Utah’s importance as a mining state since the arrival of white men there spawned many stores of lost mines and buried treasures, some among the best documented in the United States.
Gold, silver, copper, galena, zinc, alunite, and other abundant minerals gave every county in Utah at least one mine and the state 135 mining districts. Many of these districts were short-lived and are today marked by scores of decaying ghost towns. Utah is a treasure and relic hunter’s paradise.
It is believed that somewhere near Skull Valley, a cache of $10,000 worth of gold bullion lies buried at the edge of the Sevier Desert in western Utah. The loss of this $10,000 worth of gold ore was one of the few times Orrin Porter Rockwell, Utah Territorial Marshal, ever failed to recover robbery loot or get his man.
A staged robbery took place near Simpson Springs in the 1860s. The lone bandit had picked the most unlikely spot and method to use. Pretending to be hurt, he caused the stagecoach to stop. After taking the bags of gold bullion and loading them onto a pack horse, the bandit headed south.
The stage continued to Simpson Springs, where Marshal Rockwell happened to be. When he heard the story, Rockwell started after the bandit. After several days of trailing, he located the outlaw’s camp at the mouth of Cherry Creek in what is now Tooele County.
Taking the bandit prisoner, plus two bags of bullion to Lookout Pass, the bone-tired marshal went to bed. Sometime during the night, the outlaw escaped. When Rockwell delivered the two bags to Wells Fargo, he was shocked to learn that there had been three bags of bullion and that $10,000 was still missing.
Although a search of the outlaw’s campsite at Cherry Creek was made, the bullion has never been reported found.
This little-known cache of gold in the town of Gold Hill (a nearby ghost town) in Tooele County is almost certainly still there. During the Second World War, an old prospector, known only as John, lived on the north side of town. As his age advanced, John began losing his mind. After a while, his actions became so violent that they called the sheriff. John was taken to Tooele for psychic treatment.
When he became rational, he told the sheriff that he had $200.00 in a bank in Ely, Nevada, and asked the sheriff to get it and give it to a friend for safekeeping. When the transfer of the $200 was finished, John insisted on returning to his shack to get what he called a “flask of gold.” He claimed he had found it in the desert and had been stolen from a smelter.
The sheriff and hospital officials assumed that the flask was just a figment of John’s imagination, so he was left in the institution for treatment. A short time later, the sheriff met an employee of the Utah Highway Department, who told him of a visit he had made to John’s shack sometime before the older man went crazy.
John was trying to open a large flask and told the highway employee he had to leave.
The employee noticed wheelbarrow tracks coming from the older man’s pickup truck parked near the shack. The sheriff and highway employee searched the shack but could not locate the gold-filled flask.
About two years later, John has released from the mental institution. He got his $200 and left town. The shack was watched, but the older man never returned. It is believed that in his disturbed mental condition, John probably forgot about the flask.
Several searches have been done for this flask, but no report of its being found is known. Since it weighed about 100 pounds, the older man didn’t transport it too far since he had to use a wheelbarrow to carry it.
It is believed that in, or near White Mountain, thirty miles from Kanab, Utah, there is $10,000,000 in the Aztec treasure, which was buried in 1520 to keep it from falling into the hands of the Spanish.
In 1920, a man named Freddie Crystal came to Kanab and told the residents he knew where this vast treasure was hidden.
With a map obtained in Mexico and after long research, Crystal discovered what he believed to be the treasure site in Johnson’s Canyon. The spot matched his map. It was a canyon with four branches and four mountains on the north, each on the east, west, and south.
One of the mountains, next to White Mountain, which the map marked as the location of the treasure, had steps hand-carved into its face for 500 feet up its side to a lookout, just as the map indicated!
So overwhelming was the mass of information collected by Freddie Crystal that nearly all the adult population of Manab banded together in 1922 and, for two years, dug for the treasure, but it eluded them.
