Railroads and Mining in Utah's Bingham Canyon, Discovery to 1863
This page was last updated on June 23, 2022.
Years of Discovery, to 1863
Bingham Canyon is located about 23 miles southwest of downtown Salt Lake City. The canyon has been the a center of mineral mining activity since the early 1860s, when silver and gold were discovered. Copper was at first a nuisance when it was discovered in 1862, but was first mined in 1871 by James Woodman.
"In August, 1849, Sanford and Thomas Bingham took a herd of horses and cattle belonging to the Binghams, Pres. Brigham Young and others up to the high land near the mouth of the main canyon opening into Salt Lake Valley from the west. They built a cabin about 1 1/2 miles below the mouth of the canyon on the north side of the creek, in which they lived while herding the stock during the winter of 1848-49, and also during the spring and summer of 1849, and perhaps during the winter of 1849-50. The locality was named Bingham honoring the Bingham families, after they had made their temporary home at the mouth of the canyon. Some prospecting for precious metal was done by the Bingham boys and several good prospects were discovered but not developed. When the people from the east side of the valley who had commenced a settlement between the two Cottonwood creeks entered Bingham Canyon on the west side of the valley to obtain poles and other fencing material, they found the two Binghams encamped in their little cabin. After the founding of Herriman in 1851 the early settlers of that little village used the region of country, both mountain and valley, near Bingham Canyon, as a herd ground." (Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, p. 66)
"A story is told that in the very early days of Utah part of the Church cattle were run in Bingham Canyon, under the direction of Thomas Bingham and his sons. Brother Bingham and his sons found some mineral ore and took it to President Young, who told them to say nothing of it, as he was afraid the people would desert their farms and seek gold. He also told the Bingham men that the news would create excitement and people in the east would rush to Utah. President Young was conscious of the fact that gold and other precious metals were plentiful in the nearby hills, but he counseled the Bingham family to think nothing of it. Bingham Canyon received its name from this family who built a cabin in the hills and for some time made their home there." (Kate B. Carter, Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 2, p. 223)
"Edwin Bingham, born May 5, 1832, the son of Erastus and Lucinda Gates Bingham, brought his family to Utah in 1847. The Bingham Brothers owned the site of Bingham Canyon and used the land for a grazing ground. The site was first called "Bingham's Herd House" and later "Bingham's Gulch." The Bingham boys, while herding their animals over the slopes of the hills, gathered pieces of ore and carried them to Brigham Young. In 1858 Edwin was called by President Young to take his family and move south, so this ended his connection with Bingham Canyon. He owned a large tract of land in Ogden, upon which he had built "Bingham's Fort." This was bought from him by Brigham Young for $3.00. A tract of land on 23rd and Adams Streets was sold for horses and a wagon, with which the family moved south. Another piece of land was sold for supplies for the trip." (Kate B. Carter, Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 4, p. 322)
"Edwin Bingham brought his family to Utah in 1847. The Bingham Brothers owned the site of Bingham Canyon and used the land for a grazing ground. The site was first called "Bingham's Herd House" and later "Bingham's Gulch." The Bingham boys, while herding their animals over the slopes of the hills, gathered pieces of ore and carried them to Brigham Young. In 1858, Edwin was called by President Young to take his family and move south, so this ended his connection with Bingham Canyon. He owned a large tract of land in Ogden, upon which he had built "Bingham's Fort." This was bought from him by Brigham Young for $3.00. A tract of land on 23rd and Adams Streets was sold for horses and a wagon, with which the family moved south. Another piece of land was sold for supplies for the trip. After arriving in Southern Utah, they settled in Parowan, Iron County." (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 16, p. 321)
Kate B. Carter tells of the Bingham Brothers in Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 5, p. 354:
Among the first pioneers to settle in the Second Ward was a group of people who were in the Ira Eldredge's Company and arrived in the Valley the 19th of September, 1847. They brought with them a herd of cattle, also horses and sheep. They drew their lots which were situated in the Northeast Block of the Second Ward, better known as Gallacher Block. Among this group were the Bingham Brothers who drove their cattle into a canyon southeast of the city, now Bingham Canyon. One brother Sandford, and his wife, Martha A. Lewis Bingham, spent their summers in the canyon and their winters with Martha's brother, John M. Lewis, who was living in the Second Ward. The Bingham Brothers went to Weber County where they continued with stock raising and dairying.
And again in Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 9, p. 234, saying "Bingham brothers, sons of Thomas Bingham, were probably the first men to locate mineral ore in Bingham Canyon, but acting upon the advice of President Young, they did not file any claims or do any mining."
The first claim in Bingham Canyon to show copper ore was located prior to 1871 by James F. Woodman. This claim was the source of the first copper ore shipped from Utah. In 1871, Woodman sold his interest in the famous Emma mine in Little Cottonwood Canyon for a mere $110,000; he sold the Emma mine to the Walker Brothers, who later sold it for an amazing $5 million. Soon after selling the Emma, Woodman used the proceeds to marry, but upon his wife's early death in 1876, he and a friend, W. W. Chisholm, developed the Centennial-Eureka mine in the Tintic District. Later, Woodman returned to Bingham as the majority owner of the Winnamuck mine. (Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, Vol. 4, p. 493)
In addition to the grazing of livestock in Bingham Canyon, the area was also a source of wood products in the form of both lumber and shingles. Even after the ore discoveries of 1863, there was at least one sawmill in the canyon, operated during 1866-1867 by Enoch B. Tripp, who also operated a lumber yard in Salt Lake City as part of his mercantile business. (Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, Vol. 4, p. 491) An example from November 1853 is Martinet W. Merrill, who went into the canyon during the winter of 1853-1854, seven miles above its mouth, where he passed the winter in the splitting and making of shingles. He was working for Thomas Forsythe for $20.00 per month, plus shares of the profit from the shingles. At the time, shingles were selling for $8 per thousand. He was able to split 500 a day, making his venture a profitable one. By February 1854, Merrill was able to split 46,000 shingles from the forest stands in Bingham Canyon. (Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 156; Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 20, p. 209)
Colonel Patrick Conner first arrived in Utah in September 1862 looking for a location to set up his new headquarters. Upon his return to Camp Ruby in Nevada, Conner reported to his superior officer in Washington that Utah and the Mormons were a "community of traitors, murderers, fanatics, and whores." On October 18, 1862, the marching column of California Volunteers, with Conner at the head, arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. (Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, pp. 49, 62) Throughout the following winter and spring of 1863, Conner and his men were busy protecting the Overland stage and mail route from imagined and real Indian threats. But during the summer of 1863, several men explored the canyons surrounding the Salt Lake Valley. But as the California Volunteers were exploring, so were others, and not necessarily looking for gold.
