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Black Bull Mine

A Jeep trail climbs up the South Fork Canyon past Pullem Creek. It is rocky and badly eroded by high creek water. Although it is a dedicated road, some property owners would like to close it, but if you can get up it, you will come to a high alpine meadow at the mouth of a pine filled canyon, in the shade of towering cliffs. Just above Pullem Creek, you can see where the mineral rich Park City Formation overlays the even richer Weber Quartzite, at some places in cliffs towering 1,700-feet high. It was from that contact between the Park City Limestone and the Weber Quartzite that Park City miners dug out more than half a billion dollars in silver ore! In that high alpine basin near where the road ends, on a grassy knoll at the edge of the aspens, there is a rock lined grave. On an aspen close by an inscription is carved: "Here lies Josey Wales, a good old friend." It is only the resting place of a sheepherder's faithful old dog, but for a moment it could make you wonder just who is buried there!

A dim trail leads further up canyon, past the old Lambert Sawmill log cabin, and higher up past two small mountain lakes, to Duke Peak and Castle Peak just across the ridge line. Just beyond that ridge, on the Provo River side of the divide, there is a mine shaft sunk into an iron outcrop which old-timers used to call a "blowout." For a hundred yards and more below that shaft the ridge is stained red from rusty iron ore. Somewhere before that ridge is crossed, according to tales the old-timers still tell, there is a mine tunnel known around Kamas Valley as the Black Bull Mine. From those stories, that tunnel is hidden behind a thick stand of choke-cherry bushes. If what they say is true, a cache of gold bars is hidden in that mine. Some say that cache is guarded by a great black bull, a spirit condemned to stand eternal watch over the Spanish treasure concealed inside that tunnel.

A few years ago, four veteran deer hunters, all of them well along in years, were hunting in the canyon below Duke Peak, not together but close enough they could keep in contact. One of them accidentally came upon that tunnel as he was pushing his way through some thick brush; choke-cherries according to some, but kinikinnick by other accounts. When he met up with his companions a short time later he offered to show them the tunnel, and since it was not far off, they agreed. Weary from the high elevation and dragged down by the weight of years, they trudged back up the mountain side. But as they broke through the brush thicket, a huge black bull suddenly stepped from behind some ledge rock and stopped in front of the tunnel portal. It was an unexpected and unnerving sight, and one of the partners, a superstitious Indian, jumped back in terror, saying that the black bull was the spirit of murdered miners. He turned and fled down the mountain, and his fear must have been contagious, for he was closely followed by his companions. According to the tale, none of them ever went hunting in South Fork Canyon again.

Wayne Nelson, an old prospector who admits to being a little long in the tooth and unable to get out in the mountains like he used to, tells a little different version of the Black Bull tale. Nelson claims that many years ago a logger fell into a hole which was concealed by thick brush, and that in that hole he found a pile of metal bars. They were small, about an inch square and six inches long, what some call "finger bars." Since there were several old mines close by he thought they might be soldering metal bars; still he put two of them in his jacket pocket. It wasn't until some months later, after the logging camp had closed for the winter, that a scrap metal dealer paid him a good price for them. That logger later said that there is a place where three large pines form a triangle, and that the "money pit" is in the center of those trees. He said those three trees can be found by following tree signs from the sink hole on South Fork Creek. It may be only a coincidence, but just last summer a treasure hunter using one of those newfangled "doodlebug" electronic detectors on the cliffs above the South Fork told me that his instrument pointed out some sort of metal concentration in the pines across the canyon, at just about the place the logger described. I don't have much faith in "doodlebugs," but maybe someone ought to check it out.--Faded Footprints, pg. 54

The late George Thompson, in his book titled Faded Footprints, writes about the South Fork, giving a general description of the geography of the area. Unfortunately, he also gives some fiery testimony about the famed Black Bull cache that has been dubbed by myself and others as bogus and unreliable. One must read between the lines of his chapter on the Black Bull, since much of what he wrote about this important historical cache is pure speculation. It is my intent to relate here the true story of the Black Bull cache.

I began to decipher the truth about the Black Bull story in 1984, when the late Reid Powell met me at the old Teogra Restaurant in South Salt Lake City. Powell had with him a map and a story about a cache that was somewhere in the South Fork of the Weber River drainage. He had been in touch with a friend, Ray Mead, who had sent Powell this story and map and asked if he would mind looking into it for him. Since Powell did not know the South Fork country very well, he asked me to take a look at the map to see if I could identify any of the landmarks on it. Soon after I began looking at the map, Gale Rhoades came into the restaurant and sat down with us. Together we pored over the map. We decided to go investigate the possibility of a cache in the South Fork area.

