Category Archives: Weekly History

Idaho History Oct 20, 2019

Atlanta, Alturas (Elmore) County, Idaho

Atlanta City, Alturas County 1876-78

23 miles North East of Rocky Bar, is a small but promising mining hamlet, having several very rich veins of gold and silver bearing ore. The mines are but slightly developed. The storms of winter render access difficult at that season.

Post Office and Businesses
Davis Nelson, postmaster and liquor saloon
Emerson William, butcher
Fillman John L, blacksmith
Young H D, lumber manufacturer

source: “Pacific Coast Business Directory for 1876-78,” Compiled By Henry G. Langley, Editor of the California State Register, Pacific Coast Almanac, San Francisco, 1875. Gazetteer and Business Directory of Idaho Territory American History & Genealogy Project Idaho
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Appendix 3: Towns and Mining Camps

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.


Middle Fork of the Boise River. Post office 1867. Name changed to Atlanta in 1870.


North side of the Boise River in the Atlanta area. A camp of Chinese placer miners.


On old road from Rocky Bar to Atlanta in 1860’s.

excerpted from: pages 144-146, History of the Boise National Forest 1905-1976, By Elizabeth M. Smith
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Atlanta, Idaho

Atlanta is an unincorporated community in Elmore County, Idaho, United States.

It was founded in 1864 during the Civil War as a gold and silver mining community and named by Southerners after a rumored Confederate victory over General Sherman in the Battle of Atlanta, which turned to be wholly false, but the name stuck. Mining activity near Atlanta preceded its establishment as a mining community. The John Stanley party discovered gold on the nearby Yuba River on July 20, 1864, just two days prior to the battle back in Georgia. That November, John Simmons made the discovery of the Atlanta lode which contained both gold and silver.

Atlanta is at an elevation of 5,383 feet (1,641 m) above sea level surrounded by the Boise National Forest, located near the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Boise River, approximately 2 miles (3 km) east of the mouth of the Yuba River. The Sawtooth Mountains are directly north, the Sawtooth Wilderness starts about a mile (1.6 km) north of Atlanta, at the base of Greylock Mountain, which summits at 9,363 feet (2,854 m).

Idaho City is approximately 35 miles (56 km) due west, as the crow flies. Galena Summit on State Highway 75 is about 25 air miles (40 km) to the east-northeast.

Atlanta is about 40 miles (64 km) from two paved highways. It is east of State Highway 21, accessed on unimproved U.S. Forest Service roads. Atlanta is north of U.S. Highway 20, which is accessed from Atlanta by heading south on USFS roads through Rocky Bar, Featherville, and Pine. The junction with US-20 is just east of the Anderson Ranch Reservoir on the South Fork of the Boise River Atlanta can also be accessed by following the unimproved road from Arrowrock Dam which climbs with the Middle Fork of the Boise River.

Though founded as a mining community, and a number of private claims remain in the area, no significant commercial mining has occurred in the area for over 50 years, though more recently inquiries into opening a new plant have seen some headway. In place of mining, Atlanta has diversified into areas such as tourism, back-country activities, and preservation of the town’s lengthy historic legacy. In the summer months The Atlanta School offers arts and architecture workshops and artist residencies.

The Atlanta Historic District, a 10-acre historic district including 12 contributing buildings was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Gold mining history

Gold was discovered in 1863, and placer mining started along the Yuba River in 1864. The Atlanta Lode quartz outcrop was discovered in Nov. 1864. Discovery of the Minerva, Tahoma, Last Chance, and Big lodes, with the development of the Buffalo, Monarch, General Pettit and other mines, soon followed. The Monarch Gold and Silver Mining Co. operated from 1866 until 1869.

Arastras initially processed the gold ore, neglecting the silver, as did the early stamp mills. Even the introduction of the Washoe process in 1969 at the Monarch, only resulted in the recovery of 20%.

Lantis & Company took over the Monarch property in 1874. The Buffalo mill achieved 55% recovery in 1877. This led to a building boom, as the Buffalo mill and the Monarch employed 60 employees in total, the Atlanta community grew to 500, and a road was constructed to Rocky Bar.

Yet, by 1884, most high-grade ore had been processed, and by 1885, Lantis & Company had sunk the Monarch mine shaft to a depth of 600 feet. The Atlanta Mines Co. purchased the Monarch Mine in 1902, followed by the Buffalo and Last Chance mines. The company built a 150-ton mill connected to the mine via an aerial tramway, and powered by a hydroelectric plant west of Atlanta.

In 1932, the Saint Joseph Lead Company improved the recovery process by introducing an amalgamation-flotation concentrator, ushering in an era of modern production.

The Middle Fork road connected Boise with Atlanta in 1938. Talache Mines, Inc., acquired all of the mining operations along the Atlanta Lode in 1939. Mining operations ceased in 1953. The Atlanta Gold Corporation of America acquired the lease in 1985.

source: Wikipedia
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Location of Atlanta, the Atlanta Lode, and Monarch Mine (left). Atlanta Lode cross section with mine shafts (right).

(click image for larger source image)
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Atlanta, Idaho

by Bob Hartman

Named after the ledge found in 1864 by a group of prospectors who were southern sympathizers, Atlanta is about 35 miles east, as the crow flies, from Idaho City. It is close to 60 miles by the present day roads.

The Monarch was discovered in the summer of 1864, and the first quartz claim developed in the district, and was probably the best on the vein. It consisted of 1,600 feet along the vein, and was owned by the Monarch Mining Company, of Indianapolis, Indiana. At the point of discovery a veritable treasure of ruby silver was found, which, in the space of 20×50 feet, yielded $200,000.

From W. W. Elliott’s – History of Idaho Territory (1884):

“Gulch mining in Quartz Gulch (Atlanta) has been carried on successfully ever since 1864. In this way the Atlanta vein was found, $100 having been taken from a single pan of its decomposed croppings, and the miners naturally soon reaching the solid ledge itself.”Oliver’s Summit” near Atlanta, has paid $80.00 to the man, and is being mined every summer. Quartz Creek claims have yielded $100 per day to the man. In July, 1881, a $40-nugget was found.

A number of mines are located on this ledge. The largest, perhaps, is the Atlanta. It has large hoisting and pumping works, a shaft 400 feet deep, a mile or more of drifts and tunnels, two mills, and has taken out more than $1,500,000 in gold and silver ore of a high grade.”

link to FB post:
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Atlanta Photos

from Bob Hartman’s collection



Jan. 17, 1909

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Atlanta District

The Atlanta district, which includes Hardscrabble Mine, Middle Boise Mine and Yuba Mine, produced around 385,000 ounces of gold. The area creeks all contain placer. There are numerous old mines that produced lode gold. The Atlanta Hill Mine was the major producer in this district.

excerpted from: Idaho AHGP Elmore County (more info on Elmore Co. mines)
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Gold & Silver Mining in Atlanta, Idaho

Gold and silver mining in Atlanta, Idaho, dates back to 1863, when a team of prospective miners led by John Stanley discovered gold along Yuba River. Despite attempts to conceal this discovery, word got out and a small gold rush to the area happened in August of 1863 that failed to yield any significant discoveries. Some miners stayed in the area, and continued exploring the placer deposits around the area.

In 1864, there was a second gold rush that was much more substantial than the first. Most of the mining activity extended from the Yuba River downstream along the Middle Fork of the Boise River. Additional discoveries were soon made to the south at Rocky Bar on Bear Creek and within the Feather River drainage.

This was during the height of activity taking place to the west in the Boise Basin, and thousands of men were exploring the rugged mountains in this area in search of new gold deposits.

The discovery of the Atlanta lode in 1864 established this area as rich in mineral wealth.

Until 1867, placer mining was the primary mining methods used along the Yuba and Boise River. This was attributed to extreme remoteness of the mining district and difficulties in bringing milling facilities to the district.

The remote location of the lode was a challenge. Refractory ores also stalled production of gold. When stamp milling began in 1867 the production really began.

In 1868, investors from all round the world started flocking to Atlanta. First on the scene were British investors. They were followed by Monarch, a company owned by investors from Indiana.

It was primarily gold that was being mined at Atlanta. Improvements to save silver by both investors proved unsuccessful. There was little that could be done, and the failure of stamp milling didn’t help matters.

The Atlanta silver was refractory to a point where attempts to recover gold were uneconomical. As a result, all the mills ground to a halt by the end of 1869.

Failure in major attempts to extract minerals at the Atlanta Lode didn’t deter other investors. The ore was rich enough to attract many other large mining companies.

Monarch was the most profitable company operating in Atlanta operating at the head of Quartz Gulch. While there were other promising producers, the owners held on to them in the hopes of finding a solution to the recovery problem. Other mines around Atlanta include the Minerva and Tolache Mines.

What Atlanta needed was improved transportation and infrastructure to increase mining activities. This, however, was nearly impossible without more capital investment. In 1874, investors from Buffalo acquired a discovery lode that was an extension of the Atlanta Lode. The new discovery was later named Buffalo in 1874.

Mining activity didn’t start on the extension lode until 1877 after a ten stamp mill was shipped to the area in 1876. This marked the beginning of a booming industry in Atlanta without most of the challenges faced before.

This is despite of the fact that only high grade ore milling had good returns. Between 1877 and 1884, gold production was at its peak. At one time, the Buffalo mill produced $14 million in gold.

Atlanta eventually began being plagued by economic collapse when creditors began suing one another. With the richest ores becoming worked out and the economic boom coming to an end, mining activity in the camp stalled until the early 1900’s.

Major improvements, such as the set-up of an amalgamation-floatation concentrator in 1932 and the construction of a road that ran from Boise to Atlanta in 1936 marked the beginning of modern mining in Atlanta, The problem of refractory ore was finally solved and the area could be assessed without much difficulty.

Today, there is still a decent amount of mining activity in Atlanta and there are still many private mineral claims in the area, major mining activity. Some prospective companies have taken a renewed interest in Atlanta, using modern techniques to rework tailings from past mining operations. They are in the process of acquiring permits to revive mining.

Atlanta gets a fair amount of tourism in the summers, due to its relatively close proximity to Boise. It can be accessed by a long drive up the Middle Fork of the Boise River starting at Lucky Peak Reservoir, but it is much easier to access it from the south side from the Anderson Ranch road up through Pine and Featherville.

source: Gold Rush Nuggets
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Atlanta (Gold)

A party of prospectors led by John Stanley left Warren’s, July 4, 1863, and tried Bear Valley and Stanley Basin before crossing to the middle fork of the Boise River where they struck gold on Yuba River. Although an effort to conceal this discovery succeeded at least partially, a rush from Idaho City after August 8 attracted a host of eager prospectors who failed to find anything valuable there. Not until well after a Yuba mining district was organized, July 20, 1864, did a second rush follow from Rocky Bar to Yuba River, September 19. Only two months remained in the season, but the Atlanta lode was found that winter.

Stamp milling, however, did not get started until the summer of 1867, because of the extreme difficulty in getting machinery into the district. Refractory ores posed a problem also, and although the lode was known to be rich, production was limited for some years to arastra and occasional small-scale stamp milling.

London investors introduced important capital to the district in 1868, and British investment in Atlanta continued for more than twenty years in spite of repeated failure in management and technology. Indiana capitalists also organized the Monarch in 1869, but all three stamp mills at Atlanta failed that year. Finally in 1877, the Buffalo mill began to operate with partial success.

Construction of a road from Rocky Bar helped in 1878, and much of the richer ore in Atlanta was worked in the nineteenth century. A cyanide plant operated with limited success, 1908 to 1910, but the recovery problem for much of the ore was not licked until a modern amalgamation-flotation concentrator began production in 1932.

Atlanta produced through the depression and the war, continuing uninterrupted until 1954. About $300,000 in antimony from Swanholm Creek was processed in Atlanta from 1947 to 1953.

The district probably should be credited with a production of about $16,000,000 in the ninety years after 1864.

excerpted from: “Mining in Idaho 1860-1969” by Ernest Oberbillig, Idaho State Historical Society Number 9 1985
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Overlook Mine, Atlanta, Idaho


From the Mike Fritz Collection Heather Heber Callahan
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Atlanta Pioneer Cemetery

Atlanta, Elmore County

(click image to go to larger source image)
Pictured above: Gravesite of Riley Bostwick.