Among other things, an old hole plugged up with cement was discovered under the mountain. It was fourteen feet wide and sixteen feet long, and its entrance was sealed with granite blocks. After blasting this, other tunnels and branches were discovered, so the whole mountain appeared honeycombed. Ample proof of Aztec civilization was found in the main tunnel.
In addition, a cement floor, not natural and artificial, was found nearby, in the bottom of a dry wash. By that time, two years had elapsed, and everyone in the Knab treasure hunt felt the need to return to his making-a-living pursuits. Incredibly, then, this discovery of the cement floor, seemingly so vital, was never penetrated or further investigated.
Treasure trove experts still believe Montezuma’s treasure is near the 1922 search, possibly under the debris which resulted from the initial diggings.
On the night of October 11, 1881, three masked men held up a Colorado and Southern Railroad train just north of Colorado Springs, Colorado. How the larger part of the loot ended up in Box Elder County, Utah, takes some explaining.
A few days after the robbery, the express company announced the loss of $105,000 in cash and $40,000 worth of jewelry, mostly watches and diamond rings. A sheriff’s posse followed the outlaws northwestward but lost their trail near the Continental Divide. Eventually, the bandits were identified as E.E. “Jack” Wright, George H. Witherell, and George Tipton, all well-known wanted outlaws.
Later, it was learned that the three robbers had worked their way across Colorado and Wyoming into Idaho. From there, they followed the Bar River southward into Utah. They made camp about four miles north of Corinne. Most of the Colorado train loot was buried here, but each man kept a few hundred dollars, along with one ring and one watch. The few pieces of jewelry the men kept out led to their downfall.
One robber lost his watch in a Corrine Monte game. The winner showed the watch to a jeweler friend, who identified the stolen timepiece by the manufacturer’s serial number on the case. Eventually, Wright and Witherell were arrested, tried in Colorado, and sentenced to long prison terms.
Tipton, though badly wounded, managed to escape and fled the area. He was taken in and helped by Laff Roberts, a rancher who took pity on him. Before Tipton finally died of his wounds, he told Roberts a disjointed story of the robbery and gave him a rough map of the treasure’s burial place along the Bear River.
Roberts searched for the buried loot, using the map Tipton had given him, along the Bear River, and located some of the markers indicated. During his search, Wells Fargo agents notified him that anything found would be seized and that he would probably be sent to prison. After locating a few scattered watches and rings, Roberts abandoned the search as not worth the time and danger of being locked up.
Although the Bear River treasure story is well-known and authentic, no record of it being found can be learned.
Sometime in the late 1870s, two army officers en route to deliver a payroll of $60,000 in gold coins made camp at a spring near the headwaters of the San Rafael River. Aware that Indians had trailed them that day, they anticipated an attack at dawn the following day.
Deciding to make a run for their lives, they buried the heavy bags of money near the spring, mounted their horses, and rode out. The waiting Indians immediately attacked them, but the soldiers managed to fight them off and made their escape.
Deciding to have the money for himself, one of the officers killed the other and rode back to their headquarters, where he reported that Indians had killed his companion and that they had stolen the payroll. The story was not believed, and the officer was court-martialed and sentenced to 20 years.
After serving his term, the ex-soldier returned to the area of the spring and made a long but fruitless search for the buried gold. The spring had dried up over the years, and other landmarks had changed or disappeared. The treasure is supposedly still there.
Treasure hunters almost certainly overlook a location worth researching, the area between Farmington and Centerville in Morgan County. In 1923 and 1930, floods from several canyons took seven lives and caused over a million dollars in damage.
She was spewing mud, debris, and rocks weighing up to 20 tons each. The outpour blocked the highways and railroads, smashed homes, wreaked havoc on farmlands, and destroyed irrigation sources.
Several stores were destroyed. This is an excellent place to check with a metal detector for the thousands of items (in the form of coins, jewelry, tools, etc.) that the residents lost.
The location of silver mines in Utah that need to be checked further is in and near the old ghost town of La Plata. This mining camp was built over a known deposit of silver, but the ore was in quantities too small to mine at that time.
