A devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, James E. Talmage (1862–1933) is perhaps best remembered today for his classic theological text Jesus the Christ.He is also remembered by some for his extensive academic ties to Brigham Young Academy, the Latter-day Saints College, and the University of Utah. Yet the image many Latter-day Saints have of Talmage sedately writing Jesus the Christ in the Salt Lake Temple has seemingly little in common with the trail-worn scientist covered in mining debris who emerges from his journals. Talmage spent much of his time from the late 1890s to 1911 working as an independent mining consultant, and in the early twentieth century, he played a major role as a scientific consultant in many legal disputes involving Utah’s burgeoning mining industry.
While this area of Talmage’s life is mentioned in a biography written by his son, John R. Talmage,scholars have tended to focus on the theological, scientific, and educational contributions James E. Talmage made and have ignored his involvement in Utah’s mining and smelting industries. A well-known and highly educated expert witness, Talmage was sought after for his expertise in applied chemistry and mining, as well as for his reputation as an important religious and civic leader. In this article, I draw on Talmage’s journals, correspondence, and research files to provide glimpses into Talmage’s experiences as an assayer, surveyor, and legal consultant for the mining industry between 1900 and 1913.
James E. Talmage was a graduate of Brigham Young Academy, where he taught chemistry until he left in 1882 to further his education at Lehigh University. While he was there, he completed the coursework for degrees in chemistry and geology. In 1883, he pursued advanced training at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and he might have gone on to earn additional formal degrees, but the advance on his salary was rescinded after the Brigham Young Academy caught fire in late 1883, which required the school to shift its relatively meager resources toward rebuilding. Talmage returned home to Provo, Utah, in 1884 and continued teaching.He taught at other colleges in Utah, and he would eventually earn a PhD from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1896. Talmage’s training in science was thoroughly modern, experiment driven, and evidence based. Several of his school notebooks are preserved in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University, and they are densely populated with scientific and mathematic notes, formulas, and references to scholarly works of the 1880s. This training was the basis for Talmage’s approach to his work as a mining consultant.
His academic study of geology and chemistry was enhanced by the knowledge he gained from practical experience with Utah’s natural environments. Well before he began working as a consultant, Talmage visited the mines and geological sites all around Provo. As early as 1881, he undertook geological expeditions and visited mines primarily to document the geological history of Utah and to better understand its diverse physical environments.Talmage continued to investigate mines while he studied outside of Utah as a student at Lehigh University and Johns Hopkins University. During this time, he acquired fossils from phosphorous plants near Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and toured regional mines.
The early twentieth century was a heady time for Utah’s industrial development as massive smelting operations and railroad construction made formerly unprofitable coal, salt, copper, silver, and iron mines valuable.The increased industrialization and larger focus on mining resulted in significant changes to life in Utah. Regarding the conflict between industrial development and the more traditional economies of farming and self-sufficiency, two historians of this period in Utah’s development observed, “At stake were such diverse considerations as job opportunities, enhanced payrolls, air and water pollutants, despoiled land, radically altered farming strategies, and various changes in life-style. In this early period of Utah’s industrial revolution the by-products of change were largely unanticipated. But expected or not they touched the lives of individuals, brought interest groups into being, and triggered a communitywide examination of values and interests.” Due to the complex nature of these new developments, Utah needed the services of a qualified, reputable consultant such as Talmage.
With his formal academic credentials and deep knowledge of Utah’s environs, Talmage was well positioned to supplement the relatively low salary earned from his position as the Deseret Chair of Geology at the University of Utah with assaying and surveying services. As a professor, Talmage earned an annual salary $2,400—not a small amount for the time but no large sum either, given his responsibilities.We do not know how much Talmage generally charged as an expert witness, but in 1912, at or near the height of his prestige, he estimated the cost for his services from $500 to $1,000 for a full property inspection. His financial success as a consultant led him to consider resigning from his chair in the geology department at the University of Utah in 1904–5, and he finally left his formal academic career behind in 1907.