A total of 116 graves have been documented on this small rise southwest of town. The first grave is dated 1870 and the most recent 1985, but the yard reflects the heaviest years of mining activity in the district, 1875-1885; 1902-1912; and 1931-1953. Many graves are enclosed in wooden picket fences, each with a unique design. The conservation of these fascinating fences and markers is a long difficult process because the original material is often lying on the ground. Workers have dissembled and cleaned the salvaged materials and, when necessary, milling replacements.

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Atlanta Cemetery Memorials

at Find a Grave
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Newspaper clipping…

Atlanta Aug 17, 1889

The road leading from Rocky Bar to Atlanta is truly a hard one to travel. yet the splendid mountain scenery along the route should repay any one for the hardships endured. But if not, when the weary traveler’s eyes rest upon the beautiful little city nestled between high mountains on the banks of the Middle Boise river, and he partakes of the hospitality of a generous people, then indeed will he or she exclaim “I have no kick coming.”

We made a hasty visit to this noted mining camp last Saturday – too hasty to gain much news, but while there we were royally entertained by Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Casey in particular and the people generally.

We visited the Tahoma mill, and found that able superintendent, C. W. Miller, busily sampling ore from the various settlers, and carefully looking after the interests of his company in general. After spending a pleasant hour looking around this model mill – a model of perfection in its line – we then visited the great Tahoma mine, situated in a gulch about three-quarters of a mile above the town.

Through the courtesy of Colonel Miller and the guidance of himself and Wm. Davis, his mine foreman, we were enabled to see all the works of the Tahoma property – giving the third level the greatest attention, from the fact that the most stoping is going on from this level. On the third level, for a distance of over 500 feet at both east and west ends of the claim, a large vein of quartz averaging 25 feet in width has been uncovered leaving a space of 400 or 500 feet of virgin ground intervening. The ledge has been explored and worked in places from this point to the surface, and on each level an equal width and abundance of good ore is in sight.

The lower tunnel, on the fourth level, is 800 feet in length, and at its face is 400 feet from the surface. This tunnel follows the ledge its entire length, and the vein all along maintains its width and value in silver. Upraises have been run to the third level, and consequently connection is had from the lowest level to the surface.

Col. Miller has established beyond a doubt that he could, with but few men, keep 100 – yes, 200 stamps constantly dropping on rich ore from this mine for the next ten years.

The ledge stands almost perpendicular, and is easily and securely timbered. Everything in and about the mine and mill denotes systematic management. They have a blacksmith shop and storehouse at the mouth of the tunnel, and a good boarding and lodging house near by. Before leaving the mine the Bulletin man secured some specimens that plainly show native silver, and which will be placed in his cabinet of minerals.

We took a hasty run through Judge Heath’s Washington claim and found it all that it had been represented – a large, well defined ledge with a 3-foot vein that is rich in gold. The Judge informed us he had had many assays made and not one went less than $200 in gold per ton. One mile above the Washington he has two other locations, called the Golden Nugget and Silver Wave – both rich in gold. We hope Judge Heath’s dreams of opulence may soon be fully realized.

Rudolph Behren is managing things at the Buffalo splendidly. About eight men are extracting ore from the mine, and as soon as the mill receives its new vanners Rudolph will show the outside world what he can do with Buffalo ore.

We regret very much that our stay at Atlanta could not be prolonged. It would require a week’s time to properly examine and report upon her wonderfully rich mining properties.

Suffice it to say that the old camp is moving upward again, and if we do not mistake the signs of the times Atlanta will be booming ere another six months have passed.

from page 3 Elmore Bulletin in Rocky Bar, Idaho on Aug 17, 1889
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link to Alturas County, Idaho

Idaho History Oct 13, 2019

Rocky Bar, Alturas (Elmore) County

(part 4) Newspaper Clippings

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Rufus Lester


Rufus Lester Headstone 1854-1882 Rocky Bar, Idaho Cemetery
shared by Lana Walters

W.C. Tatro writes to the Statesman from Rocky Bar, that Rufus Lester an expressman between that place and Atlanta, was caught in a snow slide five miles out from the bar, on the 18th. Immediately on hearing of it by the carrier from Atlanta, a large force of men armed with shovels, started out on snowshoes in one of the worst kind of storms, and after a hard trip and a long night’s search, suceeded in finding him covered up about six feet deep. His remains were brought to Rocky Bar, where is wife, (formerly Mrs. Julian Hill), is stopping. Deceased was an old resident of the latter place, and a native of Kewamee, Illinoise, where his parents are living. His age was 27 years.

shared by Danny Driesel
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Elmore Bulletin in Rocky Bar, Idaho on Aug 17, 1889

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[News Items]

A dense smoke still overs over and around Rocky Bar.

The sound of the saw and the hammer resounds in this Rocky Bar land.

The people of Rocky Bar should not rest until we have better protection against fire.

Uncle Dick Tregaskis went up to Atlanta Tuesday with a big load of fruit and vegetables.

Large, luscious melons are coming in by teams daily and sell readily for 75 cents and one dollar.

The Rocky Bar public school will commence at the new school house next Monday morning.

Last Sabbath there was a large attendance of children at Sunday school. This fact speaks well for our young folks.

The new turbine wheel for Reesner’s mill has been put in pace, a new pen-stock erected, and many other improvements made, which causes Jake to exclaim “she’s a dandy, now.” Everything runs like clock-work.

The expense of the Constitutional Convention was $27,690.71.

During the year 1888 Idaho produced gold, silver and lead to the value of $8,290,000.

Pete Canavan, door-keeper of the Idaho Constitutional Convention, took a run over to Baker City and was robbed of $70 while asleep in Fannie Hall’s “bagnio.” This is bad for one of the leaders of the G. and m.g.o.p.

The District Attorney of Logan, in a card, tells his people to pay no attention to the Alturas Assessor.

A Missouri man recently chopped down a large tree in which he found four wild cats, six squirrels, three coons, two ‘possums, two crows’ nests and a swarm of bees. Twenty-four rattlesnakes, two train robbers and the biggest liar in Missouri got away.
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source: page 3 Elmore Bulletin Aug 17, 1889
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Elmore Bulletin Saturday, April 25, 1891

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Born In Rocky Bar, Idaho

April 18, 1891, to the wife of J.W. Rowett a son. We are please to know that mother and child are getting along nicely. John is not an inveterate talker, but we’ll bet he keeps up a continuous thinking and all to the effect that is is now the best man in America.
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The Elmore mill is steadily dropping 20 stamps upon Vishnu ore and will next Monday let fall 10 more. Stopers are added as fast as room can be made for them, and it will not be many days before the full capacity of the mill (50 stamps) will be employed on Vishnu ore.

All is activity in the Elmore mine and development work is being pushed with greater vigor than ever.
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Anniversary Ball

The Odd Fellows of Rocky Bar will celebrate the seventy-second anniversary of the order by giving a grand ball Monday evening, the 27th of April. Music by the Rocky Bar Brass Band. Tickets, including supper at the Alturas Hotel, only $3.00. A general invitation is extended.

Committee of Arrangements – L.W. Hayhurst, Charles Hopkins, A. Stedman.

Reception Committee – Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Gilman, Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Tregonning, Mr. and Mrs. G.M. Payne, Mr. and Mrs. J.N. Hall, Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Hopkins.

Floor Managers – Gid Campbell, Hugh Riley, A. Stedman, P.M. Swann, G.W. Fletcher.

Grand march at 9 o’clock, sharp.
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Information Wanted.

A Boise gentleman has sent the Bulletin the following clipping from “Forest and Stream” and asks us if we can give him any information regarding the goats mentioned:

Captain Chas. E. Bendire, about the year 1876, in Idaho, between the towns of Rocky Bar and Atlanta, in Alturas county, heard of three tame white goats. These belonged to a German citizen of the former place, were allowed full liberty, and were often seen on the stage road between these two points. We have tried to obtain some detailed information about these specimens, but so far without success.

We have made inquiry of old-timers and can only learn that the above is true; that these goats were captured in the high mountains near Atlanta when quite young; that they were very gentle and domesticated to the extent that they visited the saloons and would take a drink with a relish when one of the “old boys” would “set ’em up,” and that they afforded sufficient milk for the use of the German family.

What became of them we can not learn, but the supposition is that, after the removal of their owner from this section, they returned to the high cliffs and joined the wild bands of mountain goats that are numerous above the clouds around Atlanta.

If any one can give the information above sought we will publish it with pleasure.

from the Elmore Bulletin., April 25,1891, Rocky Bar [h/t AHGP]
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Views, Rocky Bar, Idaho


Court House & Chinatown, destroyed by fire the next year. (1891) The view shows the town sitting below snow covered forested mountain peaks.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Elmore Bulletin. (Rocky Bar, Idaho) September 29, 1897

Gamblers May Gamble.

Boise, Ida., Sept. 25. – W.L. Boise, held to the district court on the charge of gambling at Lewiston, has been released. Judge Piper of the Second district has decided the anti-gambling law unconstitutional, under the supreme court decision in the fee law case. Judge Piper took the same grounds as Judge Stewart at Boise, that the irregularity in the passage of the bill was fatal.

The decision places this this district under the old license law and games will be started immediately.

from the Mike Fritz Collection:
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Rocky Bar Saloon

Picture is from Jacob’s Saloon. (Rocky Bar)

Elmore county was established February 7, 1889, with its county seat at Rocky Bar.

source: Elmore County (shared by Wayne Beebe)
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James McAtee Killed at Rocky Bar by a Falling Snowshed.

Thursday evening John Rowe Davey arrived in this place bringing the startling news that James McAtee was accidentally killed at the Bar about 1 o’clock on Wednesday, February 20, 1901.

Mr. McAtee and Oscar Schraft have for several years held a lease of the Vishnu mining ground and quartz mill. A snowshed covered the car-track leading from the tunnel to the mill. Returning to work treat their noon meal, along the shed they discovered that the stringers at a certain point were bent and likely to give way from the great weight of snow piled up on the lagging above.

They attempted to repair this particular weakness in the shed – Mr. McAtee placing his shoulder under the scantling and endeavoring to raise it while Mr. Schraft was to place an!other timber under it. Just then the frail support gave way precipitating probably a ton of snow upon these hardy sons of toil.

Mr. Seltraft was more fortunate than hie companion and soon extricated himself from the debris and immediately commenced to uncover Mr. McAtee with all his might, at the same time calling lustily for help.

Young Davey, being nearby, responded to his call and they soon uncovered Mr. McAtee’s body, which was almost in a standing posture, but, sad to relate, life was gone and poor, big-hearted, industrious Jim McAtee’s labors were ended, and a then happy wife and three innocent little children at home fondly anticipating his return at the usual supper hour. Picture the sorrow and anguish of the poor wife upon being informed, as gently as possible, of her great loss for it can not be expressed in words.

The sudden death of Mr. McAtee cast a gloom over the good old town of Rocky Bar, because he was a good citizen, a kind husband, an indulgent father and a man highly respected by all acquaintances.

He was buried on the following Friday, almost the entire people of the camp attending the funeral.

We are told that the deceased has a brother residing at Park City, Utah. he was a brother-in-law of the wife of ex-sheriff James O’Neill of this place and Miss Katie Donnelly of Rocky Bar.

To his grief-stricken widow and little children, and all relatives the BULLETIN extends sincere condolence.

shared by Danny Driesel
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source: Elmore Bulletin. November 22, 1900, page 3
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source: Elmore Bulletin. September 19, 1901, page 3
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source: Elmore Bulletin. December 24, 1903, page 1
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source: Elmore Bulletin. June 30, 1904, page 1
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1904RockyBarJPMartinHeadlineDeath of J.P. Martin Word reached here Tuesday evening from Rocky Bar that John P. Martin one of the pioneers of that famous camp, had been found dead on the floor of hie kitchen on Sunday morning of last week. He had evidently been carried off in a very sudden manner – probably by a stroke of paralysis, about a year ago having been suddenly stricken from which he never entirely recovered. Preparations were in evidence for the morning’s meal of the following day, going to show that death must have come suddenly and, let us hope, painlessly.

