WELLSVILLE — When he was a young boy growing up in Utah County, backpacking became a “big intrigue” for Wellsville resident Guy Bartholomew. Any opportunity he had to go backpacking, he would go. That intrigue eventually lead to another intrigue for him: gold.
While Bartholomew was living in Washington state he received a book about Spanish gold mines hidden in the Uinta Mountains from his brother Max Bartholomew. As he read the book he began to become more and more interested in the subject of gold. He said over the next three or four years he wanted to go back to the Uintas. After searching the Internet, Bartholomew said he came across a map that leads to one of the mines. He realized the mine on the map was about 200-300 yards from where he camped as a boy and e-mailed the map to his brother.
In 2005, Bartholomew, his brother Max and his cousin, Leon Leavitt, hiked 15 miles up to where he thought the mine is located. Bartholomew said upon reaching the area they located a tree with markings that matched up with those on the map. The tree had the word “oro” carved in it, which is Spanish for gold.
Upon entering the mountains a dam had broken behind them and the forest rangers closed the trail. “We were wondering if our outfitters were going to be able to get us,” Bartholomew said
The outfitters did eventually find them. Although they had found the tree, after 10 days of searching, they left. While Bartholomew and his party were hiking down he said they ran into a man and his teenage son. He said the man told him he makes more in two weeks panning for gold than he does in the entire year working at his job.
According to Bartholomew, within a couple weeks of the dam breaking someone hired a helicopter and extracted “several hundred Spanish silver bars” from where the water level had fallen.
“Now that is an illegal act,” Bartholomew said. “If it really happened.”
Bartholomew said the legend of the gold mines goes back to when LDS settlers first came to Utah in the mid-1800s. He said Thomas Rhoades, a LDS prospector, was called back from Sacramento, Calif. by former LDS Church president Brigham Young. Bartholomew said Young appointed Rhoades to be the “go-between” with the Ute Indians for the right to mine gold in the Uintas.
“The gold that was used to plate the Angel Moroni on the Salt Lake Temple and the oxen in the Salt Lake Temple; that (the mines) was the source of that gold,” Bartholomew said. “This was all according to the legend.”
Bartholomew said people have been looking for the gold for decades and if somebody did find gold bars they probably wouldn’t say anything. According to the American Antiquity Act of 1906, “any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States, without the permission of the Secretary of the Department of the Government having jurisdiction over the lands on which said antiquities are situated, shall, upon conviction, be fined in a sum of not more than five hundred dollars or be imprisoned for a period of not more than ninety days, or shall suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.”
Bartholomew has returned to the Uintas several times over the last few years, but has not found anything of significance. He said he now intrigued by the history of events. His gold fever is gone. He said he plans on returning again.
“There are so many other stories to follow up on in different locations,” Bartholomew said.