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Deadman Lake Mine

40.77384, -109.91237

"Shortly after Caleb Rhoades died in 1905, the story circulated that an old prospector might have discovered his (Caleb's) mine because he came down out of the mountains once or twice a year and turned over raw gold for supplies. I don't know if the story is true or not, but I do know there was such a prospector and that Pick Murdock told me this story about his death.

"As I said before, Pick Murdock and some of the other old timers prospected all over the Uintah Mountains and one year, late in October, Pick Murdock and John Murray made a trip through the Whiterocks (canyon) area and over into Deadman Lake, probably looking for Caleb's mine. There came an early snow as it sometimes will up in the high country. It was a heavy snow storm. The two men started out of that country and on their way, they discovered an old prospector camped in a tent, in the shelter of some timber. He had invited them in for coffee, and in the course of the conversation, Pick Murdock asked the old-timer if he wanted to leave the mountain with them because of all the snow. He said he would not leave because he felt the snow probably wouldn't last too long and he wanted to do some work on the mountain above the lake.

"Pick later told me about that trip out of the mountains; he said that he and Murray cut through the timber and across country and they nearly lost their lives by freezing to death in the deep snow. But the next spring, Pick Murdock organized another prospecting trip into the area, together with John Murray and old Joe Montis. They came upon the old prospector's tent, which was still there where his body had been found. Evidently he had died only shortly after the two men had left him in October. I think Pick Murdock had the old prospector's ore samples for some time afterward. "

Aaron G. Daniels was personally involved in the recovery of that old prospector's body. In his journal of 1895, he recalled this much of the story;

"Mine marked #4. (See Map # 024A) When I first came to Ashley Valley (1879), there was an old prospector who lived in the high country and spent winter and summer searching for gold veins. I recall that in 1887 he came down to Ashley (Vernal) with sacks full of Gold ore which was rich and cashed it in and telegraphed money to his daughter who lived in New York State. He did this for a lot of years.

"Then one day Pete Dillman come over to me and said that some fellow had been lost in a blizzard up in the high country and wanted me to go with him, together with Pick Murdock, Bill Preece and some others to bring him out. We went up Whiterocks Creek for miles and it was the hardest trip I ever made in ten foot snow drifts. The blowing snow limited our visibility to no more than five feet ahead of us. We worried that we were going to perish in the weather as well as our victim.

"After three days we came up on this old prospector and he was dead in the timber. We carried him out to the agency (Whiterocks Indian Agency) and in his pocket was a map to a mine of gold.

"I went in the spring together with Pick Murdock, Jim Reed, Henry Harris and one or two others to locate this claim and we found it in Dead Man Basin through the timber where we found the frozen body of the prospector. It was a shaft drawn at an angle in a hillside of sliderock which protruded from the timber in the center of a long meadow near the creek which runs from Dead Man Lake. We staked a claim to this shaft but never developed it.

"It was at this time that we learned of the death of the other old prospector who had been bringing gold out of the mountains and sending it to his daughter. Three of four outlaws had heard of about the odd prospector and had gone to Dead Man Lake where he kept his cabin and forced him to show them the vein where he got his gold from. However, the old prospector was too wise for them and took them to a shaft where he had salted a vein for just such a purpose should it ever be necessary.

"When the outlaws discovered that they had been duped, they tied the old prospector up in the shaft and tortured him in hopes of learning his secret, but he died and they fled the scene. I was one of the party who brought his body down out of the mountains and we shipped him by train back East."

"His daughter later came out to Vernal, she had a map to the vein which her father had sent to her and she showed it to me and I have put it on my map as best I can remember it after these years have passed…"--Lost Gold of the Uintah, pg. 143

Much has been written during the past few weeks about the gold find in Uintah county, but a few more words may be acceptable from one who has been on the ground and has seen the purported rich discoveries.

To arrive at the gold fields from Provo, the best route is up Provo Canyon and Strawberry Valley to Fort Du Chesne. From the Fort you go to Deep Creek where you are compelled ( if you have one ) to leave your wagon and proceed the balance of your way, twenty-five miles, on horse back.

A wagon road has not as yet been made from Deep Creek, and only an indistinct trail leads to the prospective camp. It is expected, however, that a road will soon be constructed, as it can be done for a very few hundred dollars.

The last twenty-five miles of the distance is through a forest of pine trees but the elevation is so gradual that once a road is made travel to the mines will be with-out difficulty.

The discovery is about forty miles northwest of Vernal, the county seat of Uintah county, and right on top of the mountains.

With-in a few hundred yards of the "Dead man" claim, one can view Green River and the Southwest corner of Wyoming. In fact the "Strike" is not more then fifty miles from Carter station, on the line of the Union Pacific railroad, and if a wagon road was constructed in a Northwesterly direction for a distance of fifteen miles from the mines, it would connect with a well traveled road leading to the U.P. railroad.

Indications are that should the camp prove a success most of the traffic will be over the route last indicated, unless the R.G. Western builds a branch line, which could be easily done. At present there is much speculation as to whether or not the Strike is a fake, from my personal observation, I am convinced that it is not and that a flourishing camp will soon be in operation.

At the Deadman claim a trench about 2 feet wide and twenty feet long has been dug across the vein and walls of the claim have not been encountered, and throughout the face of the trench can be seen the streaks of ore, dipping into the hill in a manner indicative of permanency.

