Evan George Black (1909-1990)

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Chapter 1

Evan’s Birth

Evan George Black

At dusk, the high-mountain prairie often sings a familiar wildlife tune. The air crackles with short high-pitched screeches and longer rising and falling notes as coyotes thrust their snouts skyward in a centuries-old ritual that echoes throughout the valleys. A single, high-note howl calls the pack together. Once assembled, the congregants join a veritable canine choir, as higher and higher bays, punctuated with yips, yelps, yi-yis, and barks, celebrate the communal joy of prairie wolf camaraderie.

Well within the audible reverberations of these socially-adept creatures, bounded by two mountain ranges in an alpine valley about six thousand feet above sea level in south-central Utah, between the Escalante Mountains to the east and Sevier Plateau on the west, a narrow patch of verdant grassland, only about a mile wide at its most ample expanse, breaks the monotony of an otherwise desolate and arid landscape. Local humans, who even today are outnumbered by the region’s other mammals, identify that specific spot of sod as the town of Antimony.

Similar splashes of emerald meadow appear intermittently along a corridor that extends from Antimony in the south to Burrville in the north. Two major watercourses accompany and feed the recurrent green ribbons of life as they meander along the valley floor. Otter Creek surges down from the north in a southeasterly flow. From the south, the east fork of the Sevier River, supplemented with water from Antimony Creek, meanders in a northeasterly direction. The Sevier and Otter Creek, two aquatic snakes, writhe toward each other until they strike just north of Antimony. There, the Sevier swallows Otter Creek, its newly distended belly cutting a wider path as it wiggles westward in oblivious disregard of Otter Creek’s death.

Early white explorers, who sometimes named newly-discovered districts in recognition of landmarks or unique local characteristics, appreciated the dramatic contrast between bleak desert and verdurous turf as they entered Burrville. They appropriately named the chartreuse carpet “Grass Valley,”[1] a name eventually applied to much of the corridor, and more particularly used to identify the greater Antimony area.[2]

These same early explorers, on a peace-keeping mission to the Fish Lake Indians, continued south along Otter Creek and then stopped for the night about four miles south of the present location of a reservoir named after the creek. While they camped, a mother coyote and her brood of three young pups played in the nearby flats. Not content to permit nature’s creations to enjoy an evening of undisturbed recreation, the Caucasian adventurers concocted their own perverse sport at the expense of the canine family. In their own words, they later confessed:

“We were just going to camp for the night, when we saw an old coyote with three young ones. We gave chase and caught the little ones, cut their ears and tails off short, tied a paper collar around one’s neck and turned them loose.” [3]

In honor of their ignoble feat, the brave conquistadors of wild puppies bestowed a name, Coyote (sometimes misspelled Coyoto), on a future settlement at the site—a settlement that nearly fifty years later, in 1921, would change its name to Antimony.[4] Coyote began its white existence not long after these first explorers reported their find, when a handful of ranchers and outlaws moved there during the early 1870s.

In May 1877, the grandparents of Evan George Black (1909-1990) joined other settlers in establishing a town west of Coyote at nearby Circleville. There and in Kingston, they participated in the Kingston United Order—a communal Mormon living experiment common to many Utah settlements of the period.[5] Thomas Rice King (1813-1879), Evan’s great grandfather, initially led the Kingston Order.[6] In Kingston, Evan’s father, George King Black (1879-1944) was born.[7]

Evan’s grandfather, George Black, Jr. (1854-1940), who worked as a cattle rancher for most of his life, was given partial responsibility for the United Order herds in Coyote, and he and his wife, Esther Clarinda King (1858-1923), settled there with their young family not long after joining the Order.[8]

Evan’s father, George King Black, reached maturity in and around the town. After serving an LDS mission to California, he married Manti, Utah native, Sarah Lucile Snow (1882-1955), usually called Lucile, on 7 September 1904. The couple chose Coyote as their first residence.[9]

