No one remembers today how big the stone arch was or even where it was exactly.
Early accounts say only that it spanned from one side of Gate Canyon to the other and that wagon trains of people and supplies would travel beneath it. Vibrations caused by those wagons sometimes rained small pebbles down on the passengers.Because the arch was decaying and its collapse was feared imminent, what today might have stood with Utah's most distinctive landmarks was destroyed. Newt Stewart, the man hired to demolish the arch in 1905, later commented:
"I don't know how long that arch had been there, but considering what it took to blow it down, if it had been there for 5,000 years it would have stood for another 5,000 years."
No trace of the arch - or in more proper geologic terms a "bridge" - remains today. But the story of its destruction remains one in a rich legacy of legend, myth and even some truth still associated with the historic Myton-to-Price road.
It's a road with a history all its own - a history replete with wooly freighters, saloon shootouts and even old-fashioned romance.
Built over what is said to be an authentic Indian trail, the Myton-to-Price Road was carved out eastern Utah canyons in 1886 by the mostly black 9th Cavalry, which would later build Fort Duchesne.
Historian George E. Stewart once wrote, "I could write three books on the Price/Myton freighters alone, not to mention everything else."
The impetus to build the road had more than military implications, though keeping restless Ute Indians in check was all part of it. A year after its construction, a telegraph line was built along the same route, "but a bunch of Ute braves promptly cut it down and made firewood out of the poles, with the net result that the cavalry herded them to the fort, where they were confined to the guardhouse for a time on a very wholesome diet of bread and water," according to one account.
The route would become the main supply line for 2 million pounds of government supplies bound for Fort Duchesne each year.
Also in the late 1880s, the road became the primary route for the export of gilsonite - a solid form of crude oil used as a base for paints and other industrial uses - which was being mined in the Uintah Basin and shipped all over the world.
Freighters would haul government supplies and commodities from Price to Fort Duchesne, and upon their return would haul gilsonite - a profitable arrangement for the freighters, as well as those who set up stations along the way to service the freighters.
The first to set up shop in this no-man's land was Owen Smith, who in 1891 built "The Wells," a stage station, general store, blacksmith shop, restaurant and small hotel about halfway between Price and Myton. Everyone from senators and congressmen to famous outlaws spent the night.
"Like a modern-day truck stop, The Wells often had as many as 50 rigs pull up to spend the night," wrote one historian.
One cabin on the site is still referred to as "The Hospital." It seems an army surgeon with only a butcher knife and a kitchen meat saw (and six men to hold the patient down) amputated an injured man's arm.
Another stopping spot for freighters was the Brock Ranch. An entrepreneur named Pete Francis bought the ranch and turned it into a saloon. Francis was later killed in a gunfight in his own saloon.
The ranch was later sold to Preston Nutter - one of the West's largest cattle barons, who made his headquarters there.
Because the road was the main link with the Uintah Basin and Fort Duchesne, it was also the main route for Indian annuity payments and army payrolls. That reportedly led to a scheme to rob the payroll in a remote section of the canyon country.
"The plan of the outlaw group was to kill every soldier guarding the monies and to leave no witnesses," one account goes. "While Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch are said to have been invited to join this caper, they declined on the basis of all the killing of which they wanted no part. An informant put the Army wise to the plan and when the strong-box rolled through, the guard had been greatly increased and the holdup-massacre was hastily called off by the men in hiding in the ledges."
There is also a touch of romance associated with the Myton-to-Price Road. In 1905, the Uintah Basin was opened to homesteaders, and Katherine Fenton, a manager of the Colorado Springs Postal Telegraph, apparently won a lottery for a Uintah Basin homestead.
On her way to visit the Basin, the stage driver new to the job got lost between Price and Myton. He mistook the Nutter Ranch for a stage stop.
Because it was late, Nutter - a 58-year-old self-avowed bachelor - offered the woman and a traveling companion his bed for the night. Three years later, Preston Nutter and Katherine Fenton were married.
The Myton-to-Price Road was a major thoroughfare for decades, but the construction of U.S.191 from Helper to Duchesne eventually eliminated the need for the historic pioneer road, which nevertheless remains graveled and maintained.
Today, the road is traveled mostly by tourists looking at prehistoric rock art alongside the road and by ranchers maintaining an isolated way of life.