Feb. 2018 History Question of the Month

Feb. 2018 History Question of the Month
Posted on 02/01/2018

Avalanches were one of the many dangers facing the early settlers of our city who worked in the canyons. What early resident of Butler was killed in an avalanche in Big Cottonwood Canyon?


William Christopher Ritter was born in Marion, Ala., Feb. 19, 1824. After joining the LDS Church in the 1840s, he and his family emigrated to Utah and eventually settled on a Butler Bench homestead. During the winter of 1875, William was working at the Richmond Mine in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  About 1 p.m. on Jan. 26, 1875, a huge body of snow on the mountain above the Richmond Mine broke loose. In the gulch below were a group of eight men and teams hauling ore for the Richmond Co. The avalanche was estimated to be about 200 feet wide and a half-mile long and reached depths of 80 feet.

One of the eight men was able to dig himself and another man out. Other miners rushed to the scene in an effort to rescue the other miners, but were unsuccessful. William Ritter’s body was eventually recovered, and he was buried in a “Miner’s Cemetery” in Silver Fork.

William’s wife Janet sold off much of their homestead and with the help of her children farmed the remainder. She died in 1897. Their daughter Nettie was believed to be the first teacher of the Butler School that was built in 1880-81.