Friday, October 8, 2010

The Josephine Mine

In 1939 a man named John Wesley Young jr., a great grandson of Brigham Young, was herding cattle on Hoyt Peak with his 12 year old son Keith. While watching over their herd they were overcome by a sudden and violent thunderstorm which forced them to seek shelter. The two found themselves under a small tree against a ledge of rock.

Some time had passed when John turned to say something to his son and was surprised to find that he was gone! John called for the boy several times. Keith soon stuck his head out of a nearby hole at the base of the ledge. "Dad! There's a house down here!" Being somewhat of a prospector, and also being thoroughly wet and cold, John joined his son in the chamber.

When the storm had lifted a little and some light came into the shaft, they found themselves in a chamber approximately 25 by 40 feet and about 9 feet tall. The pair then rode back to their camp to obtain a good light. When they returned and were able to inspect the shaft more thoroughly, they discovered ancient tools and an old forge and anvil. The debris on the floor indicated that many animals had been sheltered there in the long ago and it was obvious that the room was used as some kind of a work area.

At the south-west corner of the room was a steep inclined shaft which descended about 35 feet to a lower tunnel. This tunnel was blocked by a slab of rock that was caving in over a large wooden door. He did not dare pry the door open for fear of caving in the roof! John and his son packed up their camp and returned home to share his find with his wife Irene and eldest son Marion. In his excitement he told them "I believe I have found one of the old Rhoades mines!"

John returned with Irene and Marion to inspect the mine. Marion was soon fighting in World War II and in his absence John was unable to do much work on his old mine. He did however, spend much time with his wife in the surrounding area on Hoyt Peak prospecting for other deposits. They discovered some very rich ore on the south slope of Hoyt Peak. Several independent assayers examined the ore and all came back with high values.
The urge to explore his mystery mine beyond the door eventually became to great for him to resist. He purchased some blasting powder and drove to Kamas. From here he transferred the supplies to Hoyt Peak by wagon and team with the help of his younger son. While he was planting charges in the lower tunnel near the door he noticed that the foot wall of the shaft was completely lined with small, black slabs of rock. He casually put a couple of these in his pocket and continued to set his charges.

After the blast went off, John entered the shaft and was making his way toward the lower tunnel when his son yelled to him that the roof was shifting. He barely made it out before a large portion of the ceiling fell in, completely burying the lower shaft. It was about this time that John broke one of the strange slabs with a hammer. He could hardly believe his own eyes. They were nearly pure virgin silver!

It was now apparent that if the mine were to be re-opened they would need to enlist the help of professional engineers. The cache of silver that lined the wall would offset the costs, but to excavate the rubble even that far seemed out of reach. John would end up working on Hoyt Peak on and off for the next 30 years. He became victim to failing health and bad partnerships. His dream would never be realized.

During the 1980's further attempts to open the old shaft were made by the late Gale Rhoades and Stephen Shaffer. It was during this time that an exciting discovery was made. While researching old documents in the special collections of BYU University, Rhoades came across an interesting document in the collection of a professor Russell Roger Rich. It was titled "Old Spanish Waybill" and pertained to an old mine west of the headwaters of the Provo River. Rhoades made a copy of the document and had it translated. It reads as

"Waybill - Year 1782 - 1814. This waybill pertains to the Mine of the Ute's. Called later the Josephine
de Martinique, for the Empress. This mine can be found, west twelve leagues from the river Timpanogos headland and two leagues from the mouth of the river Santa Anna to the southeast. To travel one league to the south through native land of valley grass to a canyon which enters the valley from the east. Follow this canyon east to a peak round and bare of growth, and from the peak measure 1600 varas to the northeast. At the mouth of the mine there are some small rocks and brush coverage at the base of a small dark ledge.
The Mine of Josephine de Martinique has three tunnels and one shaft - two tunnels of 400 varas run to the west and one tunnel of 350 varas runs to the southeast. Tunnels and shaft be one mine. The shaft runs 73 varas vertical and has four room and six tunnels. These rooms to be used as workshops for the transfer of the mineral silver and gold. Twenty nine varas apart to the sun at mid-day are these rooms. To the percent of metal - is yellow metal which is half silver and one fifth part of gold at one hundred varas. In this mine we encountered slabs of virgin silver from one pound to five pounds.
At this place in the mine there is the treasure of our comrades. Forty six varas from the porthole of the mine in the center of the tunnel, and eight varas beyond one door of thick wood there is the treasure: there are many slabs of virgin silver, 650 cargoes of bar silver and 240 cargoes of bar gold that are six millions. Their treasure abandoned for fear of death by hostile natives - of forty two comrades eight survived.

This mine we worked from the year 1782 and covered in 1814, as so written in the journal of work of
the expedition by me - Jose Joaquin Garcia, Captain - Mexico City, November 1814."

Needless to say, Gale was very excited and he knew he had to get the document authenticated as soon as possible. He located a Mr. Jonathon Stowers in the Department of Language at the University of Utah and made an appointment to have the document examined. When Rhoades arrived at Mr. Stower's office he was met by Stowers and two of his assistants. They were joined later by a professor Handcock who was from Mexico City and knew a great deal on this subject matter. The document was examined by each person
then it was openly discussed as a group. Their finding was as follows:

The document appears to be genuine and authentic. It could only have been written by a Spanish speaking person of that era who was aquainted with the phraseology and use of the language. It's author was of normal education and not a scholar, as were most clergymen or priests of that time, but he was well schooled in the language, typical of men of his position with the military who most probably worked his way up through the ranks to become that of an officer. The use of singulars in conjunction with plurals, as in this document, was very typical of many documents obtained from that period. Several words used in the document are also no longer used but were commonly used at that time.

Mr. Stowers later signed a statement concerning the authenticity of this document. Rhoades and Shaffer it seemed had a bonanza on their hands. They lost no time in getting to work. Following the exciting discovery of this document, the two men spent a lot of time on Hoyt Peak trying to clean out the old shaft and prospecting other areas of Hoyt Peak.
The mountain was not yet ready to reveal her secrets however, Gale Rhoades died on that mountain working on the Josephine. The claims have been maintained by Mr. Shaffer and work will continue on the mine. Opening this old shaft has proved to be slow and dangerous work but with perseverance Mr. Shaffer may be rewarded for his efforts.

There are many other old mine shafts on and around Hoyt Peak and some fabulous ore has been taken from that mountain. There are about a half dozen graves perched atop a cliff. I wondered to myself if they perhaps belonged to the slain members of Garcia's expedition. Another mystery in the mountains!

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