Idaho History Aug 25, 2019

Pearl, Gem County, Idaho

(part 2)

Pearl, Idaho


source: Hugh Hartman
— — — — — — — — — —

Mining Pearl (Gold)

Discovered December 7, 1867, the Pearl district remained largely inactive until the Panic of 1893. Most production came from 1894 to 1908, when the Lincoln mine went into receivership. Pearl is still active, although work since 1945 has centered almost entirely at the Dewey mine. Total production has been estimated at $2,000,000.

excerpted from: Mining in Idaho Number 9 1985, by Ernest Oberbillig and the Idaho State Historical Society
— — — — — — — — — —



Idaho State Historical Society

Miners standing near the headframe at a mine near Pearl, Gem County, ID, ca. 1899. Note the miners candlesticks and candles in some of the miners hands. Candles were used for lighting underground before the invention of the carbide light. Idaho State Historical Society

source: Building in the Past
— — — — — — — — — —

Gem County Idaho Gold Production

By A. H. Koschmann and M. H. Bergendahl – USGS 1968

Westview District

The gold production of Gem County is virtually equivalent to that of the Westview (Pearl-Horseshoe Bend) district, which sprawls across the Boise-Gem County line, about 18 miles north-northwest of the city of Boise.

Gold was mined chiefly from lodes in the Westview district. According to Anderson (1934, p. 17-18), the first development of note was at the Red Warrior in 1870, although greatest activity occurred between 1900 and 1907. Thereafter, interest waned as the easily milled oxidized ores were depleted. Lindgren (1898, p. 708) estimated that the district produced $80,000 in gold (about 4,000 ounces) to 1896, but Anderson (1934, p. 18) listed an estimate (by R. N. Bell) of ores worth more than $1 million. Including Lindgren’s estimate for the early production, the minimum total gold production for this district was about 20,000 ounces.

Country rock in the Westview district consists of a batholithic mass of quartz diorite and granodiorite (Anderson, 1934, p. 5-12). An elongate mass of diorite cuts the granodiorite and a large number of porphyry dikes cut both the granodiorite and diorite. These dikes, which are in a belt that trends east-northeast, are composed of dacite porphyry, granite porphyry, syenite porphyry, and rhyolite porphyry; some are moderately mafic in composition. The ore deposits are mineralized fissures in the dike zone, and they may be in granodiorite, diorite, or in or along the dike contacts (Anderson, 1934, p. 18). The deposits are stringers of arsenopyrite and pyrite and contain subordinate sphalerite and galena and small amounts of chalcopyrite, tetrahedrite, boulangerite, and stibnite. Small amounts of quartz, dolomite, and calcite gangue accompany the ore minerals, but the chief gangue component is broken and altered wallrock. Gold accompanies the sulfides and is extremely fine grained (Anderson, 1934, p.19).

source: Western Mining History [h/t AGHP]
— — — — — — — — — —

Red Warrior Mine Pearl Idaho 3


from the Mike Fritz Collection
— — — — — — — — — —

Pearl Steam Shovel


This is my Great Grandfather John Henry Hermo, with his steam shovel at the mine at Pearl, Idaho.

source: Hugh Hartman
— — — — — — — — — —

Newspaper Clippings

The Idaho Daily Statesman Sept. 30, 1890

“The tranquility of Main Street was slightly disturbed last Sunday morning by a fight between Mr. K.P. Plowman and Doc Rankin, in which the latter came off second best. It appears that Mr. Plowman was standing at the counter in one of the saloons talking to the barkeeper when Mr. Rankin entered, and hot words ensued, in the course of which Plowman accused Rankin of stealing an anvil. They came to blows and before the barkeeper could interfere Mr. Rankin had received two black eyes and other facial blemishes. Friends interfered and each went out swearing he would have the other arrested, but up to going to press nothing has been done by either party.”

source: Arthur Hart Special to the Statesman May 17, 2015 “Frontier violence was often induced by alcohol”
— — — — — — — — — —

Plowman’s, Payette River, Montour


source: AHGP Idaho
— — — — — — — — — —

W. P. Kissinger Murders His Sister-In-Law and Then Suicides

The Emmett Index July 3, 1902

Tragedy at Pearl

J. C. Shepherd, the Pearl stage driver, brought to Emmett Saturday morning news of the murder of Mrs. W. A. Garner, wife of a well known miner of that place, by W. P. Kissinger, of Pendelton, Oregon. He shot his victim twice in the head, killing her instantly, holding her in his arms while doing the shooting. He then laid her down and put the gun to his own head, falling by her side.

