Boy Scouts camp out in
ghost town near Beaver
By Linda Petersen
Nov. 2, 2017
FRISCO, Beaver County—A spooky ghost town is probably every boy’s dream of a place to visit around Halloween.
Scout leader Lawrence Durtschi of Ephraim Troop 900 brings that dream to life for his troop members every year.
The boys look forward to their annual ghost-town campout, which was held last weekend in Frisco, near Beaver.
This year, Ephraim Troop 528 and Manti Troop Troop 542 got in on the action with Durtschi’s troop.
Each year, the boys research a site for their ghost town trip. This year, for the second time, they chose Frisco, a former mining town that had its heyday in the 1870s.
In its first 10 years, $60 million in zinc, copper, lead, silver and gold were brought out of the ground there. At its peak, the town had 6,000 residents and more than 20 saloons, gambling dens and brothels.
“It was definitely the Wild, Wild West,” Durtschi said.
The collapse of the Horn Silver Mine in 1885 spelled the demise of the mining town. Over the next 30 or so years, the population dwindled until Frisco became the ghost town it is today.
The three troops of about 20 boys and five leaders got to Frisco before nightfall and set up camp next to the graveyard. Then, as it began to get dark, they checked out the graveyard, a perfect pre-Halloween activity for the boys.
Later, just to add to the experience and to scare some of the younger boys, some of the older Scouts let off coyote calls. Little did they know some of those very creatures would pass through camp later that night.
In the morning after breakfast, the troops explored the ghost town, which Durtschi said was filled with old mining equipment and deserted houses.
“This was the funnest campout I’ve ever been on,” one of the younger Manti scouts, Taylor King, told the leaders.
“We’re always looking for things to make it fun for the boys,” Durtschi said. “Most of them haven’t ever been to a ghost town, so this is pretty unique.”
Another cold-weather tradition Durtschi’s troop enjoys is an annual campout at a deserted train tunnel near Elberta in Utah County. Durtschi says the tunnel is so big the group can park vehicles as well as camp inside it “so the weather doesn’t matter.”
While there, they tell the story of a ghost train that supposedly travels through the tunnel at night. The tale is punctuated by the Scouts’ own ghost whistles.
Along with enjoying spooky experiences, the Scouts pass off some off some of their merit badge requirements and Eagle Scout prerequisites on the campouts.
In the evenings, between the fun and pranks, they usually take time to reflect on the spiritual side of things through fireside talks by their leaders and former Scouts.
In fact, the campout was the 60th consecutive monthly campout Durtschi has taken Scouts on. (Earlier this year, the LDS ward that sponsors his troop was reorganized, so while some of the boys are the same, it’s essentially a whole new troop.)
“I’m an Eagle Scout. It’s part of my oath to give back,” Durtschi said of his willingness to spend so much time providing experiences for his Scouts. “It’s important to teach these young men the values of Scouting. Now more than ever, those foundational principles are so important.”
In their ghost-town campouts, Durtschi’s troop previously visited Silver City, a former silver-mining town in Juab County, and Kimberly, a former gold-mining town in Piute County.