But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come,
and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest,
and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made
known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could
not be known.
--Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8:17
The porch outside Brigham Young's office. Today as you look from there to the southwest, all you see are tall buildings, not shown.
Bingham Canyon is the site of the largest open-pit mine in the world. For fifteen years prior to the first ore discoveries, it was a source for timber and a place to graze cattle. Though he never invested in a single mine at Bingham, the canyon seems to have held a special place in the mind of Brigham Young. To disaffected Mormon T.B.H. Stenhouse this was foolishness, and he makes great fun of Brigham in the following account, in his book Rocky Mountain Saints:
In launching the timber logs down the mountain sides, occasionally a piece of lead ore, that had been disintegrated from ledges of that mineral, would be revealed to the sight of "the brethren," and from these accidental circumstances arose the impression among the Saints that there were valuable minerals in the mountains. It was also seriously believed that there were large numbers of gold ledges somewhere ready to be revealed for "the building up of Zion," the embellishment [p.712] of the Temple, and the general comfort and pleasure of the Saints, whenever they had gained the experience necessary to make a prudent use of the precious ores.
When the furore created by the discovery of gold in California attacked the Saints and was drawing some of them away to the Pacific coast, the Prophet used to hold the victims of that fever up to ridicule in his sermons, and promised the Saints who stayed at home greater wealth there in the harvest-fields, and a far greater amount of wealth in the time to come, for he knew where the article was in such great abundance that he could "go out and bring in a wagon-load of gold" if it were necessary to do so. But "the Lord" wanted the Saints to build themselves homes, make themselves farms, and, when they had been well tried in poverty, He would reveal to them "the hidden treasures of His storehouse."
Many years ago, the Author stood by the side of Brigham at his office door when he told a prominent bishop of the Methodist Church, who was passing through the city, that, from where they then stood and chatted, he could see where there was more gold than ever the Saints would want to use, unless it were in the manufacture of culinary vessels, ornamentation, or for "paving the streets of the New Jerusalem." Brigham doubtless believed what he said. He could from his office door look to a range of mountains where a "great discovery of pure gold" had been made, but its locality was to be sacredly kept a secret which no one knowing would divulge. Years later, the "pure gold" turned out to be a large body of pyrites of iron in a crystallized form, which to the inexperienced eye had all the appearance of gold! The belief that large quantities of gold exist in the mountains still remains; and that "the Lord" would not permit the Gentiles to discover it, was a frequent theme in the Tabernacle.
Many a time Brigham has ridiculed, in Sunday sermons, the Gentile prospectors, and told them that they were blind and could not see the precious metals when they were even lying before their eyes, and frequently they would "stub their toes" against the ores and knew not what hurt them; and then, with a dash of inspiration, he would comfort them with the assurance that they would never discover them until he [p.713] [Brigham] was willing that they should be discovered. "If ever they discover them, it shall be over my faith."
--T.B.H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873, pp.711-713
This picture is from
Ronald W. Walker,
The Godbeites and
University of Illinois Press, 1998, p. 189.
Thomas Brown Holmes Stenhouse
The following article appeared in the anti-Mormon Union Vedette, published at Camp Douglas just 3 months after the first discovery of ore deposits at Bingham, and when less than half a dozen claims had been staked.
Brigham Young boasts he can see more gold and silver from the door of his house than would equal the whole currency of the world. These mines are not allowed to be opened. In 1849 we heard Brigham say: "If any body comes here discovering gold and distracting my people, as the Lord liveth, I'll cut that man's throat!" --Ex.
If Brigham ever said it, we guess he has changed his mind about opening mines in Utah. The work is going bravely on and Brigham Young is too wise and foreseeing to even attempt to check the onward movement. 'Twere better to try to "dam up the waters of the Nile with bulrushes." Moreover, we think the policy of the Mormons is changed from what it was in the early stages of their career. For long years all the energies of the people were necessarily devoted exclusively to agriculture to prevent gaunt starvation from depopulating the Territory. It was not a question of how to get rich, how to prosper, how to obtain luxuries, but how to live. The discovery of gold or silver mines, taking the people from their agricultural pursuits, at any time in the early history of Utah, would have been disastrous indeed. Now the scene has changed; extensive farms are cultivated, large flocks and herds have been accumulated, the people are prosperous in the abundant supply of breadstuffs and the necessaries of life. The opening of mines will now enrich, and not impoverish or destroy them. Tempora mulanlen et nos mulamen in illis. Then let the good work go on, and all will be well.
--Union Vedette, Vol. 1 No. 7, Jan 1 1864 p. 1.
By 1880 it was thought that the mines of the Oquirrh mountains were about exhausted, and investors turned their attention and money to more spectacular mines at Alta, Tintic, Park City and Silver Reef. Bingham's fortune began to change in 1896 when the Highland Boy gold mine transformed overnight into a copper mine.
The Utah Copper mine in Bingham Canyon was begun by a company of that name in 1904, just at the time the electrification of America caused a dramatic increase in the demand for copper. Bingham Canyon ultimately built the wealth of many investors far away from Utah, but in the process it has poured large amounts of money into the local Utah economy, both in payroll and taxes.
Though primarily known as the world's first open-pit copper mine, it is a major source for other metals. It has produced more silver than the Comstock in Nevada; more gold than the California and Alaska gold rushes combined. How could Brigham Young have known this would happen?
To learn about the experiences of the Hickman Family as miners at Bingham Canyon, click here. To learn about the experiences of the Hickman Family as miners at Mercur and elsewhere, click here. To return to the Hickman Family index page, click here.