Mr. Martin was one of the pioneers of Rocky Bar, having been a resident there for a quarter of a century or more. During the years 1889 and 1890 he was deputy assessor under Assessor and Collector Payne; was justice of the peace of Rocky Bar precinct several times and at the time of his death occupied the office. For many years he was custodian of the celebrated Pittsburg mining property at the Bar, the same being in his keeping at the time of his death. He was a Mason held in high esteem by members of the order here, and enjoyed the full confidence of his intimates and the esteem and respect of all men who knew him for the sterling character and sturdy honesty which were such prominent traits.

from the Elmore Bulletin. Mountain Home, Idaho October 13, 1904, page 1 (shared by Danny Driesel)
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1912RockyBarMcLeodheadlineVerdict of Guilty Returned by Jury

N. D. McLeod Found Guilty of Assault With Deadly Weapon. Sentence Deferred to Monday

N. D. McLeod was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and a charge of murder in the first degree, for the killing of George Guay on the night of October nineteenth at Rocky Bar, of which a full account was given a few weeks ago, was the result of the trial which has been held at the term of court just closed Friday.

The trial attracted considerable attention because of the prominence of both parties involved and a great many witnesses were summoned from Rocky Bar to testify in the case.

Sentence was deferred until Monday or Tuesday when the judge will again re-convene court. McLeod may appeal.

shared by Danny Driesel
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Matter of McLeod

Opinion of the Court – Stewart, J.

– Norman D. McLeod filed an original petition in this court for a writ of habeas corpus. The petition alleges his imprisonment and confinement and restraint, and that such imprisonment, detention and confinement are illegal for the following reasons: That the county attorney of Elmore county, on November 11, 1912, filed an information against the petitioner charging him with murder in the words and in the manner and form as follows: “That said Norman D. McLeod on or about the 19th day of October, 1912, at Rocky Bar, Idaho, and prior to the time of filing this information, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and with malice aforethought, kill and murder one George Guay, a human being. All of which is contrary to the form and force of the statute in such cases made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the state of Idaho.”

And that thereafter, on November 22, 1912, while upon trial for said offense, the jury in said cause rendered a verdict of guilty of assault with a deadly weapon in the words and form as follows: “We, the jury, empanelled in the above-entitled cause find the defendant guilty of an assault with a deadly weapon.” That thereafter the judge of the district court of the fourth judicial district of the state of Idaho, Hon. C.O. Stockslager, pronounced sentence and entered up judgment against the petitioner, whereby be sentenced him to serve a term in the penitentiary of the state of Idaho from six months to two years.

The contention of the petitioner, and the grounds upon which the writ is demanded, is, that the district court bad no authority or jurisdiction to try the defendant, the petitioner herein, for the reason that the crime of which he is charged was not shown by the information to have been committed within the county of Elmore, and that the jury did not have any right, power or authority to find a verdict against the defendant, petitioner herein, upon the information filed for the crime of assault with a deadly weapon, and that the judge of said court had no jurisdiction to pronounce sentence for the crime of assault with a deadly weapon under the information filed against him, for the reason that the crime of assault with a deadly weapon is not necessarily included in the charge of murder, and the information does not state facts sufficient to constitute the offense of assault with a deadly weapon.

A general demurrer was filed to this petition, based upon the ground that the petition did not state facts sufficient to entitle the petitioner to the release sought. The controlling question presented by this demurrer is, where an information is filed against a person, charging such person with murder in the language of the statute, the charging part of such information being in the following form, “that the said Norman D. McLeod, on or about the 19th day of October, 1912, at Rocky Bar, Idaho, and prior to the time of filing this information, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, feloniously and with malice aforethought, kill and murder one George Quay, a human being. All of which is contrary to the form and force of the statute in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the state of Idaho,” was it within the power of the jury, and had the jury the authority under the statute to find the defendant guilty of “an assault with a deadly weapon”.

from pg 261-262 “Report of cases argued and determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho: Volume 23” January 1, 1913 (Google books)
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Ambulance Service, 1918 Rocky Bar Idaho


shared by Leiana Rogers Knight‎

link to more Rocky Bar Photos Idaho State Historical Society

link to Rocky Bar part 1

link to Rocky Bar part 2

link to Rocky Bar part 3

link to Annie “Peg Leg” McIntyre Morrow

link to Alturas County, Idaho 1864 to 1895

Idaho History Oct 6, 2019

Rocky Bar, Altures (Elmore) County

(part 3) Transportation

1864 Map Boise Payette Valley

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Boise City stage, 1864-1870

Idaho State Historical Society. Courtesy Evan Filby, South Fork Companion
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1864 Map Goodrich Trail


The Goodrich Trail

Following the general route of the gold rush which swept about 1,500 prospectors from Boise Basin to Rocky Bar Basin in the latter part of May 1863, the Goodrich Trail offered some improvements over the terrain covered by the original miners’ route. The South Boise gold rush was described by H. O. Rogers in June 1863, as traversing “one continuous line of high mountains, rocky and steep” and penetrating “canyons deep and narrow.” Soon, though, some fifteen miles of river canyon in the middle fork of the Boise were eliminated by the Goodrich Trail.

Established after the country was better known, the latter crossed from Idaho City over a ridge separating Boise Basin on More’s Creek from Barber Flat on the north fork of the Boise.

Mounting another ridge between present Barber and Alexander flats, the trail descended to Goodrich’s ranch on the middle fork of the Boise. Here the Goodrich brothers kept a hotel, known variously as 24 Mile House or as the Middle Boise Hotel. Traffic over the Goodrich Trail generally spent the night at this point; the trip required two days. Here in the summer of 1864, a weary traveler could obtain “for dinner some mush and milk and a cup of coffee. Charge $1.50; a drink of brandy, 50 cents, and a cigar 50 cents.” (At this time, the Goodrich ranch had not been established; later, when the ranch came into production, conditions improved.)

Next the trail crossed a ridge from the Goodrich ranch at Alexander Flat to Roaring River, and then went over a still higher ridge to the east, separating Rocky Bar Basin from the middle fork. From Idaho City to Rocky Bar, the trail ascended four high ridges in its fifty mile course.

Travelers on the Goodrich Trail really were impressed by the country through which they passed. Rasey Biven, who had traveled widely through the Colorado Rockies and the mountains of Mexico, California, and Hawaii, reported after a trip in August 1864, that the Goodrich Trail:

“cannot be excelled for wildness of scenery; the beautiful trout streams and the Middle and North Forks the Boise River, which are all fordable in the summer months, their precipitous sides seemingly impassable to the traveler for either ascent or descent, covered with luxurious undergrowth and trees of magnificent proportions . . . almost perpendicular ascents of ridges, whose sides are bounded by ravines three thousand feet in depth — ridges bearing the name of ‘Devil’s Back’ and similar appellations, suggestive of a certain feeling of insecurity, to be seen and felt in order to be fully appreciated — the narrow trail over which your horse carefully picks his way, seemingly as fully impressed as yourself with the magnificence as well as the toils and dangers of the journey.”
All of the grandeur of the country he had seen before, he added even “our own delightful scenery of California . . . charmed me not half so well as the scenery on the South Boise Trail.”

By August 1864, a toll franchise was granted for improving the trail and for building bridges across the north fork and the middle fork. The toll system aroused a great deal of resentment, though. Writing from Rocky Bar, July 1, 1865, Rasey Biven complained rather bitterly about the tolls, and was not too flattering in his description of the service to be obtained at the Middle Boise Hotel:

“The younger Goodrich was at home with two drunken cooks on hand, a large number of miners, some going to the new discoveries at the Yuba, fourteen miles from this place [Rocky Bar], and to and from South Boise. Breakfasting at six o’clock, without the aid of any cook . . . we started at seven, packed our traps across the Middle Fork on a log and swam the animals. The North Fork is crossed on very good bridge, the owner of which receives toll for both rivers, whereas the Middle Fork you must cross the best you can, at risk of life of man and beast; and yet you are charged toll. Oregon, Washington, and Idaho Territories are famed for their toll-bridges and toll-gates; you travel for hours over hard and dangerous roads, and come to a patch of ground sufficiently level for the erection of of a gate and a small cabin, where you pay toll and proceed 100 yards only to find a road similar to the one ridden over; but two or three times in the course of a day you will come to another ‘clearing,’ another cabin and gate, and by this means you are enabled to remember the level parts of the country.”

Apparently fearing loss of business because of opposition to the tolls, the Goodrich brothers arranged to have tolls removed from the route after two years of dissatisfaction with the system. In a newspaper advertisement, June 1, 1866, they reported that

“the proprietors of the Middle Boise Ranch inform their numerous friends that they have made such arrangements with Mr. Taylor that the South Boise trail and bridges are hereafter free of tolls. The bridges across both the North and Middle Boise rivers have just been put in excellent repair, and the trail to Rocky Bar is in good condition throughout for animals.
The Middle Boise Hotel will be conducted on first-class principles during the season, and all the delicacies of this country, and most other countries, will be offered to their numerous guests. Trout, grouse, squabs, fresh salmon, &c., are among the choice viands upon their bill of fare. The grass upon the ranch is of now the richest variety and tall enough to mow.
The journey from Idaho City to South Boise or Yuba is now only a pleasure trip, provided the traveler has a good animal. Our beds are comfortable, and the bar and table furnished with the best always.”

Even removal of the tolls did not help for too long a time. In less than a decade, the Goodrich Trail fell into disuse as other routes replaced it. New trails to Idaho City (by the way of Banner) and to Boise directly down the Middle Fork, carried the traffic through that part of the country. The Goodrich brothers sold their ranch and left the region. But long after they had gone, the old miners’ route to Rocky Bar, which crossed the Middle Fork of the Boise at their ranch, was still remembered as the old Goodrich Trail.

source: Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series Number 3 Revised April 1972
Publications-450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702-208.334.3428
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Streets, Rocky Bar, Idaho

A view looking up a street at Rocky Bar, Idaho. More than a dozen structures can be seen. Several men are walking toward the camera.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Attorney, Mining Investor, and Territorial Secretary Robert Sidebotham

by Evan Filby

Pioneer lawyer and developer Robert A. Sidebotham was born December 6, 1834 along the Ohio River in Pennsylvania (west of Pittsburgh). He gained early exposure to business because his father “was engaged in manufacturing.” He graduated from the law school at Oberlin College and then moved west. There, he worked in California for a time and then taught school in Utah.

Sidebotham joined the rush to Idaho when the gold fields around the town of Rocky Bar opened up in late 1863. Although placer mining drew the early prospectors, the real wealth of the region lay underground. Lode mining requires much greater capital, to pay for tunneling and for milling equipment to handle the ore.

However, Rocky Bar sits in the midst of massive, rugged ranges, far from normal travel routes. Located 45-50 direct miles east of Boise, the “easiest” link to the city follows over one hundred miles of twisty creek and river canyon. Tools, bales of clothing, bags of flour – every ounce of supplies – arrived by pack train. But pack animals simply could not carry the heavy milling machinery needed to exploit the lode mines.

Thus, in January 1864, Sidebotham and two partners obtained a Territorial franchise for the “South Boise Wagon Road.” (“South Boise” was the original name for Rocky Bar.) The agreement required them to bridge many streams as well as the South Fork of the Boise River. Excluding the money spent building bridges, the stretch from the South Fork over the final huge ridge – about one-fifth of the total distance – cost two-fifth (41%) of the total.

Julius Newberg, a partner with much relevant experience, managed the construction. He had hoped to complete the road early in the summer, but bridge building and other obstacles slowed the work considerably.

The first wagons reached Rocky Bar in early October, releasing a happy round of celebration. A correspondent to an Idaho City newspaper wrote, “Long and loud huzzahs rent the air and made the welkin ring. All business was for the time suspended and everybody seemed loud in their praises of the energetic and thorough-going Newberg.”

Sidebotham was a Republican in a heavily Democratic district, yet voters there elected him to every county office he ran for. They also elected him to terms in the the Territorial Legislature, and the Council (equivalent to a state Senate).

In 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Sidebotham to be Secretary of Idaho Territory, “a position now equivalent to that of Lieutenant Governor.” Robert moved to Boise City to handle his duties, which proved wise: He filled in as Territorial Governor for two years because one appointee departed under a barrage of criticism, and his successor never bothered to show up at all.

