Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Crescent Junction, Utah - A Personal History


Ms. Bobbe Wimmer Kidrick at work in Crescent Junction, ca. 1950 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Let's Go Places and Find New Roads to Crescent Junction, Utah

Recently, I received an email message from Ms. Bobbe Wimmer Kidrick. She wrote, “I read your articles about Crescent Junction, Utah with a great deal of pleasure. My grandfather, Thomas G. Wimmer initiated the homesteading of Crescent Junction. I have pictures of family members, some of the buildings and additional history.”

Bobbe went on, “The history of Crescent Junction really began with the homestead. My grandfather, Thomas G. Wimmer was a diversified businessman (sheepman, river runner and freight hauler) who lived in Green River in the early 1900's. In 1916, he contracted to haul equipment from the railroad to build the copper mine at Big Indian, some fifty miles south of Crescent, in the Lisbon Valley, Utah.”

Thomas Wimmer breaks a new trail to what would become Crescent Junction, ca. 1916 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“At the time (1915/16), the road didn't go directly from Moab to Crescent. It went north as far as the place then called Valley City. From that central point, the road veered west to Floy (AKA Little Grand) and east to Thompson (now Thompson Springs). Because there was a railroad siding at Crescent (Brendel), he decided it would be easier on his team to go directly north to Crescent. A short time into the operation, he persuaded his two daughters, Laura and Marg to file for a homestead at what is now Crescent Junction.”

“Laura and Marg filed for 160-acres each, and my dad, Ed Wimmer, being too young to file, lived there with them. Ed fell in love with the desert and no matter where he was, he was always ‘going home’. For the required five years, Laura, Marg and Ed lived at the railroad siding known as Brendel, with no road access closer than Thompson, which is six miles to the east. In 1923, after Laura Wimmer, daughter of Thomas Wimmer and homesteader at Crescent Junction - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)living there for the required five years, the two young women received the patents for 160-acres each. They later divided the 320-acres into three parcels of 106 acres each, and deeded the middle parcel to their Dad (Thomas Wimmer). This then was the beginning of Crescent.”

Bobbe said, “I am telling you all this to put it in perspective. Although I was born in Moab, I now live in the Salt Lake area. Here, I will tell my father, Ed Wimmer’s story.”

“Ed Wimmer was born in Salt Lake City in 1900, but spent much of his formative years in Green River, Utah. He grew to love the desert, to the point that no matter where he went throughout his life, he always returned. After graduating from East High in SLC, he married Erma Snyder and they moved to Helper, Utah, where he worked as a Railroad Express Messenger. As such, he was required to carry a gun because he took the mine payroll from Helper to Sunnyside, a distance of thirty-three Marg Wimmer, daughter of Thomas Wimmer and homesteader at Crescent Junction - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)miles. Their oldest child, Bette was born in Helper.”

“The family moved to Los Angeles shortly after Bette was born and Ed worked for Crescent Creamery. Their second child, Bud was born at this time. From there, the growing family moved back to Utah, living in the town of Cliff. At that time, son Duane was born in nearby Fruita, Colorado. Soon thereafter, the family moved again to Los Angeles, where Ed worked in the petroleum industry. Their fourth child, Pat was born at this time.”

“In March of 1932, an earthquake shook Southern California and the country was in the middle of the Depression. After arranging with his brother, Andy to buy calves and start a dairy heard in Utah, the whole family traveled by automobile back to Utah. Even in early April, it was hot in the desert, so they traveled at night for the first two days. Bette remembers Las Vegas as being little more than a small oasis, and certainly no casinos.”

Marg and Ed Wimmer, children of Thomas Wimmer and homesteaders at Crescent Junction - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“Their journey took them through Mesquite, Nevada, and on to St. George and Cedar City, Utah. They turned east at Cove Fort and then through Price, and eventually to Green River. When a hoped-for ranch in Green River was unavailable, Ed moved the family to Moab in 1934, where he continued to try to make a go of the dairy business. The last child, Bobbe was born there in 1934. Even after moving the family to Roosevelt, the dairy business did not thrive.”

“When the Second World War broke out in 1941, Ed secured a job as a welder in Salt Lake at the Remington Arms plant. Also during that time, he worked in Hawaii as a welder, repairing damage sustained during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  As the War ended, he then returned to Salt Lake, where he started a service station. In 1947, Ed Wimmer headed back to Crescent for what would be the last time. There he established the Crescent Junction Service and Café, which he and Erma owned jointly until his death in 1951. Erma retained ownership of both businesses until 1969, when she turned the service station over to son Pat and the Café over to daughter Bette and her husband, Al Lange.”

Ed Wimmer, Father of Bobbe Wimmer Kidrick, at Crescent Junction in the summer of 1947 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“After the War ended, Dad headed back to Crescent. He had very little money but owned a redwood livery barn in the backyard of the house in Salt Lake. After dismantling the barn, Dad, Bud and Duane left Salt Lake with a load of wood and high hopes to begin the building at Crescent Jct. They laid the foundation of Crescent in July of 1947. It was on July 24, that they poured the cement floor. At the time, Dad marked the date in the wet cement writing, ‘Just 100 years after Brigham (Young)’.”