Nine months later George and Lucile welcomed a child, Joseph King Black, into their lives, followed by twin boys Elliot and Elmer in 1907. Then on a late-winter day in 1909 another set of twins, this time a boy and a girl, breathed and cried for the first time in the Black home. George and Lucile named this new pair Eva and Evin. Eva was born at 6:00 p.m. on 15 March, and her brother Evin was born half an hour later.[10] Evin and his sister were tiny newborns, and Evin’s bed during the first month of his life was a shoebox padded with cotton, which his parents placed close to the open oven door.[11]

As he matured, Evin would begin spelling his name “Evan,” which he preferred over his mother’s spelling—although church records for many years continued to use “Evin,” the spelling also listed on his birth certificate.

During the year of Evan’s birth, the family moved from a log house on the west side of Main Street to a similar home on the Coyote bench, near the entrance to Black Canyon at the southern end of town.[12] The canyon took its name from its notable black lava rock and not from any association with the Black family.[13] Today, the likely location of the Black’s residence would probably be along a street named Bench Road leading into Antimony Canyon. That road intersects Black Canyon Road at the south end of Antimony.

Coyote in 1909 was a ranching and mining community. Sheep and cattle ranching became predominant during the town’s early settlement because of the nearby grasslands. Farming was attempted, but met with limited success, as many crops could not survive the high altitude, which usually allowed only short, cold summers.

Mining found a foothold in town after 1880, when prospectors found deposits of Antimony ore in Coyote Canyon. Several mining companies began extracting the valuable mineral shortly after its discovery. However, the price of Alimony—a metal initially used most commonly as an alloy to harden lead for ammunition—fluctuated wildly, depending on demand. Thus, mining in the town was sporadic and variably intense.

The first mining operations in Coyote lasted only three years until they shut down in 1883 due to declining prices.[14] Then in about 1905, Antimony prices rose again. By November 1906 at least three companies were making preparations to build structures and reopen mines in Coyote Canyon—a crack in the mountains carved by Coyote Creek.[15]

Less than three months after the 1906 initial preparations, Utah Antimony Mining Company had built two miles of road, an office building, a boarding house, a bunk house, a shop, and a stable. The company had plans to improve Coyote with electric lights, telephone lines, and a water system. They contemplated employing fifty or sixty men and numerous teams to freight the ore to Marysvale. The enthusiastic company president and general manager of the project, Thompson Campbell, confidently proclaimed, “We expect to beat all records from any source in this country in the shipment of . . . metal before the close of the year.”[16]

By the close of the year, though, Campbell’s confidence must have waned, and the company curtailed its ambitious development and employment plans. Concurrent with the commencement of new mining operations and ore extraction, the price of Antimony once again began to fall—gobbling up most of the profits that had motivated the venture. Despite the setback, an operational mine continued to limp along, extracting ore in the canyon until 1917.[17]

Mormonism was the predominant religion in town, and in the year before Evan’s birth, George Black, Jr., Evan’s grandfather, became bishop of the Marion Ward—the unit of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to which all the Mormon residents of Coyote belonged.[18] At that time, the Marion Ward met in a thirteen-year-old frame structure built by Jim Passey and Orange Warner. They occupied it for Sunday services, and it doubled as a recreation hall for social events. An elevated platform at one end of the building served as a stage for theatrical productions and operated as the pulpit area during worship services. Two pot-bellied stoves, one at each end of the structure’s one large room, provided heat. Acetylene-gas lights, hanging from the ceiling, were the only means of illumination during evening activities. Seating consisted of portable wooden benches that faced the stage for plays and church services; they were moved to line the walls for dances. A bell atop the structure announced the start of church and community events.[19]

It was to this simple building that Evan’s family recurred for most of their religious and social interaction. Moreover, it was presumably in this structure that Evan’s father took Evan and Eva in his arms when the infants were only eight days old, on 23 March 1909, and named them and blessed them as the newest members of the church and community.[20]

The family did not stay long in Coyote after Evan was born, but their short initial stay in the town would not be their last, as they were destined to return on multiple occasions in subsequent years. In 1910, Evan’s father homesteaded a cattle ranch in Kingston Canyon, and when Evan was age two the family moved there.

