Friday, October 1, 2010


One of the most exciting stories of lost treasure comes from the early days of the Mormon settlers in Utah. If you have ever been to Salt Lake City, the most impressive site is the Mormon Temple. On the very top of the temple is a 12 foot tall statue of the angel, Moroni. The statue is covered with solid gold. According to Mormon legend the gold was provided by Thomas Rhoads, from mines known only to him. This is the story of those mines.

Thomas Foster Rhoads (1796-1869), known as "The Mormon Pathfinder," was born in Green River, Kentucky, and was a descendent of Palatinate German ancestors. He fought in the War of 1812. He later moved to Illinois and there joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1835. One of the earlier converts to Mormonism, Thomas Rhoads led the first expedition of Mormon settlers to northern California in May of 1846, a year before Brigham Young and his band of pioneers were ready for the trek. Their wagon train was just ahead of the unfortunate Donner party, which suffered terrible hardships in the Sierra Nevada Mountains after a late-season start. One account of Rhoads says members of his family were among those who went to the Donners' rescue.

Upon arrival in October of that same year he settled near Sutter's Fort along the Consumnes River. Thomas Rhoads then went to work for, and became a close friend of, John Augustus Sutter, famous for the discovery of gold at his mill site. The Rhoads’ reportedly were paid in gold dust while they worked for Sutter, and they also took gold themselves from placer mines in the area. Much of Rhoads' early fortune came from mining the gold-rich fields along the Sacramento valley.

Rhoads and other Saints who had gone to California, including members of the Mormon Battalion, had begun to settle comfortably into their new lives when President Young determined that Salt Lake Valley was "The Place” for the recently disenfranchised Mormons to settle in as their "Zion." He sent letters to Rhoads and other church members advising them to return to Zion to aid in the building of the new Mormon community. Some did, some preferred to remain in California. In August 1849, Rhoads and Samuel Brannan organized a wagon train to make the journey back to Utah. It is estimated that Rhoads returned to the Salt Lake Valley with approximately $17,000 in gold.

In order to finance the prospering community, Brigham Young ordered that a mint be built and that currency in the form of gold coins be issued as a means of payment for goods and services within the community. Many Mormon pioneers who had originally settled in California and were returning at the behest of the Church presidency brought back with them gold that they gave to the mint in lieu of their regular tithing. From this gold were struck four denominations of distinctive Mormon coins in two-and-one-half, five, ten, and twenty dollar amounts. On Oct. 9, 1849, according to church records, Thomas Rhoads deposited $10,826 in the mint's account, a sizable fortune for the time., and it is from this gold that a majority of the gold coins were struck.

His adventures with gold were not behind him, family records indicate. In 1852, Rhoads, then Treasurer of Salt Lake County, was asked by President Young to acquire gold from a number of hidden mines whose location had been made known to him by the Ute Chief Wakara (also "Yah-Keera" or "Keeper of the Yellow Metal"), who had recently been converted to the Mormon faith and had taken the Anglicized name of Walker. The mines made known to President Young by Chief Walker were known to the local Ute community as "carre-shin-ob," or "there dwells the spirit." In an agreement between Chief Walker and President Young, the gold was only to be used for Church purposes, and only one man would ever know their location besides the Ute Chief. Indian surveillance would be constant and that only as much gold be brought out each trip as the individual could carry. The death penalty was to be executed immediately if the secret got beyond the chosen person. President Young demanded in turn that Walker, whose loyalties were known to be chancy, take an oath upon the Book of Mormon to hold up his end of the bargain. Thomas Rhoads was appointed the guardian and custodian of the mines, which were supposedly mines abandoned by the Spanish who were in the territory before the 1776 Domin-guez/Escalante explorations.

According to the family account of Gale R. Rhoads, a grandson, Thomas made a number of trips into the mountains with an Indian guide. Each of Rhoads' trips took about two weeks, and the first load of gold, the family records say, weighed about 62 pounds. The Deseret News frequently reported his comings and goings, without details regarding gold, if any.

During the next few years, Rhoads made several trips into the Uintah Mountains, often returning with loads of gold in excess of 60 pounds. During the summer of 1855, Thomas Rhoads became ill to such a degree that his son Caleb, signed the oath and took over the job of recovering the Indian gold. After regaining his health, Thomas and his son Caleb continued to transport gold from the hidden mines. That same year, Chief Walker passed away and his successor, Arapeen, became Chief of the Ute tribe and renewed the gold pact with Caleb Rhoads. During this time, Caleb Rhoads was known as a generous alms giver and became one of the wealthiest Mormons of the time, as attested by the size of his tithing (Mormon tithing is one-tenth of income). Rumors surrounding the wealth of Caleb Roads indicate that there were additional mines not associated with the Carre-Shinob mines from which he personally amassed his wealth without breaking the covenant with the Utes.

After Walker's death, his brother, Arapeen, took over Ute leadership and continued to allow Caleb Rhoads to harvest gold from the tribe's secret store. After the death of Chief Arapeen, his successor Chief Tabby refused to renew the gold pact. According to the legend the location was also not passed on to the next generation of Indians either as the elders were concerned because the younger braves were learning about white man's whiskey and worried that they would sell the secret of the treasure for whiskey.

Family records say that Caleb made several covert trips to the site after this. He also petitioned the U.S. Congress for a land lease and agreed to pay the national debt in exchange. He was frustrated in part by a Utah representative to Congress, George Q. Cannon, who said Rhoads was "only an ignorant prospector and not capable of handling a $100 million deal." In the end, the petition was denied, and the federal government eventually chartered other companies to mine in the Uintas. Government-paid geologists scouted the area and reportedly found many Spanish artifacts, smelter ruins and other signs of ancient mining. But they never found the fabled Rhoads Mine.