The following comes from John H. Beadle, The Silver Mountains of Utah, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume 53 [LIII], October 1876, p. 643, courtesy of Steven Richardson.
Actual work on mines was begun by General Connor's soldiers in 1863 and 1864; and it is worthy of note that the first discovery was by a lady, the wife of a surgeon with the California volunteers. [Mathilda B. Masters married Dr. Robert K. Reid in 1852 in San Joaquin County, California and in 1862 she accompanied him to Utah with the 3rd California Volunteers.]
A picnic had been organized from Camp Douglas to Bingham Cañon, twenty-five miles northwest [actually southwest] of Salt Lake City; and during a ramble on the mountain-side this lady, who had a previous knowledge of minerals in California, picked up a piece of rock which she pronounced 'float' from a ledge of silver-bearing quartz. The soldiers immediately prospected for the ledge, found it, and located the first mine in Utah. General Connor furloughed his men by detachments to prospect, and in a few months locations were numerous in Bingham, Stockton, and Little Cottonwood.
An account of the first mineral find in Bingham Canyon from Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 1, pp. 216, 217:
John Lowder's Find -- In 1862, soon after Stephen S. Harding became Governor of Utah he sent John Lowder early pioneer of Parowan, Utah, who had recently been engaged in freighting with a six mule team from San Bernardino, California to Salt Lake City for Walker Brothers, to procure ten cords of maple wood from Bingham Canyon for his personal use. Mr. Lowder with James Briniger and two other men began building a road up the canyon in order to reach the timber. One Sunday morning, not wishing to engage in labor, the men strolled up what is known as Carr Fork, a branch of the main canyon, hunting for game. In looking across the mountain they saw a place where the hillside had apparently broken off revealing a vein of galena or lead ore several rods long and about a foot wide. They were unable to get to the vein, but obtained samples from the canyon below where the earth had fallen from the mountain side.
The next day Mr. Lowder, while in the act of stooping for a drink in the creek in the main canyon, saw what appeared to be uneven strands of fine wire in the bed of the stream. Reaching in he drew a portion of it to the surface and found it to be a net-work of small wires of all lengths and sizes. On his next trip to Salt Lake City he took these samples--those taken from the side of the mountain and from the stream bed--with him. The lead samples were sent to the office of President Brigham Young where they remained for a number of years. The wire taken from the stream was taken to a goldsmith, Charles Smith by name, there being no assayer in Salt Lake City at that time. He made a test and pronounced it copper. He offered the sample back but Mr. Lowder said "if it is just copper, it is no use to me." Shortly after Mr. Smith was shot and killed in a dispute over water and it is not known what became of the samples of copper left with him.
Sometime after these events General Patrick E. Connor came into the Valley and some of his prospectors discovered that Bingham Canyon contained large deposits of copper. On the 17th of September 1863 the first recorded locations were made. At that time Mr. Lowder was away on a freighting expedition and when he returned all the ground that bore traces of copper in the West Mountain District had been located. - Louella Dalton
Albert Carrington wrote the following in a letter dated September 19, 1863.
(Albert Carrington had previously been Brigham Young's private secretary, but at the time he wrote the following letter he was editor of the Deseret News. He later was appointed to be an apostle for the LDS church. This letter is the closest account contemporaneous to the organization of the West Mountain Mining District that research has found. The district, the first in Utah, was organized at Gardner's Mill in West Jordan on 17 September 1863.)
It is reported that Connor proposes starting on Tuesday next for Soda Springs with quite a detachment, and so on round by Snake river.
Mayor Smoot has just dropped in and informs me that Connor started Thursday evening for Bingham Kanyon, and has not yet returned, as far as he knows.
Br. Sharp just informs me that W. Hickman told him that Connor went and examined the Bingham Kanyon, and then called on Bishop A. Gardner and told him that he intended to develop what was in the West Mountain. He then called on W. Hickman and told him that he was soon going with a detachment to Soda Springs (Fort Connor) and so on round by Snake river exploring. W. Hickman, by advice, goes with Connor, at Connor's request and under pay. From all we can learn, just now gold appears to be the all engrossing topic in Connor's thoughts and acts.
(Albert Carrington to Brigham Young; LDS Church History Library; Brigham Young Incoming Correspondence, CR 1234 1 Box 39, folder 6)
Kate B. Carter tells one version of the first discovery, in Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 6, p. 446:
(John Lowder's) parents were early converts to the Church and came to Utah and made their first home in the old Seventh Ward in Salt Lake City. In 1859 he married Emily Hodgetts in the Endowment House. He made his living the hard way; freighting with a six-mule team from Salt Lake City to San Bernardino, California. During 1860 and 1861 (when Lowder was 25 years old) he was a Pony Express rider between Salt Lake City and California.
