Idaho History Sept 22, 2019

Rocky Bar, Alturas (Elmore) County, Idaho

(part 1) General Info

Rocky Bar, Idaho oldest Mining camp in the State


From the Mike Fritz Collection shared by Heather Heber Callahan
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“South Boise,” soon to be renamed Rocky Bar, was the latest Boise Basin boom town.

source: Evan Filby South Fork Companion
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Rocky Bar, Idaho

Rocky Bar is a ghost town in Elmore County, Idaho, United States. At its height in the late 19th century Rocky Bar boasted a population of over 2,500 and served as county seat of Alturas County from 1864 to 1882. It was also the original county seat of Elmore County when it was created in 1889.

Rocky Bar was founded in December 1863 soon after gold was discovered along the nearby Feather River. Within two years it became the main settlement in the area and was even considered as a possible capital for Idaho Territory. The town was destroyed by fire in 1892. Although it was rebuilt, afterwards it began a slow decline. Rocky Bar has not had a permanent population since the 1960s.

Rocky Bar is located 62 miles northeast of Mountain Home.

source: Wikipedia
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HB12ActLocatingCountySeatAlturasCounty-aHB 12

An Act

Locateing [sic] the County seat of Alturas County

Be it enacted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Idaho, as follows:

Section 1st That the County seat of the County of Alturas be, and the same is hereby located at Rocky Bar.

Sec. 2. That all Acts or parts of Acts in consistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed.

Sec. 3. This Act to take effect, and be infull force, from and after its passage and approval by the Governor.

Passed the House of Representatives November 29th 1864
(signed) Alex Blakely
Speaker House Representatives

Passed the Council December 2nd 1864
(signed) John Cummins
President of the Council

Approved Dec 3rd A.D. 1864
(signed) Caleb Lyon
The Governor of Idaho

An Act locating the County Seat of Alturas County at Rocky Bar. Signed by Governor Caleb Lyon of Lyonsdale, Speaker of the House of Representatives Alex Blakely, and John Cummins, President of the Council. House Bill 12.
Date 1864-12-03
Copyright: Idaho State Historical Society 2012.
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Rocky Bar Public Buildings (Courthouse) Elmore

[Alturas] Elmore County Courthouse in Rocky Bar 1866 or 1877

Copyright: Idaho State Historical Society
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Alturas County Warrant 1868

Rocky Bar, Idaho Territory – Treasurer of Alturas County Warrant $10 Aug. 26, 1868

source: Heritage Static
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Rocky Bar

The discovery of gold on the Feather River in 1863 touched off a new rush to what became known as the South Boise Diggings. A toll road was built in 1864 and freight wagons started to roll in from the railhead at Kelton, Utah. From Mountain Home the toll road led to Dixie, Pine Grove, (which is located under the Anderson Ranch Dam waters) Junction Bar, and finally to Rocky Bar.

With the largest mines nearby on Bear Creek, Rocky Bar quickly became the leading settlement of the South Boise miners. In 1864, with a population of nearly twenty-five hundred, it became the county seat of Alturas County. And along with Idaho City, Rocky Bar was a contender for the site of the territorial capital. When Alturas County was created in 1864, the first Territorial Legislature designated Esmeralda as the County seat. But since Esmeralda wasn’t much of a village and Rocky Bar was starting to boom, the county officials quietly moved their office up to Rocky Bar. This honor was held by Rocky Bar until 1881, when Hailey won the election and became the seat of Alturas County.

One account states that a twelve stamp mill was hauled by ox team from Omaha to Rocky Bar for thirty cents a pound. In 1892 much of Rocky Bar was wiped out by fire, but the town was soon rebuilt and mining continued. A large Chinese settlement hugged the banks along Steel Creek. There are still a few summer residents in town and one cafe and bar, or Saloon. The old mills have been pretty much torn down. With the death of Charley Sprittles, Rocky Bar’s last winter-time resident, the deep snows and wintry winds have this old camp all to themselves.
– (Quoted from Southern Idaho Ghost Towns by Wayne Sparling)

Rocky Bar is located about eight miles north of Featherville, at the confluence of Bear and Steel creeks.

Rocky Bar was the first county seat of Alturas and Elmore Counties.

The town was established in December 1863 by H.T.P. Comstock, the namesake of the Comstock Lode in Nevada.

For a brief period – June 1, 1889, to June 4, 1892 – the newspaper, Elmore Bulletin, was published at Rocky Bar.

On September 1, 1892, the town was mostly destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt by the citizens.

Rocky Bar was the setting for a spur-of-the moment decision which may have had repercussions on mining in the region for some time.

It seems that the president of the Alturas Mining Company was an easterner with no mining knowledge. He did however have a knowledge of western whisky, and stopped in Rocky Bar for a few snorts to make the trip to Yuba City easier. The executive managed neither the company mining interests nor whiskey well. For some reason he ordered teams and wagons that were hauling a mill to the Atlanta Lode to stop at nearby Featherville, while lumber meant for buildings at Yuba City was left to rot in keeping with the booze-inspired orders of the mining company’s president.

