In 1856, war between Utah and the federal government appeared imminent. Brigham Young and the Mormon elders decided to gather the wealth of the Mormon Church and to protect it by finding a suitable hiding place. They dispatched several converted Indians to find an appropriate place. A large cave was found between the present towns of Pioche and Ely in what’s now the state of Nevada.
In Utah, every attempt was being made to convert every possible asset to gold. Goods were sold to passing travelers, banks were being liquidated, and church members were being drained of all possible cash. Over $1.5 million dollars were collected, mostly in gold.
Relations with the federal government seemed to be improving until news reached Brigham Young of the infamous Mountain Meadow Massacre. For reasons still unclear, the members of an entire wagon train from Arkansas were slaughtered, leaving only a few of the very youngest children alive.
Brigham Young now felt that even the cave would be unsafe. He ordered that the gold be transferred to the Mormon town of San Bernardino in California, from where, if necessary, it could be moved quickly to Mexico.
Twenty-two wagons with an armed escort of forty Utah militiamen traveled to the cave to remove all of the gold. They decided to take a route that would bypass any settlements to avoid any detection. To do this, they would have to travel across the uncharted area of south-central Nevada.
However, the desert proved to be too much, even for these hardy men. They soon found themselves critically short of water and all efforts to locate water proved futile. Finally, they decided the best solution was to go back to the last water they had passed. So, leaving the gold wagons and horses to the care of the teamsters, the forty militiamen headed back.
Several days later, the militiamen returned only to find the teamsters murdered, the wagons burned, the horses stolen and the gold gone. The Piutes had wiped them out to a man. There was absolutely no trace of the gold. After a diligent search, the militiamen returned home. Subsequent searches by the Mormons proved equally fruitless. None of the gold has ever surfaced, as far as anyone has ever been able to tell.
The gold is still out there for someone to find. By today’s value, the gold would be worth over 30 million dollars. However, the aesthetic value would be much, much higher.
The gold is too heavy to have been moved very far without the wagons, so it would have to be hidden close to the massacre site.