In later years, Sidebotham continued his law practice, but also held mining interests in the Wood River districts as well as in Colorado. For many years, he maintained a residence in Cripple Creek, Colorado, to be closer to mine holdings there. His wife, who ran a Boise millinery store during the 1890s, kept the family home in Boise. She and their children were very active in Boise society. Robert was on the train bound from Cripple Creek to Boise when he died in December 1904. He was buried in Boise.

source: South Fork Companion
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Dwellings, Rocky Bar, Idaho 1

Hoffman House, a large group of men, women, and children are standing in front of the two story wooden structure.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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1864 Map South Boise Wagon Road


South Boise Wagon Road

Constructed originally in 1864, the South Boise wagon road began as a toll operation. Daniel McLaughlin, Robert A. Sidebotham, and Julius Newberg were “constituted a body corporate under the name and style of the South Boise wagon road company” by legislative act of January 22, 1864. Their franchise required them “to bridge all the streams on said route [from Little Camas Prairie to the quartz mines at Rocky Bar] so that the same may be passable on or before the first of July” 1864 and “to keep the road in good repair after that date.” Failure to complete the road within two years “so that there shall be a safe and easy passage for loaded wagons” was grounds for forfeiture of their franchise.

Toll rates were rather high: a team and wagon had to pay $4.00; extra teams, $1.00 each; horses and riders, or pack animals, $1.00; loose stock, 75c/; and sheep, 15c/. Julius Newberg, an experienced “old mountain trader” who had lived in Sacramento and had mined in Florence and Boise Basin, managed construction for the company. Although he hoped to get the road finished early in the summer of 1864, continued delays held him back. But by August 1, all the streams were bridged, including the South Boise, which was crossed by “a substantial structure” intended to be safe during high water. Aside from the bridges, most of the $16,000 costs went into constructing of the grade up Lincoln Creek and down Red Warrior Creek to the mines: this last section required about $1,000 a mile.

Once it was completed, the South Boise wagon road — “a good road, over which you can drive a buggy in good style” — was regarded as “of incalculable benefit for the development of the upper country.” Such a road was essential to enable quartz miners to operate profitably in a district as remote as the South Boise mines. When freight wagons finally were able to get through to Rocky Bar, October 5, 1864, the entire community rejoiced.

A correspondent wrote October 6 to the Boise News in Idaho City:

Last night was a time long to be remembered by the citizens of this place. About sundown, the people were aroused by the reverberations of a salute fired from the anvils of our enterprising blacksmiths, Mess. Boles & Annibal. Upon inquiring the cause ’twas ascertained that three heavily laden wagons were coming in over the new wagon road just completed by that enterprising individual, Mr. Julius Newberg. Long and loud huzzahs rent the air and made the welkin ring. All business was for the time suspended and everybody seemed loud in their praises of the energetic and thorough-going Newberg.
In commemoration of the event, at the hour of ten o’clock, about one hundred of the sturdy pioneers and business men of Rocky Bar, assembled at the Alturas Restaurant to partake of a sumptuous supper prepared on a few hours’ notice by mine host Mr. Francis deSilvia, alias ‘Portugese Frank.’
For some time the crowd seemed silent, so absorbed were they in the bounteous repast spread before them. Mr. S. B. Dilley, presided with his usual dignity, and introduced Mr. Newberg, which was followed by three cheers and a tiger.
Champagne and wine flowed freely, and “all went merry as a marriage bell.” Speeches were made by Messrs. O’Connor, Margery, Wm. Law, Jr., N. B. Dover, Prof. Gaffney, Wm. H. Howard, Merritt Relly, W. Waddingham, Mr. Prager, Mr. Hebner, and many others after which the crowd disbersed, each wending his way to his respectable (?) place of abode as best he could.
There need now be no fears about quartz mills coming into this camp. A good wagon road is completed to Rocky Bar, confidence in the future prosperity of Alturas county restored, business again resuming its usual activity, and everything moving smoothly.

Problems connected with the use of the new road arose almost immediately. Freighters had to rush supplies into the camp in the fall of 1864, since they knew that the emigrant road (Goodale’s Cutoff: see Reference Series 51) with which the new road connected at Little Camas Prairie, could not be used in the spring.

In contrast, the toll part of the route was regarded as the “best mountain road in Idaho,” and Newberg kept a crew at work maintaining and improving the road during the following summer.

At that time, John Mullan’s Boise-Rocky Bar stage line commenced operating on a triweekly-weekly schedule; the initial coach which reached Rocky Bar July 8, 1865, carried United States mail and Wells Fargo express.

Up until then, a passenger train (of saddle horses) had provided the only public service to Rocky Bar. But by the spring of 1866, vehicles could get only as far as the toll gate at the crossing of the South Fork, where the river had to be forded.

Apparently the well-designed bridge at that point had been swept away. The “naturally good” road below the bridge, though, still was “firm and hard, but [contained] some of the most perpendicular mountains to go up and down that ever a vehicle was taken over. But the scenery was charming,” according to Rasey Biven.

In spite of high toll rates, the road soon fell into disrepair. A traveler complained in the spring of 1869 that toll companies ought to be required to do a better job of maintaining their roads:

“I made my return trip to camp [Alturas City, right next to Atlanta] in four days, without accident or much inconvenience except that I had to ford the South Boise River with gum boots. More than four years since the legislature granted the South Boise Wagon Company a charter to build a road up the South Boise River, and as yet this road is impassable except for some three or four months of the year, and then only by fording and refording a dangerous river; not only this, but this company has been allowed to collect a heavy toll for persons passing over their right of way, not a road.”

But by the spring of 1870, E. J. Nichols took over the road and began to restore it to its original fine condition. Since rail service never reached Rocky Bar or any of the places on the road, the old toll route continued to be the thoroughfare to the South Boise mines — and to the Atlanta mines as well — during the years that those camps were active in the nineteenth century. The South Boise wagon road thus lived up to its early expectation of enabling the Rocky Bar mines to be developed.

source: Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series Number 94 August 1964
Publications-450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702-208.334.3428
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Blacksmithing, Rocky Bar, Idaho

Blacksmiths shop in Rocky Bar, Idaho. Men and children are standing at the entrance to the shop. The building is located in front of a wooded mountain side

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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1864 Map Rice and Porter Toll Road Area


Rice and Porter Toll Road

By Larry R. Jones

A rush of prospectors to the South Boise region in 1863 and the discovery of promising quartz lodes created a feeling of high expectations for the new area. The miners eagerly awaited the completion of Julius C. Newberg’s road from Little Camas Prairie to Rocky Bar so that heavy equipment and supplies could be brought to the mines. There was great rejoicing among all concerned when Newberg opened his road for traffic on September 5, 1864. The road made it possible for wagons to reach the area, and the miners looked forward to good times. There still was a need, however, for a more practical route between Little Camas Prairie and the Overland Road. Miners, packers, and travelers followed the route of Timothy Goodale’s 1862 emigrant-trail cutoff from Little Camas to where it joined the main thoroughfare near Ditto Creek. Although this route seemed practicable to the emigrant, the grades at Syrup, Willow, and Ditto creeks proved difficult and slow to heavily-laden animals and wagons.

On October 3, 1867, E. P. Rice published a notice in the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman announcing his intention to construct a toll road between Little Camas Prairie and the emigrant road near the Canyon Creek stage station.
(p. 2, c. 4)

On January 6, 1868, he presented his proposal to the Alturas County Commissioners. He reported that his route would follow a line commencing at Little Camas Prairie thence on the most practicable route to the head of Bennett Creek. Thence in a Southwest direction to Rattlesnake Creek. From thence on same line to Sage Brush plains. Thence along the foothills westwardly to Salmon Falls road. Connecting with said road about three miles from Dry Creek. The distance being about eighteen (18 miles) miles.

There being three passes, one from Camas, one from Dixie, and one from Long Tom, would like the privilege of choosing the best & most practicable one, and the road may be a little varied from above description but the initial points are Camas Prairie & the Salmon Falls road.The object being to connect the two by a more easy, safe – low-graded road than the present one, and thereby avoiding the steep & heavy passage over the Syrup Creek Mountains, and the hills beyond. Your petitioner believing that the construction of said road will greatly subserve the interests of the traveling public & the community at large. The present road by Syrup Creek will be left open & all can travel that who desire to do so. Your petitioner desiring no toll gate on the old road or anywhere near it, but placing the toll gate between the old Emigrant road & the Salmon Falls road, where he has built & opened an entire new road . . . .
(Folder 1, Box 2, Alturas County Commissioner’s Records, Idaho State Archives, Boise)

On May 9, 1868, the Statesman reported that Rice had been granted the right to construct his road by the commissioners at their April session. The article also stated that the “road is progressing rapidly and will soon be completed by Messrs. Rice and Porter. Most of the grading is done and the teams have already passed over it. Chandler’s Express travels it now. This road is a vast improvement over the old road. There are no steep hills or heavy grades and it is several miles shorter. It avoids Syrup Creek hill and the steep hill this side going up from Squaw Creek. Toll will not be collected until it is completed and viewed by the Commissioners.”
(P. 2, c. 3)

Toll charges for the road were $1.50 for a two-horse wagon or buggy, one way; 50 cents for each additional span; 50 cents for a saddle horse; and 50 cents a head for pack animals. The toll road began at Mud Flats, where it joined the Overland Road, and proceeded southeast to Canyon Creek; thence northeast to Tollgate. From there it closely followed the current grade of Highway 20 to Dixie summit; thence near the old highway grade down to Dixie and over the summit to Little Camas Prairie, where it connected with the South Boise toll road.

On March 18, 1870, Rice sold his interest in the toll road to James A. Porter for $4,000.
(Alturas County Deed Book D, p. 111.)

Four days after selling his road, Rice took ill while visiting a friend and died. He was forty-two years old and a native of Oswego County, New York.
(Capital Chronicle, March 30, 1870, p. 3, c. 1)

Rice had also owned a one-half interest in the South Boise toll road, which he and B. F. Nichols had purchased from Newberg in 1868. Nichols purchased Rice’s interest at his estate sale on April 6, 1871, for $500 and with his son S. N. Nichols continued to operate the road until the charter expired in 1887.
(Alturas County Records, Miscellaneous Records Affecting Real Estate, Book 1, pp. 90-91.)

After he became the sole owner of the road, Porter continued to improve the road and the facilities at his tollgate station. His residence became a favorite stopping place for persons going and coming from the South Boise area. A Capital Chronicle correspondent in October of 1869 noted,

“Our next stopping place was at Mr. Porter’s where, for a good supper, fine breakfast and comfortable lodging, the treatment was perhaps quite as well as we deserved.”
(Capital Chronicle, October 6, 1869, p. 1, c. 4)

W. C. Tatro utilized Porter’s as a halfway station when he started a stage line to Rocky Bar in 1870. At that time, Porter extended a portion of his road down Rattlesnake Creek to intersect the Overland Road at Rattlesnake Station.

In September of 1874, William A. Goulder, the traveling correspondent of the Statesman, remarked:

“With a fresh team we soon sped ’20 miles away’ to Porter’s where we arrive sometime before sundown. No better accommodations can be found anywhere than at Porter’s. Mr. Porter owns the toll road from the Overland to Little Camas, and keeps it in splendid condition. They keep a Dairy and make butter, have utilized a water power to do their churning and washing. The reputation of their butter is not unsurpassed in any country.”
(September 8, 1874, p. 2, c. 1)

In 1875, Tatro changed his overnight stop to Rattlesnake Station in order to better meet the needs of Overland travelers desiring to take his stage to South Boise. The move meant a loss of business for Porter, but his popularity and reputation as a congenial host lessened the impact of Tatro’s move and he continued to receive the patronage of knowledgeable travelers.

In October of 1875, after spending an uncomfortable night at Rattlesnake Station, a correspondent for the Owyhee Avalanche wrote:

“After passing an uncomfortable night at the station where the stage is taken for Rocky Bar, it is pleasant to make even a brief stay at Porter’s, five miles beyond where everything externally and internally betokens home comforts.”
(Owyhee Avalanche, October 16, 1875, p. 2, c. 1)

The Avalanche correspondent expanded his description on October 23. 1875.

“Porter’s Station. This station, located about five miles from the Overland Road on the Rocky Bar route, is a very pleasant resort and is kept in tip-top shape by Mr. and Mrs. Porter. Owing to the fact that the newly christened ‘Bedbug Station,’ at the nearest point on the Overland, is not kept in such condition as to warrant public patronage, travelers in this direction frequently walk to Porter’s for the purpose of sojourning overnight and luxuriating in a comfortable bed. Besides the man who keeps the ‘Bedbug’ inn is totally unfitted for his business and deserving the contempt of all decent men.”
(p. 2, c. 2)

Apparently the correspondent and the station-keeper, Marion Daniels, did not strike up a lasting friendship during the former’s stay at Rattlesnake station.

