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The Hermit Of American Fork Canyon

by Jennifer Jones
The Hermit of American Fork Canyon - The Dead History

Over the years there’s been numerous stories of spooky activity coming out of American Fork Canyon. There’s the legend of the specter hearse, the haunted Timpanogos Cave, the spirit of a little boy wandering around hiking trails, and the ghost of a hitchhiker who disappears as cars approach. 

But there’s one story that is actually supported by history…kind of. The ghost of the hermit of American Fork Canyon. People camping in American Fork Canyon have relayed tales of hearing noises around their campsite as if someone is rifling through their things. Thinking that it is a raccoon or other wildlife, they peek out of their tents and see nothing at all. Others have reported seeing the ghostly figure of an old, bearded man, who promptly fades into nothingness. Old timers who were familiar with the canyon said that it must be the hermit! His ghost remains in the canyon looking for food or perhaps someone to talk to. As the old timers passed on, the ghost lore took on a life of its own and the real person behind the lore was mostly forgotten.

In the upper part of American Fork Canyon, in an area called Dutchman Flat lies the ghost town of Forest City. There is really nothing left except for the remains of the Sultana Smelter. From 1871 – 1880 Forest City was a small mining camp on the other side of the mountain from Alta. Initially it was planned that the American Fork Railroad would eventually make its way to Forest City and its smelter, but because of engineering problems and high costs it never happened. In no time at all Forest City was a ghost town, except for one man named Ed Hines

Mining near Dutchman Flat © 2008 Utah State Historical Society

Edward Peter Hines led an unusual life. He was born in Buffalo, New York on May 10, 1850. Most accounts say he was educated and operated a horse-drawn river boat back east. As a young man, he met and fell in love with a woman named Maggie. Her father, however, would not allow them to marry unless Ed could prove that he could provide for her. So, like many young men did back then he packed up and headed West for the gold rush. He was certain that he would strike it rich in the mines.

By 1871, Ed and his twin brother Frank were in Utah working the mines. Frank Hines worked as a mining engineer, and Ed was usually right there with him prospecting, and also assaying. Ed found his way to Forest City and never left.

In 1920, Ed Hines gave an interview to The Salt Lake Tribune and told them how he wasn’t going back to New York until he found what he was looking for. He told them how beautiful Maggie was. He said that she wrote to him for 10 years when he finally told her not to waste her life on him. Then, he said, she became a nun.

“For half a century I have prospected here. I have gone hungry in the winter, I have suffered the infirmities that men of 72 must feel; I have renounced all pleasure; but when I left New York I told them I would make a real fortune. I have found a wealth of beauty and lore, but I am too proud to go back without the gold. I shall not go back till I find what I am looking for. I know it is here, and I shall find it.”

Ed Hines – June 5, 1920 – The Salt Lake Tribune

Was it really his pride that kept him in Utah, or did Ed simply love mining, and his solitary life in American Fork Canyon? He lived in a two story box shaped house next to a stream. There were times where he wouldn’t come down from the canyon for more than a year. Often, during the winter, he was most likely the only person living in the canyon. And, not only did he survive, he seemed to thrive for the most part.

Ed continued to prospect and mine. He made just enough to get by except once when he sold his shares of a mine for $5,000. Apparently he had always wanted to see California and he went on a trip, spent all of his money, and then returned to his home in the canyon.

Forty-five years later he had turned into a type of legend. People referred to him as “The Canyon Oracle” and said that he was “Gruff as a boulder and hardy as a pine.”

People would pay him visits throughout the years, bringing him supplies and food, and sometimes just checking on him to see how he was doing.

Ed Hines on the left – The Salt Lake Tribune June 1920

On a Tuesday evening in May, 1923, a friend of his, Nick Iverson, paid a visit to Ed. Ed told him he was feeling pretty ill that night and Nick told him he’d be back the next day. The following day when Nick returned Ed said that he was feeling worse and asked if Nick would take him to the hospital the following day. Iverson agreed and the following morning around 9am he knocked on Ed’s door, ready to take him down the canyon to the hospital.

Ed’s house was silent. Nick knocked again, this time calling out Ed’s name, thinking that perhaps the 72 year old man simply didn’t hear him. He got no response. When Nick entered the house he found Ed Hines, the hermit of American Fork Canyon dead in his bed. It appears that he had died shortly after Nick left the evening before.

Ed’s wish was to be buried in the canyon that he spent so much of his life in. For whatever reason, however, his brother had his body brought out of the canyon and buried in the American Fork Cemetery.

So if you find yourself in American Fork Canyon, near Dutchman Flat, and you see the specter of an old grizzled man, say hi to old Ed Hines.

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