snake indian gold

Gold From The Snake Indians

Letters of early day trappers and hunters that lived close to the Pacific coast reported that the Snake Indians often were seen with buckskin pokes filled with large gold nuggets said to have been washed from the sands and gravels in a secret location by Indian women. Many years later, Frank Lane, a graduate just out of Yale Law School, saw one of these letters from a trapper in the West, and decided to do some prospecting before settling down to engage in his practice. Lane chose for his partner another college graduate, who for the purpose of this story, we will call John Howard. Together the two men set forth with fresh heart sand high hopes to search for the golden mirage that lay beyond the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. For many months the young eastern college men prospected in the Colorado Rockies but beyond the discovery of a few low-grade gold quartz ledges, they had little success. Finally the near approach of winter drove them down through the sunset canyons and mountain gorges and out on to the plains of eastern Utah on the border of the Snake Indian country where they established a permanent camp and prospected for gold during the months that followed.

Having no success the inexperienced prospectors moved their camp farther one night at the base of a low-lying granite mountain where they pitched their tent for the night. The iron-stained mesas around the great uplift were full of potholes. Lane grew more restless and decided to turn the outfit over to his partner and returned east and took up the practice of law in Boston. Howard became the sole owner of the outfit free to live the life he had grown to love. After the departure of his friend he rode out for a short hunting trip on the surrounding plains. He bagged an antelope and on his way back to camp stopped at one of the pot holes to get a drink. The noon day sun was shining directly into the hole and he saw some shining pieces of ore at the bottom of the shallow cavity .Then he waded into the water and scooped up a handful of gold.

Using a gold pan he worked all afternoon scooping the gravel from the bottom of the hole and panning out the nuggets going back to camp with an estimated $700 worth taken from the shallow whole. Howard worked for weeks on these plains around his camp on numerous pot holes dotted the iron stained mesas around the great granite mountain. As winter approached Howard made his way to the nearest settlement with buck skin bags of gold which later proved to be worth nearly $100,000. He returned east with his fortune but through bad investments eventually lost most of it. Many years later he tried to return to the scene of his fabulous strike, but either failed to reach the right location or the pot holes had been worked out, for he did not find a single nugget of gold.

Old time cowboys and sheepherders refer to a place in the eastern Utah as the “pot holes” but none of them have ever been known to pick up nuggets in this region. According to one version of the lost gold story, the pot holes described by Howard were not natural holes such as occur in sand stone formation in many parts of the west, but were excavations made in a gravel conglomerate by the Snake women to obtain the gold mentioned by the early day trappers and hunters, and that a fortune still awaits the prospector who will find that conglomerate deposit.

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