CHARLIE STEEN’S youngest son ‘sets the record straight’ about the Life & Times of Moab’s Most Famous Prospector

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

Charlie Steen.

Charlie Steen.

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.

Although the Mi Vida uranium mine is recognized by mining historians and members of the mineral exploration business as one of the most important ore deposits found during the last century, most of the new residents of the area that felt the full impact of the Uranium Boom probably were not around when the rags to riches saga of Charlie Steen’s successful search for a fortune in uranium touched off one of the greatest rushes in mining history. No town on the Colorado Plateau was more changed by one man’s mine than Moab, Utah. Nothing has ever been the same as it was before Charlie Steen drilled into the Mi Vida uranium ore deposit and unlocked the location of over one-billion dollars worth of one of the most sought-after minerals in history.

Moab in the Early 50s.

Moab in the Early 50s.

Are the facts about Charlie Steen’s discovery of the Mi Vida mine actually better than the fiction? After fifty years does anybody care to sort out the truth from the legend? Now that Moab is dependent on tourism and mountain bikers for its seasonal injection of economic life sustaining lucre, does anyone want to remember the decade of 1950s when Moab was the “Uranium Capital of the World?” Can Moabites today even imagine that people were once drawn to the Canyonlands Country in order to make money mining radioactive mineral deposits?

After all of these years, should more credit or blame be assessed against the man whose single-minded determination caused all those tons of tailings to be placed at the entrance of a town that now wants to be rid them. Are the tailings just an unsightly reminder of its history when Moab relied on mining rather than its scenery? Do people really care anymore about how my father found fame and fortune and earned his rightful place in history, or would they prefer to believe the last thing they read or heard from someone who wishes it had happened differently?

To me, it matters. Here’s the way I remember it.


The Early Days

My father’s journey to the fortune that he found beneath the Mi Vida claim group in San Juan County, Utah started in Texas, where he grew up amid the wildcatters who transformed the state.

Charlie Steen was born in 1919. His father was an oil prospector who made and lost a small fortune during the few years that he was married to my grandmother, Rosalie. According to my Dad, the only two things he got from his father were his name, Charles Augustus Steen, and a Dalmatian dog. My father and his sister, Maxine, were raised by a succession of stepfathers during the years when the Great Depression dampened the financial excitement of the oil booms, but he never forgot the years when prospecting paid the way.

Growing up dirt poor toughened my father and strengthened his independence. Determined to succeed, he worked his way through college with a series of odd jobs. During the summer months, he worked for the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company in Houston. After attending Tarleton College in Stephenville, Texas where he met my mother, Minnie Lee Holland (who preferred to go by her initials, M.L.), he transferred to the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy in El Paso and received his degree in geology in 1943.

Poor eyesight and a slight frame prevented him from serving in the war, and he spent the next three years working for a major oil company as a petroleum geologist looking for possible oil structures in the jungle headwaters of the Amazon Basin in Peru.

After returning to this country, he married my mother and worked as a field geologist for the Stanolind Oil Company, until he was fired for insubordination after he argued with two of his bosses over the way they were directing his work. Their conclusion that “he was innately rebellious against authority” got him blackballed by the tightly managed oil companies.

It was the best thing that could have happened to him, because it freed him to go prospecting on his own account. My mother, who had also grown up poor in Sweetwater, Texas, but in a very strict household, was eager to share in his prospecting adventures. Dad spent two years trying to raise enough money to drill some oil and gas properties he believed in, but he needed at least $100,000 in order to wildcat for oil. He supported his growing family as a small-scale building contractor in Houston, remodeling kitchens, adding bedrooms and baths–saving money for a grubstake while he tried to interest people in backing his oil play.

Sweetwater, Texas.

Sweetwater, Texas.

Uranium and the Germ of an Idea

Since he couldn’t raise the money to go wildcatting for oil, he cast about for some mineral that was in demand and that a man on a mighty slim shoestring might prospect for with a hope of big returns. He read an article in the “Engineering & Mining Journal” about the still-young uranium mining industry that was centered on the Four Corners area of the Colorado Plateau, and my father began to read everything he could find about the rare element. Uranium had literally burst upon the world with the detonation of three atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

Prior to the development of the atomic bomb, uranium was considered a pretty worthless element, with few uses aside from being a costly source of radium. The discovery of high-grade pitchblende, the primary uranium ore, in the Belgian Congo in the 1920s made the lower-grade, yellow carnotite ores of the Colorado Plateau uneconomic. Because these ores also contained vanadium, which is used to harden steel, there were several periods when the need for vanadium revived the region’s small-scale mining industry. Uranium that was separated from the vanadium and discarded during the milling process was later used to make the first atomic bombs. With the advent of the atomic age and the subsequent arms race with the Soviet Union, the United States was forced to buy ninety percent of its radioactive materials from the Belgian Congo and Canada.

