Idaho History October 29, 2017

1920’s Big Creek / Edwardsburg

Mines and Miners

BigCreekMinesMap(source “Southern Idaho Ghost Towns” by Wayne C. Sparling)

1927 Elk Summit


1927 Freight wagon pulled by horse team near Elk Summit.
William Allen Stonebraker Photographs
Click on photo for larger size
source: Stonebraker Photograph Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Initiatives
— — — —

Big Creek District (1920)


This district is situated on the upper part of the drainage of Big Creek, one of the principal tributaries of the Middle Fork of Salmon River. Most of the mining properties lie near the headwaters of Smith, Government, and Logan Creeks along the east side of a high ridge forming the divide between the South and Middle Forks of Salmon River.

The easiest route into the district is either from New Meadows which is the terminus of the Pacific and Idaho Northern Railroad, or from Lakeport (or McCall as it was originally called), the terminus of the Long Valley Branch of the Oregon Short Line. Automobile stages run from both of these points to Warren, during the summer months. From Warren there is a fairly good wagon road to Dustin’s ranch on the South Fork of Salmon River, but from that point to Big Creek a saddle horse is the safest and most feasible mode of travel, as the road is in bad shape. After crossing the South Fork of Salmon River at an elevation of 3000 feet the road follows the steep and narrow valley of Elk Creek, a roaring mountain stream with a heavy gradient. At a distance of about 12 miles from the river the road crosses Elk Summit at an elevation of nearly 9000 feet and approximately at the timber line. On account of its elevation and exposed position this pass is only free from drifted snow a few weeks in the year and this high summit is a great hindrance to transportation into the district. The road then follows down Smith Creek and about a mile from the summit crosses over a divide to Government Creek which it follows down to the post office of Edwardsburg a few hundred yards from Big Creek.


The topography is rugged, the steep ridges bare of vegetation extending above the timber line with some of the higher points such as Mt. Logan exceeding 10,000 feet in elevation.

The country has been extensively glaciated and it is highly probable that the glaciers have retreated but very recently. All the creeks head in wide cirques and valley glaciers extend to Big Creek in some cases, the limits of the glaciers being marked by extensive terminal and lateral moraines. Big Creek above Edwardsburg occupies a broad valley which maintains its glacial characteristics to almost as low an elevation as 5000 feet. Below the glacial valleys the streams flow in steep-walled rocky canyons, the lower slopes of which are covered with rock slides composed of enormous angular boulders and their sides scarred with the snow slides of early spring. It is a gloomy and forbidding region with few redeeming features in the canyons but from the higher points a panorama of the ridges, peaks and canyons that go to make up the topography of Central Idaho can be obtained, which is a relief to the eye after the somberness of the valleys. It is also a relief to the ear to rise above the ceaseless diapason of the swift mountain streams.


The district is near the center of the main granite core of Central Idaho. Extending eastward from the North Fork of Payette River and from Little Salmon River is a belt of granite 50 miles in width which reaches with minor interruptions almost to Stanley Basin. In general this belt contains practically no other rocks and except for the gold veins of Warren and Marshall Lake contains little mineral. On Big Creek to the east for a width of 25 to 50 miles lies the belt of ancient metamorphics previously described, and between the two is a belt (about five miles wide) of what are probably Tertiary eruptives consisting chiefly of rhyolite and striking almost due north and south. These have been intruded into the granite not far from the contact of that rock with the metamorphics.

The geology of the district is not quite so simple as outlined above as the contact between the different rocks is indented and irregular and the later intrusives are not confined to rhyolite, but are made up of a varied assortment such as quartz porphyry, granite porphyry, syenite porphyry, alsaskite porphyry, diorite, and possibly lamporphyre.