Despite working actively as a professor at the University of Utah until 1907 and his increased assignments from Latter-day Saint leaders, Talmage traveled extensively by horse and rail to mines all over the American West as a consultant.In 1911, however, Talmage was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and John R. Talmage notes that Talmage’s direct involvement in mining-related consulting declined greatly as a result. Yet his ecclesiastical responsibilities sometimes overlapped with his geological expertise, most notably in the case of the “Dream Mine,” also known as the Relief Mine, in 1913. During this highly controversial situation, Talmage made a thorough analysis of the site and came away convinced that the workers were being taken advantage of. His journal includes significant commentary on his experiences at the Dream Mine in Spanish Fork as well as at the Majestic Gold Mine in Brigham City, sometimes called “the Dream Mine in the north” by contemporaries. His involvement as an Apostle with these mines and his involvement as a consultant in two other significant cases are discussed below to establish a better understanding of Talmage, his work, and the contours of life in early twentieth-century Utah.
Talmage considered the consulting jobs he took before agreeing to work for one side or the other. After his expert testimony helped the Excelsior Iron Mining Company secure its patent on a portion of iron veins in Iron County in 1904, Talmage recorded in his journal, “The case has been decided in favor of the parties for whom I appeared. . . . In this case I was asked by each side to investigate and testify; I took the side I thought to be right; though perhaps hope of financial gain if considered at all would have indicated other action.”
Never one to hold his tongue when matters of geology were at stake, Talmage’s draft of instructions to the lawyers representing Excelsior Iron Mining (owners of the Adams and Armstrong Mines) were quite dismissive of the opposing expert witnesses. Their claim was that certain Iron County lodes were separate bodies of ore, unconnected to a main body of iron ore patented by the Armstrong Mining Company. Of this claim, Talmage wrote, “Is it so that a definition of placer deposits has been constructed to specially suit the wishes of [the defendants] in this case? Would the experts who have defined lodes [as unbroken veins of ore with no geological separation between segments of the lode] dare oncorporate [sic] such definitions in a professional paper to be read before a gathering of their peers and to be published over their signatures to the world?”
These biting remarks provide a glimpse into the language used by scientific authorities to contest their opponents’ claims in early twentieth-century Utah courts. While Talmage’s declamation against his opponents in this case may seem virulent, he was appreciated at court and by his associates in the mining industry. In 1906, a laudatory article in the Salt Lake Mining Review noted, “Dr. Talmage, in a most forceful manner, has made his knowledge and experience felt throughout the mining camps of the west, and his recognized ability in his profession has placed him in the front ranks of men possessed of scientific attainments. With big mining men his word is authority, and his recommendation or condemnation of a mining property is final with those by whom he is employed.”
Talmage developed this reputation through his work as a reliable scientific consultant and expert witness on several important Utah mining-related lawsuits.
Herriman Irrigation Company v. George W. Keel
(Butterfield Mining Company)
The earliest mining-related lawsuit known to involve Talmage began in 1898—the Herriman Irrigation Company, plaintiff, against George W. Keel as receiver of the Butterfield Mining Company, defendant. The city of Herriman had been settled in 1852, and at about that time, the Herriman Irrigation Company was incorporated to control the flow of water in a local stream.In 1894, the Butterfield Mining Company established a “head gate in the natural channel of the creek, and diverted about one-half of the water then flowing in the stream.” The mining company also changed the normal flow of underground water when it constructed two massive tunnels upstream from Herriman—the Queen Tunnel, running 2,900 feet, and the Butterfield Tunnel, running over 8,200 feet. Herriman’s farmers argued that allowing the company to further divert water from the creek would cause a water shortage. Therefore, in 1897, Herriman Irrigation began a lawsuit against Butterfield Mining, naming the company’s receiver, George W. Keel, as the defendant.
The case was initially ruled in favor of Butterfield Mining. Herriman Irrigation then appealed, and the case went to the Utah Supreme Court, which on March 19, 1899, remanded the case for a new trial to determine what percentage of water was due to Keel and Butterfield Mining.This required further geological analysis of the area, and James E. Talmage was hired as a consultant to determine how much water had been diverted by Butterfield Mining and what percentage should be required to flow through to Herriman. Talmage described several of his visits to the holdings of Butterfield Mining in his journal:
May 2 . Went to Revere by morning train, thence to Butterfield Cañon and vicinity horseback. I was accompanied by Bro. E. S. Hinckleyof Provo, and at Revere we were joined by Bishop C[r]ane of Herriman. Spent the entire day examining the geological structure of the region. Traversed the celebrated Butterfield tunnel its full length of 9000 feet into the hill. Reached Herriman at 7 p.m., from which place we drove to the City [Salt Lake City], reaching home shortly before midnight. The journey was made necessary by the circumstances attending an important trial now in progress in the District Court, in which the Herriman Irrigation Company contends for the right to certain waters, which they claim have been diverted by the Butterfield Mining Co. and others through the construction of the tunnel. In this case I have been subpoenaed as a witness, to give evidence on certain geological matters. . . .