Several discoveries of silver in Utah have proven to be “spotty deposits,” not worth mining. However, the veins of silver under and extending out from La Plata have proved to be rich spots. They run from north of Brigham City to northeast of Huntsville. La Plata is located on the veins, about eight miles north of Huntsville.
A chunk of galena was found between Huntsville and La Plata a few years ago that weighed almost a hundred pounds. This piece of ore was lying on a hillside. Prospectors that saw it claimed it was the richest they had ever seen in Utah. A sample was sent to Salt Lake City, and the assay report was 84% lead and 16% silver. The source where this rich sample came from has not been found.
With the ever-increasing price of silver, it could very well pay an interested person to check out these “spotty deposits” around La Plata and Huntsville. The mother lode had to be somewhere in the vicinity.
A location that could be profitable is the area where the Old Weber Stagecoach station stood at Echo in Summit County. Built in 1853, at one time, the station was the headquarters for a gang called the “Rachet Gang.” They would steal horses and ponies and then return them when a reward was paid.
Finally, the notorious Jack Slade was sent by the Overland Stage Line to get rid of the thieves. Slade planted a few outlaws in the ground, and the rest decided it was time to leave the area.
During railroad construction in 1868, ten saloons, gambling houses, and brothels sprang up to fleece the railroad workers. Men often disappeared overnight. Seven bodies were later found under one saloon.
The old Weber Station survived long enough to become a service station.
When it was razed in 1931, inside the walls were a love letter, some small change, a five-dollar gold piece, a gun case, and a pair of gold spectacles. The area around this old station bears checking with a metal detector.
For those interested in searching for what could be “ghost gold,” this site is ideal. During 1880s, Highway 56 was a freighters’ road between the mining camps of Pioche and Panaca.
The freighters claimed that a rocky gorge near the Nevada line, northeast of Modena, in Iron County, was haunted by the ghosts of the Gadianton robbers, a terrorist brotherhood that the Book of Mormon explains as having sprung up among the Nephites and Lamanites in the century before Christ.
Wild-eyed freighters claimed the gorge was haunted and told tales of rocks closing the way and of the canyon seeming to fold up and trap them and their wagons. Stories of gold caches being hidden by these bands were prevalent among the freighters.
During the early 1870s, a man named Cass Hite, a supposed renegade and former member of Quantrill’s Civil War Guerrillas, built a rock house near Hite, on the Colorado River, in what is now Garfield County. For years he panned “flour” gold from the sandbars of Colorado. In 1893, while getting supplies at one of the settlements, he was questioned by determined prospectors as to the source of his gold.
Hite swore that the gold was washed downstream to the ripples and sandbars at the foot of Navaho Mountain. This information started a gold rush. Ferries were built, and dredges were brought in. After several weeks of work, when no gold was found, the miners went after Hite intending to hang him. The resourceful Hite had gone into hiding. Two years later, when the confusion had finally stopped, Hite returned.
It was never learned exactly where the gold came from. This would be a good location for a determined prospector to check out.
This location could be of interest to historians as well as treasure hunters. About 1900, Mormon Bishop Koyle dreamed of ore bodies in a mountain east of Spanish Fork in Utah County. Despite accusations of fraud and other setbacks, Koyle continued to tunnel into the mountain. His efforts yielded a small amount of gold, silver, lead, and platinum from what he called the Dream Mine, but not enough to pay on a large scale.
Among the many legends associated with Koyle’s enterprise is that of a Nephite or ancient Indian mine in this same region. An ancient tunnel is now caved in a short distance from the Dream Mine. Its walls were chipped out with crude tools.
A petroglyph on a cliff face near this shaft represents beasts of burden, short-legged and thick-boned like the South American llama, accompanied by drivers. From the mouth of the shaft and going south across the valley is what is thought to be the remains of an ancient causeway, a ridge about 14 feet high that leads to what is believed to be the ruins of a smelter and slag dumps. Is this the Lost Nephite Mine, which has been written about numerous times? Maybe someday, a treasure hunter will learn the truth.
