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The Atomic Energy Commission was offering a $10,000 reward for finding domestic uranium. Charlie had the knowledge and skills it would take to locate the uranium. While other miners were content gathering small amounts of surface deposits around Moab, Charlie wanted more. After three long years of searching with his family nearly destitute, and his resources expended, he made his final attempt to extract ore samples 240 feet beneath the earth’s surface.
Having broken his drill bit at 180 feet, he went into town. He stopped for gas, not realizing what lay in the back of his jeep, ore samples he found at 70 feet. The attendant approached the jeep with a Geiger counter. They were both surprised by the activity it created. It was July 3rd, 1952 and Charlie had finally hit his “paydirt.”
Life of course changed dramatically for the Steens. They went from using a washboard in the river to having their laundry flown by Charlie’s private pilot to Grand Junction, Colorado. Every year there was a new red Lincoln Continental, and because of poor television reception in Moab, Charlie put a television in his plane, and would fly his family over Moab to watch their favorite shows.
Charlie was a generous person. He donated property to local schools and churches. He built “Steenville,” a housing development for his employees, and offered low interest mortgage loans. Charlie also bought a mountain and built his dream home. Complete with green house, servants quarters, and the largest swimming pool in the state. Roses lined the street below and flowers grew everywhere. Longtime locals can tell of his $50,000 poker game, rubbing noses with celebrities like Henry Fonda, or even an “I Love Lucy” episode, where Lucy tries to get Ricky to join her in the hunt for uranium.
After 9 successful years, Charlie moved his family from Moab to a 22,000-sq. ft. house in Reno, Nevada. After years of living in a true millionaires fashion, Charlie and his wife M.L., moved from Reno to Colorado. They have passed on now, but will always be remembered as Moab’s most famous millionaire.
Charlie’s former home is now the Sunset Grill. Come up and see the the “Million Dollar View” he created. On display at the restaurant are 3-foot replicas of Charlie’s discovery boots, cast in bronze.
The Clayton family invites you to join us for an enjoyable evening at Charlie’s. So come up and experience “Dining above the Rest.”
John and Laurie Clayton
Owners of the Sunset Grill