The Statesman, on October 21, 1875 (p. 2, c. 2), called the description a gross misstatement and defended the capabilities of Mr. and Mrs. Daniels. Nevertheless, many travelers did opt to walk the five miles and stay at Porter’s.

In 1879, William A. Goulder once again passed the station on his way to Rocky Bar and noted:

“A morning’s drive of five miles brought us to Mr. Porter’s place where we noticed some important changes and improvements since our former visit. Mr. Porter has a good location on the route of the daily stage line between Mountain Home and Rocky Bar, surrounded by the finest stock range in the country, with many fertile spots along the little creek that flows past his house, which he has fenced and where he raises grain, hay and vegetables.”
(September 16, 1879, p. 2, c. 2)

Tragedy struck the Porter household in the summer of 1882.

“Robert Porter, 10 years old, son of the keeper of Porter’s station, near Mountain Home, was run over by a heavily loaded wagon last Wednesday [June 21] sustaining injuries which it is feared will result fatally. He was on the wagon with a companion his own age. They disputed as to who should drive, and in their struggle for possession of the reins, Robert was pushed, or fell from the wagon. One of the hind wheels passed over his body. No bones were broken, but internal injuries of the most dangerous nature must have been caused . . . .”
(June 27, 1883, p. 3, c. 2)

The young man’s injuries did prove fatal and the Statesman reported his succumbing on June 25, 1882. (June 29, 1882, p. 3, c. 3) Shortly after the death of their son, Mr. and Mrs. Porter sold the toll road and their station to Captain George W. Hill.

On April 10, 1886, D. B. Ethell represented Hill and wrote the following letter to the Altruas County Commissioners:

Gentlemen Mr Hill requested me to write you in regard to the purchase of his toll road he as I understand offers to sell his road for twenty five hundred dollars and agrees to keep the road in repair for two years. In regard to your purchasing his road and the price he asks I do not feel like offering any advice yet I would like to see some arrangement made with him to make it a free road. Should you do so I think Mr Hill would be a good man to appoint to take charge of the road as he lives about the center of the line of the road that is from Mountain Home to the east end of the road and it would be better to make one district of the whole of it.
Another matter allow me to call your attention too. There is a piece of road lying between the Hill and South Boise Roads that gets very bad in the Spring and requiring some work and two small bridges across Camas and Cat Creeks The Hill road terminates at Little Camas Creek according to the original charter but Nichols only claims and works to the northern end of Camas leaving about seven miles of Road that he does not work and it is pretty bad travailing over it in the Spring for the want of a little work and from Camas Creek to Hills Road is about one mile making in all 8 miles that requires some work in the Spring.
I would suggest that you make a Road District there and appoint Fred Cooper who lives on Little Camas Road Supervisor he is a good man and there is timber not a great ways off that can be got to put in the bridges which can be built at a small cost and are badly needed in the Spring and also in the fall after they begin to freeze.
I would respectfully ask of your honorable body to give the Road matter due consideration the whole road from Rocky Bar to Mountain Home If you can consistently do anything for us we would like it very much.
(2, folder 3, Incoming Letters to the County Commissioners, (Box Alturas County, Idaho State Archives, Boise.)

Within the next two years the county commissioners purchased both the Hill and the Nichols road and made the route between Mountain Home and Rocky Bar a free public thoroughfare. Hill retained the ownership of his station and resided there until leasing the operation to Matt Casey in the fall of 1892. Casey continued the tradition of offering excellent service to the traveling public until moving with his family to a farm outside Boise in December of 1893.
(Elmore Bulletin [Rocky Bar], October 30, 1892, p. 3, c. 1 and December 23, 1893, p. 3, c. 3)

In 1894 Hill sold the property to Will Calloway, who continued to run the station for a number of years. After selling his holdings, Hill lived for a time in both California and Boise before retiring to a ranch located seven miles east of Mountain Home. In the summer of 1897, he constructed a new dwelling on his ranch and resided there until his death on June 30, 1898.
(Elmore Bulletin, April 14, 1897, p. 3, c. 2)

Andrew Baker, the road supervisor between Mountain Home and Dixie from 1908 to 1912, put in a new grade above Tollgate and improved the road at Devil’s Dive. This latter section of road can still be viewed by the passing motorist. It is located about four miles above Tollgate, just north of Highway 20. Another section of the original toll road, situated west of Tollgate, can still be traveled to its junction with a county road east of Canyon Creek. Fruit trees and a vegetable garden continue to flourish along Rattlesnake Creek, and a rustic way-station, known as Tollgate, operates at the site of the original station. The proprietors of Tollgate dispense food and drink to modern-day travelers with the same hospitality that made it such a popular stop over a hundred years ago.

Recent highway construction has greatly improved the grade between Rattlesnake Station and Little Camas Prairie, but the scenic qualities of the route remain much the same as those viewed by nineteenth- and twentieth-century stage coach patrons.

source: Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series Number 95 1983,
Publications-450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702-208.334.3428
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1880 Rocky Bar Idaho Stage Line

1880RockyBarIdahoStageLine-aAugust 26th, 1880

Rocky Bar Stage Line!

Coaches run daily, making direct connections with the Overland at Rattle Snake. Leave Rattlesnake and Rocky Bar each way at 6am, and Atlanta at 6am, carrying U.S. Mail, W.C. Tatro’s Express and passengers and fast freight. Will also connect with Scott & Hutchin’s Saddle Train at Atlanta for Lake District and Bonanza city. Through tickets can be procured at the stage office in Boise city and at Rattle Snake.

Passenger Rates:
Boise City to Rocky Bar … $18.00
Rattle Snake to Rocky Bar … $10.00
Rattle Snake to Atlanta … $14.00

Forty pounds of Baggage allowed each passenger. Tickets for sale at Boise City and at principal Stations.

WM. Redway … Boise City
J.D. Campbell … Rattle Snake
Mrs. C.L. Meyers … Atlanta
I.H. Bingham, Genl Agt … Rocky Bar

I also have a mammoth barn and coral for the accommodation of teamsters, where hay and grain can be had at the lowest market rates. In connection with the barn is 400 feet of sheds with good mangers, that teamsters can use free of charge.

W.C Tatro, Proprietor

shared by Leiana Rogers Knight‎
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Rattlesnake Station


Horse team on the Overland Trail

Rattlesnake Station

Rattlesnake Station was a stagecoach station northeast of Mountain Home, Idaho, and the original site of the Mountain Home post office. Approximately seven miles from exit 95 on Interstate 84 in present-day Elmore County, a historical marker located at milepost 102.7 on U.S. Route 20 commemorates its location. The highway follows Rattlesnake Creek and the elevation of the site at the base of the grade is 3,820 feet (1,164 m) above sea level.


Rattlesnake Station was established in 1864 by Ben Holladay as a stop on his new Overland Stage Line between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Walla Walla, Washington.

The Overland line was acquired by the Northwestern Stage Company in 1870, which made the station a stop for its weekly stage line from Boise to the South Boise mines and an overnight stop in 1875.

A post office named “Mountain Home” was established in 1876 at Rattlesnake Station. Fire destroyed several station buildings on October 12, 1878, but were rebuilt and continued to serve stages until 1914, when the route was abandoned. The post office was moved, dragged by mule teams, to the present location of Mountain Home in 1883, about 8 miles (13 km) southwest, to be closer to the recently completed Oregon Short Line Railroad.

Opened 1864
Closed 1914

The reason Rattlesnake Station is now just a memory is a familiar one: When the railroad came in 1883, the place had to move. Some of the buildings at Rattlesnake were dragged by mules and oxen to the new Oregon Short Line Railroad a few miles to the south.”

Hart, Arthur (2007-11-13) “Idaho History: Where are all of those once-bustling Idaho towns?”. Idaho Statesman.

source: Wikipedia
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1879 Map Rocky Bar, Rattlesnake Cr, Salmon Falls

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Rocky Bar, Idaho Ghost town

source: Wikipedia, Taken 11-3-2012 by J. Day Photography
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link to Rocky Bar Photos Idaho State Historical Society

link to Johnny Behind-The-Rocks McKeown

link to Rocky Bar (part 1)

link to Rocky Bar (part 2)

link to Alturas County, Idaho 1864 to 1895

link to Idaho Stage Coach History (part 1)

Idaho History Sep 29, 2019

Rocky Bar, Altures (Elmore) County

(part 2) Mining

Map Rocky Bar and Atlanta region

Shows the names and geographic location of Rocky Bar and Atlanta mining areas

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Gold Discovered and Claimed in the South Boise Region

by Evan Filby

On May 9, 1863, Captain George F. Settle discovered a gold-streaked quartz lode in what came to be called the South Boise mining region. He and a swarm of other prospectors had been tracing placer gold up the tributaries of the South Fork of the Boise River.

Born in Kentucky around 1830, Settle had over a decade of mining experience when he arrived in Idaho. He had emigrated to California in 1850-1852, where he supplemented his mining efforts by teaching school. He later moved to Oregon. There, he became a captain during the Indian wars, serving at least part of the time in the Oregon Volunteer regiment led by Colonel Thomas R. Cornelius.

It not clear just when Settle followed the rush into Idaho. Still, by the spring of 1863, he had joined the bands looking for gold south of the Boise Basin. They found a fair amount of placer gold in the area. However, George recognized the potential value of the lode gold he uncovered on the slope above a creek bed. The location was about twenty-eight miles southeast of Idaho City, and about six miles north of the South Fork.

As soon as word got out, bands of hopeful prospectors – perhaps as many as fifteen hundred – swarmed into the area from Boise Basin. But that simply overwhelmed the supply of potential claims, so many of them trudged back to the Basin. Still, the census in September enumerated 560 men in the area. The town of South Boise (later renamed Rocky Bar) sprang up less than a mile southeast of Settle’s quartz find.

Settle himself stayed. Although he lost litigation about his first claim, he continued to develop and invest in mining properties in the area until his death in 1888.

source: South Fork Companion
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Streets, Rocky Bar, Idaho 2

Pittsburgh & Idaho Mill buildings visible at the West end of Main street in 1866 or 1867. Nine structures are arranged along a primitive road in the bottom of the gulch at Rocky Bar.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Rocky Bar (Gold)

Prospectors trying to determine the extent of the Boise mining region set out from Boise Basin as soon as possible in the spring of 1863, and discovered placers on Feather River. Then a quartz prospect was located May 7 not far above Rocky Bar.

The South Boise gold rush followed just after the middle of May. Placers on Red Warrior and on Elk Creek at Happy Camp were of some consequence, but the South Boise mines primarily were quartz. During 1864, production with arastras gave very promising results. Stamp mills were brought in in 1865, but failures during 1866 and 1867 set the district back. Until about 1886 to 1888, and by 1892 it and all the other important properties were practically worked out.

Activity continued on a limited scale with something of a revival during the depression after the Featherville dredge had recovered 33,000 ounces of gold between 1922 and 1927.

With the suspension of gold mining during the war, the camp closed down entirely in 1942. Occasional minor production, including a Rocky Bar townsite placer in 1982, followed after 1946. Production reached approximately $6,000,000.

excerpted from: “Mining in Idaho 1860-1969” by Ernest Oberbillig, Idaho State Historical Society Number 9 1985
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Rocky Bar, Mines, Miners


Miners outside one of the camp buildings at a mine in Rocky Bar, [Alturas] Elmore County, ID, probably taken in late 1800s. The men are holding miners candlesticks with unlit candles, pipes, and other equipment.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Rocky Bar Mines

Anxious to ascertain just how large a region the Boise mines would cover, and always eager to find something even better than the rich ground already known in Boise Basin an impatient group of hardy prospectors set out to explore the country farther up the river long before the higher ridges and streams were free from snow. Rumors of rich placer possibilities at South Boise reached the Powder River mines of Auburn, Oregon, by April 1863, and in less than two months, by May 7, the placers had been traced up Feather River to some still more promising quartz leads in Bear Creek. Word of the new South Boise lodes, backed up with some “very rich” specimens, set off a stampede of some fifteen hundred Boise Basin miners on May 20.