The country’s need for uranium for national defense was so urgent that the government decided it had to stimulate domestic prospecting and production through an incentive program of guaranteed prices, discovery bonuses and development loans. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 created the Atomic Energy Commission (the AEC), and the government initiated an extensive exploration program to find domestic sources of uranium. The AEC encouraged individuals and companies to increase production by more than doubling the price per pound for high-grade uranium ore to $31 and with a $10,000 bonus for the first man to produce 20 tons of ore assaying at least 20% uranium in the United States.


Hundreds of government geologists and mining engineers scoured the Western States, searching for enough uranium ore to feed the two uranium processing plants that were being operated under strict security and behind highly guarded enclosures. While this resulted in an increase in uranium production, almost all of the mines on the Colorado Plateau were located in the Morrison Formation and were relatively small-sized, shallow, and low-grade.

In decades of searching on the Plateau, prospectors had uncovered only three ore deposits amounting to as much as 100,000 tons of this much lower-grade ore, and there were scores of small mines that had been worked out and abandoned. Since few of these smaller ore deposits held more than 10,000 tons of ore rich enough to be mined at a profit, the outlook for a large-scale uranium industry seemed pretty bleak. These geologic and economic conditions discouraged most of the larger, well-established mining companies from even looking for uranium deposits. And, while there were dozens of local prospectors and miners in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah who were making a living off these smaller mines, nobody was making a fortune and no one had discovered a major ore body. Most of these prospectors were part-time uranium seekers who had gained their practical knowledge working in these small mines, or cowboys and sheepherders who were just about the only people who had penetrated one of the most desolate, unsurveyed areas left in the country.

Even though you could stake a mining claim on public land with four claim posts and a dollar, it cost real money to prospect and explore for ore. My grandmother, Rosalie Shumaker, mortgaged her home in Houston and contributed a thousand dollars to buy a small portable drill; and my mother’s sister, Tera, talked her husband into loaning my father enough money for a second-hand jeep. By the time that my father set off on his quest for uranium in the summer of 1950, my parents were already raising my three older brothers and I was on the way. Dad drove the jeep and a 20 foot trailer to Dove Creek, Colorado; and a few weeks after I was born, my mother and brothers and I traveled with my grandmother to join my father while he searched for the uranium that would change all of our lives.

The Steen Family Camp

The Steen Family Camp

A Grubstake, a Dream, and a Theory

Charlie Steen began his search by studying the geology of the uranium deposits of the area. He couldn’t afford to buy a Geiger counter, but Dad figured that unless he used his education and training as a geologist, he had no better chance than the other prospectors who spent their time walking the rim rocks looking for uranium outcroppings on the surface. Because most of the readily accessible uranium deposits that outcropped were already staked by the time Dad arrived on the scene, he began to look for the geologic conditions that would cause uranium to collect and concentrate in certain favorable locations where it could be discovered with a drilling rig.

During the time we lived near Dove Creek, my father became friends with Bob Barrett, a slightly prosperous pinto bean farmer who had a pretty strong case of uranium fever. He also became well acquainted with William R. McCormick, the owner of the Dove Creek Mercantile Store. Bill McCormick’s honest, generous nature was combined with a very shrewd business sense, but he had a weakness for uranium prospectors and a fondness for the mining game.

The Steens lived on rice, beans, oatmeal, rabbit stew and venison from the deer that my father shot regardless of the season while he prospected and examined other people’s properties for McCormick and Barrett.

On Christmas Day, we moved to the Yellow Cat Wash area south of Cisco, where Dad staked some claims and drilled out a small uranium deposit on the promise of an interest in anything he found from a mining engineer who later reneged on his agreement. Somehow my parents managed to get by with small advances from my grandmother and loans from friends that didn’t average $70 a month.

The Yellow Cat Mining District. 1979.

The Yellow Cat Mining District. 1979.

Early in 1951, Bill McCormick introduced Dad to Dan Hayes and Donald Adams, two local prospectors and mine owners who had been involved in uranium mining for many years. Hayes and Adams owned the 14 Big Buck claims that had been staked in 1948 to cover a meager exposure of oxidized uranium in the Cutler Formation on the southwestern flank of the faulted Lisbon Valley anticline in the Big Indian mining district of San Juan County, Utah. The Morrison Formation had been eroded off this upthrown portion of the anticline, and there were only three small uranium mines located in the entire district. These mines had produced a little more than 2,000 tons of low-grade uranium ore from host rocks in the Cutler Formation. The nearest producing uranium mine was more than twenty miles away from the Big Buck claim group.


