Saturday, October 31, 2009

Once Upon A Time

It is hard to imagine the beautiful City of Price as a tough western community. Nothing in the present city gives you the image of gunslingers, outlaws, saloons or roughian. The town is quiet and quaint. I can easily see why visitors and historians disregard the town as John Fitzgerald's inspiration. On a cursory look it is impossible to see. But historic photographs and a bit of driving show the truth. The above photo hangs in the Western Mining and Railroad Museum in Helper Utah. The marquee dates the image. Putting it closer to the era when J.D. was alive. His sister Isabelle wrote that at that time Papa owned
"3 buildings known as The Fitzgerald Block. He rented one for Meat Market and Grocery Store, one for a Cafe and had his Saloon and Pool Hall in one."

From 1896 to 1904 Thomas Fitzgerald, Sr. or Fitz, as his friends called him, ran the Fitzgerald & Co. Saloon and billiard hall. In 1904 the Eastern Utah Advocate, the local paper records:
"Thomas Fitzgerald has dedicated his saloon the White House since giving the building a fresh coat of paint."
J.D. clearly knew the life on the other side of the tracks. The stories his dad brought home as well as other reknown events easily shape themselves into his work.

That hard side of life remained with Price for many years. Butch Cassidy and his gang hung out there. Other less infamous to us outlaws rode through town. It would be the story of death of well known western outlaw, C.L. "Gunplay" Maxwell, that became the basis for the Laredo Kid in "Papa Married a Mormon."

Two events ended Fitzgerald's connection with the lawless west. The first was a fire that burned his saloon, the second was his election to the city council. Price however, retained it's wet image. One of Butch Cassidy's gang, Matt Warner, a Price resident purchased a saloon long after the hey-dey was done. History books and newspapers record western town life existing in certain forms up until WWI.

If you ever visit Price, you can drive over the railroad tracks, heading south, turn right and drive till you run out of road.
Still painted on the sides of a few standing buildings are the remnants of days gone by. One building still retains the facade front made famous by old western towns.


  1. Are any of these actual pictures of Fitzgerald's property? I can't tell. Regardless, these are pretty neat pictures. Thanks!

  2. The photograph in the middle was hard to get clear. But the saloon on the left side, directly across from the 66 Saloon is The White House Saloon. In the 81/2 x 11 copy I have you can read the words clearly.

  3. Thanks for the info. BTW, I'm a little slow on the uptake or I would have caught this this morning: Change the u in White House to an r and what do you get?

    Will Fitzgerald's Whitehorse Saloon.

  4. Yes, I remember doing that myself. Congratulations.