“Mom and Dad gave their all to Crescent and in many respects; they expected the same from the rest of us. Money was always hard to come by, so we made do with what was available. Mom sold the house in Salt Lake. The proceeds went to pay debts incurred by an employee at Dad’s service station on Main Street, Salt Lake. Dad felt honor-bound to clear up everything even though he was not legally responsible. I also found out, years later, that he had cashed savings bonds belonging to me to buy materials for the first building. No matter… it was a family project and we all did what we could. Some of the proceeds from a small curio business I handled during the early Ed and Erma Wimmer at Crescent Junction during construction of the original service station - Click for large image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)1950s also went into the business.”

“Providence has a way of looking out for those who can't or don't look out for themselves. In Crescent, we had been using a Koehler Light Plant for power. Then, just a few months before Dad died, Utah Power & Light built a small sub-station to provide electricity to Crescent. By that time, all the debts from Salt Lake had been paid and there was a growing business with comfortable living quarters. Dad (Ed Wimmer) died in October 1951, but in his fifty-one years, he had done what he set out to do. He made it home to Crescent, and in doing so, took some of us ‘home’ with him.”

“Mom (Erma Wimmer), was often seen as strong willed and opinionated, but over the next eighteen years, those traits would serve her well. Upon dad’s death in 1951, she became sole owner of the business. From 1947 through 1966, Crescent’s water problem was solved by hauling water from Thompson, Crescent Junction, looking south toward Moab, Utah in the 1940s - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)six-miles east. At first, we used a fifty-gallon barrel on the back of a pickup. Later, as need dictated, we graduated to a 1000-gallon tank on a larger truck. A cistern was built and the water dumped into it, to be pumped out as needed.”

“The cistern was in place until 1966, when mom obtained a loan from Utoco (Utah Oil Refining Company), to buy the necessary supplies to build a waterline from Thompson. Pat, with the help of family and friend Tony Pene, walked a Ditch Witch from Thompson to Crescent during 1966 and ‘67. In the resulting trench, they installed the waterline. The loan was paid back through gas sales for the next several years.”

“In the early 1970s, there was a move underway to build Interstate Highway I-70 between Colorado and I-15 in Western Utah. Mom became aware of the fact that the new highway was proposed to go through Grand County. When she discovered that its route would bypass Crescent Junction, about four miles
The original service station at Crescent Junction, Utah, thirty miles north of Moab - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)south of the existing highway between Thompson and Green River, she took action. She approached Archie Hamilton, the project manager, and offered to trade acreage at Crescent for the new project. He accepted her offer and I-70 now runs parallel to the old highway. If built as originally planned, I-70 would have bypassed Crescent Junction, leaving the Wimmer family business high and dry.”

“When Aunt Marg died in 1949, she left her original portion of the Homestead to Dad (Ed Wimmer). Upon his death, under Utah law, the property was intestate. As such, one-third went to Mom (Erma Wimmer) and the remaining Old map of Crescent Junction, Utah, showing the original roads from Floy to Valley City and on to Thompson - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)two-thirds to his five children. By 1955, Bud, Duane, Pat and I were all married. Bud lived in California, Duane in Moab, teaching school, Pat at Crescent, managing the station and my husband Ralph and I lived in various places throughout the country, due to his work. We always kept our mailing address at Crescent and Mom would forward it each week.”

“In 1969 mom got in touch with, Bud, Duane and me, saying that she was considering signing the business over to Pat and Al, in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. She asked what we all thought about that idea. We all three agreed that it was her right to make the decision. She explained in the letter that she was feeling a certain amount of pressure to make sure the business remained, as it then existed. She did just that and the business remained that way until recent years.”

Ed Wimmer (1900-1951) at work in Crescent Junction, Utah ca.1950 -  Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“Thomas Wolfe once said ‘You can't go home again’ and largely, he was right. It just all depends on how or what you define as home, I guess. I will never ‘go home again’ physically but I know ‘home’ is there at Crescent Junction.”


Here, I will express my appreciation to Bobbe Wimmer Kidrick. She is one of a few individuals who have both lived and worked at Crescent Junction, Utah. By sharing stories about her extended family and their home in the desert, she has made her “home” come alive.

In 2009, I first mention Crescent Junction in an article titled, “Rediscovering the Old Spanish Trail - Now it's a Freeway”. In 2010, I returned to the area and wrote “Green River to Floy, Utah, via Old Hwy. U.S. 6 & 50”. Later that year, I wrote, “Crescent Junction, Utah - It isn't Brendel Anymore”. In 2011, I wrote about the transfer of uranium mine tailings from Moab to a disposal site near Crescent Junction in, “The ‘Train of Pain’ Travels Thirty Miles from Moab to Crescent Junction”. In 2012, I wrote, “Interstate I-70 from Cove Fort to Crescent Junction, Utah”.

The "new" service station at Crescent Junction in the early 1950s, which forms the core of development still standing today - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Also in 2012, I wrote, “Brendel, Utah - Still Moving Around on the Map”. When Bobbe Wimmer Kidrick’s niece, Lani (Lee Anne Lange Asay) wrote to me with some pictures of Crescent Junction, I published, “A Resident of Crescent Junction, Utah Tells the History of the Place”. In 2014, when the Grand County Council made plans to defile the Sego Canyon Indian Rockart site near Thompson Springs, I wrote “Grand County Council Plans to Desecrate Sego Canyon’s Ancient Indian Heritage Site”.

If you find yourself traveling past Crescent Junction, Utah on I-70, be sure to stop at Papa Joe's Stop & Go for gas and refreshments. If you do, you will see firsthand the place homesteaded by the Wimmer family a century ago. You may also notice that in Crescent Junction, the more things change, the more they stay the same.