The detail that defines the Mine with the Iron Door story is, not surprisingly, that iron door. Before I get into the telling of the Idaho story, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are many such stories about lost mines in the Southwest that are hidden behind an iron door. There was a romance called The Mine with the Iron Door written by Harold Bell Right in 1923. It was made into a silent movie the following year, then remade as a talkie in 1934.
Most stories about the lost mine in the Southwest place it in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. That mine has been lost a very long time, with the legends dating back to when the Spanish reigned over the region.
But the Mine with the Iron Door we’re concerned about today is allegedly located somewhere on Samaria Mountain near Malad City. The story has something most of the other iron door stories lack, the genesis of the door. It seems a bank in some Utah town—maybe Corinne, which was a major hub in the latter part of the 19th Century—burned down, leaving little that was salvageable, but the iron door used for its vault.
A trio of robbers planning to make off with stagecoach gold acquired that door thinking it would be a fine way to hide their loot. They found a cave on Samaria Mountain—need I say allegedly quite a lot during this telling? Let’s assume you can insert that where it needs to be, which is in approximately every sentence. Anyway, they installed the vault door in this cave, maybe part way down inside it so that the door was hidden.
Now that they had their own private “bank” the robbers did what robbers do. They robbed a stage and took quite a lot of bars of gold or coins or Bitcoins back to Samaria Mountain to secret away in their safe.
Befitting of a lost gold story, the robbers had a row resulting in them shooting each other, every last one. Though all were wounded, one got out and locked his co-conspirators in the cave behind the Iron Door. He found his way to a ranch where, knowing he was on death’s door, he blurted out his story, then stepped through the door at the end of his life, one that was presumably not iron.
But the story gets better. A few years later a young boy found the iron door! He’d heard the story of the robbery and knew he was about to be rich but—isn’t luck always like this?—he got lost himself during a storm. He was found, of course, and told of the iron door, which he was never able to find again.
Thomas J. McDevitt, MD, tells this and many other entertaining stories in his book, Idaho’s Malad Valley, a History. He even reveals the name of the boy, who grew to be a man, then an old man who never tired of telling it. He was known for telling some tall tales as well, but this one was surely true.
Now, that big hunk of iron shouldn’t be so difficult to find today with metal detecting technology constantly improving, and there is no shortage of people willing to try.
But, before you start packing for a trip to Samaria, you might ask yourself this question: Why would anyone go to the trouble of installing a heavy iron door in a cave to hide his loot? Simply hiding the gold in the cave would seem better than putting in a door that all but said, “Break this lock, for behind this door is something of value.”
I should also note that there’s a fair chance you might run into an IRON DOOR AT THE MOUTH OF A CAVE in Idaho. Look closely there’s probably a sign on it that warns it is dangerous to enter unless you are an experienced spelunker. Also, it’s more likely to be a gate than a door, with plenty of room to let bats fly out at night and discover their own treasure.