Idaho History October 22, 2017

1879 – 1911 Big Creek / Edwardsburg

1879 The First Map Ever Made of Country Between Big Creek and Salmon River

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The First Map Ever Made of Country Between Big Creek and Salmon River, I.T. (1926)
Creator Brown, W. C. (William Carey), 1854-1939.
Date Original 1926
Publisher [Boise, Id. : Syms-York Company]
Description 1 map: 15 x 22 cm. Scale: 1 inch = 7 miles. A handwritten note by the author is in red pencil on the left. W.C. Brown was a second Lieutenant in the U.S. Cavalry during the Indian Wars of the late 1870s. These maps come from a book by him, published in 1926 after his retirement, about the Sheepeater Campaign. …
source: Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
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Sketch Map of Middle Idaho Showing Trails Made by Troops in Sheepeater Campaign 1879

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Sketch Map of Middle Idaho Showing Trails Made by Troops in Sheepeater Campaign 1879. (1926)
Creator Brown, W. C. (William Carey), 1854-1939.
Date Original 1926
Publisher [Boise, Id. : Syms-York Company]
Description 1 map: 29 x 22 cm. Scale: 1 inch = 15 miles. Trails and marches of campaign drawn on map. W.C. Brown was a second Lieutenant in the U.S. Cavalry during the Indian Wars of the late 1870s. These maps come from a book by him, published in 1926 after his retirement, about the Sheepeater Campaign. …
source: Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
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Alton Mining District 1885

Prospecting of the Salmon River mountains increased considerably after the Sheepeater War of 1879, and organization of Alton district on Big Creek, June 15, 1885, extended mining from Warren’s east into that region. Although there were a number of prospects on upper Big Creek, the main production was realized at the Snowshoe which yielded 400,000 between 1906 and 1942.

source: Idaho State Historic Society and Genealogy Trails
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Early Big Creek Mines


Big Creek

Mineral discoveries near Elk Summit high on a ridge between Big Creek and the south fork of the Salmon River came a decade before prospecting on Monumental Creek expanded Big Creek mining possibilities into an even-more remote area around Thunder Mountain. Deep canyons and rough country delayed development of mining anywhere on Big Creek, but an early twentieth-century gold rush finally brought a horde of prospectors into Idaho’s Salmon River mountain wilderness west of Leesburg and north of Stanley and Deadwood.

Antimony had been noticed in that country years before anyone succeeded in identifying commercial gold and silver there.

A Thunder Mountain lode which no one could develop and some Chamberlain Basin placers had been investigated as early as 1866 or 1867. Nothing came from that activity. Finally James Reardon and L. M. Johnson brought a small discovery party to Big Creek as early as they could prospect in 1884. In June, they found an eleven-hundred foot outcrop of a system of parallel veins about sixty feet wide. A year later, on June 15, 1885, they organized the Alton mining district, and that summer a hundred and fifty miners located about a hundred claims. They found silver ore described by Norman B. Willey as “refractory, but not base.” In 1886, prospect cuts had reached a depth of fifty feet. A. L. Simondi, a Weiser assayer, created a lot of interest when he reported a 2,000-ounce silver sample in August. A ton of ore from these exploratory holes, packed out to a railroad at a cost of eight dollars, provided a favorable test yield of 267 ounces of silver later in 1886. Since an eighty-five mile wagon road would have to be constructed at an estimated expense of $20,000 to reach their district, miners at Alton faced a severe obstacle.

Their ore, distributed in small stringers through a broad zone or lode, could yield flattering assays from selected samples, but averaged only a dollar or two a ton. A large low-grade lode of that kind eventually could be worked profitably by twentieth-century methods where good transportation was available. Elk Summit offered no such attraction.

Gradual expansion of mining possibilities around Alton — both in the immediate vicinity as well as around Big Creek — came during two decades or more of prospecting there. Following some preliminary work by John Osborn in 1880, a modest excitement attracted interest on Sugar Creek in 1887. Then James Hand located a Beaver Creek claim on August 18, 1893, which he retained for half a century. A more promising find brought more miners to Smith and Government creeks near Alton in 1898. A Topeka firm acquired this property in 1902 and eventually drove about 2,000 feet of development tunnels in a lode two hundred feet wide. Returning to Beaver Creek in the spring of 1899, James Hand “discovered and located the most extraordinary ledge on the North American continent. It is an enormous porphyry dyke of free milling quartz that stands out boldly like a huge cathedral. Measurements taken show the ledge to be 300 feet at the widest and 60 feet at the narrowest part. The ledge can be easily traced for over three mile.