In 1862, while he was logging in Bingham Canyon for Governor Harding, he found some copper material in the canyon stream in the territory now known as the West Mountain District. He did not realize the value of this material and went on freighting. Shortly afterwards, General Patrick E. Connor came to Utah and helped discover the copper in Bingham Canyon. This became the richest and largest open-cut copper mine in the world.
In the latter part of 1863 or the spring of 1864, John Lowder moved his family to Parowan, in Iron County, and in 1864 they, with others, left Parowan to make a settlement on the Sevier River at Panguitch. He did not return to either Salt Lake City or to Bingham Canyon.
Another account of the discovery, from Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p. 81:
Not long after the establishment of Fort Douglas by General Patrick Edward Connor and his California Volunteers, he became interested in prospecting for the precious metals in nearby canyons and mountains. Tullidge, in his History of Mining, states that a man named Ogilvie, while logging in Bingham Canyon, found a piece of ore which he sent to General Connor who had it assayed. The General organized a picnic party and proceeded to Bingham Canyon where he located the first mine which he named Jordan.
In the November 1863 first issue of The Union Vedette, a small newspaper distributed to the soldiers at Fort Douglas, its editor, Charles H. Hempstead, Captain in the California Volunteers under the command of Patrick E. Connor, included the following circular letter from General Conner on the subject of mines and mining interests in Utah. In that letter, General Conner encouraged all interested parties to explore all of the "mountains and canyons in the Territory of Utah" to prospect for the rich veins of gold, silver, and copper and other minerals. He also stated that "the industrious and enterprising who may come hither, of efficient protection, accorded as it is by the laws and policy of the nation, and enforced, when necessary, by the military arm of the Government." (Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, Vol. 2, p. 109; See also: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 6, p. 130.) (Full text of the November 1863 letter)
A few months later, in July 1864, Connor himself sent a letter to the War Department in which he stated his policy toward the Mormons. This is the letter that contains the famous anti-Mormon line, calling the Mormons "disloyal and traitorous to the core", an opinion that changed within six months after the church helped the Army through its first winter in the valley. (Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, Vol. 2, p. 109; See also: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 6, pp. 130, 131.) (Full text of the July 1864 letter)
LDS Apostle Wilford Woodruff wrote to George Q. Cannon, on December 25, 1863. (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 6, p. 131):
Dear Brother Cannon,
We now have a prospect of peace with the army during the winter. They would not give any contract for winter supplies to a "Mormon" but all their contracts have been given to Gentiles, and the consequence is that they are not supplied with either hay, wood, or flour; finding, however, winter upon them, and but a few days bread on hand, and not being able to procure it, they appealed to Bishop John Sharp for help, to save them from starvation. For flour they offered him $12.00 per hundred pounds. The bishop told them that if he helped them he would have to treat them as he did those in his ward--that was, to know, himself, what quantity of provisions they had on hand. The commissary flung open his stores to the bishop, and the latter found that they had but a few days provisions on hand; so the bishop with President Young's assistance will undertake to feed the army. Bread stuff will be very scarce in the Territory before another harvest. The army is trying to get out its own wood; but they find it "up and down hill business" to them broken legs and frozen limbs being the consequence.
Orson Whitney wrote in his History of Utah (Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, Vol. 2, p. 112.):
It is evident from the tone of the foregoing documents that a portion of General Connor's plan for the reconstruction of Utah was to cause to be established here a military in lieu of a civil government, with himself as the Caesar or Napoleon of the scene. Undoubtedly this was in his heart, and would have been in his hand, if he could have induced his superiors to see eye to eye with him at this critical juncture. As it was, he almost entirely ignored the Governor and the other civil authorities. He seemed to think that all that Utah needed for her redemption was an influx of Gentile miners and merchants, and an overwhelming military force, the latter to be commanded by himself. He even went so far as to threaten that "should violence be offered, or attempted to be offered to miners in the pursuit of their lawful occupation, the offender or offenders, one or many," would be "tried as public enemies, and punished to the utmost extent of martial law.
The fact is, Connor was a born soldier, fond of fighting, and with a penchant for military surroundings. He breathed freely amid the smoke of battle, but an atmosphere of peace was stifling to his lungs and nostrils. Having sought to take part in the war then raging in the East, and being denied that privilege, he was intensely disgusted, and did all that he could to solace himself for the disappointment experienced. What more natural than that having "enlisted to fight traitors" the doughty warrior should do all in his power to carry out his design, even if imagination had to create the "traitors" whom he was determined to fight! A little later the General became much more conservative, and a great deal of his anti-Mormon animus gave way. So much was this the case that a few years afterward, when President Young was on trial before Chief Justice McKean, General Connor volunteered to go bail for the Mormon leader in the sum of $100,000. His attitude in the summer of 1864 was due to the fact that he did not understand the Mormon people as he soon learned to understand them, and was imposed upon by men less honest and sincere in their opposition to the Saints. This much is due to General Connor, who, though not without faults, was the possessor of manly and sterling qualities.
From Daughter of Utah Pioneers' Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 6, p. 132:
Connor also discovered ore in Little Cottonwood Canyon and was later responsible for mining and smelting operations in Stockton, Utah. Small amounts of gold were found but in insufficient quantities to warrant extensive mining operations. The expenditures far exceeded the revenue.
From the Autumn of 1863 to the latter part of 1865, the period covered by the operations of General Connor and his fellow promoters, little had been accomplished though a great deal had been expended. Several claims were located; one or more smelting furnaces were erected in Rush Valley, but these enterprises failed.
On April 9, 1871, President Young expressed his viewpoint:
We say to the Latter-day Saints, work for these capitalists, and work honestly and faithfully. I am acquainted with a good many of them, and as far as I know them, I do not know but every one is an honorable man. They are capitalists, they want to make money, and they want to make honestly and according to the principles of honest dealing. If they have means and are determined to risk it in opening mines you work for them by the day. Haul their ores, build their furnaces, and take your pay for it, and enter your lands, build houses, improve your farms, buy your stock, and make yourselves better off; but no lawing in the case.
