On April 6, 1892, a statue of the angel Moroni was placed upon the capstone of the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. Cast in bronze in 1891 by Cyrus Dallin, the 12 foot tall gilded representation of the angel who first visited the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith in 1823 stands atop the temple, depicted in a pose representing him as a herald of the restoration of the of gospel of Jesus Christ to Earth.
The story of the creation of the statue of Moroni has, throughout many years, perpetuated a still lingering mystery about the origin of the gold used in the gilding of the statue. It is generally accepted that the gold was obtained from a man named Thomas F. Rhoads, an early convert to the Mormon faith. However, no one knows exactly where the gold came from, and the search for The Lost Rhoads Mines still attracts hundreds of conspiracy-theorists-cum-treasure-hunters to this day hoping to "strike it rich" from a legendary and mysterious source of gold.
Thomas Foster Rhoads (1796-1869), known as "The Mormon Pathfinder," was born in Green River, Kentucky, and was a descendent of Palatinate German ancestors. One of the earlier converts to Mormonism, Thomas Rhoads led the first expedition of Mormon settlers to northern California in May of 1846, whereupon arrival in October of that same year he settled near Sutter's Fort along the Consumnes River. Thomas Rhoads then went to work for, and became a close friend of, John Augustus Sutter, famous for the discovery of gold at his mill site. Much of Rhoads' early fortune came from mining the gold-rich fields along the Sacramento valley.
In 1847, Mormon President Brigham Young declared the Salt Lake Valley the place for the recently disenfranchised Mormons to settle in as their "Zion." President Young called upon Rhoads to come to Salt Lake to aid in the building of the new Mormon community. It is estimated that Rhoads returned to the Salt Lake Valley with approximately $17,000 in gold.
In order to finance the prospering community, Brigham Young ordered that a mint be built and that currency in the form of gold coins be issued as a means of payment for goods and services within the community. Many Mormon pioneers who had originally settled in California and were returning at the behest of the Church presidency brought back with them gold that they gave to the mint in lieu of their regular tithing. From this gold were struck four denominations of distinctive Mormon coins in two-and-one-half, five, ten, and twenty dollar amounts. Rhoads reportedly deposited approximately $10,000 of his own gold into the mint account, and it is from this gold that a majority of the gold coins were struck.
In 1852, Rhoads, then Treasurer of Salt Lake County, was asked by President Young to acquire gold from a number of hidden mines whose location had been made known to him by the Ute Chief Wakara (also "Yah-Keera" or "Keeper of the Yellow Metal"), who had recently been converted to the Mormon faith and had taken the Anglicized name of Walker. The mines made known to President Young by Chief Walker were known to the local Ute community as "carre-shin-ob," or "there dwells the spirit." In an agreement between Chief Walker and President Young, the gold was only to be used for Church purposes, and only one man would ever know their location besides the Ute Chief. Thomas Rhoads was appointed the guardian and custodian of the mines, supposedly discovered by Spanish explorers travelling in the American southwest, contemporaneous with Silvestre Velez de Escalante and Fransisco Atanasio Domínguez during the late eighteenth century.
During the next few years, Rhoads made several trips into the Uintah Mountains, often returning with loads of gold in excess of 60 pounds. During the summer of 1855, Thomas Rhoads became ill to such a degree that his son Caleb temporarily took over the duty of hauling gold from the mines to Salt Lake City. After regaining his health, Thomas and his son Caleb continued to transport gold from the hidden mines. That same year, Chief Walker passed away and his successor, Arapeen, became Chief of the Ute tribe and renewed the gold pact with Caleb Rhoads. During this time, Caleb Rhoads was known as a generous alms giver and became one of the wealthiest Mormons of the time, as attested by the size of his tithing (Mormon tithing is one-tenth of income). Rumors surrounding the wealth of Caleb Roads indicate that there were additional mines not associated with the Carre-Shinob mines from which he personally amassed his wealth without breaking the covenant with the Utes. Thomas Rhoads was called by the Church to settle the town of Minersville, Utah, where he died in 1869.
As an estimation of the value of the gold mines in the area, Caleb Rhoads petitioned the U.S. Federal Government for a mining lease on the land thought to contain the mines in exchange for paying off the United States national debt. The U.S. government denied the lease in part due to political maneuvering by George Q. Cannon, a Utah representative to Congress, and mining leases on the land were given to other private companies. Geologists hired by the U.S. government surveyed the area in question and found evidence of Spanish exploration and mining, but no trace of the Carre-Shinob mines was ever found.