All of the AEC and company geologists who had examined the area had written off the Big Indian mining district as an important potential source of uranium by the time Charles Augustus Steen was attracted to the area. There were simply too many better places to explore for uranium on the Colorado Plateau than a mining district that was missing the most important host rocks (the Morrison Formation) to waste much time or any money on the Big Indian mining district.

After examining the geology of the uranium bearing formation that Hayes and Adams had exposed with four short mine adits and bulldozer cuts along the rim, my father hiked above the Big Buck mine and began his geologic reconnaissance. As he walked and climbed over the rock formations, he began to formulate a theory that the lower grade exposures of uranium in the Cutler Formation would be enriched or concentrated down dip from the outcrops along the escarpment overlooking Big Indian Wash. The terrain was very rugged and without a single road into the country behind the Big Buck claims.

Dad noticed that the crest of the Lisbon Valley anticline was situated just about the same spot where he had hiked in above the rim, and he figured that any uranium that was concentrated down dip would be found in thicker deposits on this part of the anticlinal structure. He also saw that a large section of the upper rock formations had been removed by erosion, and knew that he would not have to drill through more than three hundred feet of the Wingate sandstone in order to prove his geologic theory.

After spending less than a day examining the rock formations and considering the geology of the area, Dad decided to stake the ground back of the Big Buck claims. Because of the rough nature of the ground and the fact that there were areas with hundreds of feet of air between the places where my father was marking the boundaries of his claims it was very slow going. Working alone, using his Brunton compass and pacing off the 600 by 1500 foot claims, Dad didn’t encounter any signs that the ground had ever been staked by anyone else.

After this ground became some of the most valuable land in the county, there were several extensive title searches completed for legal reasons, and they didn’t disclose any prior locations. At the end of several weeks, Charlie Steen had staked 11 mining claims: the Mi Vida, Linda Mujer, Mi Amorcita, Mi Alma, Bacardi, Te Quiero, Fundadoro, Pisco, Besame Mucho, Mi Corozan, and the Mujer Sin Verguenza. Another claim, the Ann, was staked later. Most of these mining claims were named after Spanish expressions contained in popular songs that Dad had heard in Peru. The Mi Vida claim literally means “My Life” in Spanish, but it actually means much more when it is used in the context of expressing one’s feelings towards a woman. Never was a mining claim more aptly named than the Mi Vida.

Charlie Steen filed his claims with the County Recorder in Monticello on March 7, 1951. Now that he had located his prospect, Dad had to convince someone to back his belief that uranium could be found beneath his claims, because the ore horizon was at least 200 feet below the surface and his portable drill could barely penetrate 50 feet. His theory was ridiculed and criticized by AEC geologists who were familiar with the country, and company geologists figured that they knew more about uranium ore deposits than some newcomer from Texas. The fact all the experts unanimously agreed on, that the Big Indian country was worthless, only stiffened my father’s determination to prove them all wrong.

Monticello, UT in the 50s

Monticello, UT in the 50s

Dead Broke and The Dream on Hold (for a moment)

By this time the Steens were dead broke, so we moved to Tucson, where Dad worked as a carpenter and scraped together a small grubstake for another shot at prospecting. All the time he was in Arizona, Dad knew that he had to do his assessment work on his Big Indian claims or lose them by default. With my mother’s encouragement, Dad turned down a job offer to work as a petroleum geologist, sold the trailer for $375, piled everything we owned on top of the jeep and headed back to Cisco, where we moved into a $15 a month tarpaper shack.

Bill McCormick came through with a beat-up, second-hand drilling rig and enough money to bulldoze four miles of rough road into the heart of the Mi Vida claim. Rosalie Shumaker sold her furniture for $1700 and came to Utah with a friend named Douglas Hoot to help her son find his fortune. Dad set the drill up as far down dip as possible and began drilling on July 3, 1952. After three days of drilling, at a depth of 73 feet, they started bringing up a grayish-black core that resembled coal. Dad and Hoot drilled through 14 feet of this unusual formation and my father set it aside to examine later. Three weeks later, on July 27, the drill bit suddenly broke off the drill stem at a depth of 197 feet—only three feet short of my father’s goal. No yellow carnotite had been encountered.

Just about beaten from frustration, Dad drove the 100 miles to Cisco with the intention of going directly on to Grand Junction to get some tools to fish out the broken bit. He remembered to bring along several samples of the grayish-black core, and when he got to Cisco he drove straight to Buddy Cowger’s service station to gas up on credit. Buddy was also a prospector and a good friend. Like practically every uranium prospector on the Colorado Plateau except for Charlie Steen, Buddy owned a Geiger counter; and he was examining some samples when Dad pulled up. Impatient to be on his way, my father said, “Hell, I’ve got some stuff that’ll do better than yours.” When my Dad placed a piece of the grayish-black core next to the Geiger counter the needle leaped out of sight and the counter went crazy.

