Piedmont central to Uinta Countyâ€™s historyWritten by Jennifer Womack
At the edge of the ghost town are three beehive-shaped kilns and a fourth that has caved in. Visiting with area ranch families, many of their ancestors worked on the kilns during the settlement of southwest Wyoming. The kilns have been designated as a Wyoming State Historical Site.
According to information from the American Heritage Center (AHC) at the University of Wyoming, the kilns produced charcoal for shipment to the mining smelters in Utah. “In 1869,” according to the AHC information, “Mormon pioneer Moses Byrne built the kilns, of which there were originally five at the site.”
AHC says, “The 30-foot tall kilns were filled with wood from the nearby Uinta Mountains and burned at a regulated smolder for many days to produce charcoal. In 1873, together with the approximately 35 other kilns in the surrounding area, charcoal production reached an estimated 100,000 bushels each month. While most of the charcoal made its way to the Salt Lake Valley, some was shipped to Fort Bridger to supply the blacksmith forges and heating stoves.”
The kilns were built near Piedmont to provide access to railway shipment. Piedmont, according to rancher Kelly Guild, is where Union Pacific Vice President Thomas Durrant was stopped in his tracks, literally. En route to the Golden Spike Ceremony in Promontory, Utah railroad workers in Piedmont wouldn’t allow Durrant to travel any further until they received payment for their services. The Golden Spike Ceremony took place two days later than was originally planned, but the workers received their pay.
When Aspen Tunnel was built, shortening the distance from Leroy (located a short distance north and west of Piedmont) to Evanston by 10 miles, Piedmont began to fade. At one time, Kelly says the community had a roundhouse. But the tunnel, completed Oct. 2, 1902 and at the time thought to be one of the greater achievements along the rail, brought Piedmont to an end.
Visitors can travel to the kilns via a county road that runs along the grade of the old Union Pacific Railroad.