The principal mineralization of the district consists of a wide zone or lode that strikes a little east of north and follows the eastern flank of the South Fork – Middle Fork divide cutting across the heads of Government and Logan Creeks. This lode or zone may be found to extend continuously from Smith Creek to near the head of Moore’s Creek, a fork of Logan Creek, a total distance of about 4 miles. It consists mainly of crushed and sericitized granite full of quartz seams. The granite has been locally intruded by later porphryries and in some places the lode apparently crosses the metamorphic series consisting here of shist and quartzite. The average strike of this lode is about N. 10 deg. E., with a dip of S. 60 deg. to 70 deg. E., and its width varies from 100 to 250 feet. The values lie chiefly in gold but a little copper possibly one percent, occurs in places, as well as a little silver. The gold contents obtained by careful sampling of some of the properties on the lode seem to indicate a value of between $1 and $3 a ton. The gangue is chiefly sericitized granite and quartz with considerable pyrite in places, the latter carrying most of the gold.

Mines and Prospects

The properties along the lode taken in the order from the north, are the Independence, Goldman-MacRae [McRae], Lauffer and Davis, and Moore.

The Independence Mine *
IndependenceMine-aclick map for larger size

The Independence Group consists of eleven patented claims that lie between the head of Smith and Government Creeks. The property was located in 1898 and sold in 1902 to a Topeka company which did some 2000 feet of development work, chiefly in the form of tunnels. The lode here is said to be about 200 feet wide and to lie between a porphyry hanging wall and a rhyolite footwall, and is also reported to cut across the metamorphics which consist of slate, marble, and shist. The lode contains a considerable amount of sulphides of which pyrite is probably the most important, and is said to average about $3 a ton for a width of 200 feet, altho 30 feet near the hanging wall is said to have carried $5.25 a ton in gold. Careful sampling of 60 feet gave returns of $3.50 in gold and a little copper. An extraction by cyanide of over 80 percent of the gold value is claimed. This property has been idle for several years.

The Goldman and MacRae [McRae] Property consists of two claims and two fractions lying between Government Creek and the North Fork of Logan Creek and has an outcrop 200 feet wide consisting of quartz and altered country rock which is chiefly granite. The property was located in 1911 by D.C. MacRae [McRae] and E.F. Goldman and has been opened by two tunnels 307 feet apart vertically and by numerous open cuts. The lower tunnel starts from near the creek and has been run on a course of N. 20 deg. E., which is about the strike of the lode, and in 1916 was in about 100 feet. This tunnel passes thru a chloritic igneous rock too altered for identification and containing a number of seams of quartz, and the zone as a whole is supposed to run about $2 to the ton in gold, although this appears open to question.

The upper tunnel, which has a course of N. 62 deg. W. and consequently cross-cuts the lode is in 130 feet and from it a drift extends north a distance of 100 feet. The tunnels do not cut either the foot of the hanging wall but for their entire distance are in lode formation which consists of quartz and altered country rock heavily pyritized. The whole of the workings are said to average $2.18 in gold. In the crosscut there is 15 feet, which is reported to run $8, and 40 feet which will run $4. The average value of the lode however is undoubtedly much lower. The lode appears to line up with both the Moore and Independence properties and has an probably strike of N. 10 to 20 deg. E. with a dip of 60 deg. to 70 deg. to the northeast.

The Golden Way Up group is owned by Geo. Lauffer and Joe Davis, consists of nine unpatented claims, and lies between the Goldman and MacRae [McRae] and the Moore properties. It crosses the ridge between the North Fork of Logan Creek and Fall creek. It is evidently the same lode as described in the other properties but altho it has the same course it is out of alignment with the others and has evidently been offset about 800 feet in a block bounded by two faults in which the valleys of the North Fork of Logan Creek and Fall Creek have been cut. There is a mineralized zone over 30 feet wide consisting of altered sericitized granite interbanded with quartz seams, one of which is 25 feet wide, but most of which are about 3 feet wide. The granite is frequently replaced by pyrite occurring in scattered cubes.

The vein was first located by Chas. Crown in 1899 and bonded in 1902 by John Campion who did about 2000 feet of development and then discontinued work; following this it was bonded by C.S. McKenzie who did several hundred feet in three tunnels and also abandoned the project. It was then located by Lauffer and Davis in 1908 who have worked it up to the present time.