May 5 . Spent entire day examining the Butterfield Minning [sic] Company’s property and adjacent formations. Went to Revere by early morning R. G. W. train, thence horseback over the hills to Bingham Cañon[,] Butterfield Cañon[,] etc.Bishop Crane and Bro. George Miller of Herriman met me at the railway and accompanied me during the day. Barlow Ferguson one of the attorneys for the plaintiff took part of the journey, but remained to visit in Bingham. We reached Herriman sometime after 9 p.m., too late to permit of my returning home. Spent the night at Bishop Crane’s. Ill tonight, partly from exertion at great altitudes, but more particularly through my having encountered foul air in a tunnel of the Queen mine today. I was passing through a tunnel and had just gone beyond a door dividing the passage when my candle went out from “choke-damp” present, and I almost lost consciousness.
Though Talmage survived his encounter with chokedamp (also known as blackdamp), this incident illustrates just one of the many hazards that Talmage faced as a consultant for mining companies.
The contradicting testimony of expert witnesses on either side of this case led Judge Henry H. Rolapp, the appellate court judge responsible for setting the water due to either side, to organize a visit to the site of controversy in person. Talmage described the trip in his journal:
May 21 . Proceeded by train to Revere thence by team to Herriman and Butterfield cañon, and then went horseback over part of the ground concerned in the suit at law between the Herriman Irrigation Co., and the Butterfield Mining Co. The journey was undertaken by order of the court. Party comprised Judge Rolappbefore whom the case is tried, Mr. Keel (one of the defendants) Attorney George Sutherland and Engineer Doremers [Doremus] (for the defendants); and on the plaintiff’s side,—Bishop Crane of Herriman, Attorney Barlow Ferguson, and myself. We spent the entire day on the ground, and part of the night in the Butterfield tunnel. Passed the night at Mr Keel’s residence near the tunnel mouth.
Following this visit to Herriman and the Butterfield Canyon, Judge Rolapp ultimately decided in favor of Butterfield Mining, which meant it could appropriate 80 percent of the water from the Butterfield Stream for whatever purpose it desired. Judge Rolapp noted, “It is true that a conclusion was reached by plaintiff’s experts, based upon various theories, to the effect that they could account for no other cause for the drying up of these springs except the excavation of the defendants’ tunnels, but the reasons offered for such conclusion were wholly unsatisfactory to my mind.”
Judge Rolapp was apparently dissatisfied with Talmage’s and Hinckley’s testimonies on behalf of Herriman Irrigation. In 1901, a professional engineering and mining journal reported that a “decision was rendered at Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 28, by Judge Rolapp, in the case of the Herriman Irrigation company vs. George W. Keel et al. The action was to restrain the defendants in their mining operations through the Butterfield tunnel from interfering with the flow of water from the plaintiff company’s springs. Judge Rolapp’s decision was in favor of the defendant. In his opinion the flow from the tunnel is percolating and seepage water, and not from the Herriman Irrigation company’s springs.”The judge’s decision, however, was immediately appealed.
The case then appeared again before the Utah Supreme Court in 1902, and on July 19, it ultimately found that the Butterfield Mining Company had a right to use the percolating and other water on their property but did not have exclusive control of the water, which included the Butterfield Creek and the underground streams and springs, which had potentially been diverted through construction of the Butterfield tunnel.The Utah Supreme Court ordered that the water be divided evenly at the head gate, minus 8 percent from Herriman Irrigation to account for seepage and percolating water native to the Butterfield Mining property. The court ruled that the damage to local water systems done by Butterfield Mining was done damnum absque injuria—in other words, the damage was incidental to Butterfield Mining’s acceptable use of the land, and the only question was how much of the water they were entitled to take. This decision is what the court had ruled in 1899 when it first remanded the case to Justice Rolapp’s appellate court.
