My research into the history of the Christy Mill began a couple years ago as I was researching the town of Silver Reef, Utah, where the mill is located, but I first heard of the mill four years ago when I purchased Stephen Carr's book The Historical Guide to Utah Ghost Towns. That book has an old plat of the Silver Reef townsite, and that plat shows that the Christy Mill was located in the southeastern portion of the city, just a short walk away from the main business district.
The first thing I did while researching Silver Reef was search "silver reef" in online newspaper archives. Once that was done, I went into the specific aspects of the Reef's history, and the Christy Mill was one of the first things I investigated. The Christy Mill was the subject of several articles in many newspapers and mining journals, and received a lot of attention in those respects. The Christy Mill & Mining Company, which operated the mill, also published a few papers, and although I've found them I can't access them online and must purchase them from libraries and historical societies.
Nothing can be found of the Christy Mill after 1889, when the company officially pulled out of Silver Reef and went bankrupt. The closing of the Christy Mill "practically closes up the camp [Silver Reef]", as a writer for The Salt Lake Tribune said. Since there were no official records of the mill after 1889, many stories sprang up relating to the final fate of the mill.
Some of these stories say that the mill was moved to Park City, a different mining town in Summit County, Utah, and was used there. Indeed, Park City was a bustling mining town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and this idea was highly plausible. But nothing in the Park Record, Park City's newspaper, ever says anything about the moving of a mill from Silver Reef to Park City; in fact, there's no record of Silver Reef in the paper at all from the 1880s to the 1960s! So this story cannot be true.
Other stories say that the mill was immediately demolished after the company went belly-up. This story says that the wood that the mill was made of was used to build several homes and businesses in the area, and the machinery was sold to scrappers for a profit. This was the fate of many of Silver Reef's other buildings, after all, including the prominent Harrison House Hotel. Although there are no records of any sale relating to the Christy Mill, that's not enough to disprove this idea. Precise records of purchases, sales, and things like that weren't kept by the Washington County recorder; a lot of them were, but dozens were not recorded. More often than not, the owner of a building would sell to a buyer without even contacting the county recorder.
Finally, some accounts written in the 1930s and 1950s say and imply that the mill was still standing at these times. Since there are no records of it ever being moved or sold, this seemed like the most likely possibility.
For several months, I dug through numerous sources, photographs, anything that could help me solve this mystery. I tried to make sense of everything; I felt like giving up at times, but I figured I should keep at it and that historical research doesn't always come easy. I noted that diligence brings success.
Finally, after months of coming up with blanks, I got my evidence. A photo dating back to the 1950s shows the arched back doorway of the Chinese Saloon & Drug, and the hollowed out Christy Mill is seen in the background. Here's what I believe happened:
The Christy Mill & Mining Company pulled out of Silver Reef in 1889, and the mill was simply abandoned. Although the Barbee & Walker Mill to the northwest continued to operate on a small scale, the Christy's stamps and amalgamation pans lay idle, and the mill's whistle never sounded. Consideration could have been given to reopening the mill, but since the output of the district could easily be handled by the one mill in operation, these people probably figured that it'd be too expensive to get the Christy in operating condition again.
For several decades, the mill gathered dust and rotted under the hot desert sun of Southern Utah. Then in the 1930s, Alex Colbath, who had previously sold machinery in the Barbee & Walker Mill, turned to the Christy Mill and began selling its machinery. It's possible, too, that none of its machinery was sold and that it still had the whole set of mill tools by the 1950s. But considering Colbath tried to keep the district going during the Great Depression, it's more likely that at least a few things from the Christy Mill were sold. A couple more decades passed, and a photographer took a photo of the Chinese Saloon & Drug, getting the hollowed-out Christy Mill in the background.
The final fate of the mill is still something I'm trying to investigate. Was it torn down by the real estate project that came into town in the 1970s, or did it collapse before then and was simply cleaned up by the real estate project?
We may never know the answer for sure, but at least we do know that the Christy Mill stood for almost a century.