The 700 acres that Woodside sits on is now owned by Roy Pogue – a farmer who fell in love with the rustic charm of this desolate and almost forgotten slice of Americana situated in part of Utah’s iconic wild west scenery. Roy has owned the land since 1990. For over 20 years, Pogue ran the town, ranching, farming and running his gas station. For a long time, he made it work, acting as the owner, sheriff, mayor, among many other roles.
Woodside sits along a lonely stretch of U.S. Route 6/191, where you will find nothing for many miles between Wellington, Price and Green River. For years, it was just Roy and a herd of free-range llamas. However, Roy decided to attempt to sell the 700-acre property in 2012.
The first resident of Woodside, Henry H. Hutchinson arrived in 1881 and settled on a piece of land. Hutchinson was a prospector, which lead to stories of why he had settled here in the first place. Some local legends say that he settled after discovering a Spanish gold mine near the town. Over years, many visitors have arrived in an attempt to find the old mine, by use of many treasure maps and books, but all have failed…or perhaps nobody has spoken up if they had succeeded. Whatever the case, it still brings an interesting story to the town.
Though, there may be an even more interesting, and more truthful piece to the unique history this barren wild west town holds. Following the 1897 Castle Gate train robbery, Butch Cassidy – one of America’s most notorious train robbers – hid out in an underground network of tunnels beneath a house on the edge of town. Locals protected Butch, refusing to give him up to the sheriff.
Not long after the town was established in 1881, a hotel was constructed. There were stockyards next to the railroad station, making the area a main supply point for neighboring ranches. The railroad provided local ranchers a way to get their livestock to East Coast markets. Almost another decade later, a schoolhouse was built in 1892. Population continued to grow, and the schoolhouse was used by the townspeople as a gathering place.
More people would become attracted to the area, as the land boasted an abundance of water and large-scale growth of cottonwood trees. Once enough people were together, they had founded a settlement called Lower Crossing. Years went by, and a blacksmith shop went up. Not long after, a few stores were added, and population was on the rise. The town was eventually renamed Woodside, for its abundance of cottonwood trees.
Woodside once bustled with about 300 residents in the early 1900s, and by this time had become a main water stop for steam engines. By 1900, the population stood at 114, but continued to grow over the next decade. By 1910, Woodside’s population had grown to 328. By then, the town had a large hotel, saloons and schoolhouses, which are all now long gone. By 1920, the population had fallen back to 300, due to the railroad consolidating many of its operations to Helper, Utah. With severe droughts through the 1930s, population continued a steady decline, and by the 1940s, population sat at only 30.
There was, however a small boost for Woodside during the 1940s, as it would become a minor tourist attraction. During the 1880s, the railroad had dug a large water well. After years of no use, the build up of carbon dioxide began to push water up, creating a bubbling mudpot. It was decided to develop the bubbling pool into a cold water geyser, which tourists would come to visit often. The geyser would shoot 75 feet into the air. A filling station, store and cafe went up for visiting tourists. The filling station is the only thing that remains of historic Woodside today.
Lady Bird Johnson’s highway beautification campaign was one factor contributing to the crippling of the town, as the decision was made to tear down billboards, which had formerly attracted visitors passing through. Almost all remaining buildings, including the cafe and store unfortunately burned down in the 1970s. All that remains is the lonely filling station.
I visited Woodside by accident on a hot summer day in June of 2015.Other than the filling station, the town has sat almost empty for years, but the beautiful barren landscape is complimented by a peaceful atmosphere, which fills the silence. Just as Roy did years back, I too fell in love with the rustic charm of forgotten Americana rusting away in the peacefulness of the Utah desert. This is an important part of our United States history, weathered and rotting away. The land was aglow beneath the bright red of the evening sun as I pulled off to the roadside. I sat for a couple of hours just to take in the beautiful scenery all around me. This was perfect inspiration for what would eventually become my next project, and second book.
I found something so fascinating about Woodside. I felt at peace here in the desert. It was a perfectly picturesque example of your typical historic Americana, once full of so much life. Now the wind blows through, kicking up dust onto the walls of the lonely service station, and it’s rare that you see anyone stop to take a moment and learn about the town’s interesting history.
Americana Forgotten book – https://www.oddworldstudio.com/products/americana-forgotten-book
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