Utah Supreme Court Justice George W. Bartchfound that Butterfield Mining’s claim that the water it diverted would not affect the water flow to the community was backed by expert opinion. The company’s expert witnesses, Charles Stevenson and A. F. Doremus, claimed that rather than losing water to the mines, the natural topography of the land and a loss of groundcover and trees had changed the water retention level, resulting in decreased water flow to natural springs. While this expert testimony was damaging to Herriman Irrigation’s claims, the company had their own expert witnesses, James E. Talmage and Edwin S. Hinckley, who testified of precisely the opposite—that mining operations had seriously damaged the natural flow of water in the Butterfield Stream to Herriman’s farmers and other citizens downstream.
Justice Bartch described Talmage as a “geologist of known ability” but relied on Judge Rolapp’s observation that there was nothing to support Herriman Irrigation’s claim that its streams and other waters were threatened by Keel’s mining operations—rather, the fault lay with the citizens of Herriman for clear-cutting vegetation around their streams.
Chief Justice James A. Miner concurred in general but found Talmage and Hinckley to be more credible, writing, “It is quite manifest from the facts and circumstances shown that about one-half of the water flowing out of the tunnels was diverted from the plaintiff’s springs . . . by the construction of the tunnels.”This led Miner to conclude that the water that could be rerouted by Butterfield Mining should amount to one-half of the total amount diverted by the head gate to account for water formerly flowing to the springs that fed Herriman’s irrigation canals.
A third concurring opinion written by Judge Robert Baskin quoted Talmage’s testimony at length: “From the statement that from 1852 to 1893 the springs which are now dry flowed continuously without appreciable variation, and in 1893 the tunnel encountered water which flowed out of the tunnel, and more water was encountered, as the tunnel was constructed until 1895, when all the springs dried up, I would say the sources of the springs had been tapped, and their water passed out of the tunnel.”Providing much-needed clarity, Baskin goes on to state that this had all been worked out by the courts in the 1899 case. At that time the court had returned the case to the appellate court, ruling “that the defendant company did not acquire a right to any of the water flowing from said tunnels except such as was developed by percolation, and that the plaintiff retain[ed] the right to all the water flowing in the natural channel of Butterfield creek.” The only question facing the courts was how much of the water coming out of the tunnels had percolated from the defendant’s land and how much was from the Butterfield creek’s other sources, which lay outside of the company’s control. While the defendants were free to take the percolating water and route it for their own use, the formerly aboveground water remained the property of Herriman Irrigation.
The case was significant because it weighed Herriman citizens’ water rights against Butterfield Mining’s right to use the water flowing through the ground underneath its properties. The case had the potential to drastically affect water usage rights throughout Utah. If Butterfield Mining had been found to be at fault for improper usage or abandonment of the percolating water and other waters, the company would have lost control of a precious asset that helped run their mining tunnels and develop aboveground property that the Keels owned in the region upstream from Herriman.
On the other hand, a ruling that gave entire control of the water flowing into the Butterfield Creek to the mining company would have set a precedent of allowing people’s water to be appropriated and redirected by other people upstream, potentially leading to the destruction of whole communities across the state. As Judge Baskin noted in his 1902 opinion on the case, “It is a matter of common knowledge, and the courts will take notice of the facts without proof, that irrigation is the life of agriculture in this State.”He went on to note that if the court ruled in favor of Keel and his mining company, most of the water in the state used to irrigate crops and make life possible would be put at risk. Although Talmage was not able to entirely secure Herriman’s water rights with his testimony, his witness testimony was quoted by the judges and considered useful, bolstering his reputation as a consultant.
Grand Central Mining Company v. Mammoth Mining Company
In late 1901, the Mammoth Mining Company hired Talmage as an expert witness in one of the lengthiest legal disputes in early twentieth-century Utah—Grand Central Mining Company v. Mammoth Mining Company.This case, involving two Tintic District silver mining companies in Juab County, resulted in twenty-seven findings by Utah’s supreme court in 1904 at a time when most decisions had only one to three findings. The case was important in establishing how lower courts in Utah could instruct juries and how the legal boundaries of mines and veins were established. The case involved $300,000 of silver that Grand Central Mining accused Mammoth Mining of mining from their Silveropolis holdings. The complexity of the case was such that numerous diagrams mapping out the holdings of the two companies were included in the official Utah Supreme Court case report, which carries on for over a hundred pages.