Kissinger in his statement said the woman, as Ada Horn, loved him passionately in Oregon and begged him repeatedly to leave his wife, her sister, Mattie. He finally did so, for the purpose of marrying Ada. He said he did not learn of Ada’s marriage to Garner until shortly before he got his divorce, which was obtained about 10 days ago.

source: AHGP [h/t SMc]
— — — — — — — — — —

The Idaho Statesman (Boise City, Idaho) 05 Sep 1900


source: Mike Sudduth

The Idaho Statesman (Boise City, Idaho) 09 May 1902


source: Mike Sudduth

The Idaho Statesman (Boise City, Idaho) 29 Mar 1902


source: Mike Sudduth
— — — — — — — — — —

A New Stage Line

The Emmett Index May 29, 1902

E. H. Beggs to Run Daily Stage from Emmett to Centerville

E. H. Dewey has made arrangements with E. H. Beggs to run a daily stage from Emmett to Centerville via Pearl and Placerville. This new line will begin operation on July 1st.

Such things as the above demonstrates that Mr. Dewey is exerting every effort to make business for his road and to build up our town. The liveliest place in all Idaho this summer, outside of Thunder Mountain itself, will be Emmett.

source: Idaho AHGP
— — — — — — — — — —

History Pearl Idaho


from the Mike Fritz Collection
— — — — — — — — — —


by Sharon McConnel

1894 Discovery, production

Robert N. Bell, former Idaho Inspector of Mines, writing in a 1935 article in the “Boise Capital News” describes the discovery as follows:

The original ore discovery of the Pearl district was made in the 70’s by the early day placer miners who, however, did not find anything to justify more than a few scattered prospects cut in rather lean ore. In 1894 the camp consisted of one cabin under a grove of cottonwood trees, occupied by cowboys as summer cattle range headquarters. During that year a section boss by the name of Dan Levan wantered into camp with a wife and two or three small children, looking for a summer camp. . . the cowboys taking kindly to him encouraged him settling there, pointing out to him some rusty streaks on the side hill where they had found some good gold panning. . . Levan took to prospecting; ran a cut on the discovery shown him; found rich ore from which he could make wages with a hand motar; soon expanded his operation to a horse arrastra. . . Levan’s claim became the first mining title suit in Pearl district and was settled out of court when attorney William Edgar Borah found a buyer in Colonel E. H. Dewey and the sales proceeds were divided by all concerned.

Merle Wells in “Gold Camps and Silver Cities” writes that Pearl gold mines became productive in 1894 yielding $30,000, followed by $80,000 in 1896.

In September 1896 Robert Minton and Margurite Jury bought a newly constructed two-story, 20’x 50′ boarding house “on the south side of the road, between a storeroom on the east and the Checkmate ore house on the west.” J. E. Griggs filed a mechanics lien against the builder for $96.70, which included freight charges on 13,608 feet of lumber. Another contractor filed a lien for unpaid labor at the rate of $3.50 per day and materials in the amount of $75 for the construction of a store. Other mechanics liens at that time included “labor as a miner at rate of $3.00 per day,” one at the rate of $3.50 per day and another at the rate of $4.00 per shift.

The post office was established November 12, 1895 with Oakley C. Wylie named as first postmaster. He served until July 1904, undoubtedly assisted by his wife Minnie, since he was counted as a miner in the 1900 census. George A. Sprague followed Wylie as postmaster.

1900 – Optimism

The 1900 census counted 243 people in Pearl, fifty-one were women and seventy-two were children, thirty of whom were in school. Five households were headed by women. Single men outnumbered single women, 75 to 8, and women did not stay single long. Of the ten single women, at least five were married within five years.