There is little information as to the value of the lode from wall to wall tho specimens assaying as high [as] $12.40 in gold and 60 cents in silver are reported. The probabilities are, however, that it will average about the same as the other properties, i. e. from $1 to $3 a ton.

Moscow Mine *
MoscowMine-aclick map for larger size

The Moore Property, also known as the Moscow Group, consists of eight unpatented claims and was located in 1903 by Godlove and Boyle. It is the most southerly group on the lode, traversing the hillside east of Moore Creek which it practically parallels for about a mile. It was purchased by Mr. E. Moore in 1905 who started work upon the claims and put in a 300-lb. stamp mill in 1907 which he ran for 17 days, taking out $173 in that time. He replaced this mill with a 5-stamp mill in 1911 with which he has taken out a total of between $6000 and $7000.

The mineralization is entirely similar to that on the other properties of the lode and consists of sericitized granite traversed by quartz veins and is reported to be from 200 to 300 feet wide with an approximate course of N. 30 deg. E.

It is developed by a tunnel running N. 89 deg. E. which crosscuts the lode and was 350 feet long in 1913 with drifts to the north and south near the face which were in 20 and 30 feet respectively. At a point 115 feet from the portal two other drifts have been driven, the northerly one being in 75 and the southerly 200 feet.

There is a well developed footwall exposed in the crosscut with from 6 to 18 inches of gouge separating barren from mineralized granite, but the hanging wall has not been exposed tho the lode at that point is supposed to be 250 feet wide. At a distance of 190 feet from the portal there is a quartz zone 14 feet wide and another quartz zone 15 feet wide occurs near the footwall. Both of these are said to show good gold values. The gold is evidently associated with the pyrite, which contains about $100 to the ton when segregated. The entire workings of the property as determined by careful sampling are reported to average $2.20 to the ton altho it is said that 120 feet of the lode will average more than this.

Summary and Conclusions. In summing up this particular part of the Big Creek district it is evident from the development work on the properties just described, that there is a well defined lode which at several places along a course of nearly 4 miles is from 100 to 300 feet wide. Careful sampling of one or two of the properties by several companies has revealed enough gold to make further explorations justifiable under normal labor conditions. If the lode or lodes prove to average sufficiently high the quantity of material available is sufficient to support a large industry and to warrant the building of a good road into the district. Transportation is prohibitive except for operations on a large scale. If this lode were as favorably situated in regard to transportation as the Alaska-Treadwell for instance, there would probably be many hundred thousands of tons of rock that could be mined at a profit. Under the present conditions, however, there is little chance for the development of a big gold-mining industry as the transportation facilities are probably worse than in any other part of the United States, and further development in the district awaits the solution of this problem.

Most of the tunnels do not reach a depth that is much in excess of 200 feet vertically below the surface and the question of whether the values are due to secondary enrichment of a very low-grade material as at Thunder Mountain, or whether they are primary, has not been studied and decided. The general topography of the country and situation of most of the properties together with the climatic conditions would indicate rapid erosion with a consequently shallow zone of enrichment and the evidence introduced along this line would favor the hypothesis that primary conditions prevail to within a few feet of the surface. Further work in regard to mineral association etc. would have to be done before this point could be definitely proved but its importance is obvious, altho under any circumstances there is a very large tonnage of low-grade material which may some day considerably augment the gold output of the state.

Chicago Group. This property consists of five unpatented claims lying on both sides of Big Creek, about a mile below Edwardsburg, at an elevation of from 5000 to 5500 feet.

The country rock is the metamorphic series, consisting chiefly of a rather fine-grained limestone with some siliceous slate, schist, and fine-grained quartzite. The ledge occurs along the contact of a rhyolite porphryry dike in limestone and consists of the latter rock crushed and brecciated, occurring in a zone about 10 feet wide. The strike is about north and south, the porphyry being on the hangng-wall side, and the dip is 60 deg. to the west. The ore occurs in lenses and stringers in the crushed zone and consists of galena and pyrite with some other sulphides. A sample taken across 3 1/2 feet is said to have contained 14 percent lead, 38 oz. of silver, and $28 in gold, but this is undoubtedly very much higher than the average for the whole ledge. The vein is exposed in two tunnels and in the creek bed and warrants further development.