In a flash Charlie Steen realized that he had cored through 14 feet of pitchblende, one of the primary ores of uranium. Until July 6, 1952, nobody had ever found pitchblende on the Colorado Plateau, and my Dad had only seen specimens in museums, but he knew that the hole had finally come in for the Steen family. Dad whirled around and started running towards the shack where Mom was waiting for news from the Big Indian. After hitting her clothesline, he burst in the shack yelling: “We’ve hit it! We’ve hit it! It’s a million dollar lick!” My father grabbed my mother and together they celebrated the discovery of the Mi Vida mine without knowing how profoundly their lives were about to change.

In the next installments of this series, I’ll relate the history of the Mi Vida mine’s development, the formation of Utex Exploration Company and Standard Uranium, the exploration and exploitation of the Big Indian mining district, the disputes, the claim jumpers, the million dollar lawsuits and the struggle to construct the Uranium Reduction Company mill in boomtown Moab, the “Uranium Capital of the World.” MS


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24 comments for ““MY OLD MAN, THE URANIUM KING” … by Mark Steen

  1. ted curry
    April 4, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    It is true. Charke Steen brought development of Moab through Uranium. Was this the best thing?

    Now we have Fukushima.

    Many of us would probably not be alive if it were not for antibiotics or certain vaccines. Who knows. I think everyone was lied to about the atomic age. Mining the magic rocks was playing with death. From having to do bomb drills in grade school to the current nuclear catastrophe and nuclear waste issues. Einstein said that using fission to boil water andbturn a turbine is absolutely insane. Many are finally waking up to that insanity.
    As has been shown by the nuclear waste exploding in nevada. from wipp. , there is no safe way or place to dispose of nuclear waste. Busby proved that even casking rods is inherently unsafe because of heat decay from the isotopes in the rods generating gas and explosions. Its hard to accept how badly they have lied and are lying. They are killing us and everything in plain sight in acts of murder. My uncle,  and my friend from Japan  bragged to me about japan having a bomb for years. It was not unknown. The only way to get truth is through whats not supposed to be talked about.

    Anyone who goes to Tokyo now is putting themselves in mortal danger.

    Some of the worst nuclear contaminated areas in the united states are in the areas of the most expensive real estate in the world is. thats how stupid and gullible americans are. Many of our retirements are vested in nuclear projects all over the world. We lived so called higher standards of living from all the chicanery of the military industrial complex and its relation to oil, nuclear pp, nuc weapons, nuc meds. everything a total web of death and self deciept.

    Look at Santa Fe New Mexico. 10 miles from Los alamos. A mountainful of plutonium and nuclear waste . Playground of billionaires. Only billionaires can afford to live there.  Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, Shirley Mcclain
    Dennis weaver built an earthship house there and later died of cancer. Lots of denial, lying, stupidity going on there. Work your way up to the top of the neoliberal capitalist pinnacle to live on a radioactive hellhole. Doesnt matter how pretty it is. Shows how superficial americans are.


    Aspen,  Colorado is a billionaire playground where you cannot even buy gasoline at a gas station without a triple platinum visa card. Where you will likely be run out of town by a cop or security company goon if you look even the least little bit out of place.

    Four nuclear bombs were detonated within 60 miles of aspen,  permanently contaminating the headwaters of the Colorado river and water tables around Aspen.  The nukes were from nuclear explosion fracturing experiments that were conducted in western Colorado in an effort to release gas from shale.

    Project Rulison, named after the rural community of Rulison, Colorado, was an underground 40-kiloton nuclear testproject in the United States on September 10, 1969, about 13 kilometres (8 mi) SE of the town of Grand Valley, Colorado (now namedParachute, Colorado) in Garfield County. 
    Garfield county is the same County Aspen is in.

    Project Rio Blanco was an underground nuclear test that took place on May 17, 1973 in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, approximately 36 miles (58 km) northwest of Rifle.
    Three 33-kiloton nuclear devices were detonated nearly simultaneously in a single emplacement well at depths of 1,779, 1,899 and 2,039 m below ground level.

    The tests were conducted in fine-grain, low-permeability sandstone lenses at the base of the Fort Union Formation and the upper portion of the Mesaverde Formation. The result of the nuclear blasts was not predicted. Too much structural damage underground and too radioactive to even get samples from in some areas because of a screw-up in the original  geological assessment.