All occupations necessary to keep a village running were found in Pearl – mercantile, drug store, livery stable, barber shop, shoemaker, butcher shop, saloons. Eight teamsters, plus veteran stage driver Joseph Shepherd, all lived in Pearl indicating the volume of freight traveling the Willow Creek road. Even firewood needed to be freighted in. The other men were miners, millwrights, engineers, machinists, laborers, carpenters, farmers, washman, and stenographer. Besides the three hotels, five households took in boarders. People came from the mining towns of Ruby Hill and Cortez in Nevada and from Silver City, Delamar, Quartzburg and Placerville in Idaho, as well as from Boise City, which was about twenty miles away.

The first of April 1902, the “Emmett Index” reported that the Checkmate mill was nearly full of concentrates, but due to the bad condition of the roads, it was almost impossible to ship to Boise. The same month Colonel Dewey’s First Idaho Northern Railroad arrived in Emmett. The following month it was announced that E. H. Dewey had arranged for a new daily stage, to run from Emmett to Centerville via Pearl and Placerville. In June the paper reported “”the Pearl district has had a black eye because of the lack of energy, capital and management.” A week later it reported that “The Checkmate mine, the famous producer of the Pearl district, has been sold to a syndicate of Spokane capitalists for a price said to be $200,000. . .”

Optimism was evident on Main Street. That year, the “Ladies Aid Society of Pearl” bought a “two story house, one wood shed and a cellar located on Main Street” which they sold thirteen months later to Union Congregational Church. The IOOF Pearl Lodge bought a building. Rush VonHarten, a stationery store keeper from Boise, bought the Pearl Drug Store. A year later Rene Hazelton, an innkeeper from Ada County, bought the Gem Saloon, which, the deed tells us, was “on the south side. . facing Main Street. . . between the building now owned by Frank Demant as a store and the building occupied by the Idaho Dress Beef Company,” the northeast corner of the ground being about “fifty feet westerly from the town well.”

A year later, in April 30, 1903, the “Emmett Index” reported “the power plant (four miles north of Pearl on the Payette River, Boise County) has poles set and wires run and is now ready to transmit power to Pearl and install electric lights” . . . “the town has a good school, union Sunday school, two first-class general stores, a meat market, barber shop, two hotels, two saloons, a feed and livery stable and dairy. There is daily mail excepting Sunday and two telephone lines. . It can be reached by wagon from Boise or Caldwell in four hours time or from Nampa to Emmett by the Idaho Northern thence by state in two hours time.

“This district is comparatively a new one, as while placer mining has been carried on for a number of years, not until the year 1895 were even the crude methods of quartz operations undertaken. Within the past two years concentrators have been introduced into several of the mills of the district with the most satisfactory results. The camp now has a few steady producers and has shipped more ore and bullion than any mines of Southern Idaho. Hitherto all this ore has been hauled to Boise, but since the completion of the Idaho Northern railway to Emmett, this place has become the distributing point of the Pearl district. Already one carload of concentrates is shipped each third day from the Checkmate mine via Emmett and Nampa. The arrival of the railroad is timely for the productions of the mines of this district will be many times large this year than ever before.”

1910 – Decline

By the 1910 census, Pearl’s population had decreased by roughly half and the occupational diversity was gone. Twenty-seven of the 123 residents were gold miners and three others were mine-related: engineer, millwright, and one handyman. The number of businesses had dwindled. Rush VonHarten still had the store he had bought eight years earlier and his wife Luella was the postmistress. Seventy-five year old Lewllyn Walter, former Walter’s Ferry ferrymaster, still had his store. During the past decade both men had served in the state senate. Rene Hazelton was managing the hotel and Fred Crawford from Quartzburg was the only saloon keeper. Former saloon keeper Sam Birdwell had turned to mining.

Four men from Pearl registered for the WWI draft. John McLean, son of the Dave McLeans of Pearl, was the first Gem County WWI casuality.