In 1902, the initial proceedings were carried out before a jury, which found in favor of Mammoth Mining. The case then appeared in October 1905 before the Utah Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Grand Central Mining due to an error in instruction by the lower judge, who ruled that an important boundary marker should be understood to be at a particular point that was favorable to Mammoth Mining’s case.In 1909, the case went on to the U.S. Supreme Court on an argument of error by Mammoth Mining and was again found in favor of Grand Central Mining. The crux of the court’s decision was the failure of geologists, including Talmage, whose services were retained by Mammoth Mining in 1902, to locate a specific apex linking several ore bodies in the geology of the land that was contested by the parties. Mammoth Mining’s final appeal was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1909. Talmage became involved in 1902, and his journal records regular trips between Provo, Salt Lake City, and Nephi while the case was being tried:
January 1 : On this New Year’s day I find myself away from home. I am detained in Nephi, Utah, to which place I have been called as a witness on geological structure in a noted mining suit now on trial in the court here—The Grand Central Mining Company vs. The Mammoth Mining Company. The present needs of the case call for the examination of certain maps and the construction of others, and I am compelled to remain over the holiday. Thanks to present facilities for long distance communication, I was able to call up the loved ones at home by telephone and express the season’s greetings over the wire. I was on duty in the map room until midnight. . . .
Jan. 7: Obtained leave of absence from the University and proceeded to Nephi by evening train in response to a call from court. . . .
January 8: Went to the witness stand during the afternoon and remained under direct examination until adjournment.
Jan. 9: On the witness stand during the entire day. Cross examination began during the afternoon.
Jan. 10: Cross examination continued. This was followed by re-direct and re-cross. Finished at 4.15 p.m.
Jan. 11: In company with Mr. Tyler—an expert witness on the Grand Central side I went to Mammoth by morning train.We spent the rest of the day examining certain recent work done by the Mammoth Company on their property. . . .
Jan. 15: Returned to Nephi by evening train in response to summons from court.
Jan. 16: On the witness stand during morning . . . session of court giving testimony as to the results of my recent visit to the Mammoth mine. Returned home by evening train. . . .
January 22: Called to Mammoth by telephone message from Nephi. Rebuttal testimony is now being put in by the Mammoth Company (defendant and cross-complainant in the case) and further examination is wanted. Was joined at Provo by my fellow witness—Mr. Sidney W. Tyler of Denver—and together we proceeded to Mammoth. . . .
January 23: Entire day spent in the Mammoth mine and in surface examinations of new excavations.
One depiction of Talmage as an expert witness for Grand Central Mining in early 1902 demonstrates Talmage’s “forceful” behavior on the stand. The Salt Lake Herald reported the results of a cross-examination from the opposing side following Talmage’s testimony:
Mr. Zane, the cross-examining attorney, rigidly insisted upon specification by the witness of limits to the Mammoth vein along the course from where it leaves the west side line of Mammoth lot 38 to where it enters the Grand Central claims northwest of that point and becomes the Grand Central vein. The witness with equal firmness insisted upon a distinction between the vein proper and offshoots or branches thereof, showing that the Betsy stope ore bodies running out to the north and the southerly ore bodies on the 600 and 500 levels of the Mammoth workings are clearly on the so-called “back fissure,” and therefore are to be regarded as branch of and not within the main vein.
Touching the question of apex, the witness was directed to locate the apex of the vein point through the Grand Central claims, and did so, at the same time stating that the apex must not be confounded with outcrop inasmuch as the former may not reach the surface.
The vexed question of dip and strike was fully dwelt upon and a distinction between pitch and dip emphasized by the witness.
At the afternoon session Dr. Talmage’s cross-examination [continued]. . . . The subject was illustrated by blackboard drawings of outcropping dikes in which dip, pitch and strike were clearly apparent above the surface. The meaning was then applied to the ore bodies in dispute, the witness maintaining that the great vein in question, after departing on its strike from the west side line of Mammoth lot 38, pitches in the direction of its strike northwesterly into the claims of the Grand Central.
While Talmage was able to argue that the apex of the contested mineral body was in an area owned by Mammoth Mining, he was unable to locate the “legal” apex—defined by Chief Justice George W. Bartch as a specific point along a vein indicating the direction of mineralization or providing some other geological feature that could be used as a marker or boundary. According to the testimony quoted by Justice Bartch in his 1905 report, when asked directly, Talmage responded that he knew of no such feature.