In Kingston, the family owned a large St. Bernard dog named Stump, which weighed an estimated two hundred pounds. During one of the family’s two Christmases in Kingston, the children received a wagon and a harness for Stump. Brother Elliot described what followed:

“Dad would put Stump into the harness and hook him onto the wagon. Then Dad would lead Stump around and pull us all around. We had lots of fun with old Stump. He was a very tame dog. Two or three kids could get on his back at once and he would act like a horse. He was a very wonderful animal to have around.”[21]

 Toddler Evan must have enjoyed his turn riding and playing with Stump, but those fun times with the dog were not destined to last. One day Stump disappeared and could not be found. During subsequent days as they searched, seemingly in vain, for their pet, George and two of his sons, Elmer and Elliot, mistakenly drove down a wrong road and saw Stump lying on his side, obviously sick or injured. The two boys jumped from the wagon to embrace their lost playmate and friend; but before they could do so, their father stopped them. Rabies was prevalent among the dogs of the area, and George suspected that Stump was infected. Rather than taking the dog home, George shot the unfortunate animal—undoubtedly upsetting all of the children and providing them with an early lesson in the occasional traumas that life inflicts.[22]

As the older boys became school age, their parents recognized that Kingston was no longer a suitable home. The closest school was in Coyote, and if the children were to obtain an acceptable education they needed the benefit of formal training. Their father, who had attended Brigham Young Academy in Provo[23] before serving his mission, was assuredly in favor of moving his children close to a schoolhouse. After only two years in Kingston, the family moved back to Coyote, which had a small log cabin for student classes. But, as Elliot later noted, the primitive Coyote school was not sufficient for George and Lucille’s children. As soon the academic year ended in 1914 the family and five-year-old Evan moved to Lucile’s hometown, Manti, Utah, where they would live for the next four years, and where Evan would begin his formal education.[24]

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[1] M. Lane Warner, Grass Valley 1873-1976: A Story of Antimony and her People (Salt Lake City, Utah: American Press, 1976), 1. M. Lane Warner, Antimony, Utah: Its History and Its People 1873-2004 (USA: M. Lane Warner, 2nd ed. 2004), 228. One of the explorers described the view they encountered on the afternoon of 12 June 1873 as they camped at present-day Burrville: “Here we noticed the prettiest natural meadows that I ever saw, and there was bunch-grass all over the hills. Hence we named the place Grass Valley.” Peter Gottfredson, History of Indian Depredations in Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah: Skelton Publishing Co., 1919), 326.  Technically, it appears that the explorers were describing the area immediately south of Burrville, which is the northern portion of the valley; but the entire corridor between the mountains was commonly referred to by later settlers as Grass Valley.

[2] See, e.g., Letter from George Black, Jr. to his daughter Esther dated 18 November 1930, transcript reproduced in Elliot R. Black, Elliot R. Black with Excerpts from Family History (No place: No publisher, no date).

[3] Peter Gottfredson, History of Indian Depredations in Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah: Skelton Publishing Co., 1919), 329. See also John W. Van Cott, Utah Place Names: A Comprehensive Guide to the Origins of Geographic Names: A Compilation (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1990), 11, 163.

[4] CITE TO NAME CHANGE AND FACT THAT COYOTE NAMED FOR EVENT

[5] Letter from George Black, Jr. to his daughter Esther dated 18 November 1930, transcript reproduced in Elliot R. Black, Elliot R. Black with Excerpts from Family History (No place: No publisher, no date).