Assays of the croppings of this ledge made by Mr. Tillson, of the Iola mine, show values “ranging from $18.50 to $186.60.” Another nearby discovery of Charles Crown, came on Logan and Fall creeks in 1899. Crown went on to find “some remarkably rich locations in Thunder mountain” that season. But his Logan and Fall creeks prospects proved disappointing. By 1902, about 200 feet of development tunnels demonstrated an absence of ore (as evaluated in such a remote area), but after some additional effort at development, George Lauffer and Joe Davis relocated this abandoned property in 1908. Nothing but negative information came from all that effort.

North of Big Creek, Richard Hunter reported an unexpectedly successful 1899 placer operation:

In the Chamberlain basin, strikes showing phenomenal values have been made by the Briggs brothers, of Ohio, and a quartet of lucky prospectors from Utah. The Ohio boys located a placer claim on the top of a mountain and worked like Trojans for two weeks to the intense glee of the old rock smashers. The boys succeeded in getting a 12 hour run of water and washed out $1,876 in coarse gold. In the clean-up nuggets worth $10 were found. The hilarity of the “way-backs’ ended suddenly.

Copper also created excitement in 1899.

Mike Nevins, the genial, big hearted proprietor of Nevin’s cosy ranch, at the mouth of Elk creek, has located a colossal ledge of copper near the fork of Elk and Smith creeks. As the ledge towers upward to a height of over 600 feet the reader can form a slight idea of the magnitude of Nevin’s discovery. A representative of Marcus Daly has gone to examine Nevin’s discovery.

A somewhat more successful effort attended another nearby discovery of 1903. Four years later a small 300-pound prospect mill turned out $173 in a seventeen-day run. A five-stamp mill, brought there in 1911, produced a six or seven thousand dollar yield by 1916. In addition, a fourth Alton lode discovery on Government and Logan creeks filled in some mining territory between the 1898 and 1899 segments. Also in 1911, D. C. MacRae and E. F. Goldman located claims along a ridge between Government and Logan creeks, but they had low grade ore at best. Some may have gone as high as four dollar a ton higher up and two dollars at greater depth, but their average ran lower. Development of this series of four mining areas along a single northeast and southwest mineral zone showed that a large lode extended close to four miles in length and one to three hundred feet in width. Yet almost no production could be managed at such a difficult location. During the Thunder Mountain rush, some of these properties acquired an unenviable reputation by reason of unwarranted wildcatting operations of that period, but not a single instance of intelligent mining development was then recorded, and as a matter of fact 90% of the money raised from the sale of stock based on Big Creek properties during that period was used for promotion purposes and never reached Idaho.

Farther down Big Creek, other lodes had more of a chance for development. W. A. Edward’s property on a ridge between Logan and Government creeks (below D. C. MacRae’s later 1911 discovery), located in 1904, justified importation of a stamp mill. Logan City (later Edwardsburg) began with a saloon, store, butcher shop, and a house on Big Creek flat that summer, and a four-stamp mill arrived in 1906. Milling finally began five years later, with a production of $1,200 in 1911. Sulphide ores, requiring a cyanide process, continued to present a problem which accounted for so long a delay and such a small production. Edwards also held additional claims twelve miles farther down Big Creek, where a 2,500-foot lode was developed. Most of Big Creek’s production came from the Snowshoe mine in that area, with a yield of about $400,000 between 1906 and 1942.

source: Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series Number 563 1980 Publications–450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702–208-334-3428
(broken link)
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Big Creek Mines 1906

BigCreekMines-aIdaho County Free Press July 12, 1906

Mr. I.H. Friar, superintendent for the Pueblo Mining company, with properties in the Big Creek district, was in Meadows the latter part of last week on his return from a conference with the president of his company at Salt Lake city. Mr. Friar stated that a mill had been purchased and would be installed this summer, and that another mill would be put in as soon as the road into the district was completed.