There is a legend of a lost ledge of cinnabar, the chief element of mercury, near Bald Mountain, west of Mirror Lake in Summit County. Two men were deer hunting when one noticed a grey-colored rock at the mountain’s base. Breaking a sample apart, they were surprised to see drops of almost pure mercury.
They decided to return the following spring and file a claim, but for various reasons, they never did. The location is supposed to be on the north base of Bald Mountain. There could be some truth to this because it is recorded that mercury was found twenty miles southeast of Salt Lake City in 1869.
Kaiparwits Plateau (on modern maps) used to be called Fifty Mile Mountain. Several old-timers still refer to it by the old name. Somewhere on this mountain, there is supposed to be a cave that conceals a statue of solid gold that took four men to carry.
The story started in 1810 when Mexico declared its independence from Spain. Soldiers and peasants fought together to rid Mexico of the Spanish. Several Spanish soldiers fled to the north with several burros during the fighting. They decided to rob and loot anything of value in their path.
Reaching a mission, which unfortunately was in their escape path, the soldiers loaded the burros with the church gold and silver, vessels, and anything else of value they could find. Among the gold items the soldiers found was a statue of Jesus, over three feet high, made of solid gold.
After several days of travel, the soldiers reached the desert wastes of Arizona, then on into Utah. Waterholes were far apart, and no food could be found, so the burros were killed one by one. Load after a load of loot was dropped along the trail. Only a few soldiers were left when the Escalante Desert was reached. With imminent starvation, the soldiers hid the gold statue (all they had left of 40 burro loads of loot).
It is believed the soldiers found a cave at the north end of Fifty Mile Mountain, near the Boulder and Escalante town in Garfield County. The golden statue was hidden in this cave, and the entrance was covered. After a few days’ rest, the surviving soldiers left, and several of them made it to the Pacific coast, but they were never able to return for their cache.
A few years later, mountain men began their hunt for beavers in this area. Then came the Mormons, claiming title to the area containing the golden statue. Indians told the Mormons of a cave in the mountain that Spanish soldiers had used years before, then traveled on the west. It was years before the Mormons found time to search for the cave.
In 1875, a Mormon bishop named Llewellen Harris became friendly with an aged Indian who told him about the cave many years ago; Spanish soldiers had hidden a large cross of gold. The Indian had seen the cave once before the soldiers closed it. He had a crude map of the area with a mark showing the cave’s location.
Bishop Harris searched for years but never found the cave. However, he and other Mormon searchers did find evidence (in the form of spurs, uniform buttons, and a skeleton) that the soldiers had indeed been in the area of Fifty Mile Mountain.
Different symbols of spiders, turtles, crosses, and other strange markings, believed to be keys to the cave’s location, have been found, but no one has been able to decipher them. Maybe someday a treasure hunter will stumble on this cave with a heavy golden statue that took four men to carry.
In 1885, an old prospector named Truelove Manheart arrived in Park City and swore he would find gold in the Hayden Fork section north of the town. No one paid any attention to him because the whole area had been searched several times before. Manheart claimed that a friend of his, who had prospected the area years earlier, had told him that gold could be found in Summit County.
Silver had been discovered in the Park City area in 1869, but veteran miners believed no gold existed in the region. Undaunted by the remarks of the local citizens, Manheart traveled north, and within a few days, he found a ledge rich in gold, quite by accident.
Returning to Park City with ore samples, Manheart and the locals were dumbfounded to learn that the assay report showed $50,000 to the ton. While Manheart and half of the town were equipping themselves to go and stake claims, news arrived that a forest fire was burning in the Hayden Fork section and was headed for Park City.
The town was saved when the fire was finally controlled, and the prospectors headed north. But all the landmarks had been destroyed in the fire, and although several searches were done for the gold-laden ledge, it was never found.