Talmage’s testimony during the trial was considered highly useful by Utah’s supreme court. Even in a losing cause, his remarks clarified the geological and legal situation of the mines. Chief Justice Bartch described Talmage as a “geologist and expert of eminent ability.”Indeed, Talmage’s testimony was vital in establishing the boundaries of Grand Central Mining’s and Mammoth Mining’s holdings. For example, the official Utah Supreme Court case report recorded, “Dr. Talmage, testifying for plaintiff, corroborated the testimony of Prof. Jenny, and speaking of the Finn tunnel, from station 03 north, he says: ‘As you go through that tunnel from its mouth to its face there are absolutely no indications of mineralization.’”
Not all parties were thrilled by Talmage’s presence as a witness in this case. The case was tried before a jury from 1901 through 1902, when Talmage was a popular speaker and university professor known throughout Utah. He also had strong ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Understandably, there was some concern during the jury trial that Talmage’s prestige would carry undue weight with the largely Latter-day Saint jury. The Salt Lake Tribune, despite its well-earned reputation during this period as an anti-Mormon paper, nevertheless mocked Grand Central’s lawyers when they protested Talmage’s presence on the stand: “It is said that some of the jurors made notes when Dr. Talmage was on the stand. A trifling incident, indeed! Yet it annoyed the lawyers on the other side, and they have repeatedly cited the jurors to that portion of the court’s instructions relating to undue weight to certain testimony, and extracts from the testimony of Dr. Talmage, or even the mention of his name causes uneasiness.”
Though Mammoth Mining eventually lost the case on appeals, Talmage’s reputation as an expert witness was not tarnished. Chief Justice Bartch quoted Talmage as saying, “I fail to find any continuation of the great ore bodies. . . . After diligent search for an outcrop on lot 38 I have failed to find it.”His failure to find such bodies or an outcrop was the key point in Mammoth Mining’s losing the case, but his honesty reinforced his reputation as a reputable witness.
The Dream Mine
Possibly the most controversial mine analyzed by Talmage was John A. Koyle’s Relief Mine in Spanish Fork, Utah, commonly referred to as the Dream Mine. Several historians have written on the Dream Mine’s history, so only a brief introduction is presented here.In 1894, John Koyle of Salem, Utah, began telling associates that he had seen a vision of a valuable mine in Spanish Fork. He immediately organized members of his community to begin excavating his “Dream Mine” and formally incorporated the Koyle Mining Company in 1909.
By 1895, despite repeated failures to locate valuable minerals of any kind and the failure of at least one of Koyle’s visions to guide them to anything of value, an incredible effort was made to dig down through the mountain site where the mine was located. The company issued stock certificates in 1909 to fund expansion of their mining operations, and stockholder meetings continued to be held annually despite the absence of anything of value coming out of the mine.Many sources on the Dream Mine cover Talmage’s experiences there in July 1913. For example, one source notes, “While the Dream Mine attracted volunteer laborers and faithful investors, it also drew the attention of the LDS Church, worried that the faithful were being fleeced. In 1913, Mormon Apostle James E. Talmage, a trained geologist, examined a sample from the Dream Mine and declared the ore worthless.” Many historians have not noted several letters between Talmage and Koyle from earlier in 1913, which shed additional light on Talmage’s visit in July 1913.
On May 5, 1913, Talmage wrote Koyle with a request for information about his mining venture. Koyle responded on May 7 with a detailed account of the work done to that point and an invitation to come view the site. Bemused by Koyle’s detailed account, Talmage replied that he would be interested to learn the source of Koyle’s certainty regarding the geological features he expected to encounter as the work progressed and also kindly thanked him for the invitation to visit, which Talmage declined for the time being.Talmage’s case files at the Church History Library indicate that he had been following the Relief Mine since 1909, but it seems he gathered only general information about Koyle and the mine until taking a more active role in 1913.