[6] M. Lane Warner, Antimony, Utah: Its History and Its People 1873-2004 (USA: M. Lane Warner, 2nd ed. 2004), 10. Evan George Black’s grandparents were George Black, Jr. (1854-1940) and Esther Clarinda King (1858-1923). EXPLANATION OF UNITED ORDER AND CITATIONS

[7] Evan Marion Croft and Grace Hildy Croft, The Quest for Peace: History and Genealogy of the Barron, Bates, Beaumont, Black, Conk, Cooper, Cornog, Critz, Croft-Kraft, Davies, Delaplaine, DuBree, Felshaw, Goaslind, Griffith, Jacaway, Jones, Leffel, Miller, Robinson, Satterthwaite, Trimble, and Allied Families (Provo, Utah: No Publisher, 1964), 275. OTHER PRIMARY SOURCES FOR GEORGE KING BLACK’S BIRTH.

[8] M. Lane Warner, Grass Valley 1873-1976: A Story of Antimony and her People (Salt Lake City, Utah: American Press, 1976), 95. Letter from George Black, Jr. to his daughter Esther dated 18 November 1930, transcript reproduced in Elliot R. Black, Elliot R. Black with Excerpts from Family History (No place: No publisher, no date).

[9] Virginia C. Keeler, Cheney Garrett Van Buren and his Family: A Presentation of their Lives and Times as Seen Through the Eyes and the Heart of One Great-Granddaughter, Virginia Christensen Keeler (Provo, Utah: J. Grant Stevenson, 1962), 292-293.

[10] “Evin George Black,” Birth Certificate, State Board of Health File No. 32 & 33 (March 15, 1909), Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records & Statistics, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[11] History by Glenda Joyce Memmott Black

[12] Elliot R. Black, Elliot R. Black with Excerpts from Family History (No place: No publisher, no date), section vii, 11.

[13] John W. Van Cott, Utah Place Names (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1997), 36.

[14] M. Lane Warner, Antimony, Utah: Its History and Its People 1873-2004 (USA: M. Lane Warner, 2nd ed. 2004), 21.

[15] “In the Mining Region of Sevier,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 13 November 1906, page 8 column 4. Coyote Canyon later became Antimony Canyon, and Coyote Creek is now named Antimony Creek.

[16] “Manager Outlines Progressive Plans,” The Salt Lake Tribune,2 February 1907, page 7 column 2.

[17] M. Lane Warner, Antimony, Utah: Its History and Its People 1873-2004 (USA: M. Lane Warner, 2nd ed. 2004), 37.

[18] CITE TO SOURCE – OR ANTIMONY BOOK PAGE 39

[19] M. Lane Warner, Antimony, Utah: Its History and Its People 1873-2004 (USA: M. Lane Warner, 2nd ed. 2004), 34. Also called carbide lamps, acetylene gas was generated by dripping water from an upper chamber onto a lower chamber filled with solid calcium carbide. The resulting chemical interaction produced acetylene gas that generated light as it burned. See The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, Eleventh Edition, Volume 1: A to Androphagi (New York: the Encyclopaedia Britannica Company, 1910), 137-139.

[20] Ogden 20th Ward, “Record of Members, Form E 1927-1948,” FHL microfilm 26,242, membership card 2588 for “Black, Evan.” See D&C 20:70 for the LDS scriptural basis for giving baby blessings. Some doubt about the forum of the baby blessings is revealed by the fact that 23 March 1909 was a Tuesday. While modern LDS church practice is for baby blessings to occur on Sundays during Sacrament Meeting, the Tuesday blessing raises questions about whether a Sunday blessing practice did not exist in the early 1900s or whether Evan’s parents deviated from the norm for these blessings.

[21] Elliot R. Black, Elliot R. Black with Excerpts from Family History (No place: No publisher, no date), section vii (Life Story of Elliot R. Black), section vi (Elliot R. Black), p. 13.

[22] Elliot R. Black, Elliot R. Black with Excerpts from Family History (No place: No publisher, no date), section vii (Life Story of Elliot R. Black), section vi (Elliot R. Black), p. 14.

[23] Cite to source for George King Black’s education at BYA.

[24] Elliot R. Black, Elliot R. Black with Excerpts from Family History (No place: No publisher, no date), section vii (Life Story of Elliot R. Black), pp. 11,15; section viii (The Life of George King Black), p. 4.

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