    Project Rulison in 1969 and Project Rio Blancoin 1973. In both cases the gas radioactivity as to render the gas unusable.  The geological foulup in the last case the triple-blast rubble chimney structures disappointed the design engineers and ruined watertables. They did not mention this though.

    In other words it was all fubar  Projects gasbuggy, rulison, and rio blano were such  radioactive geological and hydrology catastrophes that they left all of the watershed into the Colorado river and water tables to aspen permanently contaminated.

    Soon after that test the ~ 15-year Project Plowshare program funding dried up.
    Aspen was also downwind of all the nuke detonations from Nevada.


    Look at how proud those nucleopes are of themselves in the aoghs link. These nuclear fracking catastrophes should be listed with listverse as part of the 20 worse nuclear contaminations , planned catastrophes, insane accidents in history because all they did was permanenetly contaminate great expanses of wilderness areas with radiosotopes. The gas they released is now permanently radioactive. 
    The watershed for the Colorado river, the longest river in the United States west, is  permantly contaminated from those underground detonations along with being contaminated from all the Uranium mills mines on it and radioactive runoff from nevada.Hey no worrys it was all just fun and games! Stuff that Glen Seaborg and Crazy man Eddie pulled from their bags of tricks!

    Which brings us to Malibu, the most expensive beachfront property in the us and probably the world.  Three words: Santa Susana , Fukushima.

    Remember  Cindy Crawfords concern about  Increased Thyroid cancer at her sons high school. Thyroid cancers are attributed to exposure to radioactive iodine, not dioxin.

    Alec Baldwin left sothern california over fuku concerns. He is a member of RPHP (see below).
    Malibu is very close to Santa Susana


    Then there is Manhatten new York. Certainly some of the most expensive real estate. Huge cities water suplies and food contaminatied by radioactive tritium and other radionucleides.


    Funny what Americans, both rich and poor take for granted, especially in light of Fukushima. We have loaded-up our soil, the oceans, our water, and food with radionucleides for decades that are reaching critical levels. At some point we will be like chernobyl as Dr Miller points out and entire populations will be irreversiby damaged from internal uptake of deadly radionucleides.


  2. Leslie Hettman Watson
    April 11, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    We lived and loved the success of Charlie Steen, and we all lived thru the uranium mining and prospecting in different ways with different experiences. My Grandpa, Nathaniel B. Knight died from backing too far up a switchback coming from his mining claim. My Uncle, Nate Knight Jr. broke his neck inside a mine with a tipped coal car and lay in bed for 28 years. My Dad, Norman Hettman, and Nate and Hardwater Knight, with the help of a cat owned by Nick Murphy (all were brothers, cousins or in-laws). My Dad’s benefit to us children, is that a dentist in Grand Junction, Dr. Solberg gave our family free dental care just to have Dad come and share his mining experiences with him. We loved living in the mountains in the summers in tents with wooden floors and hauled our water with the help of our horses and bathed in Washtubs with water heated on a wood stove. We wouldn’t change the way we grew up or the new friends made by the Uranium Boom for all the city living you could offer us. In our day we were proud of Charlie Steen and the way he helped Moab grow into a nicer citiy instead of just a boom town. We all have our stories, some were just more successful, but our Dad’s loved what they did and the adventures and occasional successes they were afforded.

  3. ted curry
    April 29, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    What has Post erity ever done for me is the theme of nuclear

  4. ted curry
    April 29, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    They knew about the dangers of x-rays and nuclear radiation before charlie Steen. Not to discount or be mean about charlie but what if a real energy revolution not based on human genocide and cancer clusters in Moab had been discovered by him? what if Nate knight had hiked and camped without the incentive of the demon radioactive death? Many around moab have had relatives die excruciating and torturous deaths from this nonsense. many have had children with autism’s, cerebral palsies, mental retardation, birth defects, cystic fibrosis, and many more teratogenetic, epigenetic, and chromosone mutation induced illnesses from nuclear radiation. A they knew long before Steen.

    From Listverse on Thomas Edison

    ” Edison’s research into X-rays and the injury of his assistant Clarence Dally. X-ray technology was a total unknown at the time, and like most inventors, he found it hard to shy away from something new . So, Edison and Dally began experimenting with X-rays in the hopes of making the entire process better and more efficient. Unfortunately, their lack of knowledge of the true dangers of the X-ray cost both of them dearly. Dally gained awful burns on his arms and sores all over his body, and he lived painful years before succumbing to radiation poisoning. He was the first person to achieve this dubious milestone in the US.Edison himself was not unaffected by the radiation. It caused permanent damage to his left eye and to his stomach as well. Edison stopped the experiments after the damage to himself and his assistant and told the press that he was afraid of X-rays. While many people wish to see Edison as a man motivated by profit and nothing else, he did not even attempt to patent his work on X-rays but simply moved on from the project, thinking them too dangerous to mess around with even for a scientist of his experience and caliber.