Mr. Friar has the bridge across the south fork of the Salmon almost ready for the steel work. He states that they are having the same trouble in the upper country that is being experienced all over Idaho, and that is the difficulty in getting men to do the work.
— Meadows Eagle.

A crew of men are said to have again commenced work on the Warren-Big Creek road and expect to have it completed at an early date. This road means much to that promising mining district and its completion will no doubt be followed by substantial improvement on several rich properties.

from Idaho County Free Press., July 12, 1906
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1910 Frank Goldman at the Gold King

GoldmanGoldKing1910-alink to large image:
Back of photo: “B. F. Goldman”
from Sandy McRae: “Frank Goldman on the Tunnel Dump.”
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Mines In and Around Big Creek

by Robin McRae

The Independence Group is located between the head of Smith Creek and Government Creek. The claim was filed in 1898 by Dan McRae. The claims were sold to a Topeka, Kansas company, which dug 20,000 feet of tunnel. Eleven claims are patented. The last work was exploratory drilling in 1992 by Freeport. Fair gold values were verified.

The Moore Property, also known as Moscow, consists of patented and un-patented claims. A five stamp mill and a tram line constructed to bring ore to the mill are evident. The mine was brought by E. Moore in 1905. At least two adits and a glory hole remain. Last work was done by Bradley Mining Company in the 1940s and a drilling program began by Kennecott in the early 1990s.

The Eagle Mining Company also known as the Sunday Mine consists of 114 acres of patented land. It was developed by William Edwards and is located three fourths of a mile from Edwardsburg. A mill was constructed in 1910-1911. The mill contained four power stamps, two concentrating tables and a cyanide circuit. In 1938 Dan and Bob McRae leased the property and installed a three stamp mill. It operated until war regulations shut down all gold mines.

Copper Camp mine is 12 miles below Edwardsburg, between Ramey and Crooked Creek. The property was owned by William Edwards and later by a group of stock holders. A number of adits have values of silver, gold and copper. The copper is three percent. The last values of sliver, gold and copper. The last work was done by a North Idaho Company. In 1967 Highland Surprise flew an Air Tract diamond drill to the property. They verified a copper resource. Due to the mine’s isolation it was deemed uneconomical.

In 1960 Wilbur Wiles staked claims in the Thunder Mountain area called Yellow Gem. Wiles found a deposit of Yellow Opal which could be traced to the surface for a quarter of a mile or more. He mined the gems and packed them out on his back to Edwardsburg a total of fifteen miles. He later patented three claims with the help of Jim Collord and Bill Davis. The Bureau of Mines estimated the claims could contain 40,000 pounds of opal and moss agate. The property is now owned by Jim Collord Jr. and Carrie Pitts.

The McRae Tungsten Property was located in 1951 by R. J. McRae. It consisted of two unpatented claims. A reduction mill was constructed by Martin Company. The mill operated from 1953 through 1957, producing Scheelite 20% and Huebnerite 80%. Five to six men were employed year round at an elevation of 8,200 feet with eight feet to teen feet of snow in the winter. The underground mine had 1,100 feet of workings below Elk Summit.

The Werdenhoff Mine property was discovered by Pringle Smith who also found the Cinnabar Mine. The discovery occurred during the Thunder Mountain gold rush. Some high grade veins were drifted on but none showed much width. A state road was built from Warren, Idaho over Elk Summit to bring in equipment to the property. The Routson family located the claims and ran more tunnel. In the early 1930s Keystone Gold Mines operated the mine. The mine has since been worked by the Routson family and a small amount of gold has been produced of the last twenty years.

