Archive | United States Mining History

Installment #3 – “My Old Man:” The Uranium King – Charlie Steen strikes it rich and fight his partners to han on to the Mi Vida Mine – by Mark Steen (Canyon Country Zephyr – June/July 2002)

A few days after the Denver Post published its closely worded story about my father’s Big Indian uranium discovery, Moab’s Times-Independent ran an article based on the same announcement that Dad had given to the Denver newspaper. Although the Times-Independent article actually contained more details about the high-grade nature of the uranium mineralization contained in the discovery drill core, not a single person among the newspaper’s readership expressed any interest in helping Dad develop his prospect.

None of the area’s long-time uranium prospectors and miners were convinced that Charlie Steen had really found a uranium bonanza. Folks laughed when they heard that someone from Texas was claiming to have discovered a million dollars worth of uranium in a mining district that everyone knew the experts had already examined and written off as a loser.

In early September, Dad received a letter postmarked Casper, Wyoming from William T. Hudson, his former boss at the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company’s Houston, Texas office. Bill Hudson had overseen the college loans that my father worked off during the summers and had written to congratulate him after reading the Denver Post article.

AT LONG LAST! Charlie tries on a new pair of boots. Continue Reading →

Mark Steen remembers… “My Old Man:” The Uranium King…Part 2 – The author debunks a few tall tales and tells what really happened in 1952 – by Mark Steen (Canyon Country Zephyr – April/May 2002)

At the beginning of my first article in The Zephyr about my father, Charlie Steen, and his discovery of the Mi Vida mine and its consequences, I wrote that people couldn’t seem to resist the impulse to distort and rewrite the history of Moab’s most famous prospector. I pointed out that falsehoods about my father’s uranium discovery and his role in the Uranium Boom were now finding their way into print in historical publications.

Potato Chips & Bananas

Two good bad examples of people distorting the truth or concocting half-truths about my father’s role in changing the course of the uranium industry clearly illustrate this point. In Utah’s official centennial history, Utah: The Right Placeby Dr. Thomas G. Alexander, the author has my Dad feeding his family on “potato chips and bananas” while he searched for uranium “with a Geiger counter under one arm and a bundle of Geological Surveys under the other.”

Aside from the well-known fact that my father couldn’t afford a Geiger counter and the lack of printed geological information about the Big Indian area prior to the Uranium Boom, Dr. Alexander, who has three university degrees in history, actually seems to think that six people could live for more than two years on potato chips and bananas! I wonder what level of sobriety the old timer who spun that yarn was in when that tale was told? Continue Reading →

“My Old Man:” The Uranium King (Part 1) – Charlie Steen’s youngest son ‘sets the record straight’ about the life and times of Moab’s most famous prospector – by Mark Steen (Canyon Country Zephyr – February/March 2002)

My father, Charlie Steen, has always maintained that the truth about his discovery of the Mi Vida mine and its consequences is a much better story than the fiction and half-truths that people insist on perpetuating. Despite the fact that his uranium discovery is one of the most publicized and well documented mineral discoveries in history, people can’t seem to resist the impulse to distort and rewrite history.

Unfortunately, this isn’t confined to bar-room reminiscences and tales told by old miners in rest homes. Articles about other peoples’ roles in my father’s discovery and observations by individuals who never met any of the players involved in the events of fifty years ago are now finding their way into print in historical publications. These accounts range from hard-luck stories about people who staked the Mi Vida ore body before my father, but couldn’t raise the money to drill where they knew a fortune was awaiting them, to lies about grubstakers being cheated out of millions because they couldn’t prove they had financed Charlie Steen’s prospecting activities.

Perhaps the most absurd of all of these revisionist discovery stories is the one that has my father’s jeep-mounted drill breaking down two or three miles from his intended destination; and, since he couldn’t go any further, he supposedly decided to drill for uranium where his rig had come to a halt. In this patently false version, Utah’s premier uranium mining area owes its discovery more to mechanical failure than to human endeavor. Continue Reading →