By Lynn Arave
UTAH is full of myths and legends. from the Bear Lake Monster, to Bigfoot and various haunted places, yet none is more mysterious than the lost Rhodes Gold Mine.
This mine was supposedly used to gain the gold to coat the Angel Moroni statue, on the top of the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Most common beliefs are that the mine is either in the Uinta Mountains, or on the Ute Indian Reservation, near Ouray.
Some even tie the mine into the Spanish and legendary Aztec gold mine lore.
Over the decades, some have scoffed that the mine even exists at all. A report in the Salt Lake Tribune of May 24, 1896 was written by an unnamed man who knew Thomas Rhodes well and provided his own memories of the man and mining.
The story states that Rhodes had brought to Utah some $50,000 in gold dust that he had secured in California. Then, years later he was on Strawberry Creek in the Uinta Mountains and noticed some similarities between the rocks there and the ones he had found gold at in California. Rhodes then panned the stream and found a little gold there.
After returning to Salt Lake City, he told LDS Church President Brigham Young about the gold and he urged Rhodes to keep the knowledge of any mines hidden.
That's because President Young didn't want an influx of people to the area, nor any disruption in the Mormon Pioneers' stock raising and agricultural interests.
"And it is evident that he (Rhodes) latterly lost confidence in the importance of his find, as he had opportunities to determine its extensiveness," the article stated.
The article also stressed that Rhodes never claimed any great knowledge of finding or mining gold.\
"The 'Rhodes' mine is only a companion myth of the "Spanish" mine at Springville, the Kanosh legend of Spanards working the Horn silver, the Mexican shaft in City Creek Canyon, etc.," the article concluded.
Thus, to this man, the Rhodes mine was never a mine, merely a little gold panning that evolved into a gold mine legend decades later.
-"Rich land of the Utes" was an Oct. 11, 1897 headline in the Salt Lake Herald newspaper. Regarding the Rhodes mine, this article stated:
"It is on the Uintah reservation that the famous Rhodes mine is located. Everyone in Utah is familiar with the story of Rhodes' life, who for years left home in the spring with a pack animal and regularly returned in the fall with several thousand dollars in gold. The secret of this hidden wealth was transmitted on the decease of the father to his eldest son who in turn died and left it to his younger brother, the man who is at present associated with FWC Hatherbruck in the endeavor to obtain the Indian's consent to a lease. Operations along this line have been temporarily suspended for the reason that Hatherbruck has been subpoenaed as a witness before a court at Provo City."
-A Feb. 6, 1902 story in the Eastern Utah Advocate newspaper strongly hinted that the Rhodes mine was a myth. It cited how many cowboys and sheepherders have roamed the territory, where the mine is supposed to be, and have only found copper -- and no gold.
The article then cited the Wasatch Wave newspaper that stated:
"It claims that an older settler said that Rhodes secured his gold dust in California in the early days -- brought it back to Utah and cached it out in the hills. About once a year he would visit his treasure box, and upon his return with gold, people were led to believe he secured it on the reservation."
-Notwithstanding such scoffing, the Utah Mining Review of Oct. 30, 1903 reported that the Rhodes mine had been found by the Florence Mining Company. Since no more was ever reported on that discovery, it was obviously proven wrong.
-Also, the lost Rhodes mine was reported found much more recently, in 1958. The Uintah Basin Standard newspaper of July 10, 1958 carried the headline, "Lost Rhodes Gold mine believed found by Bullock Mining Co." Again, with no future reports, that was also proven false in time. (The same newspaper had hinted at the possibility of a big gold strike in an Aug. 15, 1957 article, during a year when 25 mining claims were filed in Duchesne County.)
-So the legend of this gold mine, as many similar gold mines in the West, refuses to cease. Has the Rhodes tale evolved from simple gold panning, or from Rhodes' own possible cache of California gold into a full blown lost gold mine? Or, is it the real deal with an authentic lost gold mine out there ... Who can tell?