The Daughters of Utah Pioneers tell the story of the of the 1863-1870 time period by citing Tullidge, as he presented the following story in 1886 in his History of Salt Lake City, on the beginning of gold and silver mining (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p. 84):
In the summer of 1864 the Jordan Mining Company was incorporated by General Connor under the laws of California and work by means of a tunnel was commenced on the mine at the cost of sixty dollars per foot. Blasting powder was at that time twenty-five dollars a keg.
The first smelting-furnace in the Territory was erected at Stockton in 1864 by General Connor. He, at this time, became aware of the importance of having the mineral interest developed to the fullest possible extent and induced a large number of his California friends to enter into the enterprise. The Rush Valley Smelting Company was organized at the same time by the military officers at Camp Douglas, and a furnace was built by them at Stockton.
General Connor followed with his second furnace on the reverberatory plan, with an inclined flue one hundred and fifty feet long. During the summer and fall of 1864 furnaces were built by the following parties in and around Stockton and Rush Valley (mining prospects innumerable having by that time been located in the neighborhood), viz: The St. James, Finherty, J. W. Gibson, Nichols and Brand, Hartnet, Davids and Company, and one cupola blast-furnace by Johnson, Monheim and Company. A cupelling furnace was also built by Stock and Weberling in the same year.
But the treatment of ores by smelting was a task new to these Californians and their experience in milling the gold ores of their state was of no service to them in this task. This disadvantage was increased by the fact that charcoal was not abundant, that rates of transportation were excessively high, and both the materials of which the furnaces were built and those used in the daily operations, were very expensive. These are circumstances which would tax the ability of the most experienced; and the Californians, unused to the work, failed entirely. A good deal of money was spent with no result, excepting the establishment of the fact that the ores were easy to treat. During this time of trial the usual history of new mining fields was repeated and companies which were organized with high hopes spent large sums and became bankrupt.
The Knickerbocker and Argenta Mining and Smelting Company was organized in New York to operate in Rush Valley, and expended about one hundred thousand dollars in the purchase of mines and the material for working them. But, owing to the impossibility of making medium and low-grade ores pay at such a distance from the market, the company lost their money and abandoned the enterprise. Thus, after two years of steady, earnest, hopeful toil--from the time of the first discovery in 1863 to the same month in 1865--the business of mining had to be suspended to await the advent of the "iron horse" which was to bring renewed vitality to the occupation of the miner.
With the failure to work the mines profitably came the disbanding of the volunteer troops in the latter part of 1865-6. Their places could now be filled by the regulars--the rebellion by this time having been suppressed--and, as the owners and locators (who were principally military men) could not subsist on non-paying mines, the question arose as to how their rights could be secured while they were seeking employment elsewhere. Their method of solving the difficulty has resulted in the greatest injury to the cause which had its rise in their energy and determination. They called miners' meetings and amended the bylaws of the district in such a manner as to make claims perpetually valid which had had a certain but very small amount of work done upon them. For the performance of this work a certificate was given by the district recorder. This certificate prohibited all subsequent relocation of the ground. In consequence of this provision the mines of Stockton long lay under a ban, and it is only since the wonderful discoveries made in neighboring canyons that mining has been energetically resumed there. While the operations detailed above drew attention chiefly to the Rush Valley mines, discoveries were gradually becoming numerous in other districts.
Mr. Eli B. Kelsey, thoroughly breaking off from Mormonism, and believing that the hour had fully come to develop the mineral resources of the Territory, started out in the old missionary style to lecture upon Utah in the Atlantic and Pacific states in the summer of 1870. He wrote to the papers, spoke to "boards of trade," published a pamphlet and created quite an interest among capitalists, and was the means of sending into the mining district a hundred thousand dollars in the fall of 1870. The first of eastern capitalists who was converted was an enterprising merchant of New York, William M. Fliess, Esq., who joined Mr. Kelsey and advanced the "working capital" required to develop some valuable mines. From that time capital has flowed into Utah, and wealth has been dug out of the mountains in such abundance--in proportion to the capital and labor employed--as to justify the hope that Utah will yet be the first mining country in the world.
Eli B. Kelsey was a former Mormon bishop who left the church and turned his administrative skills to promoting to eastern investors investment in mines at Bingham Canyon. His mining ventures were located a short distance up-canyon and almost adjacent to the famous Winnamuck mine and mill, and he promoted his properties as if they were similarly successful. In 1872 he published a pamphlet describing Utah's early mining successes. He then enthusiastically described his own projects, the Ely Lode and the Kelsey tunnel, which failed in every way except for being an established mining claim that was included as part of larger groups that eventually came under the control of United States Smelting Refining & Mining company, and after 1963 as part of the overall property of Kennecott Copper. Kelsey's pamphlet was accompanied by a lithograph which was reprinted in the Salt Lake Tribune on January 13, 1963. (Steve Richardson, Facebook, Bingham Canyon History, March 3, 2015)
Whitney, in 1893, relates his own version (Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, Vol. 2, p. 271):
One great result of the coming of the railway was the development of the local mining industry. From the fall of 1863, when General Connor and his associates made the pioneer movement in this direction, to the years 1868, 1869 and 1870, when Messrs. J. F. Woodman, Robert B. Chisholm, the Woodhulls, the Walkers and other capitalists became actively interested therein, but little practical work was done toward the opening of Utah's mines, notwithstanding the claims of those whose avowed purpose, in stating to the contrary, was, as has been shown, "to invite hither a large Gentile and loyal population," in order to reconstruct the Territory and overthrow the Mormon power. True, much money was expended by General Connor and his California friends, whom he persuaded to embark with him in this precarious enterprise, and among the first, if not the very first, smelting furnaces in Utah were erected by them in Rush Valley. There, after the original discovery in Bingham Canyon, many mining claims had been located. Other officers of Camp Douglas also formed companies and built furnaces in and around Stockton. But owing to inexperience in smelting ores, scarcity of charcoal and high rates of transportation, they soon became bankrupt. A company called the Knickerbocker and Argenta Mining and Smelting Company, organized in New York to operate in Rush Valley, met with no better success. Its projectors, after investing about one hundred thousand dollars in mines and materials with which to work them, finding it impossible in the absence of a railway to make them pay, despairingly abandoned the undertaking. It was now the latter part of 1865, and the mining movement rested to await the advent of the iron horse, when cheaper and speedier transportation, reduction in prices of materials and the influx of capital would solve the difficulties surrounding the struggling enterprise and place it on its feet as a profitable industry.
