Christian Jim's Gold Mine
The following story dictated by Ellis Alonzo Peterson, spins the mysterious tale of the lost Indian Jim gold mine of Northern Utah. Many persons living at the time of these events have attested to the truthfulness of the details of this account.
ďI remember the story well because I heard it told so many times by my father, Hans Mathias Peterson.† I shall repeat it to the best of my memory.Ē
I was just a young boy when Christian Jim first came to live with us.† We always called him Christian Jim, but lots of people in town referred to him as Indian Jim.† He had first come to our house seeking a place to live during the winter.† We had a big family, so we didn'tít have any room in the house.† He asked if there was any room in any of our out buildings.†We had a room we used for storage in the barn between the harness room and the granary.
He looked at it and said he would like to stay there.† There was no talk about payment of any kind.† My dad wasn'tít one to talk about money.† He trusted everyone and never much worried about being misused.† There had been a lot of trouble with Indians down our way, but pa always said he trusted this one from the time he first laid eyes on him.† We all pitched in and cleaned the place out.† Stored there were some broken nests from the hen house, a broken plow blade, some rusted-out containers for brooding chicks, some spikes off an old harrow that pa was going to sharpen first chance he got, and a bunch of other less-valuable stuff.† We moved most of this collection into the harness room.† Pa wasn'tít much at throwing things away.† Ma swept the place out and cleaned the one window.† Pa and my brother put in a potbellied stove that had come from grandmaís house when she died.† We got a bed from Aunt Jewel.† The mattress was in pretty bad shape, but ma washed it, sewed it up and filled it with fresh straw from our threshing pile.† Pa made a bench for sitting on and also made a table out of a door that came out of the church when it was rebuilt after the fire.
Christian Jim kept pretty much to himself that first winter.† He would fetch wood to the back porch, and would see that ma always had plenty of fresh water from the pump in the back yard.† Each morning, ma always put a bowl of mush on the water bucket stand by the back door along with a quart jar full of milk.† At night she would fix a plate of food just like we had and put it by the water bucket.† Always the dishes would come back spanking clean along with a fresh bucket of water.
In the spring, on a day that pa was to take a trip into Salt Lake, Christina Jim gave him two small sacks.† Each sack was filled with gold.† He said one sack was for ma and pa for his board.† The other sack was for pa to turn into cash money for him.† Pa was more excited than a hen on hatching day.† When pa got back from Salt Lake, he gave the cash money to Christian Jim then hurried into the house to tell ma about the money.† I heard Pa say that the assayer said, ďthat it was the purest gold he had ever seen.Ē† Pa told us kids to not say anything about the gold.
Shortly after that, Christian Jim left as suddenly as he had come.†† In some ways, I was kind of glad because I had taken a lot of ribbing from the kids at school because we had an Indian living in our barn.
The more I tried to defend him, the more they made fun of me.† Finally, I had stopped saying anything.† I had already been made fun of because of the clothes ma had made me along with país silk stone-pipe hat that she cut down for me.† After my boyfriends finished shooting arrows in it, I never could wear it again.† There were a lot of stories about him around town.† Some people said he robbed a bank in the Midwest and was just hiding out here.† Others said he killed a man over a bottle of whiskey.† Well, I didn'tít believe any of them.† I asked pa why they called him Christian Jim.† I couldn'tít understand a name like that because he never went to church with us.† Pa said it was because of the way he made his mark.† Most men who couldn'tít read or write their name would make their mark, which was generally an X.† Then someone who could write would print the name under the mark. Pa said that when Christian Jim made his mark, he would make a cross (+) instead of an X, so folks started calling him Christian Jim.
I could tell that ma missed Christian Jim that summer, and it fell my lot to have to fetch the wood and the water.
I tell you we were all smiles when Christian Jim showed up that fall about the time of the first snowfall.† He looked just the same, but this time he had a mule loaded with a pack.† He moved right back into his room.† That winter we got to be real friends.† On a cold winter day, I would slip into his room and talk with him.
He told me about when he was young like me.† He had grown up a long way from here.† His family had lived on the plains and hunted the buffalo.† When there was buffalo, they were never hungry, but when they couldn'tít catch the buffalo, everyone was hungry.† He said when the buffalo were gone, they would eat their dogs.
One day as a boy, he felt sick and couldn'tít keep up with the family as they followed the buffalo.† He was left on a trail close to a stream with some food.† A wagon train heading west stopped and picked him up and nursed him back to health.† The Wagon Master was heading west to make his fortune in the gold fields of California.
As they rode along the way, the Wagon Master told him all about how to find gold and how to mine it.
When they reached Salt Lake City, Christian Jim left the wagon train, and started looking for gold in the area around Salt Lake City.† He said for three years he had looked without success, but two years ago he had found what he had been looking for.††
Some of the time we talked, he made sacks out of heavy canvas, and sewed a draw string in the top.† Other times, he made candles. By spring, he had a lot of candles and a lot of bags made.
