Hideout Trails Committee
Special to the Wave
Two new non-motorized trails totaling just over 3 miles have been added to Ross Creek Recreation area! Wada Way (1.85 miles) and Keetley (1.69 miles) loops that form a figure-eight near the Ross Creek Trailhead. These trails are open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians. Ross Creek is a wildlife area. Please keep your dogs on a leash and carry out dog waste.
Who was Jack Keetley and why Wada Way? John ”Jack “ Keetley was a young Pony Express rider born in Kansas in 1841. He became infamous for completing the longest ride without stopping, except to exchange horses! He rode 300 miles in 31 hrs. Jack eventually rode west to become a mining engineer and superintendent of the Little Bell Mine and Ontario Silver Mining Company. It was Jack who was responsible for the Ontario Mine drain tunnels. The drain tunnels were later incorporated into the Park City Mining Company, which was located in the Ross Creek/Jordanelle hillsides. The area and the mines prospered giving rise to Camp Florence, which housed over 600 miners in the area. Camp Florence was virtually a “mine shaft with drain tunnels”. In 1917 over 4,000 acres were purchased by George Fisher and his brother Gail. The land was used for ranching and farming to feed the growing mining community. Dormitories, bars, and supply stores flourished with the mining boom and eventually gave rise to the birth of the town of Keetley in 1923. Fisher later went on to become town Mayor. With the onset of the Great Depression, the area started to suffer and the mining industry started to slow down. Many in the area had to move and find work elsewhere out of Keetley. The start of World War II affected the town and the mining industry in many different ways. The demand for minerals increased, but the labor force diminished effecting production. Hard times fell on the Fisher family and Keetley was soon to become a war born colony.
In December 1941, the USA declared war on Japan. At the beginning of 1942 all Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were given 30 days to leave and relocate elsewhere in the USA. After the 30 days, if they had not left, they would be be interned in Japanese camps.(Ogden, Delta) In March of 1942, Keetley became the home for over 140 Japanese Americans from Oakland, CA. Fred Isuma Wada, a Japanese produce dealer from Oakland, decided that he would leave California immediately. His wife, Masako , a native of Utah, convinced him to have a look at opportunities for farming in Utah. Mr. Wada paid a visit to George Fisher in Keetley and they struck a deal that Wada would lease the land for farming from Fisher and the produce would go to help the military and surrounding communities . Fred formed a nonprofit cooperative and moved with 140 Japanese Americans to Keetley. It was the biggest group of Japanese Americans to voluntarily leave the West Coast. With virtually only the clothes on their backs, and a few vehicles and pieces of farm equipment they settled in the cold of winter into the Keetley valley. When it was warm enough to farm the group built their own cabins, put in roads and moved over 50 tons of rock by hand! At the time, the Japanese were not so welcomed by the surrounding communities and were told to stay at Keetley. Over time this attitude changed when the communities realized that the farmers and their families growing lettuce, strawberries and working the sugar beet farms were a true asset to the communities. The motto of the Japanese farmers was “Food for Freedom.” The women even knitted mittens and socks for the Red Cross. After the war ended many of the Japanese residents returned to California to begin their lives over again, a few remained in Utah. Jack Keetley and Freda Wada were strong , determined and spirited individuals who faced many obstacles in their move to Keetley. They both contributed significantly to the rich history of Utah and made their communities better places to live. We are happy to honor them with the new trails that all can enjoy!