DELTA, Utah — Gold.
Scott Taylor, who still works at the Quality grocery market and rambles around in an early 1980s-era Ford Bronco II that seems to be held together by rust, says he found an abandoned mine in the hills west of here that is full of it.
Which is also what a lot of people in town think of Taylor.
The latest saga of gold and the rugged West began back in June, when Taylor, 34, told a group of buddies about his stunning discovery. Word got out, and soon he was telling his story to Salt Lake City TV folks.
It was an old mine, he said. Sealed up with boards. He was with his mother, hunting for arrowheads, he said, although Joyce Taylor apparently told some friends that she can't recall ever being out in the middle of nowhere looking for arrowheads with her son.
Anyway, Taylor said he tore the boards away from the small opening, crawled inside and found 280 gold bricks stamped with "U.S. Cavalry." And a couple of rifles and a pistol from the Civil War. Oh, and boxes of dynamite.
And then he left it all right there. He hasn't gone back, won't tell anyone where it is, won't answer his phone and avoids the media.
There may or may not be any gold out there in them thar hills. But you could stay plenty busy in this tiny central Utah town mining sarcasm.
"I know that's what I'd do," says Julie Hobson, manager of the Alco market just down the street from the Quality store where Taylor stocks shelves. "I'd leave a few hundred million dollars worth of gold out there, come back to this town, go back to my job in the grocery store and drive an old truck."
Scott Taylor won't talk, but his father will. Glen Taylor runs a tiny country store about eight miles west in the settlement of Deseret. Glen Taylor says the whole thing has been awful. "He got death threats," he says. "Got a letter with no return address or anything that said they were going to take his newborn son and when Scott delivered the gold, he'd get his boy back. We don't need that kind of thing."
At the heart of the matter, he says, is the federal government. The Taylors believe it will swoop down and take the gold. The Bureau of Land Management said the BLM had no claim to any gold, but bureau spokeswoman Laura Williams says that if indeed there's gold with a "U.S. Cavalry" stamp, the Army might be interested.
"He told me the other day he'd leave it up there for 100 years and everyone would forget and then his son could get it," Glen Taylor says.
And so a fortune in gold sits under a pile of old boards in the remote hills somewhere out toward the Nevada state line. Or not.
"Oh, I think most of us around here think he just made the whole thing up," says 7-Eleven store worker Lynette, who didn't want her last name used. Scott Taylor's mother-in-law, Joyce Hanes, works in the same store.
"We don't talk much about it in here, but Joyce stands by the whole thing," Lynette says. "She told me Scott brought her some gold shavings."
Glen Taylor says he hasn't seen any gold shavings. He says his son did show him "an old bullet" that he took from the mine.
And so he sits in his tiny store selling soda pop and Slim Jims and such. Scott's in-laws keep on working at 7-Eleven. And Scott reports to work each day at about 6 a.m. to load the shelves with cereal and canned goods.
"Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?" asks Alco store manager Hobson. "We all think there might be gold out there, left by robbers or people coming back from the California gold rush. You think about it, living out here in a place like this.
"Maybe somebody thought about it too much."
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.