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Match Your Judgment Against Brigham Young’s – 2 : A Question of Silver Mines

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 26, 2012

By the early 1870s, Mormon settlers had returned to the central Utah counties emptied during the previous decade by the threats of the Black Hawk War. Small exploring companies and mining prospectors even dared to return to the canyons and wilderness tracts. An LDS leader in that area wrote to Brigham to ask about the propriety of engaging in silver mining.

By report, silver mines are breaking out in almost every direction. No very great excitement at present, however, but time will reveal the sequel. They remind me of the man who collected snow around the roots of his fruit-trees and covered the same with straw and mulch to prevent the too early shooting forth of the buds. But as the heat increased the buds would put forth. We have thrown coldness upon the mining interests of this Territory and kept it back until we have secured the greater part of all the good land, and now if we can manage to pay for it, I think we shall have the long end of the yoke. My Cow had a calf the other day and from the fact that the calf came, I suppose the time had come for it to be born; so also, from the fact that the mines are said to be bursting forth all around us and up and down the Sevier, I conclude the time has come for the precious ores to appear. The Brethren stumble on to them when after wood and timber. None have sought for them that I know of but they seem to fall on them by accident, and I tell them to keep close mouths and secure all they find, so far as may be practicable.

I don’t know but the old Prophet was refer[r]ing to us when he said “Their land is full of silver.”

If we are not acting right in relation to the alleged discoveries I wish you would tell us. It may be that the Lord will give us money through these channels to pay for our lands; if not the way looks pretty dark to us, to raise the money to buy our homes; and I must confess that even the mines hold out no very flattering prospect of yielding us money in time to use for the above purpose. The silver fever does not particularly affect me any farther than to by to keep the mines from falling into the hands of the outside world.

Think you know how Brigham felt about mining? How do you suppose he responded? (Bonus points: His response included advice to the settlers concerning the hunting of wild game. What might he have suggested on that subject?)

I’ll post Brigham’s response tomorrow morning. Your prize is the challenge of matching wits against the Great Colonizer himself.



7 Comments »

  1. The sculptor Cyrus Dallin’s father went to Brigham Young and explained that he wasn’t a Mormon, but he had married a Mormon woman and wanted a letter giving him permission to prospect for ore in Utah’s canyons so that he could support his family. Brigham gave him a letter that said he could look for ore anywhere in the Territory with Brigham’s blessing, but any Mormon who assisted him in any way would be disfellowshipped from the Church.

    I saw a letter at the Archives where someone had sent President Young a sample of galena from somewhere in central Utah, wondering if it had silver in it, and Brigham told him that all it contained was lead (which is hard to believe).

    Though I suspect you’re really going to surprise us, Ardis, Brigham probably discouraged mining, and probably also hunting.

    Comment by SteveR — April 26, 2012 @ 8:42 am

  2. I’m thinking Brother Brigham would tell them to go ahead and mine the amount they need for practical and pragmatic purposes. I do not think he would want them to leave their farms indefinitely to mine and make themselves rich, as that would be the worst curse that could befall the Saints.

    His advice on hunting wild animals would also be in the same vein: hunt what you need, but don’t kill just for the sake of killing.

    Comment by Rameumptom — April 26, 2012 @ 8:44 am

  3. Tell them to cultivate and plant and seek to build up the kingdom and not dig in the earth for riches. Put their labor where it will deliver a secure return and not speculate on finding treasures in the ground only to discover after much labor they have nothing to show for their efforts in the hour of their need. Hunting would be much the same. Rather than put in hard work, which requires constant industry, hunters (or miners) would rather go off and waste their time away in the forest without building up any communities and instead just try to live off the land seeking after their own pleasure.

    Comment by Farm — April 26, 2012 @ 8:53 am

  4. I guess that BY told them continue their ad hoc silver-gathering. I’m also guessing he suggested some way to turn big game hunting into a money making enterprise, though I have no idea what it might be.

    (I enjoyed the letter writer’s down-home wisdom about calf births.)

    Comment by E. Wallace — April 26, 2012 @ 9:02 am

  5. I’m no scholar on BY (or even moderatly well read on him), but the practice being described, quietly buying up perspective mining areas so noone catches on to the wealth they could be sitting on, seems dishonest. I could hope BY would call them on that. The rationale of using the money to pay for their homes seems like trying to come up with some excuse for their “throw[ing] coldness upon the mining interests of this Territory and kept it back until [they] have secured the greater part of all the good land” Doesn’t the BoM have some warnings on prospecting?

    Comment by Frank Pellett — April 26, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  6. All I know is that in “Papa Married a Mormon”, Brigham Young told Mormons to leave silver mines alone completely. I’m interested to know how close to history that book is.

    Comment by Carol — April 26, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  7. Those silver mines were originally dug with Nephite labor, but have been cursed with the curse of Gadianton, and any Saint who goes digging after riches will find they remain slippery, and ere he is aware he will leave the fellowship of the saints, and be left kicking against the pricks with nary a yellow dog for companionship.

    There is enough wealth enough in these hills to pave a road back to the States, but it will refuse to come forth until the three nephite disciples who dedicated those pits come forth again to bless them to yield their fullness

    Comment by The Other Clark — April 26, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

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