1920 – Further Decline

At the time of the 1920, only 40 people were counted in the village of Pearl, with the total for the entire precinct being sixty-nine. Farmers outnumbered miners almost three to one. Farmers outnumbered miners. William VonHarten, presumably Rush’s brother, was running the store. Rush’s son-in-law Jules Delamater was post master. George O’Neil, Pearl’s last post master, died December 1928, within one mile of home, while on his way to Boise in an automobile, and an era ended. Joseph Dunbar, who moved to Pearl in 1899 as a miner and stayed until his death in 1950, at which time he was managing the Idaho Power substation, probably lived in Pearl longer than anyone else. The last remaining buildings were razed in the spring of 2004.


Today legends circulate about Pearl. One legend is of shootouts and victims buried in “boothill” yet a study of the obituaries of the people buried in the Pearl cemetery does not show that. Working from J. B. McKenney’s 1921 cemetery plat, there are forty-five known burials in Pearl, twenty were babies and two were suicides, plus one man who presumably died from a prolonged drunk. The John McKenneys moved to Pearl around 1903, so he was there during the boom.

Another legend is that Pearl was one-time an incorporated town, yet there is no evidence to support that. Again a study of Pearl obituaries does not reveal any mayors or city councilmen. Another is of documents not transferred from Idaho City to Emmett when Gem County was formed in 1915, but no one can say exactly what documents are supposedly missing. The village sat on patented mining claims and the deeds for those claims can be found in courthouse in Emmett. Some of what we know today about the Pearl businesses has been gleaned from leases and bills of sales found in the public record.

Estimates of the number of people and dwellings vary greatly. The 1900 census shows 243 people – men, women and children. A 1903 museum photograph looking west from water tower hill shows less than fifty roofs, including outhouses. No tents are visible in the photograph, so presumably the population was somewhat stable.

Now as early in last century, the small mining camp of Pearl captures people’s imagination. And evidence may still come to light that gives credence to some of the stories.

Pearl 1991


The property owner razed the last remaining buildings in the spring of 2004. Mine portals remain, including The Gem State Consolidated (with a car body over the portal), north of the road at the west end.

source: Gem County, Idaho GenWeb [hat tip to SMc]
— — — — — — — — — —

Pearl Maps and Plats

Book 1, page 33, public records. map showing old Boise/Canyon county line and Westview Mining District (Pearl). The map was filed in Canyon County Oct. 27, 1897, at 3 PM and certified Nov. 11, 1915 when we became Gem County.


(click image for source – larger size)

Pearl Map 1902

(click image for source – larger size)

reconstruction by Sharon McConnel
source: Gem County Museum Idaho AGHP

Pearl 1902

Gem County Historical Society and Village Museum

Looking west from “water tower hill” down Willow Creek

source w/more info: Gem County Historical Society and Village Museum
— — — — — — — — — —

Pearl Cemetery

The Pearl Cemetery is on private property on a hill west of the Pearl townsite. It is described as “approximately 125 feet by 150 feet . . . as evidenced by a surrounding steel fence” in the easement granted by the state of Idaho to Fred Turner in August 1962 and recorded in Gem County Records October 2004. Fred Turner was a grandson of Don and Emma MacAskill. His descendants live in the Star area. The surrounding property passed from state ownership to private ownership in 1962.

The cemetery consists of seven rows aligned north and south, with a lane running east and west from the gate, down the middle, and is fenced by wire mesh “hog wire.” Presumably at one time some of the unmarked graves were marked with wooden markers which have not survived. In 1921 J. B. McKenney prepared a plat of the cemetery. John McKenney and his wife Mabel MacAskill McKenney moved to Pearl in 1903 and they lived there for the next forty years. (Photo)

In 1992 the Gem County Historical Preservation Commission1 inventoried, cleaned up the site and attempted to place it on the historical register. Some of the stones were re-set and the historical marker was errected. These photos are from that project. The information below is an expansion and continuation of the research done at that time. In the summer of 2009 MacAskill descendants cleaned and cleared extensively.

