Industries that develop natural resources have a dual impact on our environment. The actions of removing, transporting, and processing have the most direct impact that can be traced to the industry. There are other indirect changes, such as population growth, new homes, roads, and services so that even when an industry has gone, the impact it had on our environment remains – long after the last factory chimney, warehouse, or silo is demolished. Sugar production in Utah represents such a case where an industry springs up, builds fortunes, and less than a century later disappears.
Large scale production of sugar started in Utah during the late 19th century. The country was looking for cheaper, domestic alternatives to importing most of its sugar. Sugar beets could be grown in Utah and were viewed as having the most potential. Processing techniques and equipment were studied in Europe and around the U.S. and then brought back to Utah and adapted. The Utah Sugar Company was formed in 1889 and its first factory was built in Lehi two years later. At harvest time, the local farmers brought their produce to “beet dumps” where it was gathered and transported to the factory. One of the men responsible for bringing this to fruition was Thomas R. Cutler, who, for over 25 years, served as general manager and other executive positions with what later became the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company.
Thomas Robinson Cutler came to the United States from England in 1844 and was the brother of Utah governor John C. Cutler. Cutler was one of the men responsible for examining the techniques used to extract sugar from sugar beets. The knowledge he brought back from Europe and other parts of the country was vital to building a successful industry in Utah. Once the first factories were open, he continued to oversee the operation for nearly three decades. Sugar, as well as other business pursuits in insurance and mining, helped to make Cutler a wealthy man.
Captains of industry often displayed their success through the opulence of their residences. In 1905, Cutler purchased what was known as the DeGolyer House at 2000 South 500 East in order to be closer to the new Salt Lake City offices of the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company. Architect Frederic Albert Hale had designed the house, and with its grey stone and turreted corner it was an impressive landmark in East Waterloo. The house was named after its first resident, E.S. DeGolyer, who made his fortune in mining and built the house in the 1890s, but then lost it due to unpaid taxes. Cutler lived in the DeGolyer House from 1906 to 1916. A petition that he wrote to the Salt Lake County Commission in 1907 indicated the changes resulting from development of areas outside of Salt Lake City. In the petition, he asked for additional sprinkling of the dirt road in front of his home due to the dust thrown up by hundreds of cars and wagons that passed each day on the “East Road”(500 East):
Cutler remained in this house until 1916 when he sold it to an executive from the mining and transportation industries. His next house was a much more humble abode at 1126 East Michigan Avenue that still stands today:
The Utah-Idaho Sugar Company continued to expand in the early 20th century despite anti-trust allegations by the federal government. Factories were built wherever substantial beet farming could be supported, including locations outside of Utah. In Salt Lake County, a factory was built in 1916 at approximately 8200 South 2200 West in West Jordan to handle the production of the town’s beet farmers. The factory, located along rail lines, was capable of processing hundreds of tons of beets each day during the harvest “campaign.” The sugar inventory created after each harvest was stored in silos and shipped out as orders arrived. By the time it closed in 1971 the factory had produced over 10 million bags of sugar.
Like many relics, the last structures that had made up the West Jordan sugar factory were demolished in 2010 to make way for new development. The farms that had supplied the beets are gone too, having been used for new housing and commercial developments needed by the workforce of Utah’s modern industries.
Part of our “Ecology in the Archives” exhibit series for Utah Archives Month, this entry was researched and written by Vincent Fazzi, Salt Lake County Archivist.
Moroni Heiner residence, 1910 South 500 East, Salt Lake City. Collection 728, photo number 7497. Utah State Historical Society.
1126 East Michigan Avenue, Salt Lake City. Tax parcel 16-08-409-007. Tax Appraisal Cards and Photographs. Salt Lake County Archives.
Utah-Idaho Sugar Company shop, office, and diagram. Tax parcel numbers 21-34-151-008 and 21-33-426-003. Tax Appraisal Cards and Photographs. Salt Lake County Archives.
“Petition of Thomas R. Cutler regarding speed of automobiles on 5th East Street,” August 12, 1907. Petitions, Salt Lake County Commission. Series CM-333. Salt Lake County Archives.
Online (all accessed 09/2013):
Deseret Evening News 1890-11-04 – The Contract is Signed
Deseret News – 1905-07-31 De Golyer House Changes Hands
Inter-Mountain Republican 1908-08-22 – Thomas R. Cutler Returns
Lehi Banner – 1898-04-26 – Utah Sugar Company
Ogden Standard Examiner – 1922-04-04 – Thos. Cutler Passes Away
Salt Lake Tribune 1905-01-11 – Banks Name Directors
Salt Lake Tribune 1905-08-19 – New Sugar Company
Salt Lake Tribune 1906-01-10 – Banks Hold Elections
Salt Lake Herald 1915-08-01 – Thomas R. Cutler Back
Salt Lake Telegram – 1916-11-15 – Heiner Buys Home From Thos. R. Cutler
Salt Lake Tribune 1917-06-03 – Thomas R. Cutler Given Compliment
Salt Lake Tribune 1917-06-17 – Cutler New Head of Sugar Directory
Salt Lake Tribune 1917-12-30 – Utah-Idaho Sugar Co.
Utah Heritage Foundation – West Jordan Factory