Dubinky Country along Hwy 191 in Grand Cty
During the Prohibition, Albert “Dubinky” Anderson and his father Albert Anderson operated a moonshine still in Valley City, five miles south of Crescent Junction.
After agents arrested the father for bootlegging, he moved his still to Little Valley where he was again fined and jailed.
Perhaps thinking it safer to separate his operation from his dad’s, Dubinky set up a distillery on his own ranch.
Later, the resulting “bug juice” may have contributed to Dubinky and his brother’s terror when they camped overnight in Valley City’s then abandoned hotel.
Valley City was once a town with potential, according to Sam Taylor, long-time publisher of Moab’s newspaper, The Times-Independent.
In his October 5, 2005 column, “The Way Sam Remembers It,” he quotes from Grand Memories researched by the Moab Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
In the early 1900s, men from Indiana traveled to the Thompson area to build a reservoir, planning to use the water to irrigate enormous orchards.
By selling stocks, their company raised enough money to pay for a cement dam, but the secretary-treasurer bet and lost the money on horse races. So instead of a concrete dam, they created an earthen one. Then, they worked hard, planting and irrigating.
All went well until 1908 when a flashflood ripped through the wash and wiped out the dam. Discouraged, most of the families moved back to Indiana.
Eventually, Valley City became a ghost town with the two-story hotel harboring most of the haunts—at least that’s what local folks thought.
Red and Dubinky Anderson decided to risk it one evening, according to the Moab Daughters, and rolled out their sleeping bags in the foyer.
In the middle of the night, startled awake by the creaking floor, they dimly made out a woman creeping down the stairs. Terrified, they jumped up and took off running.
Red ended up in Thompson, and after he told his tale, a few men returned to the hotel to find out what had happened.
They discovered a woman—a real, flesh-and-blood woman—on the second floor. She, too, had taken refuge in the hotel and tried to sneak out after the brothers had fallen asleep.
Later, the men tracked Dubinky’s barefoot tracks ten miles across the desert to his ranch (Taylor, November 10, 2005).
Whether or not that story is true, Dubinky did build two dugouts in the banks of a wash ten miles from Valley City, and Kenny Allred claims that he set up his distillery near a spring in the wash (Michael R. Kelsey, 2013; Hiking, Biking, and Exploring Canyonlands National Park and Vicinity).
Nobody’s sure what else he did besides moonshining, running a few head of cattle, and freighting (who knows what) in a truck he and his dad owned, but his name is now famous since the ranch, the road, the wash, the nearby 500-foot-deep CCC well, and the surrounding area are called Dubinky country.
Unsure of Dubinky’s fate, Allred, who cowboyed in that country, says Arthur Ekker leased the ranch and grazing rights in 1930 or 31, and he; his wife, Hazel Biddlecome Ekker; and their two oldest children lived there until they moved to the Robber’s Roost Ranch in 1939.
While there, Ekker reinforced the original dugouts with railroad ties and built a garage, a cellar, and a tie house on both sides of the wash (Kelsey, 146).
“Tissey” Ekker learned to walk across the dugout’s rock floor and later carried a bucket to the wash for water.
She remembers how deeply her mother loved her chickens, guinea hens, and peacocks. Because “it was such a lonely place, she loved anything that was alive” (Kelsey, 147).
It’s still a lonely place, a wide wash cutting through a desert of blackbrush, locoweed, and serviceberry.
Not much remains except the cellar, the caved-in garage, and the chicken coop, all braced with railroad ties, but behind the coop still stands an ingenious corral made of juniper posts and thick cable.
According to Sam Taylor, Loren Million built the corral when he worked for Ekker. He rode to Horsethief Point, cut down some “cedar” trees, and appropriated the cable from an “abandoned cable-tool site” (Taylor, November 10, 2005).
Last week, after we explored the old homestead, we went in search of Valley City. We found it on the west side of Highway 191, across the road from the old root cellar.
Nothing remained except the hotel’s imprint on the earth and scattered debris. Nothing suggested the community’s discouragement in the wake of raging waters.
Nothing showed where the bootleggers’ whiskey still operated.
Nothing indicated the terror that sent the two brothers bolting from the weathered hotel or the woman cowering in the upstairs room.
But just as the hotel’s outline scored the earth, I believe the lives of those who have gone before us imprint it, too.
As we walked across what had once been a hopeful community, those lives seemed to rise up around us like holograms, the images bringing with them an understanding that the Andersons were probably trying to keep body and soul together with one of the few profitable ventures of the time and that the hard-working orchard growers gave up out of the same urgent need.
We could also sense Art Ekker, Loren Million, and the CCC ingeniously crafting homes, corrals, and wells out of desert material, and Hazel Ekker cherishing her children and chickens, loving anything alive, in a lonesome wash called Dubinky.