My great-grandparents (Donald and Emma MacAskill) are buried in this cemetery and I have been visiting it since I was a child. – Sharon McConnel

Historical Marker

Gem County Historical Preservation Commission

link to 1921 plat of Pearl Cemetery:

link to cemetery page with names and lots of info:
AHGP Copyright © 2013 – 2018 Sharon McConnel. All Rights Reserved.
— — — — — — — — — —

Pearl Cemetery – Gem County

Photo contributed by Sharon McConnel

Left to right: Alice Ringold grave [in fence], Arthur Turner stone, Thomas S. Grimes & Florence C. Baldwin Grimes stone

Pearl cemetery 1991 – [stones have since been reset]

source: Gem County Archives Gem County IDGenWeb Project
— — — — — — — — — —

Gem County Township 6 N. Range 1 E., Pearl, Willow Creek


source (and full plat):

[h/t Gem County Historical Village Museum] FB page link:
— — — — — — — — — —


Pearl, Former Gem County Ghost Town, Sinks Further into the Dust

Jan 22, 1981 Messenger-Index

A person visiting the townsite of Pearl today would have difficulty believing that at the turn of the century 1200 souls filled the town with bustle and gold boom.

Today the only permanent resident of the town is Joe Burkhart, although there are some temporary residents who are employees of Moneka Mine Development Ltd. of Boise.

Along Willow Creek which runs through the townsite, gold was first discovered in late 1867. The first load development was at the Red Warrior Mine operated in 1870, however no major deposits were developed until 1894.

Major development occurred during 1900 – 1907 which saw Pearl blossom into an incorporated town boasting a gravity feed running water system supplied from a tank on, what else, Water Tank Hill and electrical power supplied by the Idaho Power Plant on the current Horseshoe Bend highway.

There were 2 hotels, the Black Pearl and the Bramlee, as well as four saloons, several general merchandise stores, a boarding house, a barber shop, a butcher and a slaughter house.

Hester Woody of Emmett lived at the Bramlee Hotel in 1921 while she taught school for 23 youngsters, in a building which had been a church. That school house burned down and was replaced with another school built in 1934 which is one of the few older buildings left at Pearl.

The Black Pearl hotel survived until this past March when Moneka mine workers tore mast of it down fearing it would collapse on a nearby power line.

Records of mining output are sketchy and incomplete before 1915. According to Bureau of Miners and Geology records, the value of metals from the Pearl mines from 1915-1959 was $534,000.

In comparison, the records of State mine Inspector Bell advise that by 1907 one million dollars in gold had been recovered from the Checkmate stake alone.

The Checkmate mine descended 600 feet and had 6 levels. Rich ores often yielded 5 ounces of gold and 5 ounces of silver to the ton according to the records of a geographer in 1898.

In an average yield the ore contained .25 to .50 ounces of gold per ton. At that time the average yield could not sustain operation. According to another geographer named Anderson, the early operations closed down because ore drilling methods were inadequate to make good recoveries.

Starting with the closure of Checkmate in 1907, mining operations slowly closed down and the town dwindled away. Intermittent mining operations started back up only to close again after generally making either small or feasible returns.

Currently two companies are active in the Pearl area, Moneka Mine and Sunshine Mine. Geographer Dave Hembree, project manager for Moneka Mine, reported that his crew drilled 14 test holes from March through December.

Some of the samples yielded .5 ounces of Role’ per ton and according to Hembree the company could make $150 profit per ton of mined ore at that yield. Hembree also said that they would have to conduct further testing for the next year before any final decisions on restarting mining operations could be made.

Pearl’s revival as a mining center seems to be possible however its days as a boom town belong to those disolutive spirits lingering in the abandoned mine shafts, still searching for the [g]lint of that elusive mother load.

source: Jan 22, 1981 Messenger-Index courtesy of Gem County Historical Society [h/t SMc]


Gem County Historical Society and Village Museum
501 E. First St, Emmett, Idaho 83617
The museum’s photo collection includes a Gem Saloon street scene, Lincoln Mine crew plus others.
[very big hat tip to SMc]

link to: Pearl, Gem County, Idaho (part 1)

page updated September 11, 2020