The Eagle Mining Company, of which Wm. A. Edwards is manager, owns several claims on the ridge between Logan and Government Creeks and a mill which is situated on Logan Creek about a mile and a half above Edwardsburg at an elevation of about 6000 feet. This mill contains 4 power stamps, 2 concentrating tables, and a cyanide plant. The claims were located in 1904 and the mill was begun in 1906 but made the first run in 1911, at which time about $1200 is reported to have been taken out. The capacity of the mill seems to have been low, as only 7 tons were put through in a day of 12 hours.

The vein is evidently a shear or fault zone in granite, and consists of from 5 to 10 feet of crushed country rock and quartz showing considerable gouge and slickensides, between the walls of solid unaltered granite, and has a strike of N. 70 to 82 deg. E. Ore occurs as lenses and stringers in this crushed zone, the average value of the material sent to the mill being reported as $17 to the ton in gold with little silver.

The vein has been opened by three adit tunnels with an aggregate of over a thousand feet of drifting. The oxidation zone is very shallow as all of the ore in the middle and lower tunnels is sulphide, and much of that in the upper also, so that it is probable that most of the ore exposed in the workings is primary.

Copper Camp. This group of thirteen claims is situated on the north side of Big Creek 12 miles below Edwardsburg, between Ramey and Crooked Creeks. The claims are either bonded or owned by Wm. A. Edwards of Edwardsburg and are on the hillside about 1000 feet above the level of Big Creek. They lie east and west, following a series of veins which strike in that direction.

The country rock is the metamorphic series of supposed pre-Cambrian age and consists chiefly of quartzite. There are several veins, the principal one of which strikes N. 75 to 80 deg. E. and has an almost vertical dip. On the Black Bear claim this vein has been developed by a tunnel which follows it with a course of approximately S. 75 deg. W. and was in a distance of 120 feet in August 1916. In this tunnel two crosscuts have been driven in the hanging wall, one at a distance of 90 feet from the portal and the other at 105 feet. The first of these shows 16 feet of vein material, the second, 14 feet. The vein is a shear zone cutting the slates and the quartzites almost at right angles, this shear zone of crushed country rock being impregnated with quartz which contains pyrite, chalcopyrite and sooty chalcocite with oxidation products consisting of azurite and malachite, and is reported to run about 3 percent in copper, altho this seems unlikely.

A crosscut tunnel about 200 feet lower than the tunnel just described has been driven from Camp Creek on a course N. 47 deg. W. a distance of 545 feet to intersect the Black Bear ledge which should be cut about 400 feet further in. This cross cut passes through blocky quartzitic slate for the whole distance.

This ledge is persistent for at least 2500 feet along its strike as exposed by open cuts, the most westerly of which shows the vein to be 8 feet wide and of the same general appearance as in the tunnel. Another open cut situated about 1000 feet west of the tunnel and several hundred feet high shows the vein to be 21 feet wide with precisely similar ore.

In addition to this main vein there are five others lying within a strip about 1000 feet wide and appearing to converge to the east. These are narrower than the Black Bear vein, varying in width from 30 inches to 6 feet. They are all of the same general character, showing quartz, rather honeycombed in some instances, and copper stain. One of these veins is reported to run well in gold altho very little development work has been done upon any of them so that their value has not been definitely determined.

excerpted from (Google book): “A Reconnaissance in South Central Idaho – Embracing the Thunder Mountain, Big Creek, Stanley Basin, Sheep Mountain and Seafoam District” By J.B. Umpleby and D.C. Livingston
Published in cooperation with the United States Geological Survey, University of Idaho Moscow 1920, University of Idaho Bulletin, Vol XV No 16, pg 7 to pg 13
— — — — —