With the story and map in hand, Rhoades and I headed up to Oakley and into the mountains east of town. We had little trouble getting into the South Fork area. What was amazing is that on the way into the area we found several trees with old markings on them, indicating that there had been some Spanish activity in the area—something we hadn't noticed during previous trips into the canyon. The trees told a story that led us to believe the story and the map we held in our hands to be authentic.

We reached the first landmark and sat down on a log to read the Black Bull story again:

This man was up in this area and came to this cave. He went inside a small opening and it opened up into a large room and then back into a tunnel and then back into a smaller room which he found a stack of gold bars in a pile some twenty feet back in the smaller room.

This mine has gold bars in it, and the shaft may be caved in due to an earthquake. The family story is that the old man, named Brinkeroff, found the cave and took a bar of gold out that weighed ten pounds. He later took his boy up and a big black bull wouldn't move out of the trail. They tried for over an hour to get him out of their way but he wouldn't budge. So the father said that it must be a sign of some kind for us not to go. So they went back. The son is still alive and has a sister called Zula B. of Salt Lake City. Bamburger was a partner to this story.

Remember, it's not far away off the creek, right off the trail. Which year it took place. The river is on the right side going up, and on the west side from rock, to the east you find the cave. Where you find the cave it has brush over and you could fall in. The son is about eighty years old now—he was about twenty then. I think they had some claims, but I don't know for sure.

Rhoades and I then looked closely at the map. The rest of the story was revealed there:

Rhoades and I spent the rest of the summer in search of the cache. We found everything but the treasure. We found other mines and many artifacts dating from the late 1800s to the present day but no cache. It was during those days that we ventured up into Maxwell Canyon. We had found some symbols on trees lower down that indicated a mine up in that area. We made our way into the depths of the canyon until we came upon a mine site.

In the center of Maxwell Canyon stands the lonely reminder of a bygone era, when silver mining was the talk of many a town. There are three diggings there. Two were started by the modern-day silver miners who ventured into this canyon searching for minerals around the turn of the twentieth century. These miners were tough men, timbering in the South Fork area and in their spare time hiking the hills in search of silver. They found an outcropping of galena ore and began mining operations. The problem was that they couldn't work the site all of the time because of their timbering jobs, so several of the men decided to sell the find to the Peerless Mining Group, a larger and more capable mining company.

Peerless wasted little time in establishing a presence in Maxwell Canyon. They built a road right to the mine site, constructed two cabins, complete with up-to-date wood burning stoves, and even brought in beds with springs for the miners' comfort.

Miners worked at one mine full time but prospected for other sites on their time off. They found another mine not too far from the main shaft they were working, but it showed little mineral.

It wasn't long before their timbering jobs came to a halt. The big sawmill that was built in the big meadow at the mouth of Maxwell Canyon was torn down and moved to the Soapstone Basin area. All traces of timber activity became only a memory with the sweeping hand of time. The Peerless Mining Group soon played out the mine they operated in Maxwell and abandoned the site. They left most of their equipment, including a large rock hammer drill and all the jack legs. The cabins fell to ruin, and the bedsprings soon rusted away.

The wood-burning stoves finally made their way out of the canyon by way of two travois pulled by Max Miller, who sold them at a flea market in Salt Lake City.

In the summer of 1985, myself, Gale Rhoades, his daughter Paula, and my youngest daughter, Dawnesia, ventured into Maxwell Canyon to find the old mines. We knew they were there from a story told to us by another prospector friend. Once at the site, we were thrilled to see what an operation it once had been. The road going up to the mine had long since overgrown with vegetation. We examined the mine and began poking around the old cabin sites. It was during this exploration that I discovered, hidden in the tall grass, several flat stones that did not look natural. Moving the grass back, I was surprised to see a large geoglyph. This geoglyph was shaped like an arrow, directing a searcher to a point on the side of the hill across from the old mine. I followed the arrow up into the pines just above one of the cabins. As I moved through the trees, I spotted what the arrow had been pointing to. On a very large and very old pine tree, a heart was carved. The marking was ancient. The scaring was four inches wide and four inches deep. Knowing that it was much too old for the miners to have carved and doubting the fact that any of them knew about Spanish treasure and mining symbols, I had to believe that Spaniards had been in the area and carved the sign in the tree. I examined the symbol for some time. Then I looked past the symbol straight ahead to the other side of the canyon. I could make out some ledges, an outcropping, and some tree stumps. I kept searching the landscape and finally noticed something that did not seem right. Near the bottom of the canyon and not more than 250 feet from the mine dump of the Peerless operation was a small indent in the ground. I called Rhoades and explained to him what I had found. Together we focused on that indent and made a beeline to it.