Everyone in Moab, Utah, was acquainted with a quiet little man known as “the Old Goat Man.” He lived alone in a modest shack on the edge of town on a five-acre farm. The five acres didn’t belong to him. However, the owner took pity on him as he allowed him to live there for 20 years, rent-free.
He was somewhat a man of mystery, although the entire population of Moab seemed to like the old fellow. He spoke seven different languages fluently and was noted as a very interesting conversationalist and intelligent. He had no visible sources of income except the goats and lived partially on welfare. It was a strange state of affairs for a man so well-educated as the older man was.
His five acres were located on the Colorado River, and Highway 160 crosses the Iron Bridge on the northwest edge of town. Fishermen could trespass as long as they stayed clear of a certain slough that the Old Goat Man watched with a jealous eye.
He stated that the banks were for people who didn’t have enough sense to care for their own money. The slough is in a rather bushy area and was commonly referred to by some Moab residents as “The Old Goat’s First Security.”
In November or December of 1965, the Old Goat Man burned to death in his cabin. No one knows his worldly possessions, but it’s a good bet the answer could be found near the slough in an old-fashioned post-hole bank.
When Brigham Young led the Mormons to their new homeland in Utah, the need for crops, houses, and essentials for sustaining life was the most important factor for survival.
One day Brigham decided that, since their meat supply was running low, it would be a good idea to round up a few of the men and go hunting. They decided to go early the following morning and hunt the Wasatch Mountains that border the eastern edge of Salt Lake City.
After several hours without luck, they moved higher into the foothills and dropped into Ferguson Canyon. This is a very rough canyon, and they had always avoided it since there were so many other places where hunting had been easier. Not that meat was needed so badly; the canyon might produce a few deer, and, anyway, they figured it should be explored because it was practically in their backyard.
Shortly after dropping into the canyon, one of the groups discovered a vein of ore so rich in gold and silver that it was utterly unbelievable. Blue Oxide gave it such a beautiful color that some men wanted to take samples of the rock home for door stops. One of the men announced his piece was studded with gold nuggets and also carried a greyish color from the content of silver.
Then Brigham announced that such news as this could prove disastrous to the survival of the whole Mormon settlement. He explained that if this kind of news settled, men would abandon their crops to dig the gold. Finally, the hunting party all agreed that would be disastrous, so Brigham swore every man to secrecy never to reveal this discovery to a living soul.
Years passed, and the hunting party died one by one until only one survivor knew the secret. He thought about it for a long time, wondering if he should now tell of the rich vein, but he had taken a vow to protect the secret so they wouldn’t break his promise.
Finally, he realized his time on earth was soon to end. His health was failing fast, and he was old. His family could use the money from the rich vein after he was gone, so he decided to tell them and then swear them to secrecy, just as Brother Brigham had done the hunting party so many years ago. The family would at least know, and if circumstances warranted later, they could stand any expense that might come up.
His condition worsened to the point that he called the family together. In a weakened condition, he related the discovery only after each family member had sworn not to reveal the location to anyone outside their immediate household. A few days later, he passed away.
Several years passed before an attempt was made to find the vein, and some directions were vague. Finally, the story leaked to the family’s most trusted friends when the family asked for help finding the location. More searches proved fruitless. All that is known is that Ferguson Canyon was the right canyon.
The story has been whispered about for many years around the Great Salt Lake, but no record of its ever being found can be learned.
The Blomquist families of Richfield, Utah, have hunted for many years for an elusive treasure that they are certain exists in a small area northeast of that little town.
While still a youth, one of the Blomquist boys, Carl, was approached by an old Indian who told them that if he gave him some whiskey, he would show the boy where there was a Spanish gold cache. Carl “borrowed” some of his father’s stock (his father operated a saloon in the area for many years), and he and the old Indian set out for the mountains.