What motivated the man to stop delivery of mill and lumber is anybody’s guess.
– (Quoted from Ghost Towns of Idaho by Donald C. Miller.)

excerpted from: Ghost Towns – Rocky Bar – Submitted by Roy Sloan – Grandson of Charles Sprittles
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Geo. Golden Store, Rocky Bar, Idaho, 1891

Geo. Golden Store 1891.

A large group of men and children are posed on the wooden sidewalk in front of the store. A commercial wagon and horses are standing on the street. The wooden building features a prominent second floor balcony. There are two other buildings to the side and rock walls.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Charles Sprittles

… Please be advised that most of the following information was gathered by his son George Albert Sprittles “Sloan” upon his visit to Rocky Bar in August 1997 after discovering that year that his father had lived there as he had not known his whereabouts since 1920.

Charles Sprittles born Wakefield, England Nov. 25th 1881 and was a coach maker apprentice at age 14 Charley worked the mines in Casper, Wyoming 1916 till ??? 1920 the last time my father saw Charles Sprittles until learning of his past home in Rocky Bar in 1997.

Charlie met and married Lulie Deane Wiley in Wyoming and had 3 daughters and 2 step daughters from her previous marriage. Charley left Wyoming and Lulie went to California with the girls. He came to Rocky Bar sometime around 1932. Worked at the Triumpth Mine and the Hailey Mine in Sun Valley and also was also a fight promoter. Charlie’s store in Rocky Bar was called the “White Front Store” which included one gas pump.

Charlie never mentioned having a son only his daughters. Charley walked everywhere had no automobile. He was known as a miner and also known as the “Mayor of Rocky Bar”. This is also listed on his death certificate.

Charlie’s death: In late November or early December 1963 Charley went to Boise to the doctors. He hitched a ride back to Featherville where his companions tried to get him back to Rocky Bar but the snow was too deep and could only get too within 5 miles of Rocky Bar. He told his friends that he wanted to continue on foot on his snow shoes but they didn’t want him too. He went on anyway.

His Air Force “fly-boy” friends from Mountain Home Air Base used to check on him by flying over during the long winter months. They would also drop him food and supplies. Anyway, they soon discovered there was no smoke coming from his cabin. Accordingly the sheriff began the search for Charlie.

It snowed like crazy that winter. On one search for Charley in March the crew had stopped, with along with there large snowmobile to have lunch. They also built a fire. The following month on April 14, 1964 the search was over.

The search crew led by his Deputy sheriff friend, Buster “George” Taylor came across the spot where they had stopped earlier to have lunch, (about 2 1/2 miles east of Rocky Bar) a snowshoe had now protruded from the snow as the snow had now somewhat melted. Charlie was there with his shoes off and a sock in one hand and the orange peels they left the month before scattered right where they had left them during their lunch. Charlie was right beneath them the whole time.

His death was listed as heart attack. Charlie had always wanted to be buried above his cabin in Rocky Bar but it wasn’t allowed because it was National Forest land. A memorial was erected by the citizens in Rocky Bar: “To Charlie Sprittles Pioneer 1881-1964”. He was buried on April 24th 1964 in Mountain View Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

Upon learning that there was no grave marker my father purchased a grave stone. It states “Charles Sprittles” Pioneer Rocky Bar 1881-1964.

excerpted from: Ghost Towns – Rocky Bar – Submitted by Roy Sloan – Grandson of Charles Sprittles
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Dwellings, Rocky Bar, Idaho 1880

Frank Ake and family at Rocky Bar, Idaho, 1880. Nine men and one woman are posed outside the log cabin at the base of a hill.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Post Offices

The following is a partial list of towns and mining camps in and near the Boise National Forest during the mining boom or before 1900. Some were post offices for a time, and some still exist.

Red Warrior. Near Rocky Bar. Post office (Warrior) 1889-1890.
Rocky Bar. On Bear Creek near Feather River. Post Office 1868-1964.

excerpted from pgs 144-146 Appendix 3: Towns and Mining Camps, “History of the Boise National Forest 1905-1976”, By Elizabeth M. Smith
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1920 Star Route Carrier

Frank E. Stevens poses on skis with a 80-pound bag of mail on his back. Rocky Bar to Atlanta Idaho Route was one of the most dangerous in winter.


USPS Collection

Frank Stevens contract mail carrier between Rocky Bar and Atlanta – 16 miles. This was taken in 1920. Between 1892 and 1913 [seven] carriers lost their lives on this route due to avalanches.

shared by Kevin Norwood
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More Rocky Bar Photos at the Idaho State Historical Society
Link to Rocky Bar, Alturas (Elmore) County (part 2 mining)
Link to Rocky Bar, Alturas (Elmore) County (part 3 Transportation)
Link to Rocky Bar, Alturas (Elmore) County (part 4 Newspaper clippings)
Link to Alturas County, Idaho 1864 to 1895
Link to Esmeralda, Alturas (Elmore) County, Idaho
Link to Annie “Peg Leg” McIntyre Morrow (part 1)
Link to Annie “Peg Leg” McIntyre Morrow (part 2)

page updated Aug 25, 2020