Agency History #3123


On 28 November 1892 a group of prospectors on the San Juan River resolved that whereas they were isolated, the county seat of San Juan County being a considerable distance and difficult to access, it was in their mutual interest to organize a mining district for the protection of their lives, good health and property. They elected to call it the Gabel Mining District and established boundaries which included the southwest corner of San Juan County. At the organizational meeting the miners elected a recorder and an executive committee and they established rules and regulations concerning the responsibilities of each. These actions were in accordance with federal mining law, which established that mineral deposits in the public domain were free and open to exploration, and locators of the same had exclusive right of possession. Local mining districts oversaw mining operations within specified boundaries, and district recorders kept a records of claims (Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations, of the United States of America, 1872, vol. XVII, chap. 152). In 1897 the Utah Legislature enacted a mining law which mandated that county recorders of the respective counties should be responsible for recording all mining claims and other instruments previously recorded by district recorders, and that all books previously kept by the districts were to be deposited in the recorder's office (Laws of Utah, 1897, chapter 36, "Mining Claims").


Typically, mining district recorders primarily functioned as record keepers for mining districts. The rules of the Gabel District were very specific about how those records should be kept. The district recorder was to keep: 1) an alphabetically arranged reception book which would indicate the year, month, day, hour and minute when each instrument was filed, give details about parties and claims involved and indicate the book and page number where recorded; 2) a general index having columns similar to the reception book; 3) a location record in which each claim filed was entered; 4) a record for all assignments and conveyances; and 5) a miscellaneous record book in which to record any other documents which might need to be recorded.

The rules of the Gabel District established methods for making and recording claims. Lode claims were to be marked on the ground with stakes or monuments and posted with the locator’s name. Any U.S. citizen could make a placer claim by filing with the recorder, a certificate of location together with a map or plat of the claim signed by the district surveyor. Miners in the Gabel District modified the federal statute which required annual labor on each claim to mean that where a person held up to eight adjoining placer claims, work on one was to be considered work on all. Any claim not recorded within 60 days of location was forfeited.

Because of the remoteness of the area, Gabel District miners expanded the functions of the recorder and also elected an executive committee. Together, the recorder and the executive committee carried out functions typical of a municipal government. The executive committee held full power to enforce district laws and protect life and property until such time as a municipal town should be organized. The committee could enforce district laws by imposing fines of up to $500, by expelling individuals from the district, or forfeiting their right to make claims. District laws authorized the committee to employ ample force against claim jumping, and to determine the validity of claims in cases of dispute. The committee held the right to levy and collect assessment taxes to pay the cost of maintaining law and order. The committee also had the right to control the sale of intoxicating liquor. The district recorder was responsible to keep a record of all of the proceedings of the executive committee (also referred to in the by-laws as the execution committee). He was also to act as chairman for all general and special meetings of miners. (San Juan County (Utah). County Recorder, Miscellaneous records, Book B, p. 176-188, Utah State Archives, series 23400).


The recorder of the Gabel District was elected for a one year term at an annual meeting of miners. He was required to take an oath of office and post a bond. Miners in the district also elected three from among their number to form the executive committee. Voting was by claim, so any one person had as many votes as he had claims, or in case several men held interest in a claim, only one of them was entitled to vote.


In 1897 the Utah Legislature abolished mining district recorders' function as record keepers. However, the office was not officially eliminated until much later. Revised Statutes for 1933 state that at the termination of office of any mining district recorder still holding office, the district should be abolished and the office should remain vacant (Revised Statutes of Utah Annotated, 1933, 55-1-7). The Gabel Mining District was organized during a mining boom in San Juan County. All surviving documents recorded by the district are dated 1892-1894. Probably the district ceased to function before the enactment of either of these laws.

Karl A. Snyder 1892-1894

COMPILED BY: Rosemary Cundiff , January 2002


Gabel Mining District (Utah). Recorder, Mining Location Notices, Utah State Archives (series 24039).Laws of Utah, 1897, Chapter 36, "Mining Claims," Utah State Archives (series 83155). McPherson, Robert S. A History of San Juan County: in the Palms of Time. Utah Historical Society, 1995. Revised Statutes of Utah Annotated, 1933, 55-1-7, Utah State Archives (series 83238). San Juan County (Utah). County recorder, Miscellaneous records, Book B, p. 176-188, Utah State Archives (Series 23400). Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations, of the United States of America, 1872, vol. XVII, chap. 152. Published by authority of Congress, Boston: Brown, Little and Company.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.