After a hard trip over rough country to the new Eldorado, most of the fifteen hundred rushed right back again. Although they had found high-yield placers on Red Warrior Creek, where more than one hundred claims were taken up in May, and some good ground on Bear Creek near the quartz outcrops, the new placers were not nearly extensive enough to hold the horde that had joined the rush. Furthermore, the promising quartz prospects could not be developed for a season or two at best. The better Red Warrior claims were good for $20 to $25 a day in May. A few sluices actually in operation by the middle of June ranged from $16 to $60 per day per man. About one hundred miners were left to work there after the initial excitement had subsided. Those not carried away with the quartz mania were hard at it getting their placers ready for production.

The enthusiastic promotion of the new gold and silver lodes at South Boise started early. The Elmore, thought from the first to be the richest, had a notable publicist in H. T. P. Comstock, who sought to enhance his interest in the property by pronouncing it to be fully as rich as the lode that had been named for him in Nevada. Rich outcrops lent support to Comstock’s extravagant prophesy, and when arastra production commenced late that summer. South Boise quartz promoters had some high yields to talk about. Comstock’s Elmore turned out seven tons at $347 a ton, and another property did still better with a total of $1,480 from only four tons of ore. Shares in the Ophir then sold at $25 a foot, whereas the Idaho, the original lode discovery, was valued highly enough to be “not for sale at any price.” South Boise miners by that time looked forward with confidence to a rush of five to eight thousand newcomers in the spring of 1864, a misfortune from which the district happily was spared.

Placer mining accounted for by far the greatest part of South Boise gold produced in 1863. Before the season ended, several localities had contributed significantly to the region’s yield.

Besides the early activity of Red Warrior, Happy Camp–located on Elk Creek below the mouth of Bear Creek–was the scene of considerable effort during the summer. By fall thirty-five companies, ranging from one to five miners each, were hard at work, averaging $12 to $25 per man per day in Happy Camp alone. Some additional placering was in progress in Blakes Gulch, as well as on the lower Feather River in the area of the original South Boise discoveries that spring, on parts of Bear Creek which was regarded as rich at the time of original discovery, and perhaps to a limited extent in Hardscrabble Gulch on Elk Creek. Altogether, the South Boise mines had a population of 560 when the 1863 census was taken in September. South Boise was already as large as Pierce and Florence, and only slightly smaller than Warren and Silver City but larger than Elk City, Newsome, and the Salmon River camps. The one region which none of these remotely compared with in size and population was Boise Basin.

Surface prospecting of the South Boise mining region was adequate enough in the first season to disclose most of the better known mines, including the later big producers. Aside from the major properties near the Elmore, the Ophir on Elk Creek, the Bonaparte on Cayuse Creek, and a number of leads at Wide West Gulch on Red Warrior Creek had been discovered.

But the geologic structure of the Rocky Bar Basin was understood quite imperfectly at first. A confusing system of parallel veins, faulting transversely to the left, gave the early prospectors the notion that the mines ran generally north and south, and claims were taken up accordingly. When further examination disclosed that the claims ought to have run more like east and west, major adjustments were required.

By the fall of 1863, a total of “some 200 well-defined lodes” were thought to have been identified in the district. But values of these “well-defined lodes” at depth remained undetermined at the beginning of 1864. Development shafts had not been sunk by more than fifteen to twenty feet, and no one at that time could distinguish rich surface concentrations from veins that would continue to be productive when serious mining got under way. On top of that, arguments developed over the identity of new lodes. Claim disputes often arose when alleged discoveries might have been traceable to veins already taken up. The location of the Confederate Star on February 9, 1864, on a vein and claim thought by G. E. Settle to be the one he had found May 9, 1863, eventually led to a lawsuit won by the Confederate Star people. A number of litigations such as this soon plagued the district.

Complaints naturally were expressed against the indiscriminate promotion of surface pockets that looked for a time as if they might be rich ledges, of spurs of veins already included in known claims, of barren veins whose rich assays came from other mines, and even of known rich ledges. A cautious reporter protested on February 22, 1864,

that all too many of the good lodes were located and sold more than once, and that not one in ten of the ledges in the Recorder’s books. . . have yet been prospected enough to ascertain whether they are ledges at all, much less whether they contain gold. Hundreds of claims on all these ledges–both real and bogus–have been located and recorded, for which the claimants have not even troubled themselves to look: these are the cheap interests sold in rich ledges and new discoveries.

Even Comstock, whose arastra continued to grind out about $270 a ton from the Elmore, had to admit that his new lode, while rich, was “spotted” in its values. But interests in the Elmore were still valued at $50 a foot, and the future seemed bright.

The difficulty in transporting equipment and supplies to the remote South Boise mines retarded development of the district severely. In the summer of 1864, Julius Newburg’s South Boise Wagon Road Company began constructing a toll road to Rocky Bar. While the road was being built, the processing of high-grade quartz in primitive arastras expanded greatly. Arastras were made inexpensively from local materials and depended upon horse or water power, both of which were readily available in the region. By the end of the summer of 1864, the number of arastras had grown from ten to eighty, and the larger ones were capable of milling 1 to 1 ½ tons daily. With values ranging from $75 to $300 a ton in 1864, something like $130,000 to $160,000 came from the South Boise quartz mines that season.

High-grade ore had to be sorted out laboriously to supply the arastras, and recovery left much to be desired. The season’s arastra production from the Elmore (the major South Boise lode, but not quite the main producer in 1864), from which only 100 tons were milled in arastras in 1864, was $30,000 instead of the $50,000 that Dr. S. B. Farnham agent for the Idaho Company, had estimated the ore to contain.

H. T. P. Comstock was disturbed to recover $10 to the pan (an extremely high rate considering that a few cents to a pan would set off a gold rush) from tailings taken 100 feet below his arastra. The arastra process was so wasteful that operators were better off to ship some of the best ore out for testing and milling. Wilson Waddingham sent 3/4 ton of South Boise Comstock ore all the way to San Francisco where $600 was recovered from the lot showing that he had at least $800-a-ton ore. He also obtained assays as high as $7,112 on the same South Boise Comstock, $5,589 on the Confederate Star, and $7,434 on the Elmore. These came from extremely high grade specimens that were characteristic of the district but not present in anything remotely like commercial quantities.

The completion of Newburg’s road to Rocky Bar on September 5, 1864, was an occasion for great rejoicing. Except for a steam sawmill (rated at fifteen horsepower and capable of turning out 4,500 board feet a day in July) that Cartee and Gates had packed into Rocky Bar in the spring of 1864, heavy equipment had waited for the road to be completed. By the time the road was finished, Cartee and Gates had a five-stamp custom mill set up near Rocky Bar. This small mill could handle five tons a day, compared with l or 1 ½ tons for a large arastra. Crushing 150 tons of $100 Elmore ore the first thing that fall, Cartee and Gates’ mill suddenly increased the total production of the Elmore that season to $45,000.

Six more stamp mills were being brought in or were being erected during the fall of 1864. The most substantial of these, the twelve- stamp mill that the Idaho Company had freighted from St. Joseph, April 20, 1864, across the plains at a transportation cost of 30¢ a pound, or $8,400, reached Rocky Bar in November. Although complaints were already voiced against stock market manipulation on such notable properties as the Elmore, where the old Washoe “freezeout game” of letting a tunnel cave in to discourage stockholders so that the management could increase its interests at small expense, great profits were expected from the district as soon as stamp milling could get under way. After all, men had been making $20 a day just hand mortaring samples while prospecting the Ophir. Once a fast, efficient stamp recovery process could be installed, the mines were expected to prove their worth brilliantly.

To insure that the stamp milling of South Boise gold and silver ores would be efficient, Wilson Waddingham and J. W. McBride took advantage of Newburg’s road to haul another seven tons of ore from various mines at Rocky Bar out to Portland for testing. When the ore arrived there on November 27, they were prepared to send some of their large samples all the way to Swansea, Wales, if necessary to determine the best process for gold and silver recovery. Meanwhile, about half of the six hundred men who had been in South Boise that fall were ready to spend the winter preparing for a big season of stamp milling the next spring.

Except for erecting the buildings and doing the other work required for installing stamp mills, the South Boise miners left their properties idle. Development work to block out ore was not regarded as necessary then. Quartz miners simply worked down from the outcrops of the veins and hoped that ore sufficient to keep their mills busy would be available. Because arastras crushed ore slowly so that miners had little trouble in keeping sufficient ore supplies on hand, this process did not induce anyone to get far enough below the rich outcrops to notice whether the veins amounted to anything at depth.

Promoters in at least one case “salted and sold a blank ledge” to one South Boise stamp-mill company, and not until the mill had almost reached the district did anyone notice the entire lack of ore. Great care was exercised to make certain that a milling and recovery process proper for South Boise ores was used. If anything like the same care had been devoted to making sure that each of the stamp mills had sufficient ore on hand to work, large-scale production might have been possible much earlier.

With arastra production suspended in 1865, the quartz yield that summer came from two stamp mills that had been brought to the district late in 1864. Cartee and Gates found ready customers even though they charged $25 a ton, and the Idaho Company’s twelve-stamp mill also ran all summer, turning out $800 to $1,000 daily. The Pittsburgh and Idaho Gold and Silver Mining Company thought it profitable to invest $140,000 in purchasing the Idaho mine and mill. Wilson Waddingham, whose company was capitalized at $600,000, was busy investing recklessly in other mines so to consolidate enough property to justify a large stamp mill. With a paid up capital exceeding $400,000 in New York investment, Waddingham’s New York Gold and Silver Mining Company did not face the problem of Having to manage on insufficient resources. (Less adequately funded companies had to try to operate from current proceeds, usually with disastrous results.) Waddingham arranged to bring in an eighty-horsepower, forty-stamp mill at a cost of $100,000 or more. Freight costs from the Oregon Steam Navigation Company’s dock at Wallula overland to Rocky Bar ran to $40,000 alone.

To haul the mill machinery, Waddingham required forty-five “mammoth wagons.” This great mill, intended for the Elmore, had a capacity for handling seventy-five to one hundred tons of ore a day. While it was on the way to Rocky Bar — a trip requiring all summer and fall — Waddingham purchased for $27,500 in gold James O’Neal’s ten-stamp mill that was capable of processing sixteen tons of ore a day. Used on the Confederate Star, which Waddingham acquired for $15,000, this smaller mill turned out $60,000 by March 1866, more than meeting expectations and justifying its cost.

Some of the other stamp-mill companies were less fortunate, however. Not anticipating the time and difficulty that would go into bringing expensive stamp mills from San Francisco or Chicago to this remote district, and not capitalized sufficiently to spend a year or two getting a mine ready to produce, a number of companies began to get into serious financial trouble. Labor costs were high — $7 a day per man, compared with $6 in the less remote Owyhee mines and with $3.50 on the Comstock; in those years of hand drilling, labor costs amounted to the greatest part of the expense of mining, once a mill was procured. Adversities arising from the serious difficulties in getting a quartz mill into production began to plague South Boise as early as the summer of 1865. S. B. Farnham’s New York and Idaho ten- stamp mill had barely begun to crush rock on August 13 before insufficient capital reserves and high operating costs were causing trouble. By fall, unpaid teamsters had imprisoned Farnham, and his crew had barricaded the mill pending back wage payments.

An illuminating example of inept mine administration by another New York company active in South Boise was to be found in the misadventures of the Victor concern, whose Red Warrior mill commenced operation shortly after Farnham’s failure. The Victor operation may be traced back to the summer of 1863 when Thomas J. Gaffney discovered some Red Warrior quartz lodes. That winter, Gaffney had gone to San Francisco to obtain capital for developing his discovery, and there he met Francis O. Nelson, whose experience was primarily as a ship’s captain. Nelson was also one of the very earliest stamp-mill operators in California and was highly regarded by the old Californians. Together they organized the Victor Gold and Silver Mining Company of California, to which Gaffney deeded twelve hundred feet in five of his claims.

Gaffney returned to South Boise in April to manage the property, and Nelson set out for New York in July to raise more capital. Nelson promoted well, although he never had seen the properties which the Victor Company owned. On December 5, 1864, six incorporators, including Nelson, organized another Victor Gold and Silver Mining Company, this one of New York, capitalized at a million dollars.