The Daughters of Utah Pioneers tell of Brigham Young's statements on mining in Utah (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, p. 86; also cited in Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 6, p. 132):
During the fall of 1868 and in the spring of 1869 mining projects in Utah were proving to be highly remunerative. The driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory on May 10, 1869, and the building of the Utah Central Railroad in 1870 gave impetus to the mining industry. President Young then made the following statement, on April 9, 1871:
We say to the Latter-day Saints, work for these capitalists, and work honestly and faithfully. I am acquainted with a good many of them, and as far as I know them, I do not know but every one is an honorable man. They are capitalists, they want to make money, and they want to make it honestly and according to the principles of honest dealing. If they have means and are determined to risk it in opening mines you work for them by the day. Haul their ores, build their furnaces, and take your pay for it, and enter your lands, build houses, improve your farms, buy your stock, and make yourselves better off; but no lawing in the case.
I will say still further with regard to our rich country here. Suppose there was no railroad across this continent, could you do anything with these mines? Not the least in the world. All this galena would not bear transportation were it not for that; and, take the mines from first to last, there is not enough silver and gold in the galena ore to pay for shipping were it not for the railroad. And then, were it not for this little railroad from Ogden to this city these Cottonwood mines would not pay, for you cannot cart the ore. Well, they want a little more help, and we want to build them a railroad, direct to Cottonwood so that they can make money.
From a letter written by Brigham Young to the Editor of the New York Herald April 10, 1873 (Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 7, pp. 86, 87):
In Utah we have a fine country for stock raising and agriculture and abundance of minerals awaiting development, and we welcome all good citizens who love peace and good order to come and settle with us. It has been our policy from the first to promote the agricultural interests, seeing this was the foundation of all others, and we have been for years furnishing staple products to the surrounding states and territories, and we are now able to supply any demand likely to arise for grain, vegetables, etc., at the market prices, to those engaged in mining pursuits.
We have iron ores and coal in rich abundance. We have called merchants in every department of business, but we lack capital, and there is no safer place to be found in the United States, where property of almost every kind is less taxed and better protected--all reports to the contrary notwithstanding.
In his Comprehensive History of the Church, published in 1930, B. H. Roberts relates the history of early mining in Utah, and feelings of both General Conner and Brigham Young about the activity (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 5, Chapter 124, pages 61-70).
Almost from the time of his advent into the territory, General Connor was convinced that there were extensive deposits of the precious minerals in Utah. That conviction found confirmation in the following manner: A man of the name of Ogilvie while logging in Bingham canon found a piece of ore which he sent to General Connor who had it assayed, and found that it contained the precious metals, gold and silver. (B. H. Roberts note: Tullidge's Western Galaxy, March, 1888, article, Mines of the West, I. Utah Mines)
A few days later a kind of pleasure or picnic party was organized composed of the officers of Camp Douglas and their wives, and a drive made to Bingham canon. While encamped here one of the ladies of the party found a piece of ore on the mountain side, the soldiers of the party prospected for the vein, found it, and staked off a mining claim.
B. H. Roberts note: This story is by Stenhouse, who, ignoring or else not knowing the part Ogilvie took in the matter, gives the following account of the initial step of mining history in Utah: "A portion of the horses of the California volunteers had been sent to Bingham canon to graze, and with them a company of men as a guard. A picnic party of officers and their wives from Camp Douglas was improvised, and Bingham was selected, as the troops were there. During the rambles of the party on the mountain sides, this lady, who had a previous acquaintance with minerals in California, picked up a loose piece of ore. The volunteers immediately prospected for the vein and found it, stuck a stake in the ground, made their location, and from that hour Utah has been known to the world as a rich mining country." (Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain Saints, p. 713). Bancroft says that Captain Heitz; and a party from Camp Douglas -- doubtless Stenhouse's picnic party -- made the discovery of the argentiferous ore in Bingham, in 1863. (Bancroft, History of Utah, p. 741)
These two stories if blended no doubt mark the beginning of the history of mining for precious metals in Utah. Ogilvie and parties from Camp Douglas united in working the first gold and silver mining prospect in Utah, called "The Jordan," this in September, 1863.
Discovery Of Precious Metal Ores In Utah
A few days after the Bingham picnic incident General Connor held a miners' meeting at Gardner's mill, on the Jordan, where the "mining laws" or rules drawn up by the general were adopted, and "Bishop Gardner elected recorder." (B. H. Roberts note: Tullidge's Western Galaxy for March, 1888, p. 1) A mining district was organized and called the "West Mountain Mining District," usually, though quite erroneously called the first mining district of Utah, but which in reality had been preceded by the Lincoln District, organized in 1861, in Beaver county.