After the death of Chief Arapeen, his successor Chief Tabby refused to renew the gold pact and from that day forth the location of the Carre-Shinob mines have remained a mystery. Speculators and historians suggest that the mines are located along a 70-mile stretch of the Uintah Mountains between Hanna, Utah and the Whiterocks area of the Ashley National Forest. This is a stunningly beautiful and rugged area, and home to Utah's tallest mountain, King's Peak, which rises to nearly 14,000 feet.
To this day, no one knows exactly where the fabled mines of Carre-Shinob lie, but according to the personal statement of Kerry Ross Boren, a distant relative to Chief Walker, he has become the current custodian of the Carre-Shinob mines:
"Knowing that I could walk right to the sacred mine of Carre-Shinob, instead I approached the Elders of the Ute Tribe by way of family inter-marriage with the Reeds. After a great deal of deliberation and discussion, I entered into the same blood-oath that my 3rd great grandfather and both Thomas and Caleb Rhoades swore to. Upon that promise never to reveal the location of Carre-Shinob, never to return there, and not to remove or disturb anything - I entered into one of the most fabulous and probably richest mines in the world. My time spent in Carre-Shinob consisted of 6 hours - not enough but certainly more than enough to change my life forever. While hundreds of people have searched for the Rhoades Mines and the rumored fabulous wealth that the Utes and the Uintah Mountains keep secret, I can honestly say that it does exist. Within the caverns of Carre-Shinob reposes the semi-mummified bodies of great Utes such as Old Chief Sanpete and Chief Wakara, as well as many others. It is an eerie feeling when your flashlight goes out momentarily and you feel the walls come alive - as though all of those Great Ones were watching every move you make. Carre-Shinob is composed of a series of caverns with connecting tunnels formed through a series of active volcanoes, thereby forming lava-tubes that honeycomb the Uintah range.
"My own eyewitness to the astounding secrets that Carre-Shinob revealed sounds to the laymen to be too fantastic to be true. However, the Sun Chamber (as I dubbed it) was an Aztec Temple. In the center of this immense room were nine great stone pillars, too large in circumference for a man to encircle his arms. This entire chamber - walls, ceiling, floor, and pillars - were plated with what appeared to be pure gold! In fact, as I have since thought, it might not have been plated with gold so much as the interior was solid natural gold, from which the center had been excavated, leaving a certain amount of thickness around the exterior walls. If so, the amount of gold once filling this chamber staggers the imagination. On the other hand, the amount of gold still in this chamber surpasses anything ever yet discovered, enhanced by the additional number of gold artifacts stored therein. For instance, there were two gigantic solar disks, each taller than a man and several inches thick, they were apparently of pure gold and must have weighed tons each. The disks represented the sun, with rays emanating from the center outward, and between the rays were intricate carvings of signs and symbols of a peculiar nature. In the very center of each disk was a carved cross, very much like the Celtic cross of Ireland (or Wales), with ivy vines woven around the design. Furthermore, there were golden masks and statuettes, and many stone boxes filled with treasure of another kind: gold plates with hieroglyphic writing on them! There were smaller stone boxes, too, and these contained an assortment of precious stones - emeralds, rubies, turquoise, sapphires, and strangely, sea shells - and others contained gold bracelets, circlets, rings, earrings, and other ceremonial jewelry. Together with the masks, disks, statuettes and other artifacts, the caverns were a treasure trove like something out of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights."1
Many people still actively search for the Lost Rhoads Gold Mines, and several books about the mystery have been written, both by descendants of Thomas Rhoads and independent historians. Some have surmised that the ancient Seven Cities of Cibola refer to the mines of Carre-Shinob. Mormon historians suggest that the mines are repositories of the weatlh of the Lamanites referred to in the Book of Mormon. Regardless of what may be fact and what may be fiction, the legend of the Lost Rhoads Gold Mines is an exciting tale replete with mystery, myth, and tales of fabulous wealth.
Rhoades, Gale R. Footprints in the Wilderness : A History of the Lost Rhoades Mines. Salt Lake City, Utah: Dream Garden Press, 1971.
Boren, Kerry Ross and Lisa Lee. The Gold of Carre-Shinob. Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort Press, 1998. ISBN 1555174116.