* Notes: * maps have been added from Topo Zone
[McRae] is correct spelling of name, verified by family.
— — — — — — — — — — — — —

Copper Camp
CopperCamp-aclick map for larger size

Copper Camp

“By 1890, the district had a fledgling town. Pringle Smith found the district’s only copper ore in 1889 at the base of Ramey Ridge. Sheltered by the ridge, Smith’s copper mine was a good base for packers in and out of the district. Around Smith’s mine, therefore, a small cluster of buildings rose and took the name Copper Camp.”

excerpted from Chapter 4, Mining by Jim Witherell, page 49, “Valley County Idaho Prehistory to 1920” Valley County History Project.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

1929 Dogsled Elk Summit

1929DogsledElkSummitStonebraker-aclick image for larger size

Date 1929-01-22
Two men push the Stonebraker dogsled team of 11 dogs through the snow near Elk Creek Summit.
William Allen Stonebraker Photographs

source: Stonebraker Photograph Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Initiatives
— — — — — — — — — —

Smith Creek Hydraulic Mining Company

by Gerry Wisdom

Mining in Idaho

Placer gold was discovered in Idaho in 1860. By 1862 mining in Warren was well established. By 1870 the important placer fields were worked out. The area around Big Creek, including Smith Creek had many disadvantages. Smith Creek itself, and better gold values elsewhere saved Smith Creek from being mined out by the 1870’s. It had certainly been prospected earlier by the “old-timers”, but the lack of roads, the difficulty of the terrain, and the deep snow pack for six months of the year, didn’t make it a very attractive mining location. The Grangeville Standard (July 21, 1899) declared that the upper Salmon and the Chamberlain Basin and Big Creek Basin were going to be the American Klondike. Thunder Mountain became the focus of attention around 1902. At its peak it had about 10,000 people but the boom had largely ended by 1908.

Smith Creek Hydraulic Mining Company

…The Big Creek Mining District was formed in Idaho in 1883. By 1885 it was called the Alton Mining District and included the Smith Creek Hydraulic Mining Company, later located in the Edwardsburg Mining District, comprised 505.9 acres (from a survey of 1926-27). Its claims were as follows: Woofus, Pika, Sunshine, Gump, Snowstorm, Ruby, Badger, Porphyry, Google, Blue Ox, and Power. The company was incorporated August 28, 1928 (recorded September 11, 1928), with 750,000 shares of stock at no par value and amended by H. A. Griffiths, R. G. Spaulding, James Baxter, C. W. Arbogast, C. E. Beymer, and T. N. Braxtan, February 2, 1931 to change the value of the stock to $1.00 par value.

“For many years the Smith Creek placer claims were under separate ownership until a group of Boise business men in the early 1920s formed a stock company to obtain necessary capital to develop the claims. Separate claims were bought and consolidated under one ownership, called the Smith Creek Hydraulic Mining Company. There are still no roads, so the first share was to build a road into the area.” The report by the General Ma for 1926, recommended that Mr. W. Pefley, and experienced mining engineer, be employed. He was placed in charge of operations at the mine as Superintendent. In the same report, three men (one quit) arrived on May 17 to start work on the wagon road connecting the camp with the old Werdenhoff road. They completed the work on June 1st. Next they had to build a bridge across the North Fork of Smith Creek. The men had to fell and peel the timbers. The bridge was completed June 16th. The rest of the report is a horror story of potholes, pulling vehicles out of the mud with horse teams, rocks slides, and so on.