High in the back reaches of Fish Lake Mountain (over 11,000 feet high), the old Indian took the boy into a hidden cave. Motioning to the side, the Indian pointed out two suits of Spanish armor nearby, piled upon some leather ouches.
From one of the pouches, the Indian retrieved several “finger ingots” of gold -finger sized, oblong-shaped, and very rich – and let the youth handle them. When the boy started back into the cave to explore further, the Indian became adamant and refused to allow it. He insisted that they leave before there was “heap trouble.”
After he was grown, Carl attempted to return to the cave but found that time had erased certain landmarks, either on the mountain or in his memory, and he could not locate the cache. His last effort was made in the winter of 1971-1972, when he flew over the area, hoping in vain that the warm cave might show from the air.
The cave remains, as it has for many years, still guarded by the suits of Spanish armor.
In the mid-1850s, a wagon train approached Utah with misgivings about the reception they might receive from the Mormons. Stories of Mormon atrocities towards gentiles were circulating throughout the country then.
This party was a wagon train of no more than four or five wagons headed for California. At Fort Bridger, Wyoming, they learned of an alternate route that would take them through an area east of the Great Salt Lake and bring them into the San Rafael Swell country.
At the Red Seeps, south of present-day Castle Dale, Utah, the wagons were forced to stop and were attacked by Utes, a raiding party of Chief Walker, then at war with all whites in Utah Territory.
Several members of the wagon train were carrying denim pouches of gold dust. During the siege, one of the men slipped away under cover of fire and buried the denim pouches in ledges nearby in case they were captured. Instead, every member of the wagon train was killed. Their bodies were later discovered by Kimick Huntington, an Indian interpreter and Mormon scout.
After Chief Walker’s death, Huntington elicited the story of the attack upon the wagon train from members of the raiding party. Several of the Utes told of having witnessed the burying of the denim pouches, but no one was willing to return to the site to show Huntington the exact spot.
Few people have heard of the Lost Soldier Mine, and most have thought it is the Lost Dragoon Mine. However, they are not the same and are located in different Utah regions.
A soldier in Company A, Second Calvary, commanded by Colonel Patrick E. Connor, discovered the mine. While the detachment was stationed at Camp Floyd in north-central Utah, seven soldiers took leave to prospect in the Oquirrh Mountains. They found gold, silver, and lead. One soldier went higher on a mountainside and located a ledge from which gold could be broken out of rotten quartz. He filled a sack with all he could carry and then cut an 18-inch-high letter B in the bark of a nearby tree.
On arrival in camp, he found the others preparing to leave. A messenger from Camp Floyd had ordered all detachments to assemble at Camp Douglas (Fort Douglas) just outside Salt Lake City. Colonel Connor planned to make a winter campaign against renegade Indians.
On January 1, 1863, Colonel Connor marched his troops through snow and ice to nearly wipe out an encampment of Bannack Indians on the Bear River.
In the fight, the soldier who knew the location of the rich ledge was killed. The following summer, the other soldiers returned to the mountains but couldn’t find the ledge where the rich ore was. This mine has been searched for many times, but as far as can be learned, it is still undiscovered.
The town of Castle Gate is situated at the base of a beautiful rock formation from which it takes its name. When the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad built its line through Price Canyon, its blasting crews exposed large veins of coal, and hundreds of men were eventually employed in the new mines. A large payroll was brought in by train from Salt Lake City to pay the miners.
Butch Cassidy was known in Castle Gate by reputation only. However, a Utah boy (his real name was George Leroy Parker) had operated outside the law, mostly in Colorado and Wyoming. Cassidy hung around Castle Gate saloons, presumably looking for a job, but people noted that when a train came in, he rode his horse to the station until, finally, his horse was trained to stand quietly by the engine.
For the robbery about to be attempted, Cassidy chose two old friends, Elza Lay and Bob Meeks, as his confederate. These men were familiar with every inch of the country around the robbery site.