Nelson was appointed manager, January 16, on the assurance that he could bring in a mill and get it running on a self-sustaining basis for not more than a $40,000 investment. He was not limited to $40,000, however, and his actual expenses, including $9,300 for a fifteen-stamp mill in San Francisco, amounted to $36,500 before the mill finally began operations on August 28, 1865.

Cleanups, in which accumulated gold was retorted from mercury, were held every Sunday for sixteen weeks into that fall and winter. The first three did not amount to much, since granite and low-grade ore was used to get the mill into operating condition. After the mill began to produce, Nelson kept right on drawing upon the credit of his Victor Company in Portland. Before that source of funds was finally cut off after October 28, he had used an additional $16,000, presumably for operating expenses, which raised the company’s capital investment in the venture to $52,500.

For what the money was spent, aside from the $9,300 for the stamp mill or what his production totaled, the company never managed to find out. Captain Nelson seems to have run the enterprise personally, entirely too much as he might have run a ship. He never sent in vouchers to the company to account for more than the cost of the mill at San Francisco, and whether he was drawing upon the company’s credit for purposes other than the mine could not be ascertained. None of his employees knew how much was produced. Only the wildest guesses could be made from information that the company had gathered after sending another member from New York on October 7 to investigate.

Pending a report, the directors decided on October 19 to bond the mine and mill for $50,000 and to cut off any more credit to Nelson until his accounts were straightened out. Some of his employees, unable to collect payments on drafts that Nelson had made to them after the crackdown, learned that the company no longer was honoring checks. At last, on December 1, Nelson finally sent $2,367 (out of one $5,000 weekly cleanup) overland to New York as the initial return to the company on its investment. He seems to have been unable to continue milling very long. After he could no longer pay operating expenses out of company capital, the mill shut down on December 20, 1865. The reason given in 1866 for the long-continued shutdown was the need for parts which could not be obtained in the winter. That explanation may have been correct, although there was probably more to the story than that. Nelson’s method of handling the product of the Victor mill seemed to have been about as skillful as his method of conducting the company’s financial affairs.

Isaac Thompson, who worked in the mill while it was running, described the system in some detail in an affidavit. In it, Thompson refers to himself as the “deponent”:

. . . the first three cleanings up were not of much account, because a good deal of granite, quartz &c. Was crushed merely for the purpose of wearing down and smoothing the machinery and batteries. That the fourth and fifth cleaning up was good and that the subsequent cleanings up were very inferior, but deponent is unable to state the precise amount of yield. That on one Sunday a cleaning up yielded a wash basin full holding about one gallon and a half and four pint bowls almost full of amalgam and that the weight of this amalgam so obtained must have been between seventy and eighty pounds; that another clean up yielded the same wash basin full and four sized tumblers full of amalgam and that the weight of this amalgam must have been from seventy to eighty pounds; that the deponent on one occasion saw in the bedroom of the house occupied by said Francis O. Nelson and family a wash pan about two-thirds full of amalgam containing by measure about eight quarts of amalgam. That deponent is unable to state what became of the proceeds of the different cleanings up or the precise amount of the yield of the same, as the said Francis O. Nelson kept all his business to himself.

Nelson’s associates in the Victor Company, being unable to find out anything from Nelson or to determine in any other way what the mill had produced, concluded after an extended investigation that the cleanups ought to have averaged $4,000, and thus to have totaled $64,000. In assuming such a high average, they were almost certainly overly optimistic. Nelson found some witnesses to allege that the ore generally was poor or worthless, and his witnesses may have been right. In any event, the mine had failed, and Nelson was removed as superintendent on March 16, 1866. Whether he had put company money into his own projects, or whether he had applied the Victor funds in developing an unprofitable mine, cannot be ascertained. If he was an honest superintendent — and most likely he was — he certainly showed his utter incompetence in handling the company’s financial accounts. And if he was an authentic swindler, the very least he could have done would have been to supply his company associates with some false accounts.

Some such method, at least, is how William M. Tweed, one of the six organizers of the Victor and vice-president of the company, would have handled it, if his accomplishments in defrauding in New York City through the machinations of the notorious Tweed ring are any index at all. But compared with the Tweed scandals (not yet revealed in 1866), Nelson’s defalcation in the Victor case is entirely unworthy of mention.

Tweed and his New York Victor associates had been clever or slippery enough to arrange things so that by the end of October 1865, when they had bonded the company’s property with a $50,000 mortgage, their loss would be slight indeed. And after Nelson’s one remittance was taken into account, they had salvaged $52,367 out of the $52,500 which Nelson had spent before they cut off his credit in Portland. So unless they lost from assuming some of Nelson’s later obligations, in the end they were out only the cost of investigating Nelson’s incompetence and the mine’s failure. Later in 1866, the mortgage holders foreclosed, and the Victor mill and property were auctioned at sheriff’s sale. Thus, the Victor creditors and the mortgage holder assumed the main losses in this whole operation.

Understandably, Rocky Bar merchants resented such a method of financing unsuccessful lode operations. A South Boise promoter warned of hazards to local suppliers who might advance credit to distant companies in a letter from New York, March 25, 1867:

The stockholders and directors of the N.Y. & Idaho and the Victor mining companies have resolved to worry out the creditors by protracted litigation. The members of these companies are men of wealth and can easily keep the suits in court for years. Judgement is not very swift or certain in New York, so I learn from attorneys here. From present appearances it seems as though the creditors have but a slim chance of contesting their suits through the courts of New York. A want of concert of action by the creditors in obtaining their judgments and prosecuting their claims has worked to their disadvantage. Let the mining communities of Idaho take warning and not trust these N.Y. companies for one dollar hereafter, for these New York rascals are worse by far than our own, and they live a long distance from Idaho.

In happy contrast to Farnham’s and Nelson’s disasters, several more mills began production by the spring of 1866. By then, South Boise had more stamp mill capacity than any other Idaho district.

Rasey Biven’s Wide West property milled $1,000 a day, and another company recovered $5,000 in twelve days of February 1866. Wilson Waddingham did still better, with a $7,200 run of $82 ore in thirteen days, and by March, 1866, his Confederate Star, wisely keeping a stabilizing reserve of 150 tons, had ground out about $60,000 in four months.

When Waddingham put his ten-stamp mill into operation, he learned that he really did not need his $100,000 large forty-stamp mill at all. His small mill could handle both the Elmore and the Confederate Star. Mining from the Elmore (the major Rocky Bar lode) proved difficult. As soon as any depth was attained on the lode, his steam power plant had to be used to pump water from Bear Creek out of the Elmore, rather than to run a sawmill, as was planned.

Twenty years went by before the Elmore could be developed profitably.

Meanwhile, Waddingham concealed his massive blunder. With a useless forty-stamp mill at Rocky Bar, he began to invest in the enormous Atlanta lode. Here his $100,000 mill could be transported over a high ridge “at a trifling cost.” That way, he managed to declare a 1 1/2-cent dividend on $600,000 capitalization on December 1, 1865, and had a number of handsomely profitable (but relatively small) mill runs to report. With the best properties around Rocky Bar Waddingham was recognized as a respectable, legitimate operator. At a Rocky Bar testimonial dinner early in December, “in variety and style never before seen in the territory,” Waddingham received a well- deserved tribute: “There is no doubt that to Waddingham’s moral worth, strict business habits, and to his representations, the community of these regions are mainly indebted.”

Waddingham himself spent the winter in New York with other South Boise agents of capital. But he found the mining market there badly depressed. New York investors had little way of distinguishing the legitimate mining companies in the West from the frauds. Because of failures, even with the serious companies such as Farnham’s New York and Idaho, investors were becoming distrustful. Unfortunately for those reliable companies getting into production, the recent failures made investors fearful of putting up enough additional capital to meet the unexpected delays and higher cost involved in starting a mining operation. The series of failures of New York companies in South Boise continued after the announcement of the collapse of the Victor in May 1866.

A legacy of embarrassing debts, litigation, worthless stock, and adverse publicity afflicted the region with each failure. By June 2, 1866, more South Boise companies were in trouble, and even Wilson Waddingham’s Confederate Star faced litigation for not paying dividends. Only two companies operated during the summer of 1866.

Waddingham ran his mill through much of 1867, but he found it much more profitable to sell out his interest in the Elmore for $50,000 and to withdraw from the region. The Pittsburgh Company tried to sink a deep shaft to develop the Elmore but failed to figure out how to pump an abundance of water from Bear Creek out of the shaft; anything like large-scale development of the Elmore had to wait twenty-four years for British capital and more advanced technology.

Confidence in the future of the South Boise mines, as well as in the other Idaho quartz districts plagued by early stamp-milling disasters, survived undiminished by the setbacks to large-scale mining. No one doubted the richness of the mines, even of seemingly unproductive operations. That the mines had great potential was shown in the bitter, and sometimes violent, clashes over claim jumping or alleged claim jumping. Litigation between G. F. Settle’s Idaho No. 2 and the Confederate Star had bedeviled the major quartz area around rocky Bar through 1866. No sooner was the case settled on September 29 by a jury in favor of the Confederate Star, than another contest arose when claim jumpers built Fort Emmett on the Idaho lode. The Emmett Company mined the fort with quicksilver flasks of balls and power, which were fused into the Emmett tunnel. Somehow the whole thing blew up on September 29, 1866. Fort Emmett was vacant at the time, and no one was injured when it was demolished. All of this tumult, though, revealed that the properties were not regarded as valueless.

Blame for the stamp-milling failures was usually put on the New York and other outside companies for mismanaging their enterprises and thereby casting aspersions on the integrity of the district. “Idaho has suffered many things from successive crops of knaves and fools who have dabbled in her mines; and the stockholders of the East have reaped a rich harvest of assessments and lawsuits in consequence of sending them here.” That, at least, was the opinion of James S. Reynolds of the Idaho Statesman, September 10, 1867.

Naturally, there was more to the story than that. Many of the outside investors objected to having been beset by frauds and swindlers. And some of the other causes of difficulty, already indicated, were appreciated by them. Discussion of stamp-milling failures dwelt at the time around the South Boise disasters.

Regardless of the explanations given for stamp-milling collapse, the conclusion was universally the same: the mines were good, and proper development would make them pay. In fairness, perhaps too much was expected of the mines initially, but in the end they did produce.

For many years after 1866 and 1867, unpretentious arastra operations and a few modest stamp-milling enterprises were about all that survived the failure of early, large-scale quartz mining in South Boise. The placers, likewise, seemed by 1867 to be mainly suitable for Chinese operations. A small, cooperative company on Red Warrior was able to work economically and profitably that year. The five- stamp mill at the Bonaparte ran with some success in 1867 and 1868.

In 1869, Rocky Bar was described as “dull and looking rather dilapidated very much in need of repair.” Many arastras were still going, and in that respect, times seemed almost like the big days of 1864. But there was an important difference. Early arastra operations were regarded as preliminary to large-scale stamp milling; by 1869, such operations were regarded as a substitute for unsuccessful stamp milling. Exceptions to the stamp-milling failures were few. By superior management and by working better grade ore, John McNally was able to keep his Wide West mine and mill on Red Warrior in operation through 1869. By the end of the year, his was the only stamp mill going.

Thus the failure of stamp milling in South Boise in 1866 and 1867 had proved to be a serious setback for the quartz mines there, though some compensations came with the failures. Expensive mills and equipment had been brought into the country and were available at rather low costs when auctioned at sheriffs’ sales. In the lean years before railroad transportation, additional capital, and improved technology had brought big production to South Boise, some of these abandoned mills did much to tide over the mines which struggled along.

Not until 1886 could the district be developed satisfactorily. In the interval, much that was done was called gouging, whereby miners unable to develop their properties in full took out some of the higher grade ore, which if anything, set back the mine because of the way they went about their work. During those years systematic mining and adequate recovery processes were neglected in favor of getting out what could be handled easily. Although all kinds of efforts, along with gouging, were made during the two decades to get big quartz mining enterprises successfully under way, unquestionably the initial South Boise gold rush and excitement had ended by the summer of 1866.

Many small operators, returning to arastras after stamp milling had failed, managed to maintain a modest level of production around Rocky Bar during the decade or more when gouging provided most of the mineral recovery. A revival of large-scale mining seemed possible after 1869, when the transcontinental railroad was completed across Nevada and Utah. The introduction of dynamite at this same time reduced the costs in hard rock drilling. Better hoists, engineers, and pumps became available with technological progress.