    Edison was not a ruthless individual with out a moral compass. Edison believed greatly in creation and helping. Nowhere was this more apparent than with Clarence Dally. As we mentioned, Dally and Edison both worked on X-rays studying the effects of radium and polonium. The exposure was so bad that Dally ended up losing both of his arms, and he died. he suffered from may horrible tumors all over his body after being exposed and died a very painful premature death. edison was deeply upset by all this, and it affected his thinking for the rest of his life. He would not go near radioactive materials and advised others against doing so. He also promised to take care of Dally and his family and keep him on payroll (even when he could no longer work) because Edison felt horrible about what happened. That was despite the fact that Dally had entered into the experiments willingly and neither of them could have known the danger. Edison may not have been perfect, and he may not have always been the best to his business rivals, but the man certainly had a heart.”

    Thomas Edison took care of the widow of his deceased Xray tube blower. he would never have anything to do with anything that made xrays or nuclear radiation again. he said just thinking about it made the hair on the back of his neck stand-up.

  5. Ethel Ann Day Carter
    May 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    I have pre uranium miners and ranchers in my family tree. The ranchers ended up providing the water for the boom town of the Uranium Capital of the World and the miners made a living and even more from the boom. I got to go to new schools, swim in a new pool, live in a new subdivision and stay here my whole life. My father was a geologist. His father owned a mine and trucking company and his brothers and sons were miners. My uncle on my mother’s side drove ore trucks. My Father in law was the postmaster. His father in law ran the phone company. We were all affected but not in bad ways. My family owned theaters, worked in restraunts, worked in the mill. We got new roads, sewer plant, hospital, park, curb and gutters. What would the Disneyland of the Desert look like without the Uranium Boom?

  6. ted curry
    May 11, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    There would not be cancer clusters in and around Moab.

  7. ted curry
    May 11, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    What has posterity done for me? Now that most of the west is a nuclear waste dump.

  8. ted curry
    May 11, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    There are hundreds of high level and low low levels nuclear waste dumps in the west now. There are two major ones by salt lake city utah. If one includes the large abandoned uranium mines and abandoned mill tailings, there are many more nuclear waste sites. There are many people do not know about.
    A whole town by St LouisMo, that was on a nuclear waste dump had to be completely abandoned because everyone got cancer.

    One of the worst nuclear waste dumps in the world is by Hanford Washington.

    There is a whole graveyard of dead infants and mothers from hanford green run in the fifties

    There is the formerly buried but now exposed radioactive waste near Beatty Nevada, which blew up last November. Probably buried between the 1970s and 1990s.

    “Low Level radioactive Waste (LLRW) Site near Beatty, Nevada Incident”, November 18, 2015, p. III-8, Nevada State Fire Marshal, Division December 30, 2015 Beatty Incident Report
    https://web.archive.org/web/20160412235048/http://dps.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/dpsnvgov/content/media/SFM-BeattyIncidentReport.pdf (The Nevada State Fire Marshal said that the immediate cause of exploding waste at Beatty was sodium metal reacting with water and producing hydrogen gas and sodium hydroxide, but the report notes the high level of corrosion which allowed the water to meet the sodium metal)

    Nuclear waste dumps

    Chernobyl is still a risk and behind Fukushima is the largest nuclear waste sites in the world


    The west has always been the us nuclear waste dump choice. bad dumps in west texas, wyoming, nevada, california, new mexico, washington, rocky mountain arsenal by denver etc. Etc. Many dumps no one knows about. The worst is Hanford.


    Remember that close to a thousand nuclear bombs have been detonated in open air by the United States. Many in Nevada. Most people in southern Utah were hit by the radioactive plumes from the bombs exploding in Nevada. Large cancers clusters that the government had to give millions of dollars in settlements for and it still was not enough.
    John Wayne got lung cancer while filming a movie by st George when they detonated a bomb in Nevada. So did most of the movie crew.

    The west Texas nuclear waste dump is already leaking radiation into the largest aquifer in the us which supplies water to farmers in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Yum radioactive wheat and cornflakes from farms that have to use the aquifer.
    “Analysis of available data shows that groundwater in the natural system under the huge west Texas nuclear waste dump already is unacceptably at or near the boundaries of the proposed disposal units. Predicted increases in rainfall are expected to drive the water tables into the proposed units.”


