Compiled by Stephan P. Zacharias of Moab Museum
On November 3, 1911 the headline of the Grand Valley Times proclaimed:
“P. CROUT KILLED BY ACCIDENT”
The following story reported that he died alone on the road to Moab about 3 miles north of the ferry crossing as he was returning to town from a business trip to Thompson’s. The article claims that Mr. Crout was still alive and suffering intense pain when Mr. Harry Anderson discovered him in the road and brought him into Moab on his coal wagon. Phil Crout died two hours later at the age of 63, leaving behind his three children. Doc Easley reported “the body was too bloated at death to do a proper examination but it was his belief that Mr. Crout had a broken rib that pierced his lung and that caused his death. No further investigation was reported.”
Two days later, on Sunday, November 5, 1911, in the personal diary of Mr. George Henry Crouse, Moab’s Local Co-Operative Weather Observer, he lamented:
“Oh! What will Moab’s robbers now do? PHIL IS GONE!”
Friends, like Mr. H.G. Crouse, and Crout family stories have long suspected foul play in the death of Phil Crout. Despite the official report that he had been run over by his own buggy and died as a result of a pierced lung. However, it was noted that Mr. Crout’s billfold was never recovered and that it was discovered he had no money on him when Mr. Anderson discovered him on the road. There has long been a belief that he was killed by robbers who pierced his lung by knife taking his billfold and money. As no investigation was ever done and no formal autopsy performed, the mystery of how one of Moab’s most successful businessman met his end will probably never be solved.
But who was Phil Crout and why does his story matter?
Philip Crout was born April 11, 1847 in St. Petersburg, Russia to German Immigrants, Rebecca Bamberger and John Crout. By age 19, Phil defected from Russia in an attempt to avoid conscription into the army and made his way to Paris, France where he found work in a brass foundry. He would carefully sneak back home to Russia in an attempt to convince his mother and sisters to come back to Paris with him, but they chose to remain in Russia. Phil Crout would himself venture even farther after sneaking out of Russia once more, as it is reported that he “jumped ship” in Boston, Massachusetts in 1868 at 20 years old. He would quickly find work in New York City, once again working in a brass foundry.
Judging from the 1880 US Census it would appear that Philip Crout had been lured to the American West. He was living at a boarding house on Gunnison Avenue, in Lake City, Colorado and was reported to be a Silver Miner. On January 31, 1889, Phil Crout, at age 41, appears on the official record as marrying the love of his life, Lydia May Bodwdish (1867-1893) in Durango, Colorado. The Crout’s would welcome three children into the world during their time in Durango, daughters, Laura Ann (b. 1889) and Marguerite (b. 1891), and son, Glendower “Glen” (b. 1892). During his time in Durango, Mr. Crout had made the transition from a laborer to a successful businessman running his own Saloons. However, sadly in 1893 his wife Lydia would pass away suddenly, leaving him and their three children behind.
In the mid-1890’s, Phil Crout and his three children relocated to Moab, Utah. He invested in livestock ranching on Indian Creek with his partner, Samuel C. “Shorty” Connell. They would also establish the Crout Ranch along the Colorado River, operating between Pritchett and Kane Springs Canyons, known today as the BLM’s Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area.
Crout & Connell would also be proprietors of several saloons in Moab, primarily, The Moab Saloon: “Moab’s Favorite Resort and agents of Anheuser-Busch Beer” along with their partner and bartender, Charles Williams.
In 1895, construction was completed on the Crout Building on Main Street (45 N Main) as the new home of The Moab Saloon, featuring billiards and pool in the connection (currently home to Cowboys & Indians Trading Co and 4Moons Gift Shop).
In 1900, Phil Crout purchased the interests of Harry G. Green (The City of Moab’s future First Mayor) in the LC May Building (currently occupied by Tumbleweed and Sage & Stone Salon) and after some renovations which included installing one of “the finest bars in The West,” The Moab Saloon made its new home there.
Phil Crout would also install some of the first gas powered lights to be featured anywhere in Moab, it was noted in the Grand Valley Times that “a couple of these lights on our street corners would a big improvement and one that the people of the town should make at once.”
The investors of the Williams Drugstore, which included a number of Connell & Crout’s Indian Creek neighbors, would lease the Crout Building to renovate and re-open it as the new home of their drugstore in 1903.
The Williams Drugstore would make the Crout Building it’s home from 1903-1907. The investors would again lease the building from 1909-1913, making some major improvements early in 1911, which would feature the instillation of a fine $1,000 soda fountain that rivaled those of any other location in Utah.
Perhaps the most unique thing about The Moab Saloon’s new location in the LC May Building would be reported in the June 20, 1902 edition of the Grand Valley Times:
“Phil Crout killed his hawk and released the two owls which he kept in a cage in the Moab Saloon. He gave his reasons that they ate too much. The wingless owls, however, will not be molested.”
By 1905, Mr. Crout had opened another saloon in Castleton at J.C. “Plug Hat” Kelly’s Hotel Castleton, expanding his business interests from Indian Creek to Moab to Castle Valley. He would regularly make trips by horse drawn buggy to oversee all his operations, including trips to Thompson Springs to make all his cash transactions and deposits.
An important business venture of Mr. Crout was his Ice business. Harvesting ice from the Colorado River near the Crout Ranch, using a horse drawn ice plow capable of doing the work of 10 men with hand saws. The following report from the Grand Valley Times appeared on June 3, 1904: ”If you see a bright colored wagon with the double-headed eagle painted on one side and a Russian Bear on the other you will know that it is Phil Crout’s official ice wagon.”
In addition to being a leading businessman, Mr. Crout was also one of Moab’s prominent civic leaders. In July of 1902, Phil Crout spearheaded and put up the first $50 toward a grand Fourth of July Celebration and he wrote the following submission for the effort:
“We the undersigned, patriotic and progressive citizens of Moab, hereby subscribe the following amounts set opposite our names for the celebration and rousing good time on THE FOURTH OF JULY.”
Mr. Crout would sell roughly a ¼ acre lot to the Trustees of the High School in March of 1904 to meet the needs of the growing city.
A striking man, said to have “blue-blue eyes and a striking red mustache” the Widower Crout would never remarry, but was fiercely devoted to raising his three children. He hired only the best housekeepers to care for his children as he saw to his business ventures, even firing and putting out onto the streets within the hour one housekeeper and her niece who were abusive towards his children the moment he found out.
Following his untimely death, Moab’s own, John Peterson would purchase the Crout Building in March of 1913, the Crout-Peterson Building has remained in the possession of Peterson’s descendants to the present day.
Marguerite Crout would marry Mennell “Pete” Ray, the son of Moab’s Lurana Helen Taylor and Cornelius Ray on October 26, 1910 in Moab, Utah.
Laura Ann Crout would marry Moab’s harnessmaker, Henry Spencer Barnes on October 11, 1911. Interestingly, H.S. Barnes’ Harness Shop would for a time also be located in the LC May Building, one of former locations of his father-in-law’s The Moab Saloon. Glendower would marry Agnes Morton in 1935.
While history is undecided on how his life ended, the way in which Philip Crout lived his life was never in doubt. An immigrant who escaped his native Russia, to find his home in the American West, to become a livestock operator, successful businessman, and impactful civic leader. Phil Crout has been remembered by those who knew him as a man of integrity, a lover of his new country, a man fully devoted to his children and his community.
This article also appeared in the Times-Independent as a two-part feature July 27 and August 3, 2023. You can read the Times-Independent version here.