B. H. Roberts note: While Tullidge puts the organization of the West Mountain Mining District as occurring "a day or two after" the Bingham canon picnic incident, (Western Galaxy, p. 1). Bancroft says that the district was organized in December, 1863. (History of Utah, p. 741). Mr. A. S. Kenner, author of Utah As It Is (1904), holds that there was a mining district organized in Utah at an earlier date than this. "As far back as 1858," he writes: "It became known that there were great veins and deposits of lead near the young town of Minersville, in Beaver county. It was deemed advisable to work them to some extent for the purpose of keeping the settlers in that and some other parts of the territory supplied with bullets." etc. Work was begun on a fissure vein, that became known as the "Rollins Lead Mine"; and as work proceeded the "lead" grew harder, which experience taught those who worked the mine could come but from one circumstance--the presence of silver with the lead. There were no available means at hand for separating the metals, however, and the work "was not prosecuted to any great extent." Not only was the extraction of ores from the Old Rollins Lead Mine, as it was called, in 1858, the first mining done in Utah by civilized agencies, but the region of country in which it is situated became the first organized mining district in the territory; this was accomplished in 1861, the name "Lincoln" being given it, which name was also subsequently given to the old lead mine. It and the adjoining properties have since been worked systematically and thoroughly by capitalized companies representing other parts of the Union as well as Utah, and in the districts other locations have been made in later years until now , there are fully 100 recorded claims. (Utah As It Is, p. 323; also Bancroft's Utah, p. 746, note 75, where the "Old Rollins Mine" is referred to as the first silver mine in Utah).
Later General Connor personally found silver bearing rock at the head of Little Cottonwood canon, which was the first known discovery of the precious metal in the great Wasatch range.
B. H. Roberts note: Bancroft's History of Utah, p. 742. "The first shipment of ore from Utah was a carload of copper ore from Bingham canon, hauled to Uintah on the Union Pacific, and forwarded by the Walker Brothers to Baltimore, in June, 1868. In 1864 free gold was discovered in this district by a party of Californians returning from Montana to pass the winter in Salt Lake City. Between 1865 and 1872 the production of gold was estimated at $1,000,000, and up to 1882 the total product was 500,000 tons of ore and 100,000 of bullion, from which was extracted $1,500,000 in gold. $3,800,000 in silver, and $5,000,000 in lead." The output of the precious metals in Utah for 1913 was, gold, $3,581,900; silver, $8,109,450. "Mining of true gold ores on a large scale is on the decline in Utah. In gold yield a steady decrease is noted, due largely to the closing of the Mercury gold mines. This loss has been partly made up, however, by the increase in gold from the copper ores;" (of which copper there was produced in 1913 to the value of $24,884,860). (Report of V. C. Heikes, United States Geological Survey, 1913).
Mining Industry Development-With Anti-Mormon Appendix
Naturally General Connor was enthusiastic over the confirmation which these discoveries gave of his conviction of the existence of precious metals in the mountains of Utah, and he hastened to make proclamation of the news to the world, at the same time inviting prospectors and miners to come to Utah to aid in the development of her mineral resources, and gave such orders to the volunteer troops in his military district as would allow them large opportunities for prospecting.
B. H. Roberts note: This in the very first number of the Union Vedette: "The general commanding the district has the strongest evidence that the mountains and canons in the territory of Utah abound in rich veins of gold, silver, copper and other minerals, and for the purpose of opening up the country to a new, hardy, and industrious population, deems it important that prospecting for minerals should not only be untrammeled and unrestricted, but fostered by every proper means. The general also directs that every proper facility be extended to miners and others in developing the country; and that soldiers of the several posts be allowed to prospect for mines, when such course shall not interfere with the due and proper performance of their military duties. Commanders of posts, companies and detachments within the district are enjoined to execute to the fullest extent the spirit and letter of this circular communication.
Incidentally also (or was it his main purpose?) General Connor made this proposed mining development in Utah contribute to what he evidently regarded as his mission in the territory-viz., the subversion of the "Mormon" church authority "in temporal and civil affairs." Writing to Lieutenant Colonel R. C. Drum, Assistant Adjutant General, United States of America, San Francisco, under date of July 21st, 1864, General Connor said:
Having had occasion recently to communicate with you by telegraph on the subject of the difficulties which have considerably excited the Mormon community for the past ten days, it is perhaps proper that I should report more fully by letter relative to the real causes which have rendered collision possible.
As set forth in former communications, my policy in this territory has been to invite hither a large Gentile and loyal population, sufficient by peaceful means and through the ballot box to overwhelm the Mormons by mere force of numbers, and thus wrest from the church- disloyal and traitorous to the core-the absolute and tyrannical control of temporal and civil affairs, or at least a population numerous enough to put a check on the Mormon authorities, and give countenance to those who are striving to loosen the bonds with which they have been so long oppressed. With this view I have bent every energy and means of which I was possessed, both personal and official, towards the discovery and development of the mining resources of the territory, using without stint the soldiers of my command, whenever and wherever it could be done without detriment to the public service." (B. H. Roberts note: Connor's Report to Colonel Drum will be found complete in History of Salt Lake City, Tullidge, pp. 328-330.)
Assuming that there would be opposition by the "Mormon" church leaders to this program of mining for the precious metals, General Connor also thought it necessary to offer "protection" to prospectors and to "warn" those whom he suspected would make opposition to the opening of the mines, not to use violence; and threatened to try as public enemies those who attempted the use of violence in this matter, and to punish them to the utmost extent of martial law.
B. H. Roberts note: "The mines are thrown open to the hardy and industrious, and it is announced, that they will receive the amplest protection in life, property and rights, against aggression from whatsoever source, Indian or white. In giving assurance of entire protection to all who may come hither to prospect for mines, the undersigned wishes at this time most earnestly, and yet firmly, to warn all, whether permanent residents or not of this territory, that should violence be offered, or attempted to be offered to miners, in the pursuit of their lawful occupation, the offender or offenders, one or many, will be tried as public enemies, and punished to the utmost extent of martial law." (Circular issued from Camp Douglas, date of March 1st, 1864, a copy will be found in Tullidge's History of Salt Lake City, p. 327).
