🠈  Gilsonite  🠊


Samuel H. Gilson

Samuel H Gilson, born in Plainfield, Illinois in 1836, went West in 1850 to find gold. Failing that he began working for the Pony Express. He served as a US Marshall helping investigate the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Gilson tried his had at cattle ranching in Sevier County. While visiting the Uintah Basin, he became intrigued with an extraordinarily rich asphalt in the area. He then set into finding uses for the mineral which eventually bore his name.

Gilson protested the mistreatment of coal miners in 1904. He died in Salt Lake City in 1913.

Gilsonite, a form of asphaltite, is an intriguing organic mineral created from the solidification of petroleum. The mineral is black and is shiny like obsidian when freshly broken.

The material came to the attention of pioneers when a blacksmith described coal to the natives. The Utes brought a sample of gilsonite to the blacksmith in 1868. When he tried burning it, the material melted and nearly burned down his building.

Gilsonite is named after Samuel H. Gilson who created a commercial mining operation in 1888. The first vein to be developed was on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. Locals pressured Congress to remove 7,000 acres from the reservation in 1888 to open the first mine.

The mineral forms in petroleum bearing basins and is actually found around the world. Being hot and dry, the Uintah Basin is the only place where the mineral is found in quantities sufficient for commercial mining.

The video shows a person trying to burn a chunk of gilsonite with a torch.


  1. Utah Geological Survey (Drawn 11/3/2017)
  2. Wikipedia - Gilsonite (Drawn 11/3/2017)
  3. Utah History To Go - Samuel Gilson (Drawn 11/3/2017)

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