As an estimation of the value of the gold mines in the area, Caleb Rhoads petitioned the U.S. Federal Government for a mining lease on the land thought to contain the mines in exchange for paying off the United States national debt. The U.S. government denied the lease in part due to political maneuvering by George Q. Cannon, a Utah representative to Congress, and mining leases on the land were given to other private companies. Geologists hired by the U.S. government surveyed the area in question and found evidence of Spanish exploration and mining, but no trace of the Carre-Shinob mines was ever found.

Caleb claimed the deposits were in unique formations not usually associated with gold. He said the geologists were looking in the wrong place. Thomas was called in the late 1850s to settle Minersville and help develop silver mines in that area. He died there in 1869.

Legendary stories about Spanish gold and speculation about Rhoads family successes in Uinta mines have inspired many gold-seekers to scour the area for clues. In some cases the ventures have led to disastrous results, leading to claims of a lingering curse. There are many stories about people who have found pieces of the Spanish treasure in this area. One story tells about a doctor that was fishing along Rock Creek. As he worked his way along the river he found an iron door set into the hillside, under some weeds. As he was trying to get the door open he heard a sound. He turned to find two Indians behind him. They grabbed him and cut off his hand. They told him, if he ever came there again, it would be his head. There have been a number of people that have died in these mountains while looking for this treasures. So if you go looking, be sure to watch your back.
At the lodge at Moon Lake they have an old Spanish cannon that was found in the area. There have been Spanish gold pans found in the area and also Spanish armor. All of the mines were originally worked by the Spanish, they worked the Indians as slaves until the Indians, finally rebelled and drove them out. Years later a group of 10 Spaniards tried to sneak back and recover some of the gold they had hidden. The Indians caught them and slaughtered them all. They say they buried the whole wagon full of gold somewhere near Rock Creek

The location of the Carre-Shinob mines have remained a mystery. Speculators and historians suggest that the mines are located along a 70-mile stretch of the Uintah Mountains between Hanna, Utah and the Whiterocks area of the Ashley National Forest. This is a stunningly beautiful and rugged area, and home to Utah's tallest mountain, King's Peak, which rises to nearly 14,000 feet.

To this day, no one knows exactly where the fabled mines of Carre-Shinob lie, but according to the personal statement of Kerry Ross Boren, a distant relative to Chief Walker, he has become the current custodian of the Carre-Shinob mines:

"Knowing that I could walk right to the sacred mine of Carre-Shinob, instead I approached the Elders of the Ute Tribe by way of family inter-marriage with the Reeds. After a great deal of deliberation and discussion, I entered into the same blood-oath that my 3rd great grandfather and both Thomas and Caleb Rhoades swore to. Upon that promise never to reveal the location of Carre-Shinob, never to return there, and not to remove or disturb anything - I entered into one of the most fabulous and probably richest mines in the world. My time spent in Carre-Shinob consisted of 6 hours - not enough but certainly more than enough to change my life forever. While hundreds of people have searched for the Rhoades Mines and the rumored fabulous wealth that the Utes and the Uintah Mountains keep secret, I can honestly say that it does exist. Within the caverns of Carre-Shinob reposes the semi-mummified bodies of great Utes such as Old Chief Sanpete and Chief Wakara, as well as many others. It is an eerie feeling when your flashlight goes out momentarily and you feel the walls come alive - as though all of those Great Ones were watching every move you make. Carre-Shinob is composed of a series of caverns with connecting tunnels formed through a series of active volcanoes, thereby forming lava-tubes that honeycomb the Uintah range.

"My own eyewitness to the astounding secrets that Carre-Shinob revealed sounds to the laymen to be too fantastic to be true. However, the Sun Chamber (as I dubbed it) was an Aztec Temple. In the center of this immense room were nine great stone pillars, too large in circumference for a man to encircle his arms. This entire chamber - walls, ceiling, floor, and pillars - were plated with what appeared to be pure gold! In fact, as I have since thought, it might not have been plated with gold so much as the interior was solid natural gold, from which the center had been excavated, leaving a certain amount of thickness around the exterior walls. If so, the amount of gold once filling this chamber staggers the imagination. On the other hand, the amount of gold still in this chamber surpasses anything ever yet discovered, enhanced by the additional number of gold artifacts stored therein. For instance, there were two gigantic solar disks, each taller than a man and several inches thick, they were apparently of pure gold and must have weighed tons each. The disks represented the sun, with rays emanating from the center outward, and between the rays were intricate carvings of signs and symbols of a peculiar nature. In the very center of each disk was a carved cross, very much like the Celtic cross of Ireland (or Wales), with ivy vines woven around the design. Furthermore, there were golden masks and statuettes, and many stone boxes filled with treasure of another kind: gold plates with hieroglyphic writing on them! There were smaller stone boxes, too, and these contained an assortment of precious stones - emeralds, rubies, turquoise, sapphires, and strangely, sea shells - and others contained gold bracelets, circlets, rings, earrings, and other ceremonial jewelry. Together with the masks, disks, statuettes and other artifacts, the caverns were a treasure trove like something out of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights."

Many people still actively search for the Lost Rhoads Gold Mines, and several books about the mystery have been written, both by descendants of Thomas Rhoads and independent historians. Some have surmised that the ancient Seven Cities of Cibola refer to the mines of Carre-Shinob. Mormon historians suggest that the mines are repositories of the weatlh of the Lamanites referred to in the Book of Mormon. Regardless of what may be fact and what may be fiction, the legend of the Lost Rhoads Gold Mines is an exciting tale replete with mystery, myth, and tales of fabulous wealth.

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