Robin (Sandy) McRae grew up around Big Creek, Thunder Mountain and Stibnite. The family mined at Big Creek and Thunder Mountain from 1914 through 1990. Currently retired eye doctor and on the Board of Directors of Thunder Mountain Gold.

excerpted from: “Picks, Pans & Shovels – Mining in Valley County, Idaho”, Valley County History Project, Mines In and Around Big Creek, by Robin McRae, pages 14-16
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Sunday Mine

Click image for larger size
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Post Office History

Logan Post Office

Established August 17, 1904, William E. Edwards
Renamed Edwardsburg February 25, 1909
Location: 6 miles SW of Big Springs NW Sec. 9, T20N, R9E

Edwardsburg Post Offices

Established August 17, 1904, as Logan, William F. Edwards
Renamed Edwardsburg February 25, 1909
Discontinued January 14, 1918, mail to Warren.

Postcard from Edwardsburg, Idaho, March 26, 1912
EdwardsCabin1912-a(click image for larger size)
Contributed by Marvin Housworth
photo source: Valley County GenWeb

Letter on the back:
“A picture of the cabin as it was in the early days when Napier was a little boy – I suppose you met him when he was South – Father wrote me of your sorrow and I have thought of you but as my days are full of work at night I have so much writing for Mr. Edwards I don’t have much time for myself – The (ore ?) at (ditch?)* is fine & at last things are coming our way. Write when you feel inclined- give my Love to the girls – especially Elizabeth.”
– Annie Napier Edwards

“That is the first pictures of the old house before anything added and that is Napier in the front. Looks like he is about 6 or 7. they lived there in a tent while building it and she went South during some of it.”
– C. Gillihan (personal correspondence)

Catherine Gillihan, backcountry historian, writes:

The Routsons, “Boston” Brown and Dan McRae carried most of the mail from the 1900’s to the 1918’s. After the Edwardsburg post office closed the mail went down Big Creek River to Clover/Garden Creek, Werdenhoff Mine and Smith Creek mines. About the 1923’s when it was taken to Big Creek via Smith Creek to Cowman’s Lodge, this mail came through Warrens. Mail came from Crawford, later Cascade, to Yellow Pine and to Profile to Sam Wilson’s. The Edwards went to Profile for their mail. The first and only road into the Big Creek area went over Elk Summit, splitting at the top, one fork going down to the Edwards and Moscow Mine on Logan Creek and the second fork went down Smith Creek to the mines. There was only a trail from Smith Creek up to Big Creek; the forest service using Smith Creek for a while as headquarters and then building at Big Creek, about 1923. This station burned down. In the 30’s, the CCC built the road from Yellow Pine past Edwardsburg to Big Creek and on down to Smith Creek, connecting all of these places, and the mail then was hauled in by vehicle and flown into the airport when the road was closed. Carl Whitmore and Johnson’s Flying Service had these early contracts.

Helmers included the following account:

Joe Davis has contracted to pack the post office at Edwardsburg out to Warren. He had the horses tailed together, no halters, just ropes around their necks. When he was coming around the grade from Elk Creek, high on the hillside, one horse pulled back. That started the whole string to pull back and the third horse from the rear broke loose and went over the bank end over end, all three rolling until they came to a tree and wrapped around that. Joe went to Tom Carrey’s place on the river for help. One horse was dead, choked, and U. S. Post Office was scattered all over the hillside. They gathered what they could and Joe said the Department in Washington could come get the rest.

Big Creek Post Office

Established May 13, 1936, Richard H. Cowman
Walter A. Weymouth, November 5, 1946
Marie A. Weymouth, December 31, 1949
Discontinued December 31, 1951, mail to Yellow Pine
Location: On Big Creek, 27 m. SE of Warren, 23 m. NE of Yellow Pine, center Sec. 35, T21N, R9E.

1937 Big Creek


Post Office History source: Valley County GenWeb
[h/t SMc]
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1910 Big Creek Census

1910 – U.S. Census, Roosevelt Precinct: Idaho County [now mainly Valley County] Clement Hanson, census taker

Big Creek Trail (Twp 21 WR 12 E):

George Yardley, age 38, farmer;
Orrin Goodrich, (partner), age 27, prospector.

Arther E. Gardew [Garden], age 44, farmer;
Viola M. Gardew [Garden], (wife), age 42;
Issac W. Ripper, (boarder), age 42, farm hand;
Jacob Galrino, (boarder), age 62, packer.

John Couyers [Conyers], age 51, stock raiser;
May Couyers [Conyers], (wife), age 41;
Florence Smith (sister-in-law), age 44.