Talmage’s journal account of his experience in the Relief Mine is much more detailed than all but one other account he recorded about his mine examinations, suggesting the significance of this visit in his mind. He recorded,
July 16 : By a very strong impression to do today what I have long contemplated doing, I left by early train, went to Spanish Fork, there procured a horse and buggy and drove to the foot of the mountain east of Salem. The purpose of my visit is to examine the “Relief Mine,” commonly known as the “Dream Mine.” Many rumors of this alleged mine have reached me and much has been said concerning supposed inspiration by which the work has been undertaken and prosecuted. I had previously some correspondence with Bishop John H. Koyle of Leland ward, Nebo stake, at whose instance the work has been done. . . . I found thirty men engaged in the work, each of whom is working for stock in the company, all having faith in the divine direction by which they say the mine was located. Brother Bradford and I accompanied by Brother Koyle and others inspected the workings from top to bottom. These workings consist of an irregular shaft, in places vertical, in others running on inclines, changing direction frequently, and extending to a present depth of over 1100 feet. The shaft penetrates the limestone of the region and is absolutely devoid of any evidence of mineralization in the mining sense of the term. The “leader” which Brother Koyle professes to have been following appears at the surface as one of the innumerable fault slips which appear on the western face of the Wasatch, incident to the profound fault by which that noble range has been elevated.After returning to the surface I met Brother Koyle and all the brethren here engaged and told them that from the standpoint of geological structure and all the known laws of mineral occurrence their effort is absolutely without promise of success.
Following this blunt assessment of their labors, the miners bore Talmage a number of testimonies to the validity of Koyle’s claims. Talmage’s journal records his response: “I told them I had made the subject a matter of prayer and had asked . . . to be able to recognize the facts and the truth, and testified to them that while their free agency was, of course, their own and not to be interfered with by me, that I considered it would be well for them to abandon this work and to take themselves to useful and profitable labor.”
The miners and Talmage went their separate ways, though rumors that Talmage had endorsed the Relief Mine plagued him for years, leading him to issue a strongly worded denunciation of the Relief Mine on May 14, 1928: “Immediately after making the  examination . . . I emphatically declared that I regarded the alleged manifestations as spurious, and that the setting forth of any such claims . . . to prospective purchasers of stock was wholly unjustifiable and fundamentally wrong. I reaffirm this position now.”
Majestic Gold Mine
The Dream Mine was not the only controversial mine Talmage visited in July 1913. On July 21, Talmage traveled to Brigham City, Utah, to evaluate a mine there. He met with Dr. Fred J. Pack, professor of geology at the University of Utah, and with Carter Grant, Heber J. Grant’s nephew,and together they met with the owner of the Majestic Gold Mining Company, Fred J. Holton, a Brigham City lawyer. Holton declined to travel with them to inspect the site of his mine. Arriving on site, they found seven men tunneling into a “quartzite bedded rock of the region [with] no trace of a mineralized fissure or other indication of metaliferous deposit.” Following their examination of the diggings, Pack and Talmage held a two-hour “informal meeting” with the miners during which Talmage questioned each man to learn why he had become involved with Majestic Gold Mining. He recorded his impression of their answers in his journal:
They all claim that they were impressed by the story told by Holton, and bore impassioned testimony to its truth. This story is to the effect that in his desire to procure means which would enable him to devote his time to Temple work for the dead, Brother Holton fasted and prayed and received visitations of heavenly personages and manifestations of divers kind by which he learned that in this locality immense bodies of rich gold ore lay hidden; and that he is the man through whom it is to be brought forth to be used primarily in building temples and in vicarious labor for the dead.
In response, Talmage asked Pack to describe the geological structure of the area, which Talmage described as “devoid of any shadow of promise of mineral occurrences.” Talmage then harshly condemned the project, describing it as “inspired of evil.” In contrast to his approach at the Dream Mine, where he told the men that they could do as they desired, Talmage directly declared that his response to the men was “the Word of the Lord” unto them.
At least one individual associated with Majestic Gold Mining, Carter Grant, was highly impressed by Talmage’s words to the men. In a letter written in 1914, Grant explained that while he had initially determined to follow Talmage’s counsel, he instead increased his investment in the Majestic Gold Mine, losing more money. He then determined to have nothing more to do with the project, and he and Talmage corresponded several times in subsequent years.As a coda to this experience, however, Grant became involved with Koyle’s Dream Mine in the late 1920s and, in 1931, made a statement regarding its authenticity and Koyle’s prophecies to Talmage.