Just as the year before on a day that pa was going to town, Christian Jim came to pa with two small sacks of gold, one for pa and one for cash money.† Pa turned the gold into cash for Christian Jim and the next day he headed out with his mule loaded with the sacks and candles.
The money from the gold was a great help to our family.† The first year we bought a Guernsey milk cow with a heifer calf.† The calf looked more like a Jersey.† It was small and a dark brown.† Ma said the Guernsey must have been bred by a Jersey bull.† It turned out they were both heavy producers and well-mannered animals.† We had them for years.† The second year, pa bought a team of horses with a wagon.† He got the two blacks with full harness and the wagon.† That summer pa took to doing some hauling for the sugar factory and we made some good money .
That fall, Christian Jim returned again as he did for the next four years.† Those were fun winters for me.† Always in the spring, there would be two small sacks of gold, then Christian Jim would disappear for the summer.
Once I asked him where he went.† He told me that some day he would show me.† One spring I saw him talking with pa.† Pa nodded his head.† That night Christian Jim told me he was going to show me where he went during the summer if I wanted to go.† I was so excited I couldn'tít sleep that night.
The next morning ma had some food ready for us.† Pa saddled up the buckskin mare with the army saddle that he bought when Johnsonís army pulled out.† I rode the buckskin and Christian Jim walked leading the mule.†
When we got north of town, just passed Peter Massenpeelís house and the blacksmith shop, Christian Jim stopped and said that where we were going was a secret and he wanted to blindfold me if that was all right with me.† I said, ďsure.Ē† He had one of his canvas bags that he had cut a breathing hole for my mouth.† I put it over my head.† It was sure dark in there.† We walked around in circles and then headed out.† At noon we stopped in a grove of trees to eat and rest the animals.† I took the bag off while we ate.† After about an hour, we started again with the bag back in place on my head.† In the afternoon the sun beat down on my head and it really got hot in that bag, but I didn'tít complain.† I could feel the sun on my right side and back so I think we were traveling north.† That night we stopped near a creek, made camp and picketed the buckskin and the mule, ate dinner, then rolled our blankets out.
The next morning we were on our way early, with the bag back on my head.† By now we were following a stream of water and we were moving up hill.† We stopped often to let the horses rest.† About midday, we turned right up a steeper trail.† I could tell the stream was smaller now.† Soon we stopped to rest the animals and have lunch.†† We were in a small narrow valley with a stream about 3 to 5 feet across.† After lunch Christian Jim took me over to a rock and told me to look on top of it.† There on the top was a cross that had been chiseled into the surface of the stone.† The stone was about 3 feet long and about 2 feet wide and it was on the right side and close to the stream.† The cross was about 12 inches long and about 6 inches wide.† He said he had made a series of these crosses that would be markers to lead him to his mine.† We continued up the canyon.† I was no longer required to wear the bag on my head.† From time to time, Christian Jim would show me another cross that was chiseled in a rock.† Each time the cross was turned a different way.† He explained that with each cross you had to take your direction from a different point of the cross.† The first cross you follow the point at the top of the cross.† The second, you take your direction from the right arm of the cross.† The third time you get your direction from the base of the cross.† The next time from the left arm of the cross and so on around the cross with each succeeding sign.† Most of the crosses were near the stream until we got to the top of the little canyon.† By mid-afternoon, he showed me the last cross.† It was up on a side hill.† He asked me to sight along the base of the cross to the tip, and asked me what I saw.† I said, ďjust a clump of bushes.Ē† We went back down to the stream and found a shelter hidden in some trees.† The shelter had been made of willow branches with fir boughs placed on the top to keep the rain out.† That afternoon we rebuilt the shelter and put new boughs on it.† Christian Jim disappeared and returned with a pot, an iron frying pan, a grill for a fireplace, and some other things to make a comfortable camp.† We ate dinner and turned in.† It had been a long trip and we both were tired.†
The next morning Christian Jim asked me if I could remember the clump of bushes that the last cross pointed to.† I remembered and walked up the hill right to the spot.† He asked if I could see anything strange here.† I said, ďno.Ē† ďFollow me,Ē he said.† He walked around one large bush, pulled back the branches.† There was a hole in the side of the hill.† He motioned for me to follow him, but said to be careful because sometimes there are rattlesnakes in there.
He disappeared into the hole and I followed.† It was dark and I felt my way along the walls.† A light appeared in the tunnel and I saw Christian Jim lighting candles.† The tunnel widened into a room.† It was still dark but soon my eyes adjusted and I could see a room about 30 feet long and 10 feet wide.† Along one side was a pile of loose rock and stone.† On a shelf was a pile of chisels and hammers.† An iron bar, a pick and shovel leaned against the wall.