Francis Stump, age 63, farmer;
Francis Stump Jr., (son), age 36, farmer.

Big Creek Wagon Road:

William A. Edwards, age 40, general manager, mining company;
Annie N. Edwards, (wife), age 39, dep’t recorder, mining district;
Napier Edwards, (son), age 11;

Franz K. Lamb, age 34, superintendent,
Joseph Davis, (partner), age 41, miner;
Steve Winchester, (partner), age 53, miner;
James MacCilla, (partner), age 63, miner;
William Michell, (partner), age 40, miner.

Eric Janson, age 40, miner;
Jacob Janson, (brother), age 36, miner.

Benjamin F. Goldman, age 36, miner

William Bonner, age 45, miner

File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by: Sharon McConnel November, 2005
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Names of Mines around Big Creek

Edwardsburg District

Dixie Mine (Goldman and Mc Crea), Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Golden Way Up Mine (Ludwig; Nevitt; Last Chance; Laufer & Davis), Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Moscow Mine (Moore), Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Red Bluff Mine, Smith Creek, Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Snowbird Mine (McRay Mine; McCrae; Red Bluffs), Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Blue Bluff Prospect, Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Golden Cup Mine (Golden Coin Mine), Idaho Primitive Area, Smith Creek, Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Rocket Prospect (White Bluff), Idaho Primitive Area, Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Wilson Group, Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Profile – Yellow Pine Company Occurrence, Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Red Metal Mine (Allison; Ellison), Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Blue Stone Prospect (Werdenhoff Group), Idaho Primitive Area, Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Black Swan Prospect (Werdenhoff Mine), Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Ryan Creek Group, Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Werdenhoff Prospect (Coveny; Pueblo; Red Bluff), Edwardsburg District, Idaho Co.
Lost Packer Prospect, Idaho Primitive Area, Edwardsburg District, Idaho Co.
Pueblo Group (Columbia), Idaho Primitive Area, Edwardsburg District, Idaho Co.
Copper Cliff Deposit (Missouri Creek Group; Missouri Ridge), Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Missouri Creek Group, Edwardsburg District, Valley Co.
Golden Hand Mine (Old Neversweat; Golden Antler; Penn-Idaho) Primitive Area, Edwardsburg District, Idaho Co.

Big Creek District

Ludwig Deposit (Laufer and Davis; Nevitt; Last Chance Prospect; Golden Way Up), Big Creek District, Valley Co.
Logan Copper Hill Prospect (Faulkenburg; Red Garnet; Copper Hill Prospect; Lady Garnet), Big Creek District, Valley Co.
Antimony Rainbow Group Mine (Dokka; Yellow Jacket; Northern Crown; Empress; Logan; Dixie; Goldman & McRae; New Year; Gold King; Golden West; Palo Alto), Big Creek District, Valley Co.
Independence Mine, Big Creek, Big Creek District, Valley Co.
B and B No. 4 Claim, Big Creek District, Valley Co.

Profile District

Profile Gap Deposit (Wilson Group; Profile Gap Prospect; Syringa; Wallace-Mitchell Claims; Wilson Mine; Syringa; Sam Wilson Tunnel), Profile District, Valley Co.

Ramey Ridge District

Pharmacist Prospect, Idaho Primitive Area, Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.
Mulligan Group Prospect (Deer Lodge Group), Idaho Primitive Area, Ramey Ridge District, Valley Co.
Beaver Ridge Prospect (Aniti; Mother Lode), Idaho Primitive Area, Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.
Wild West Group Prospect, Idaho Primitive Area, Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.
Little Green Gem No. 7 Mine, Idaho Primitive Area, Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.
Estep Cabin occurrence (Gold Crown group), Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.
Orofino Group (Estep; Mildred; Arrastre), Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.
Florence A Group, Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.
Gold Bug Cabin Prospect (Old Lobear Cabin Prospect), Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.
B. J. Prospect, Idaho Primitive Area, Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.
Schley No. 3 group (Includes Original Gold Crown group), Idaho Primitive Area, Ramey Ridge District, Idaho Co.

References: U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia.

Note: Patented mining property is Private Property. Please have respect, take only photos and leave no trace.

page updated September 19, 2020