Talmage’s inspection of the Majestic Gold Mine in 1913 was not his first experience with Holton or his mining company. Talmage sent a letter, dated August 5, 1912, to Holton threatening legal action and telling him to cease using Talmage’s name in connection with the mine.Holton responded, claiming he had met with Talmage to discuss the cost of having Talmage inspect the mine. At that meeting, Talmage viewed a sample of gold from the mine, pronounced it favorable, but then had nothing more to do with the project since Holton could not afford his services. In his efforts to organize labor and funds for the Majestic Gold Mine, Holton, according to his letter, mentioned that Talmage had pronounced the gold good. Holton was much aggrieved by Talmage’s letter and stated that it was unbecoming of an Apostle of the Lord to write such a letter and pronounced a dire fate upon Talmage’s head if he did not repent. There seems to have been no further correspondence or meetings between the two men until Talmage made his visit in July 1913.
Following his inspections of the Majestic Gold Mine, Talmage met with the First Presidency on August 1, 1913. Talmage’s journal entry for August 1 noted that he was “engaged greater part of the day in consultations with the First Presidency.”The next day the Deseret Evening News carried a lengthy statement from the First Presidency declaring,
We feel it our duty to warn the Latter-day Saints against fake mining schemes which have no warrant for success beyond the professed spiritual manifestations of their projectors and the influence gained over the excited minds of their victims. We caution Saints against investing money or property in shares of stock which bring no profit . . . to anyone but those who issue and trade in them. Fanciful schemes of “redeeming Zion” [referring to one of Koyle’s reported motives] or providing means for the “salvation of the dead” [referring to Holton’s reported motives] or other seeming worthy objects, should not deceive anyone acquainted with the order of the Church, and will result only in waste of time and labor.
Talmage responded positively to this announcement in his journal, noting, “The need of such utterances is plainly shown from the misleading efforts of a certain few relating to mining and other ventures in which they claim divine direction.”
The timing of Talmage’s meeting with the First Presidency and the statement against “fake mining ventures” seem to be correlated. His journal notes several meetings with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles between July 16, 1913, and when the statement was issued on August 2, suggesting that Talmage’s on-site visits played some role in the Church’s decision to issue the statement. However, Talmage’s writings do not indicate if he directly assisted the First Presidency in writing the August 2 declaration.
Following Talmage’s 1913 visit to the Majestic Gold Mine, work there seems to have come to a halt. Fred J. Holton lost his sight around 1930, and in 1932 James E. Talmage received a conciliatory letter from Holton asking forgiveness for responding to Talmage with righteous indignation in 1912. The letter also requested Talmage’s prayers to help cure Holton’s blindness.Talmage wrote a kind note in response, stating,
You refer to correspondence that passed between us . . . just twenty years ago this month. . . . I assure you, with full brotherly sincerity, that if there was any incident or circumstance even suggesting forgiveness on my part, such forgiveness is full and complete.
You and I saw matters pertaining to the operation of the Majestic Mining Company in different lights; and I have no doubt that at the time you thought you were in the right . . . . I am glad to feel the spirit of your last letter expressive of your present views on these . . . .
I prayerfully trust that the Lord will comfort you.
Talmage’s career in assaying and geological surveying adds depth to our understanding of his life and experiences. It also contributes to the history of science in the American West. Studies of the assayers and surveyors, whose work was essential in establishing the American mining industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are uncommon in histories of the American West. While labor history includes exceptional studies of the grueling conditions miners faced and the heavy-handed and sometimes violent tactics used by owners to manipulate their labor force, historians have generally ignored the role played by scientific professionals in American mining.One historian of scientific consulting notes an “oft-repeated observation” that “science was supposed to be the handmaiden of industry” in nineteenth-century American society. Talmage’s journals thus provide a valuable window into the role that scientific consultants played in the mining industry during this time.
Additionally, despite opposition to mining during Brigham Young’s lifetime, the experiences of James E. Talmage demonstrate a shift in the thinking among Church members about the risks and rewards of mining during the late 1890s and early 1900s. Though some Latter-day Saints, such as Jesse Knight, had been involved in mining much earlier, that James E. Talmage, a confidant of the First Presidency and eventually an Apostle, was involved with the mining industry shows that Church leaders’ thinking regarding mining had changed considerably since the 1850s. This growing acceptance was not without its own stops and stutters, as demonstrated by Church members’ involvement in the Relief and Majestic Gold Mines, but this shift in economic interests among Latter-day Saints can be seen as part of bringing the Church into the twentieth century.