One week ago there were fully 300 men prospecting in the vicinity of the first locations and for a distance of twenty miles along the tops of the mountains every piece of ground or rock supposed to contain mineral has been located.

In several places considerable work has been done, and "ore" of some kind has been found, but in a majority of instances up to date from these prospects no reliable returns have been made. So that at present much uncertainty prevails. This much however is proved that nearly every piece of rock in that country contains some gold, and by old miners it is confidently stated that while no big returns may be forthcoming at present, that the claims will surely improve as they are worked.

The owners of the Deadman and the Great Western claims, assert that they will have a mill there and in operation before autumn is here and already are they selecting their mill sites and outlining their roads and contemplating all the necessary arrangements to make a new camp.

Throughout this entire mining country there is an abundance of water and any quantity of wood. The snow does not fall very deep until the months of February and March, but the old mountaineers of that locality say that a road to the mines can easily be kept open during the entire winter season.

The strike is above timber line and surrounded by pleasing scenery. There are plenty of flats and small valleys, with silvery lakes, filled with mountain trout, wild game abounds in all this mountain region; Bear tracks are more plentiful than the whiskers on Doc Forrell’s face. The air is light, the nights cold and pleasing showers are of daily occurrences.

In all respect the discovery bids fair to become a great camp, and if successful it will surely have the effect of opening the entire Uintah Reservation , thus giving the gold hunter more fields to explore, the farmers new homes and the territory one or two additional wealthy counties.--Newspaper article from where and when I don't know

The work on the Deadman mine has been stopped for a short time and M M warner goes to Salt Lake this week on business connected with the mine. Frank P Warner brother to M M Warner called at the office of the EXPRESS last week and says that it is his opinion that the mines will prove to be a genuine bonanza he found a ledge bearing free gold about two miles west of the deadman and has sent samples of the rock to salt lake to have them assayed.--Vernal Express, 07-26-1894

This copy of an old topographic map shows a cabin above Deadman Lake. Is this the cabin written of in the story above? It is right about where the mine is that I found.

During the late 1880s, the Killer Mountains claimed two more victims in the rough country near the head of the Whiterocks River. An old miner had a good paying ledge where he dug out lode gold. For several years he packed his summer's find to Ashley Center, now Vernal, where he would trade that raw gold for minted coins. He would pay his bill at the mercantile, set aside enough money to last him through the winter, and send the remainder to his daughter who lived in the east.

There wasn't any secret about the gold he had; many people knew of it. When he failed to return to town during the fall of 1877, the store merchant became alarmed and organized a search for the old man. Pick Murdock, Pete Dillman, Aaron Daniels and Bill Preece headed into the mountains above Whiterocks to look for him. Dillman knew that area well, having been a law officer as well as the district's first Forest Ranger. The story of their search is told in Builders Of Uintah, a history of Uintah County.

Those men all later recalled that it was the hardest trip any of them had ever made. Snow had drifted ten feet deep and all of the search party nearly perished in a blinding blizzard which raged across the mountains for two days. They didn't know exactly where to look, but about a week later they discovered the frozen bodies of the old miner and his pack mules where they had become bogged down in deep drifts. The place where that miner died is still known as Deadman Basin. His body was packed out to Whiterocks where he was buried. Dillman cashed in the gold found on his pack mules and sent the money to the miner's daughter.

In the spring, Pick Murdock, Happy Jack, Henry Harris and John Murray, all Ute Indians, decided to search for the dead miner's diggings, but all they ever found were some pieces of canvas from his tent and a pine-pole corral hidden back in a stand of timber. The old man's ledge must have been somewhere close by, but they never found it. But they did find something else. In some notes which Happy Jack scribbled in his notebook, he told of a chilling discovery. Near what is now called Deadman's Lake, they came upon a crudely made log and stone shack, and inside they discovered the body of a prospector who had been reported missing several years before. He had been shot in the back and his tiny cabin had been ransacked. It was speculated that he had been murdered for his gold. He was buried by the side of the cabin, and from an address on a faded envelope, his family was notified. Several months later the mail brought Pick Murdock a crudely sketched map which had been sent to him by the man's family. It is unknown whether he and Happy Jack ever tried to follow that map, or what became of it, but the following year two brothers named M.W. Warner and E.P. Warner did find and began working an old mine they found about two miles west of Deadman's Lake. Frank Warner told the editor of the Vernal Express, "I think this will be a genuine bonanza!" There is no way to know whether it was the murdered miner's mine, nor do we know if it turned out to be a bonanza.--Faded Footprints, pg. 152

I found an old digging or caved in mine while prospecting the area around Deadman Lake in 2002. The mine dump is fairly large so it may have gone back in a ways at one time, but now it is all caved in if it did. I didn’t see anything in the dump to indicate what they were digging for. Go check it out and see if you can figure it out. The trail over from Deadman Lake to Whiterocks Lake runs right through the mine dump so you can’t miss it. Is this the mine talked about in the stories above?

There is a vein of some kind of dark-colored stuff (I’m no geologist so I have no idea what it is, but as near as I can tell it looks like some kind of pegmatite) that as far as I have seen runs right through that mine on over as far as Rose Mountain above Chepeta Lake. This vein crops up on the mountain just a few yards from this mine and someone has been digging a little there too. It is my guess that this is what they were digging for. There are prospects all over this area.

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