The Story of Clear Lake, Utah
By Venetta Bond Kelsey
This book tells the story of a little railroad, farming & ranching community situated in the middle of the Black Rock Desert and Pahvant Valley of south central Utah. Clear Lake town was situated south of Delta & Deseret, west of Holden & Fillmore, and north of Milford. It began as a railroad sidetrack in early March of 1880, then soon had some kind of station and was the boarding site for people from the West Desert and Fillmore to get on or off passenger trains. This is where the 2nd Edition comes in. The children of the 2 most prominent families in town after about 1905, the Bonds & Johns, knew nothing of the first 25 years of Clear Lakes’ history. So, using mostly online research methods, namely Newspapers.com, Ancestry.com, Findagrave.com and just googling, and with the help of Judy H. Sorenson (daughter of Nevada John who also grew up in Clear Lake) lots more was found out about the early and most-prominent settlers at Clear Lake. The first were the Crockwells, then Aldraches, but also more was dug up on Timothy B. Sweet, J.C. Gafford and Dan H. Livingston.
The first newcomers or move-ins to the area was a community called Ingersoll. Whoever they were, and we still know very little about them, started an irrigation project on the lower Sevier River, but after a while and after some work was done, they apparently had a dam washout, didn’t have the finances to rebuild, so they quit. Shortly thereafter, a guy named Charles Wells (C.W.) Aldrach arrived (and took over the Ingersoll franchise) and built another, but bigger irrigation project. His outfit was called the Swan Lake Reservoir & Canal Company.
Starting in the summer of 1892, C.W. and associates built the Swan Lake Dam and a couple of big canals. Their field headquarters was at what is today, the Headquarters Well; but their main company headquarters was at Clear Lake on the railway line; this was the beginning of Clear Lake Town. As things progressed, they tried to sell land & water rights to people from the Midwest; mostly Kansas. Their biggest problem, and the biggest thing they were ever critizied for was; they never had quite enough water for the land they were selling. Lots of good land & soil, but not enough water to go around. Then in April, 1903, the older Aldrach couple, C.J. & Maria (C.W.’s parents), died within a week of each other, and are buried at the foot of Pot Mountain; that’s where the big Aldrach Cross is situated today (see front cover foto). Then on November 3, 1904, C.W. Aldrach died; he was the push & energy that created Clear Lake Town. Then on June 15, 1905, his wife Eliza died. They’re both buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Salt Lake City. After that, and the push the Aldraches gave to Clear Lake, the town started a downhill slide. That’s when the Bond & John families started playing a part of Clear Lake’s later history.
Of special interest, the town & surrounding precinct of Clear Lake was at its biggest in the year 1900 with a population of exactly 100 (1900 Census); but the town itself never got bigger than about 70 people. Kinda small, but on page 249, is a list of 10 prominent or well known people who passed through, had a relationship with, or lived at Clear Lake. All those folks made a name for themselves in one way of another–not bad for such a small dinky, dead-end town!
For most of this town’s history, it had one big Ranch, along with one little combined store, hotel & post office. The Clear Lake Store & Hotel was owned by Michael R. Kelsey’s Grandparents, Hyrum & Lovina Bond. Because of financial problems with the Ranch owners, which ended in bankruptcy during the Great Depression, the town died in the mid-1930’s when the State of Utah bought the land & water rights at a Sheriffs sale, which bailed out the banks, but took all the water which had sustained the town, and kept it in the lake to the east–that was Clear Lake. Almost immediately, the Utah Fish & Game Department made the lake & nearby marshlands into a wildlife refuge. The town’s namesake is located east of the townsite. Everybody but a few rairoad worker were gone by the end of 1937. Today, there are only a few foundations, tamaracks, old fences, dry canals & ditches marking the site. The author of the original edition was Venetta Bond Kelsey, who was born and raised in Clear Lake (5/8/1911-11/2/2010). Both editions were edited and published by her son, Michael R. Kelsey.
256 pages, nearly 300 fotos–about half are old B+W prints from back in the day, and about half are newer digital color images (Many of these were taken from an airplane on 2 different flights. The land at Swan Lake is so flat, standing on the ground and taking pictures doesn’t tell the story)