Back in the corner stacked on another shelf was a pile of canvas bags like those Christian Jim had stitched in his room.† These were bulging from bottom to the draw string at the top.† As the candles flickered, there were sparkles all around the room.† Christian Jim told me the sparkles were quartzite, a hard rock that imprisoned the gold.† He showed me veins of gold that were captured in the quartzite.† At the end of the tunnel about the height of my overalls breast pocket, he showed me a vein of gold about as large as the handle on maís butter churn.† He told me that he had been following that vein for about 40 feet.† Sometimes it may get as large as a womanís wrist and sometimes it gets as small as his little finger.† He had to chisel the stone away to get at the vein.† Sometimes he would follow a fork in the gold vein until it ran out, then he would return to the main vain.† Any chips that had signs of gold in them, he placed on the pile on one side of the cave.† When the vein ran out, he planned to crush that rock to retrieve the gold.† The rock that had no gold, he carried down and dumped it in the stream to be washed away.† He wanted no tailings pile to give away his secret.† Christian Jim opened one of the bags and let me look in.† It was filled with pure gold.† I opened a second sack, pure gold.† A third sack, the same, pure gold.† I lifted the sacks.† They were heavy for their size.† I judged each weighed about as much as a water bucket filled with water.† I couldn'tít see for sure, but there must have been 20 or 30 bags.
Christian Jim gave me a chisel and a hammer and told me I could have all the gold I could take out that day.† I started working feverishly.† It wasn'tít long before my wrist was so tired that I could hardly lift the hammer.† My knuckles had been busted from the hammer missing the chisel.† At the end of the day, my body was hurting all over.† My sack had only a few broken chips of the precious metal.† It was only then that I realized the magnitude of the task of Christian Jimís work in cutting away this cave to give up its prize.† Christian Jim had set some snares the night before. When we got back to camp he checked the snares and came back with a rabbit that was soon on a spit over the fire.† I canít remember eating anything that tasted so good.† As we sat around the fire that night, Christian Jim told me that this was his last summer.†This fall, when he came down, he would come and get me and together we would carry the gold out.† He was then going back to the plains to find his family.† He said he wanted to do some good things for ma and pa before he left and that he wanted me to have the mine.† I couldn'tít sleep that night; I was so excited thinking about all that gold.† I wondered about how far that vein ran and how much gold was left there.† The next day, early, I climbed up to a big circular outgrowth of rocks on the side of the hill and looked down at the clump of bushes that hid my gold mine. After breakfast we started back with me on the buckskin mare and Christian Jim leading the mule.† When we got to the stone with the first cross, I put the bag on my head again and we retraced our steps back down the trail. We didn't stop much now. When it grew dark, I fell asleep in the saddle. Towards day break, we stopped and Christian Jim took the bag from my head.† We were back at the church in Lehi.
After breakfast, Christian Jim said he was starting back.† I walked to the gate with him.† He told me to help my ma and pa to be ready to help him fetch the gold out this fall.† He clasped my hand, looked into my eyes, and turned and headed up the road leading his mule.† That was the last time I ever saw Christian Jim.† No one else ever remembered seeing him after that day either.† As fall approached, I kept watching up the road hoping to see my friend Christian Jim leading his mule back to our place.† Pa asked around that winter and the next summer, but no one ever remembered seeing Christian Jim.† Pa asked the merchants and bankers in Salt Lake if they had seen any signs of gold coming into town.† The only signs were a few nuggets that were coming back from California.† The assayer in town said that the only pure gold he had seen was that which I turned in from my hard days labor.† Even though it was a small amount, it went a long ways to helping me on my mission.
When I returned from my mission, I took every chance I could to retrace my trip to Christian Jimís mine.† I thought I could remember that trip but the mind plays funny tricks on you.† I explored every canyon within two days of our home.† I tried to recall the sounds and the direction of the trip, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find the right canyon. Every time I thought I was on the right trail, I would end up on unfamiliar grounds. My eyes were always searching for the rocks with the Christian Jim chiseled crosses.† I know if I could find a cross, I could find the mine, and perhaps I could find the remains of my friend and put him in a proper resting place.† I donít know what happened to Christian Jim, but one thing I do know.† He wouldn'tít have left without saying good-bye to me, and ma and pa.† I often wake up at night and think of my trip with Christian Jim.†If only I could find one of those chiseled crosses.
Grandson of Mathias Peterson
Norris Mike Peterson
This story was told by my Grandfather.† It happened in 1858.†
He was 12 years old at the time in Lehi, Utah.
Marlae Rinlishbacher is a coworker of mine, and the daughter-in-law of the late Norris Mike Peterson. She told me this story years ago and I was very intrigued by it. She gave me a copy of it and written permission to publish it in 1995. I thank her and the Peterson Family. I also thank Liu Toelupe for typing it.
I hope you enjoyed this story.