train back from Franklin.

            And, Bally and Frank Sackett would drive the tank wagon around town every morning calling “WAH-ter, WAH-ter!”  Then the women of the town would come out of their homes with a bucket, a pail, or large bowl and Bally would provide potable water for the day – at 5 cents for two gallons. 

Frank Sackett and the Frisco Water Wagon. The kilns are on the hill behind with the chimney of the old Frisco Smelter.

It’s little wonder that the women would place barrels under rain gutters when the summer “monsoons” gathered over the desert, or welcome a heavy snow storm in the winter.  Even with these resources, all the family would face a bath in a number 10 wash tub every other week, and use the same water for the whole family – rotating baths from the oldest to the youngest. 

            Water was as precious as the silver ore to the people of Frisco, Utah.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s