    SO, WHAT HAS POSTERITY EVER DONE FOR ME? nothing if you look at it a certain way, but peoples children and grandchildren are going to have to cope with this growing mess plus the 20 tons high level nuclear waste produced by 100 old rotting nuclear reactors each year in the us today. Many nuclear countries want to ship their nuclear waste to the us and Australia because of the large open spaces and because nuclear waste is already there

  9. Dave Cressler
    January 5, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    yes the west is a waste dump I live here fore 66 years all my family work in uranium mine and I work in the mine made a good living and love the country so it this country is very dangers so every one please stay out, sow we can enjoy it. I love the are around Moab, and those old mine and the roads would be there if it was not the miners.

  10. Dave
    January 5, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    O by the way I love the story,

  11. Steve Shaffer
    June 27, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Who was your father’s mining engineer? Please respond to steveshaffer46@gmail.com

  12. roy williams
    July 17, 2018 at 12:54 am

    i knew Charley i was the camp cook at the Deep Springs copper prospect. he loved the spanish omletts i cooked for him, what a hard determined man he was. blessings to you Charley,

  13. Lynn
    October 9, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    I worked for Mr Steen back in the 60s out on his ranch east of Fallen Nv. My friend at this ranch was Spike Spivey. Mr. Steen was a very nice person I enjoyed working for him, We also went to the Rose Bowel Parade with mr.and Mrs. Steen
    I was hired as the rough string rider, That’s riding spoiled horses and horses that bucked, no one else wanted to ride. I was there when Prs. Kennedy was shot. We were out riding on his cows. We went into a bar and grill and everyone was crammed around the TV. So we asked what was going on and they said,”didn’t you know the President was killed”? We had no idea because we were riding all day.
    I remember Mark very well, he wanted to be a bull rider at one time but I think he used his head and stayed off of them.

  14. ray finley
    October 29, 2018 at 5:22 am

    The days of being broke in dollars and rich in spirit… We moved to Moab in 1950 in hopes of dad finding work of any kind, my dad was a master carpenter, cowboy, oil rig builder etc…Dad met Charlie while working for Taylor Mining on a strip mine south of Moab where I bagged the yellow gold, loaded in a pickup and took naps on it while watching dad and another worker. There is a lot more to tell of the time Charlie flew to Salida Colorado in 1954 where we lived at the time. Dad and Charlie did a little drinking and Charlie gave me a twenty dollar bill from the map compartment of his plane…. If this is and the rest of the story is of any interest I will be glad to relate it!

  15. Wendy Ashton
    May 3, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    I was born a Moab baby. My sister has your 1st grade picture. We are making a sojurn back to our old homestead in September. My dad worked for Charlie. My mom loved his parties. They both lived well into their 90s & never had any cancer related illnesses. Thanks to your dad for his vision. It gave us wee people a good life.

  16. Carol
    December 17, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Mark, I met you at university of Nevada Reno when I was a freshman in 1971-72. My name is carol smith. I once visited your house with your friend, Sam and my sister Nancy was with us too. This article you write sort of mirrors what’s going on in my family of 8 siblings…😬my parents left us businesses to manage but now that we are older we want to manage our own accounts. We have a lot of different opinions and personalities so it’s very challenging. I hope you all get through yours soon, respectfully, Carol.

    • Charles-Anthony Guerra
      December 8, 2020 at 8:30 pm

      It’s been a long Carol ! I remember following you and Mark in his Shelby GT 500, damn that car was fast ! I was dating your roommate Kathy Herrera and you and Mark invited us to his parents house. Unforgettable time ! I remember my roommate Randy Muntifering and I used to play guitar and sing to you and your roommates . I hope you are well, been a long time !
      Tony Guerra

  17. César Emilio Arroyo Picard
    December 26, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Hi Mark,
    I´m Cesar Arroyo Picard from Chihuahua City Mexico. I’m Son of Cesar Arroyo and Alicia Picard. My father went to school with you at Texas Collage of Mines in El Paso Texas. They become very good fiends.
    Your father offered my dad that he sent me to Reno so I would attend The university Of Nevada at Reno I was in the Boxing team, undefeated) and said he will give me a job and a place to stay. So I worked and live in a small trailer house in the office grounds next to the Reno Airport and next Elmer his wife and daughter (I think here name was Barbara). I worked at the office as janitor and help Elmer with the gardens, made errands like going to the supermarket for your mother and taking cases of licor for some of the fiestas at you Ranch-Home That had an indoor swimming pool with a sliding roof. Et one of the fiestas some one pushed my mother into the pool and I was very upset.
    I made good friends with the 3 Mexicans that were doing all the wood work in you new home.
    One day late afternoon when I was coming back from the university I found a big sign at the entrance gate that read “CLOSE DOWN BY THE IRS” so I had no job or palace to live. That night I jump the fence and later on The IRS allow me to continue living in the trailer.
    I remember that Jonny had a Blue Shelby Cobra that I drove around the parking lot once. I was given a Black 4 door 57 Chevrolet to do the errands. Andy went I think to Spain and purchased about 15 Arabian horses and flew them in to Reno. I later went to Susanville JR College and later to Chico State were I got a Mechanical engineering degree and a Master in Computers Sciences, then I went to work for IBM in San Jose California And Cabe back to Mexico in 1974. I’m now 74 have 2 sons a twin daughter and a very successful Business consultant. I now live by the sea in Mazatlan Sinaloa México. You are welcome to come and visit, I have an extra room for special guests.
    Well many many stories.
    I thank you dad very much for the opportunity.