The brush was tall and the grass was thick in the little indented spot. We began moving the brush and pulling the grass away. Then, to our surprise we found several rocks about the size of a human head neatly stacked in the side of the hill, one on top of the other. Pulling and prying, we got the rocks out and discovered an open hole.

We let the hole air itself out for an hour before attempting to enter. I took a flashlight and soon found that the hole opened into a very large chamber. I called Rhoades to follow. He instructed the girls about what to do in case something happened to us and then entered the hole. We found that the chamber was ten feet wide and four feet high at the entrance. It went down on a slight incline for seventy-five feet and then ended. At the bottom, it was fifteen feet wide and five feet high. We began looking at the ceiling and the walls to see if we could detect what was so important in this mine to cause the Spaniards to conceal it. I soon discovered what I thought it might have been. In the walls of the cavern were many small round nodules, about the size of a sparrow's egg. I gathered a small sample bag full of these objects. Rhoades did the same.

Once out in the sunlight, I began to study the small nodules. They were brown to black in color and heavy. The texture was rough, and with a knife I could tell that some of them were pyrite. Rhoades broke one open, and to our surprise, we discovered that some of them were actually geodes—not the usual geodes that you see at a rock and gem show but geodes laced with wire gold. We went back in and got as many as we could find.

When we left that canyon we began looking closely at the terrain and the older trees for any sign of symbols. We found a few more that confirmed the fact that the Spaniards had indeed been in the canyon many years before.

Sometime later we filed three claims in the canyon, naming them The Yellow Jacket, one, two, and three. It wasn't until a month or so later that we found that our claim had been jumped and the site robbed. We had confided about our find to some friends, and this unfortunately led to the site being claim jumped.

After this incident, I was in St. George, Utah, at a meeting with a colleague who had knowledge of some items that had been found in the Sanpete Valley of central Utah. During the conversation, we got on the subject of the mines in South Fork. I related the Black Bull story to him and mentioned that I wished I had known, at the time Gale Rhoades and I had first come upon the story, who Zula B. was who was mentioned in it. I told him that my mother had once had a good friend by the name of Zula Brinkerhoff Suddenly my colleague looked startled. "Why, she [Zula] isn't dead!" he exclaimed. "She lives right here in St. George, right up on Winchester!" I was flabbergasted! "Do you know her?" I asked. "Yes, I do, and I'll bet she'd be glad to talk to you, especially since your mother knew her," he said, smiling. With that, we headed for a telephone to make an appointment with her.

We made our way up to Zula's house in Winchester Hills. Mrs. Brinkerhoff was living with her son because of her age and condition. Our first meeting with her was simply an icebreaker, where we talked about all her books, writings, and life experiences with the Hopi Indians. I arranged another meeting with her, alone. This time I asked her about her part in the Black Bull story. Unfortunately, Mrs. Brinkerhoff was suffering from dementia and had a hard time conversing with me. I found that either her father or her husband (I wasn't sure due to her condition) had found the cache and that one or the other of them took out one bar, which the family lived off during the Great Depression in the 1930s. The weight was around ten pounds. There were ten or more bars still in the hole, according to Mrs. Brinkerhoff.

The Black Bull cache in the South Fork that Mrs. Brinkerhoff's family had stumbled upon must have been brought down from either the mine Rhoades and I discovered in Maxwell, or from the Josephine Mine on Hoyt Peak. Captain Garcia's records indicated that two routes were taken from the mines on Hoyt. One trail went westward from Hoyt to the Kamas Valley, while another route went northward toward the Rio de Santa Anna. Indian raids may have prompted the Spaniards to hide the gold, or the Indians of that area may have stashed it in a cave, known only to them, after a raid on a caravan coming out of the South Fork.

On another expedition to Maxwell Canyon with my family, my wife and I decided to check out an old mine that I had discovered on the South Fork of the Weber. It was barely visible and had been caved in for many years. Using my metal detector, I began scanning the area, and it wasn't long before my detector began to buzz. Moving some large boulders from what I believed to be the adit, I was surprised and elated at what I found. There, in amongst the boulders, lay a badly rusted but recognizable piece of Spanish armor! The frontal piece was in surprisingly good shape even though most of the rest of it was terribly rusted. The neck ring, a piece of leather, and a ring were still intact on the armor, proof positive that the Spanish had indeed been in the canyon!

With the discovery of the armor, my spirit was renewed, and I had high hopes of finding the cache. While many more trips were made into the area, because of all my other work and activities, I was not able to proceed with this venture. I decided instead to tell the Black Bull story in a book so that perhaps someone else might have the chance of finding the Black Bull Cache. All I can say is, good luck!--Out Of The Dust, pg. 107

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