In this the general went beyond all that was in any way necessary, and assumed the tone and attitude of a military despot, seeking to supplant the civil by the military authority. His whole bearing at this time was one of extreme arrogance, and more likely to provoke than allay the opposition he anticipated.
Opposition Of Brigham Young To The Mining Industry
As already shown in earlier chapters of this History, Brigham Young was opposed to his people rushing to the gold mines of California in 1849, and also in the early years of the decade following. He held that such a course was foreign to their mission, since they had settled in the Great Basin to found a city and a commonwealth to which their coreligionists scattered in all the world, might be gathered and "become a great and a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains," in fulfillment of the prediction of their first prophet. President Young was equally and consistently opposed to any policy that would likely result in the Latter-day Saints being overwhelmed by incoming hordes of adventurers and semi-desperadoes of the surrounding western states and territories, attracted by the supposed opportunities for the sudden acquirement of wealth, which the opening of mines of the precious metals would give. And hence when ever reference was made to the existence of the precious metals in the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City-and such reference was common before the Connor days-Brigham Young discouraged the consideration of the subject, pointed out to his people the danger to them as a community that lurked in the opening of the mines at that time; and urged the postponement of such enterprises until a later day, when such dangers as then existed would not menace their community life; to a day when the Latter-day Saints would be sufficiently strong, numerically-notwithstanding the presence of a large non-"Mormon" population following mining or other pursuits-to give the dominant moral and spiritual tone to the community life that would result from and be characteristic of that high purpose that had brought them in the first instance to the Great Basin of the Rocky Mountains. Brigham Young had seen wave after wave of the gold seekers of (1849 and early 1850s) pass over the mountains and valleys occupied by his people, and they had survived as a community by accepting his counsel "not to follow after them." He had seen the evil effects of contact with the military command of Colonel Steptoe in 1855-6; and the more serious contact of his people with the army of the "Utah Expedition," and the demoralizing effect of the Camp Floyd period; is it any wonder that he and his associates in church leadership were opposed in the early (1860s) to the incoming of an adventurous, reckless, not to say lawless, mining population, such as then occupied the mining camps of the western states and territories? And yet, for all that, there was no justification for supposing that there would be any resort to violence on the part of the "Mormon" church leaders to prevent prospecting for the precious metals or the opening of mines; and General Connor acted unworthy of himself and of his office by assuming the attitude of a petty military despot in the issuance of his circulars on prospecting and mining development in Utah.
At the very time that the first Connor excitement about opening the mines was at its height--September and October, 1863--Brigham Young said:
"If the Lord permits gold mines to be opened here he will overrule it for the good of his saints and the building up of his kingdom. We have a great many friends who are out of this church--who have not embraced the gospel. We have a great many friends, and if the Lord suffers gold to be discovered here, I shall be satisfied that it is for the purpose of embellishing and adorning this temple which we contemplate building, and we may use some of it as a circulating medium." (B. H. Roberts note: Discourse at conference in Salt Lake City, Oct. 9th, 1863, Journal of Discourses, vol. X, p. 253. Reference to the temple is of course to the temple in Salt Lake City.)
And the harshest thing Brigham Young ever said of the Connor mining program was a criticism upon the injustice of the government furnishing the supplies for men engaged in prospecting for mines for their own personal advantage, and at the same time giving to the whole proceeding an anti-"Mormon" bias. This criticism appears in the discourse before quoted.
B. H. Roberts note: "I now wish to present a few questions to the congregation, for I think there is no harm in asking questions to elicit information. Do the government officials in Utah, civil and military, give aid and comfort to and foster persons whose design is to interrupt and disturb the peace of this people? and are they protected and encouraged in this ruinous design by the strong arm of military power, to do what they will, if they will only annoy and try to break up the `Mormon' community? Does the general government, or does it not, sustain this wicked plan? Is there in existence a corruption-fund, out of which government jobbers live and pay their traveling expenses while they are engaged in trying to get men and women to apostatize from the truth, to swell their ranks for damnation? Is this so, or is it not so? Those who understand the political trickeries and the political windings of the nation, can see at once that these are political questions. Who feeds and clothes and defrays the expenses of hundreds of men who are engaged patrolling the mountains and canons all around us in search of gold? Who finds supplies for those who are sent here to protect the two great interests--the mail and telegraph lines across the continent--while they are employed ranging over these mountains in search of gold? And who has paid for the great number of picks, shovels, spades and other mining tools that they have brought with them? Were they really sent here to protect the mail and telegraph lines, or to discover, if possible, rich diggings in our immediate vicinity, with a view to flood the country with just such a population as they desire, to destroy, if possible, the identity of the `Mormon' community, and every truth and virtue that remains? Who is it that calls us apostates from our government, deserters, traitors, rebels, secessionists? And who have expressed themselves as being unwilling that the "Mormons" should have in their possession a little powder and lead? Who have said that `Mormons' should not be permitted to hold in their possession firearms and ammunition? Did a government officer say this, one who was sent here to watch over and protect the interests of the community, without meddling or interfering with the domestic affairs of the people?" (Journal of Discourses, Vol. X, pp. 254-5. Discourse was delivered Oct. 9th, 1863).
Apart from this, the opposition to General Connor's mining program was confined to puncturing some of the wildly inflated reports respecting the existence of gold in great abundance in Utah; calling attention to the high cost of living, owing to the scarcity of staple necessaries of life in proportion to the population; and the great expense attending upon mining in Utah.
