State Treasures - Utah

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 27 of the October, 2011 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2011 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved

Snake Gold
UNKNOWN – Utah is a state with many legends of lost and buried treasures.
Dating back to the time of the buffalo hunters and fur trappers, Spanish settlements on the Pacific reported that Snake Indians from Utah were trading with gold nuggets for supplies.
When asked about the gold, the Indians remained silent.
While it was tantalizing information for any frontiersmen who happened to be passing through Snake country to keep a sharp lookout for rich gold deposits, there just wasn’t enough information about where to look for most to take the news with much optimism.
However, years later, Frank Lane, a recent graduate from Yale Law School, was reading an old letter from a trapper who mentioned the Snake Indians often carried buckskin pokes full of gold nuggets that had been washed from the gravels by Indian women at a secret location.
Lane appears to have gotten a touch of gold fever and decided he’d go check out the Snake country in search of this secret mine before settling down to open his law practice.
Gold fever is quite contagious and, without much energy, Lane soon managed to convince another recent graduate to join him in the adventure.
That man’s name has been lost to history.
Lane and his partner soon found themselves entering the Colorado Rockies with high hopes and a certainty of absolute success that is often a symptom of the fever.
Months passed as they traversed through the mountains. They enjoyed the company of scouts, trappers, and hunters in the region, but found little gold.
With winter approaching, the two men descended onto the plains of eastern Utah and established a permanent camp on the border of Snake country.
Inexperienced at mining, they had no better success than in the mountains.
By now Lane had become quite discouraged and started spending most of his time in camp.
It was decided to move on and, after several days’ journey, the men camped for the night at the base of a low-lying granite mountain.
The men noted several potholes in the iron-stained mesas of the uplift were full from recent rainwater, but paid no particular attention to them.
With Lane growing more restless, his partner said he had a hunch they were in the right place and would soon find the Snake’s gold.
Lane however called it quits, turned the outfit over to his partner, and departed for Boston to open his practice.
The unknown partner was now the sole owner of the outfit as he watched his restless friend vanish into the desert horizon.
He mounted his mule and ventured out on a hunting trip on the nearby plains.
He was returning to camp with an antelope and stopped briefly to water his mule and himself at one of the potholes.
With the noonday sun shining directly down into the hole he could see nugget gold.
Reaching down, he picked up a handful of material and found it rich in gold ore.
He spent the rest of the afternoon panning gold from the shallow hole before returning to camp around sundown.
He estimated he had picked up roughly $700 in gold from one hole alone.
The story claims this unknown prospector spent weeks working several rich potholes in the vicinity believing he’d found the source of the Snake’s gold.
As the cold winter winds began pushing over the plains, the prospector packed up and headed for the nearest settlement.
It was estimated he had carried out almost $100,000 in gold, which he is said to have lost most of due to bad investments after returning to the east.
Years later he returned to the area of his bonanza strike and either failed to locate the right spot or found the potholes worked out.
Whether he located the Snake’s source of gold is unknown.
The only surviving clue as to the location of this rich strike is that local sheepherders and cowboys knew this site in eastern Utah and nicknamed it simply… “The Potholes.” Some believe the potholes were not natural, but excavations made by the Snake women.The ‘Lost’ McDonald Mine?
WEBER COUNTY – Not far outside the city limits of Ogden, Utah, is where a man remembered only as McDonald is said to have discovered a rich gold mine in Taylor Canyon.
The discovery occurred about 1899 and, soon after filing his claim, McDonald built a permanent cabin from tightly notched logs with a stone foundation.
He began tunneling into the hard granite cliffs to an extent of 100 feet before abandoning the mine in 1911 due to bad health. He then quietly left Ogden and moved to California.
Twenty-six years later, in 1937, McDonald returned to Ogden with his two sons.
He was in failing health and could not guide his boys through the deep canyon, so they camped just beyond the dead-end on 27th Street at the present-day east city limits.
This is the mouth of Taylor Canyon. McDonald didn’t intend to remain long, and clearly the three had no intention to reopen the old mine. So what had they come for?
From camp, McDonald directed the search for his abandoned mine.
There are several accounts of this story and all seem to infer that McDonald had returned to recover a cache of gold he’d hidden here before leaving for California in 1911.
But to find the gold, his sons first needed to locate the old mine, as it was the landmark the old man had used to secret his gold 26 years before.
According to a 1959 Ogden newspaper article, written by a man who claimed he’d met McDonald and his sons in 1937, the McDonald boys searched for days, but failed to find the mine’s portal.
Empty-handed, the McDonald party returned to California without the gold.
The writer states after their departure is when the McDonald Mine took on the title of “lost.”
This story has the unusual ring of truth to it and it is well documented. None-the-less, I have some problems with it.
McDonald’s Mine was a hard rock mine with a tunnel driven in about 100 feet. Below the mine was the dump and below the dump was the canyon floor.
McDonald’s cabin was located further east up the canyon less than a mile from the dump.
All three sites were located roughly 1.4 miles (as the crow flies) from the mouth of the canyon.
Unless the two McDonald brothers were imbeciles, they should have easily found all three sites.
Six years after McDonald left for California, a fire swept through the canyon and destroyed the cabin in 1917.
But the ruins of the cabin remained and were documented in the autumn of 1965
By George A. Thompson who wrote, “Only three of the bottom logs remained. They were notched closely together, showing the builder’s skill in carpentry.”
Thompson also mentioned that the cabin had been built upon a stone foundation.
Based on my research, I’m reasonably certain that the McDonald boys would’ve easily located their father’s cabin site in 1937.
And if they’d found the ruins of his cabin, locating the mine portal and dump should’ve been quite simple.
Though brush and overgrowth would’ve made these sites difficult to spot, the site was only 1.4 miles from the mouth of the canyon, and with the cabin built on or near the canyon floor it should’ve been easy to find even after the fire.
In 1958, when Thompson first visited the canyon site, he reported, “In 1958 the tunnel was open, although badly caved in.
Oak brush up to four inches thick now grows on the dump, concealing it so that it is quite hard to find.”
That means in 1937 the portal and mine would’ve still been open and easily spotted and investigated up the north face of the canyon wall.
Naturally the dump would be found directly below the portal.
And a short distance away on the canyon floor were the still standing ruins of their father’s cabin.
It makes no sense that these two young men spent days searching Taylor Canyon and found nothing.
Or, perhaps they found what they were looking for and kept it quiet before returning to California?
Since then a landslide has obliterated the mine’s portal, causing many to ask if the McDonald vein will ever be uncovered and worked again?
And if the McDonald’s were telling the truth and did leave empty-handed in 1937, then there’s still a cache of gold hidden somewhere in Taylor Canyon.Sources:
Mitchell, John D., Lost Mines & Buried Treasures Along The Old Frontier, 1954, 1995, Glorieta, New Mexico, The Rio Grande Press, Inc., p. 230 – 233
Thompson, George A., Taylor Canyons Not Lost Mine, November 1969, Treasure World magazine, p. 51
Rochette, Edward C., Lost Mines & Buried Treasure, 1992, Phoenix, AZ, Renaissance House Publishers, p. 45
The “Ogden Examiner,” Sunday Edition, October 18, 1959. (Note: This is the story referenced by Thompson. I believe the story would be in the Evening Edition, as I could not find the story in the Morning Edition for this date.)