On April 21, 1897, the noon Rio Grande train pulled in, and the mine paymaster and two helpers met it. As the three men left the express office, one carried a bag containing $8,000 in currency, another carried a bag with $700 in gold, and the third carried a bag of $100 in silver.
Just as the paymaster started into the company’s office near the station, Cassidy stuck a gun in his ribs, and the two loafers, Lay and Meeks, jumped to his aid. The money was handed over, and the outlaws leisurely took their time in mounting their horses and riding off.
One story is that the robbers encircled price and rode off to the northeast into Brown’s Hole, where the loot was buried and never recovered. It seems more likely that the robbers rode south to Buckhorn Frat in Emery County, where the treasure is also reputedly buried.
During the 1850s and 1860s, robbers and bandits covered most of Utah. One of the most famous gangs was the Potter gang. During this period, a new member was added to the Potter gang; a Spaniard named Juan Lopez.
Lopez soon came into possession of quite a sizeable hoard of Spanish gold coins. It is unknown if he got them by robbery or, more likely, had retrieved them from an early Spanish cache to which he gained information or had secured a map.
At the same time that Lopez had acquired his wealth, Johnston’s army, stationed at Camp Floyd, about halfway between Utah Valley and Great Salt Lake City, was dispatched to hunt the mountains for Lopez and bring him in dead or alive.
Lopez’s camp was in the high mountains behind Mount Timpanogos (at the site where Robert Redford’s Sundance Ski Lodge stands today), where he was living with a band of renegade Utes and several army deserters.
Lopez managed to escape from the soldiers and went into Spanish Fork Canyon. Trapped by soldiers in the canyon and determined not to be taken alive, Lopez was shot to death. No trace of the missing gold coins he was carrying during his flight was found.
Here are some clues which should be sufficient for a search by any treasure hunter. The coins are believed to be buried between the present Sundance Ski Resort and Spanish Fork Canyon, behind massive Mount Timpanogos.
Completing the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869, brought a mining boom to the Great Basin. Among those first hopeful prospectors was a college-trained geologist named Lane. While others searched for gold in the still unexplored mountains, Lane prospected the barren Sevier Desert that borders the state’s western edge.
Lane later recalled that he had traveled southward along a range of dry waterless hills which separated the glaring white salt and alkali flats of the desert floor from the dull grey sandstone of the Confusion Range.
He had noticed occasional potholes worn deep into the soft sandstone, perhaps eroded by centuries of sand-laden winds and freezing weather. Theorizing that some potholes were deep and still contained water from melted winter snow or infrequent summer rains, Lane traveled eastward toward the usually dry Sevier River, hoping to find ore.
It was almost sundown when Lane’s burros scented water ahead. Although the water in the potholes was stagnant and green with scum, Lane greedily scooped it up for himself and his faithful burros. Then, while he was dipping water from one of the potholes, the setting sun reflected off hundred of tiny gold nuggets the size of kernels of grain in the bottom of the hole. From the potholes, Lane scooped gold-bearing sand and gravel. His hoard of nuggets grew daily.
Before the potholes dried completely, he had panned nearly 100 pounds of the little nuggets. Even at relatively low prices in 1870, this was worth $25,000.
Lane made his way to Cove Fort, a tiny Mormon settlement in extreme southeastern Millard County. He paid a nearby rancher with gold nuggets to keep his burros and then left for his home in the east. He promised to return the following spring.
Lane returned, never doubting that he could easily return to the potholes. However, a month-long search proved that the dry washes and sandstone ridges looked similar. He searched all summer and found many potholes, some with water in them, but never again did he find the places he had camped the year before or any of the strange iron-stained rocks.
Lane returned to the Mormon settlements between Cove Fort and Fort Desert for three years. Each time he searched the Sevier Desert. He knew the mysterious potholes were on top of a long ridge that stood just six feet high. Lane recalled seeing the Confusion Range’s dry peaks to the west and the higher mountains of the House Range to the north.
