The Kamas Opera House was built in 1895 by John Wehrli Carpenter, described by the Biographical Record of Salt Lake City and Vicinity of 1902 as “one of the most successful businessmen of Summit County, wide-awake and energetic.”
John Wehrli Carpenter was born in Millcreek in 1857, the oldest of eight children of Anna Catherine Wehrli and John Sincere Carpenter.
John Sincere Carpenter was born in Bavaria in 1821 and came to America in 1823 with his family, who settled in Pennsylvania.
He crossed the plains in 1852 and lived first in Millcreek, where he met and married Anna Catherine Wehrli, an orphan from Switzerland, in 1855.
The family settled in Kamas around 1866.
John started a small sawmill in Beaver Creek in 1885 to supply the Park City mines. In 1895 he built his first store.
In 1897 he built a larger store – a two-story building which was at one time the best-stocked in the county. In addition he had a feed store, freight business and livery stable as well as a ranch, and owned property in Salt Lake.
Adjacent to the opera house John built a dance hall to replace one built in 1887 by J.G. Lambert and S.M. Pack. It had one of the finest dance floors in the state, which is now in the former Green Hall.
In 1884 John married Martha Jane, daughter of Sarah Elizabeth Horne and John Gillenroy Turnbow, one of the earliest settlers of Kamas.
He commissioned a large home on the corner of Center and Main Streets in Kamas (now demolished), with tree-lined sidewalks. The last five of the couple’s seven children were born there.
The marriage did not last. John left Kamas in 1910 and in 1920 Martha sued for divorce on the grounds of desertion. John died in San Bernadino, California, in 1929.
The Opera House featured local artists as well as traveling vaudeville troupes and other companies.
Later it became a cinema presenting silent films.
John’s nephew, LaVere (Larry) Holt started working there at age 12. John (“Uncle Jack”) gave the Opera house to Larry and he and ran it until he left to join the Air Force.
The building burned to the ground in 1943.
Around 1907 the couple moved to Salt Lake, selling the house to their son George Geroy. William Henry died in 1913 and Eliza in 1926. They are both buried in the Stevens cemetery in Oakley.
It stood at 125 North Main Street in Kamas.