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Archaeological dig sheds light on Utah ghost town

Posted at 11:51 AM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 13:53:51-04

MILLCREEK, Utah — New information is coming to light regarding an archaeological dig in the ghost town of Terrace, Utah, which was an important stop during construction of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 19th century.

For a brief period of time, Terrace was a thriving community of nearly 1,000 people in Utah’s west desert with an ethnically diverse population, in particular dozens and dozens of Chinese families. But their stories were never recorded and when the town went away, so did that history.

Utah historians are hoping remnants of an archaeological dig at Terrace will help fill in the blanks of that history.

"We can start reconstructing the whole story of the occupants of the community,” said Utah historic preservation officer Chris Merritt.

Last year, state archaeologists excavated the home of one Chinese family. Experts said it’s providing them with critical clues and a peek into the past.

Many of those pieces are now being cleaned off and documented as state historians piece this forgotten chapter of Utah history.

“It’s written by the victors, it’s written by the literate, it’s written largely by men in the historic period of the 19th century. So the Chinese workers who lived and died at Terrace, their stories are limited to, really the artifacts that were left behind after their lives. That also applies to women, children in these communities, whether Chinese or not that they really aren’t part of main stream history,” Merritt said.

The people who help clean, preserve and document the artifacts are all volunteers hoping to connect, in a hands on way, to this forgotten part of history. Merritt added that news coverage also really helps in terms of crowd sourcing additional information.

“After this project closed last year and FOX 13 covered it, we had a gentleman in Arizona reach out. And his great grandfather started the first meat market in Terrace and provided us an oral history of his grandfather who was born in this community. The first oral history we’ve ever received from this community.”

Merritt said they hope to have this phase of the documentation complete by around this time next year, and he already has plans to be out to Terrace again for more archaeological digs.