On clear days he had seen the snow-capped Snake Range beyond both. He also remembered seeing black volcanic cones shimmering like mirages through the heat haze to the southeast. He had crossed the sinks of the Sevier River, whose bitter and undrinkable alkali water loses itself in the brackish marshes of Sevier Dry Lake.
Lane spent his fortune and ruined his health searching the vast area but never found another grain of gold. Finally, discouraged and old before his time, he left the desolate Sevier Desert forever.
A cowboy, remembered as Hershell Hill, was herding livestock between Fillmore and Sevier Dry Lake on the Black Rock Desert when he got lost in a blinding sandstorm. While leading his horse somewhere near the north end of the low Cricket Hills, he stumbled and fell, losing his horse.
Stumbling and crawling through the black volcanic dust, he almost choked to death. Then he unexpectedly found shelter in a cave-like opening in a rocky ledge about ten feet above the desert floor. Gratefully, he crawled deeper into the cool cave and rested.
When his eyes became accustomed to the dim light, Hill began exploring his refuge, mainly looking for snakes. Along one wall, he tripped over an ancient leather packsack, nearly buried in fine sand and dust. The brittle leather, black and hardened with age, broke into fragments as he tried to lift it. Hill stared in amazement as it crumbled as a stream of tiny grain-sized gold flakes spilled on the cave floor.
When he finally realized the enormity of his find, Hill scooped up the small but heavy flakes. He dug deeper, uncovering other leather packs filled with the same flake-like gold. Under the packs, he found a pile of crude metal bars. He couldn’t examine them closely, for they were too heavy to lift.
When the furious wind finally lessened, Hill searched for his horse, but the storm had erased every track where no living thing could be seen. After filling his pockets with as much gold as he could carry, he began walking southeast. In the haze of early evening, he could see the outline of Black Rock Volcano, a landmark he knew was only a few miles south of Filmore.
Walking all night, he slowly walked toward the thriving Mormon settlement, which had once been the state capital. He later estimated the distance was about 30 miles, but his route wasn’t straight.
Much of Hill’s gold spilled from his pockets as he climbed over rock ledges or slipped down steep washes. But after reaching the town, he still sold enough to a merchant to equal several years’ wages herding livestock. The merchant paid Hill only part of the gold’s actual value, then sold it to an assayer.
Since the Black Rock Desert wasn’t known to contain minerals, the assayer felt the gold had been mined many years before by Spanish miners from placers farther north. Then for some unknown reason, it had been cached where Hill found it.
Hill thought he knew the desert well enough to go straight back to the low rock ledge. However, each windstorm changed the desert’s face, covering some landmarks and revealing others. Several weeks of wandering passed before Hill reasoned that if he could see Black Rock Volcano from the ledge, he should be able to see the ledge from the volcano.
With great effort, he climbed over loose lava rock to the crater’s rim, but nowhere in the dancing heat waves could he see any sign of the lost ledge.
Each time Hill rode the wild desert country after that, he watched for the low ledge but never found it again.
However, gold was found in the same area by another sheepherder.
During the early 1930s, a Basque sheepherder, remembered as Pedro, brought a small, heavy bag of grain-sized gold nuggets into the mining camp of Eureka, in Utah’s East Tintic Mountains north of the Sevier Desert. He purchased new clothes and a fancy saddle and still had enough money to finance a week-long drunk for himself and his newly acquired friends, which was half of the town.
Pedro made no secret that he found the gold far out in the desert. Not only was there a pile of tiny nuggets, but also bars of gold too heavy to carry, he related.
One day his new friends sobered up to find the sheepherder gone, but his story wasn’t soon forgotten. Years passed, and then in 1938, in the town of Delta, Pedro reappeared and sold 20 pounds of the same grain-like gold to Dr. J. E. Strains, a dentist.
The only information he volunteered was that he found the gold while herding sheep. Pedro took his money, reportedly $4,000, or half what the gold was worth, left town, and was never seen again.
Were these two different finds the same cave or ledge, and is it possible that some of the gold is still here?