B. H. Roberts note: See Deseret News editorial of March 2nd, 1864. Relative to the great expense in mining it may be said that blasting powder during the summer of 1864 was $25.00 per keg; twenty-four years later it cost less than one-sixth of that price. The first systematic work done in the Jordan Mine was by commencing a tunnel at a cost of sixty dollars per foot, which twenty-four years later could be done for ten dollars per foot. (See Western Galaxy, The Mines of the West, p. 1). At the Boise mines in the summer of 1863, flour was reported to be worth "$40 per hundred weight; salt, $35 and $40 per hundred weight; onions, $60 per hundred weight; butter, $1 per lb.; beans, $35 per hundred weight; bacon, $60 per hundred weight, and everything else in proportion." (See Boise correspondent of Deseret News, impression of Sept. 23rd, 1863). Prices did not range that high in Utah, but the above affords some index to what would be the cost of living in the mining districts of the west in those early days of the mining industry.
President Young also urged the members of the church to remain true to the call of common-sense duty, that of building homes, making farms, planting orchards, establishing home manufacture, developing coal and iron mines-proceeding, in a word, along these more certain and substantial lines of founding a commonwealth, as was becoming in a people laying the foundation for a gathering place for tens of thousands of their coreligionists from every nation of the world. This course was represented as being better for Latter-day Saints than joining in the mad rush for the finding of the precious metals and for the questionable good of suddenly acquired riches.
There was evidently great need of holding a steady hand over the members of the church in respect of rushing into mining for the precious metals. President Young in a tabernacle sermon thus describes the effect Connor's first announcement had on some members of the "Mormon community:
"It is a fearful deception which all the world labors under, and many of this people, too, who profess to be not of the world, that gold is wealth. On the bare report that gold was discovered over in these west mountains, men left their thrashing machines, and their horses at large to eat up and tramble down and destroy the precious bounties of the earth. They at once sacrificed all at the glittering shrine of the popular idol, declaring they were now going to be rich, and would raise wheat no more. Should this feeling become universal on the discovery of gold mines in our immediate vicinity, nakedness, starvation, utter destitution and annihilation would be the inevitable lot of this people. Instead of its bringing to us wealth and independence, it would weld upon our necks chains of slavery.
And then alluding to the more substantial process of commonwealth founding, he said:
"Can you not see that gold and silver rank among the things that we are the least in want of? We want an abundance of wheat and fine flour, of wine and oil, and of every choice fruit that will grow in our climate; we want silk, wool, cotton, flax and other textile substances of which cloth can be made; we want vegetables of various kinds to suit our constitutions and tastes, and the products of flocks and herds; we want the coal and the iron that are concealed in these ancient mountains, the lumber from our sawmills, and the rock from our quarries: these are some of the great staples to which kingdoms owe their existence, continuance, wealth, magnificence, splendor, glory and power; in which gold and silver serve as mere tinsel to give the finishing touch to all this greatness. The colossal wealth of the world is founded upon and sustained by the common staples of life." (B. H. Roberts note: Discourse of 25th Oct., 1863, in Deseret News of Nov. 18th, 1863)
It was not difficult, of course, for General Connor to induce many of his California friends to join him in his mining schemes in Utah. He erected the first smelting furnace in the territory at Stockton, Tooele county, 1864; this was soon followed by a number of other furnaces of various kinds.
But the treatment of ores by smelting was a task new to these Californians, and their experience in milling the gold ores of their state was of no service to them in the task. This disadvantage was increased by the fact that charcoal was not abundant, that rates of transportation were excessively high, and both the materials of which the furnaces were built, and those used in the daily operations were very dear. The Californians, unused to the work failed entirely. A good deal of money was spent with no result, excepting the establishment of the fact that the ores were easy to treat. During this time of trial the usual history of new mining fields was repeated, and companies which were organized with high hopes spent large sums and became bankrupt. With the failure to work the mines profitably came the disbanding of the volunteer troops in the latter part of 1865-66. (B. H. Roberts note: Western Galaxy. Mines of the West, March, 1888, p. 2)
Happily for the views of the "Mormon" church leaders and for the interests of the Latter-day Saints, the mining industry developed gradually, and the discovery of gold was so meager -- found chiefly in connection with the less precious but more abundant silver ores -- that there was no mad rush of miners to overwhelm numerically the Latter-day Saints in Utah or disturb them in the steady march of their substantial -- though slow -- progress in empire -- founding for a highly religious purpose -- the assembling of their coreligionists of all nations -- the gathering of a modern Israel to whom God would reveal a fullness of his truth, and through whom he would especially manifest his power to the world.
Transformation In The Attitude Of General Connor
An identification with the material interests of the territory, perhaps, also, a closer association with the business men of the "Mormon" church, seems finally to have lessened somewhat the former intense bitterness of General Connor towards the "Mormon" church leaders; and those who quote some passages of the general's reports and circulars in the first two years of his residence in Utah, as showing his distrust of the "Mormon" church --"disloyal and traitorous to the core," as he declared it at one time to be; and of the church leaders, whom he proclaimed to be tyrants, spiritual and temporal -- will need to consider them in the light of his more conservative attitude in the later years of his residence in Utah.
B. H. Roberts note: Later, the provost marshal of Salt Lake City in the summer of 1864, Captain Chas. H. Hempstead, "was Brigham Young's counselor and advocate in 1872; and that General Connor offered to go bail for Brigham Young in the sum of $100,000 when he was on trial (1870) in the court of Chief Justice, James B. McKean." (History of Salt Lake City, Tullidge, p. 330.)
There are good reasons for believing that this man of restless energy, and of such intense loyalty to his country that he could not tolerate a merely passive loyalty, to say nothing of indifference to, or opposition, even in sentiment, to the United States government in its struggle for existence-this soldier, both by instinct and training, in the early months of 1865, underwent, later, a radical change in his attitude towards the "Mormon church leaders and people.