    Will like to hear from you and tell me something about your self, your family and about Johnny, Charles Jr and Andy.
    Will you sent me their e-mai so I can communicate with them.
    I will like to see you all some time.

    • Glenda DeShazo Fisher
      November 28, 2020 at 5:35 pm

      Great story. I grew up in Sweetwater, Texas with the Holland family and was a lifelong friend of Charlie and M.L.

  18. Cesar
    December 26, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    My father went to school with your dad at Texas Collage of Mines in El Paso Texas.

  19. Cesar
    December 26, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    I remembre the Andy´s round bed that turned 360 degrees, It was a copy of a bed the was in the playboy magazine. The Mexican carpenters made an exact copy.

  20. Cleta Conley
    March 2, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Remember when we would go down to the flat pasture, between your home and the highway, where you had put up a small bull-riding pen and the guys would practice riding?

  21. January 27, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    Mr. Steen built a rodeo arena down from his main house for you Mark. He bought 19 head of bulls. One day Mr. Steen asked me and My friend Butch if we would try out all the bulls. He wanted to get rid of the since Mark didn’t want them anymore. We rode them all and only found 6 that were worth selling to a rodeo Contractor. The rest just went away to a ranch some where. There were 2 Mexican fighting bulls in the bunch I rode one of them and Butch rode the other one. I have to say working for Mr.Steen was a very great learning experience for me. I always wondered whatever happened to Mark.

  22. Mark McMunn
    May 26, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    Mark Steen, Hello. My name is also Mark. My father installed most of the marble work at the Reno home between 1963 and 1965. My mother and i went to stay with my dad from August 1965 until the marble work was completed sometime in late November of 1965. I remember visiting my dad at the worksite and was amazed at the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The house was of course just magnificent. I still have a set of the architectural plans that our company has kept all these many years. I know that the marble in the house came from the marble company your father owned in New Mexico called the Ultra Marble Company. Mr. Ron Busse was one of the managers your father hired to operate the marble company. My father knew Mr. Busse. I also remember a Mr. Rick Uruchurtu who was a very nice man who either worked for your father directly or for the General Contractor. Also, your father provided a place for my father, his helper and me and my mother to stay. It was a trailer that was about a mile north of the house on the way back to Reno. I have been back several times over the years but have never been able to locate the place where the trailer was located. I remember it was close to an orchard, but no orchard can be found there today. I do know it was north of Ophir creek but i cannot remember how far. I would love to find that spot again.

    Our Company is called the M&M Marble Company in San Antonio, Texas. We came to know your father through Mr. Howard Timlin who worked as an aircraft interior designer for the Dee Howard Company here in San Antonio. Your father i believe had an interest in the building of a private air terminal at San Antonio International airport that was called Gen-Aero. The building was clad with travertine from Ultra Marble Company. I believe Mr. Timlin, who already knew my father and grandfather, asked us to install the travertine for the building and because of this your father approached my grandfather about installing the marble at the Reno home. This took place in 1963 and 1964. That building is still standing today and the travertine from Ultra marble is still on the building and still looks great.

    I think that perhaps there was someone else that had started the marble work at the Reno home because my father says that when he arrived some of the marble was already installed at the dining room island and the dining room table as well. Oh, if only more people could see that the dining room is actually an island of travertine in the middle of a pool inside the house they would smile at the beauty of it. Also, my father hung the marble slabs on the main entry doors as well as all the marble throughout the main entry lobby. The lobby doors were a stroke of architectural genius. I have a photo of those doors.

    Me and my family were guests of the current owners and spent the night in the house back in August of 2018. I have a photo of my two sons standing in front of those magnificent marble doors that i took at the time. My older son is actually a nuclear engineering student at Texas A&M University. It was thrill for him to spend the night in the home of the man who discovered Americas first major uranium deposit and thus giving the nation a secure domestic source of uranium. I believe your father deserves major recognition for his discovery.

    Mark McMunn
    San Antonio, Texas

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