Ledgers, show material and supplies brought over the ensuing years to build buildings, including a mess hall, mining equipment, and food. One of the receipts shows food bought at Nelson’s Grocery in Boise. It is easy to imagine from these voices from the past how difficult life was for the miners during the last part of the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th. During these early years many bemoaned the lack of good luck, from the one known death to early winter snows. Then in 1929, really back luck hit them as it did the rest of the country. An officer of the company, Mr. J. K. Burns, was in New York trying to raise money and sell stock. He was there on October 29, “Black Monday” and returned to Idaho stunned and empty handed. World War II might have been better for the company if they had given up the quest for gold and mined for tungsten and antimony, as did Stibnite. …

Gerry Wisdom is a founding member of the editorial board of the Valley County History Project.
excerpted from “Picks, Pans & Shovels – Mining in Valley County, Idaho”, Valley County History Project, pages 18-20
— — —

Smith Creek c. 1990s

smthcrk1CGillihan-aclick image for larger size

smthcrk2CGillihan-aclick image for larger size

smthcrk3CGillihan-aclick image for larger size

photos by C Gillihan
— —

Smith Creek Old Cookhouse 2011
110918windowwithview-aphotos by Local Color Photography
— — — — — — — — — — —

Frank Goldman

“…in 1911, D. C. Macrae and E. F. Goldman located claims along a ridge between Government and Logan creeks…”

excerpted from Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series, Big Creek Number 563 1980 (broken link)

Goldman Cut

GoldmanCut-aclick map for larger size

(A story is that Mr. Goldman cut the road through the ridge with shovel and wheelbarrow thus named for him. – unverified)

1910 – U.S. Census, Roosevelt Precinct

Big Creek Wagon Road:
Benjamin F. Goldman, age 36, miner
(Clement Hanson, census taker)
source: Valley County ID Archives Census Copyright. All rights reserved.
— — — — — — — — — — —

A Photo of Dan Mcrae in front of the Cabin at the Gold King (1921)

photo from Sandy McRae
Gold-King-1921-aback of photo: Gold King 1921. Dan McRae and George Short stop in to visit.

click on photo to open larger high image
— — — — — — — — — — —

James Edwards 1925

JamesEdwards1925-aclick image for larger size

“I was recently given a photo by my cousin and thought I would share the tidbit of history. It depicts his grandfather, Mark Campbell, and two other men transporting 84 year old James Edwards (Edwardsville/Big Creek), who is ill, from Yellow Pine to Cascade to see a doctor. Winter 1925 – 26.
“Mark is at right (plaid shirt) – he would later (1930’s) build Campbell’s Camp at Warm Lake. Later called North Shore Lodge – still in business today (and they serve excellent meals!) Makes me appreciate just how tough our ancestors really were!”

source: Bob Hood Idaho History 1860s TO 1960s
— —

“James Edwards had mining claims at Big Creek and on Monumental. Had a cabin on Monumental.”
– Cathy Gillihan
— —

Yellow Pine Pioneers


Yellow Pine Pioneers

Left back: Charles Ellison, Red Metals Mine owner; Fred Holcomb, ranch owner; Henry Abstein, Mining man/horticulturist; Earl Wilson, son of Profile Sam.
Left front: Albert Behne, founder of Yellow Pine; Albert Hennessy, miner; Sam (“Profile Sam”) Wilson, miner; Bert McCoy, packer; Jimmie Edwards. **
** James might be Jimmy Edwards in this photo?
photo courtesy Long Valley Preservation Society
— — — — — — — — — — — —

1920 Valley County Census Big Creek Area

Edwards James W. age 79 Male Head Single Precinct Yellow Pine from Kentucky Occupation Miner Business Gold Mine
Davis, Joseph age 50 Male Head Single Precinct Yellow Pine from Washington Occupation Miner business Gold Mine

Edwards William A. age 50 Male Head M Precinct Yellow Pine from Georgia Occupation Lawyer Business Genl. Practice
Edwards Annie N. age 49 Female Wife Married Precinct Yellow Pine from Alabama
Edwards Napier A. age 21 Male Son Single Precinct Yellow Pine from Maryland

McRae Dan C. age 43 Male Head Married Precinct Lake/McCall from Minnesota occupation Operator business Mine
McRae Grace C. age 34 Female Wife Married Precinct Lake/McCall from Idaho
McRae Marjorie G. age 7 Female Daughter Single Precinct Lake/McCall from Idaho
McRae Robert J. age 11 Male Son Single Precinct Lake/McCall from Idaho

source: USGenWeb Project

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

page updated September 21, 2020