John McNally’s well-managed mine on Wide West Gulch brought a substantial increase in production in 1870. The next year a Pittsburgh company introduced superior hoisting and pumping devices, which made possible the development of the Elmore mine under Bear Creek. Rather than spend excessive sums buying out the interests of the many owners of linear feet along the Elmore vein (because they owned claim footage instead of stock in a company.) F. F. Oram invited anyone who held small segments to join his Pittsburgh Company in putting up development costs. After production got under way, these minor associates continued to participate in whatever profits — or losses — were realized. That way his pumping and hoisting service could handle the entire vein, rather than having several adjacent pumping plants operating on separate properties.

A fifty-ton test run in 1872 yielded $4,000 from selected high-grade ore. This system would have worked still better if the superintendent had not sneaked off with the proceeds, leaving his miners unpaid and his participating associates with no return on their investments.

The next year a new manager of the Elmore mine succeeded in milling another forty-five-ton test run worth $5,000, after another pump was installed. This success led to considerable development in 1874. Trying to operate during the Panic of 1873 upon milling returns worked out poorly, both for the Pittsburgh Company and for Warren Hussey who employed the same system after taking over the Wide West from John McNally for $22,000 in 1874. Hussey had no way to continue production when his mill broke down, and he could no longer pay his miners. Trouble with the Pittsburgh’s hoist foundation and with its recovery equipment forced the company to shut down in 1875 after sinking the Elmore shaft to a depth of 225 feet. Gouging failed to work effectively for either of these major South Boise producers.

When they contrived to produce gold, they naturally had to start paying returns to outside investors or lessors at a time when they lacked capital sufficient for effective mine development. Superintendents, who were paid a percentage of their production, had more incentive to gouge out a small amount of high-grade ore rather than develop their properties for large-scale mining. Aside from some small arastra operations, little lode production could be accomplished until after 1880.

The construction of the Oregon Short Line across southern Idaho in 1882 and 1883 eventually brought prosperity to lode districts such as Rocky Bar and Silver City, which also had to shut down in 1875.

While the railway was being built, True W. Rollins, who had purchased from 1876 to 1879 much of the Elmore and associated properties with New York capital, got equipped to develop his mine up to a depth of fifteen hundred feet by 1882. The settlement of fifteen years of Idaho and Vishnu litigation in 1880 ended a wasteful era of leasing and gouging. In 1883, these companies finally managed serious production with a $100,000 yield. Then they got back into litigation, and Rollins (after investing $150,000 in developing the Elmore) found that he could not operate after all.

Finally British capitalists acquired Rollins’ property along with other important Rocky Bar mines aside from the Vishnu. By completing a fifty-stamp mill on November 16, 1886, they were equipped to operate the Elmore efficiently. Their initial year returned a profit of $320,000 out of a $460,000 yield. They continued a steady production with the best modern equipment until March 5, 1889. After a long, expensive effort at developing more ore, they gave up in May 1892, having sunk their shaft seven hundred feet to prove that Rocky Bar did not have good ore at depth.

By 1892, other companies had also realized most of their production. Limited mining continued for another half century. Yet most of Rocky Bar’s mineral yield came in a short period after 1886, following more than two decades of effort to solve problems of mining.

If British investors had known to stop production in the spring of 1889, their mines would have shown an acceptable return. But as their enterprise finally worked out, they learned more than they really wanted to know about the lack of ore in the lower levels of the Elmore.

Production around rocky Bar did not end entirely in 1892.

Although a disastrous fire on September 1 left over half of Rocky Bar’s 200 to 300 residents homeless, reconstruction provided a new town that lasted for more than another generation.

About thirty Elmore and Vishnu miners continued to explore those properties until 1896, when a firm from Scotland undertook a bedrock flume project on Bear Creek to recover amalgam lost from earlier stamp mills. Over $40,000 (about half enough) was invested in this project, which included 2,200 feet of constructed flume and a steam derrick to remove boulders. Additional funds were needed to bring water from the upper part of Roaring River over a high ridge to Red Warrior. This overly ambitious project could not be completed, and Rocky Bar declined still more.

Another scheme to start up a twenty-stamp Bonaparte mill failed to accomplish much in 1904. But Junction Bar placers were tested with favorable results in 1906, and some unsuccessful efforts at Bonaparte (which claimed a previous $600,000 production), at Elmore (with a $3,000,000 record), and at Vishnu followed a year later. Finally, a stationary dredge at Feather River, powered by a 175-foot head of water from Cayuse Creek, was used from 1910 to 1915. Eventually a standard floating dredge commenced production there on August 21, 1922. By 1927, 33,000 ounces of gold came from that operation, which required an initial $500,000 investment in equipment.

Low operating costs after 1929 encouraged a number of modest efforts to reopen Rocky Bar mines before wartime restrictions forced all gold mining companies to suspend work in 1942. Aside from an Ophir promotion that led to a $17 sheriff’s sale of that old property, which had only an $80,000 production record from a vein that looked like a major lode, another forty years of inactivity followed, and Rocky Bar almost disappeared. Then in 1982 mining resumed right on the townsite of Rocky Bar. A large backhoe and loader operation, capable of handling a thousand yards a day, was employed to overcome a previously unmanageable problem of moving large boulders (for which Rocky Bar is named) so that the deep placers could be mined.

(This information has not been edited.)

source: Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series Number 199 September 1996
Publications-450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702-208-334-3428
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Chinese placer miners at work

Unidentified miners working at the Royal Placer at Rocky Bar, [Alturas] Elmore County, Idaho. The picture shows gold panning in progress. Note the variety of hats and clothing worn by the men. Circa 1900.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Rocky Bar Spanish Legend

Signs of early placer mining and rock remains of old arastras (a Mexican variety of mill used for crushing quartz ore) still are to be found near Rocky Bar at the forks of Big and Little Elk Creeks. This site now is known as Spanishtown. The name derives from activity of Spaniards or Mexicans who are known to have mined there shortly after discovery of the South Boise mines early in the spring of 1863. Arastras, constructed primarily from wood and rock available locally in the mining region, were used in large numbers in the Rocky Bar area in 1864 by all kinds of miners—not just by Spaniards and Mexicans. In the case of the Spanishtown arastras and mining, however, newspaper references to Spanish-speaking miners in that locality are to be found as early as 1866. A decade later, abandoned cabins of Spanish occupants were noticed at Spanishtown by newcomers to the Rocky Bar area. And in later years, a well-developed story of early Spanish mining at Spanishtown grew up in Rocky Bar.

As the later tradition has it, Spaniards came to run a large mine at Spanishtown long before the California gold rush. Where they came from or how they got to such a remote spot as Spanishtown is not too clear in the legend. When Alexander Ross brought a Hudson’s Bay Company expedition through some of those imaginary mining traces in 1824, any such evidence was absent. If mining had been carried on there before 1860 (when mining actually began in Idaho), and if traces of very old mining at Spanishtown were visible late in the nineteenth century, those who prospected there in 1863 ought to have noticed such evidence. No such reports have turned up on the early accounts of the South Boise gold rush, however. By the time that this tradition of old Spanish mining actually developed, the work of Spanish-speaking miners known to have been there in 1866 was visible. Presumably this was the Spanish activity which led to the tradition about old Spanish workings at Spanishtown.

To suppose that a colony of Spaniards came from an extremely distant base in something like the sixteenth (or even the eighteenth) century in order to mine for a time at Spanishtown – as the legend has it – is fantastic. As a matter of fact, Spaniards who lived in California did not bother to discover or develop the far more extensive mines of that area during those years. But the Rocky Bar Spanish tradition frequently is repeated even though positive evidence to support such a supposition of pre-nineteenth century mining at Spanishtown is lacking entirely. This same kind of legend has sprung up in some other parts of the mining West. In some places, the old Spanish mining legend is more plausible than others. The Rocky Bar-Spanishtown area is one of the least reasonable places that could be found to develop an old Spanish legend.

See Ference Morton Szasz, ed., “Great Mysteries of the West” (Golden, CO: 1993), 219-231, for additional information.

source: Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series Number 19 Revised November 1996
Publications – 450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702 – 208.334.3428
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Rocky Bar, Mines

Photo shows the Pittsburg, Confederate Star, and other properties in the Rocky Bar Mining District in Elmore County prior to 1884. The Elmore Mine mill was later built in this area. Note the man in the foreground.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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The Geology and Mineral Deposits of Part of the Western Half of the Hailey 1°×2° Quadrangle, Idaho

U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2064-W by Earl H. Bennett


Rocks in the western half of the Hailey 1°×2° quadrangle of south-central Idaho include various units of the Atlanta lobe of the Idaho batholith (biotite granodiorite to two-mica granite) of Cretaceous age and plutons and dikes of Tertiary (Eocene to Miocene) age that intrude the batholith. Eocene plutonic rocks consist of a bimodal suite of anorogenic granite and tonalite-granodiorite and hypabyssal rhyolite and rhyodacite dikes. Rocks of the Eocene Challis Volcanics are scarce in the map area but are widespread to the east. Rhyolite ash flows of the Miocene Idavada Volcanics and basalt of the Snake River Plain crop out in the southern part of the area. Lacustrine rocks of probable Eocene to Holocene age are present in the vicinity of Anderson Ranch Reservoir. Quaternary basalts and gravels are widespread on the South Fork of the Boise River, and alluvial deposits are common along active drainages. Metasedimentary rocks of unknown age crop out on House Mountain, Chimney Peak, and on the ridges east of Anderson Ranch Reservoir.

Older structures in the Idaho batholith include a major fault beneath House Mountain that may be a decollement for one of the large thrust sheets in eastern Idaho or part of an extensional core complex. The southern part of the Atlanta lobe of the Idaho batholith is cut by northeast-striking faults (parallel with the Trans-Challis fault system) that are related to Eocene extension and by northwest-oriented faults that formed during basin and range extension in the Miocene. The basin and range faults have prominent scarps typical of basin and range topography. The combination of northeast and northwest faults has broken the batholith into a series of rhomboid blocks. Some of these northeast and northwest faults are older structures that were reactivated in the Eocene or Miocene, as indicated by Ar40/Ar39 dates on mineralized rock contained in some of the structures.

The Idaho batholith and associated rocks in the map area host several hundred mines and prospects in 18 mining districts. The deposits range in age from Cretaceous to Eocene, and many were developed for precious metals. Most of the deposits are in quartz veins in shear zones in granitic rocks of the batholith. Several districts were actively being explored for low-grade, bulk-minable, precious-metal deposits in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

link: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2064-W
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Rocky Bar mine locations

Rocky Bar map with mine locations, depicting the following mines: 7-Atlanta Hill, 13-Avalanche-Richmond, 14-Vibrator, 15-Vishnu, 16-Morning Star, 17-Ada-Elmore, 18-Independence, 19-Mountain Goat, 20-Ophir, 21-Spanish Town, 22-Wide West, 23-Bonaparte

source: (Wikipedia)
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Rocky Bar Area

(Rocky Bar, Spanish Town, Bear Creek, and Red Warrior Mining Districts)

Anderson (1943) described the geology and ore deposits in the Rocky Bar area in detail. Readers are referred to this publication and to Ballard (1928) for an early history of the area. The following discussion updates Anderson’s work.


Anderson (1943) noted that peak production from mines in the Rocky Bar area was from 1875 to 1885 and had all but ceased in the next decade. Ballard (1928) estimated production from discovery to 1881 as $5,380,000 from lodes and $2,000,000 from placers. The U.S. Bureau of Mines noted minimal production from 1902 to date.

Geologic Setting

Mines in the Rocky Bar area account for most of the lode production discussed in this paper, most of which was occurred before 1900. The geology of all of the deposits is similar; fissures in granodiorite contain gold-bearing quartz veins. The area from Red Warrior Gulch to Spanish Town is now being actively explored for bulk minable gold deposits.

The age of mineralization in Rocky Bar area has been argued over the years; geologists are divided as to whether the deposits formed in the Cretaceous, Paleocene, Eocene. The same arguments apply to the gold deposits in the Atlanta area. There are very few dikes of Eocene age in the Rocky Bar area. Recent Ar40/39 plateau dates (58–57 Ma) on sericite from mineralized samples from the Vishnu dump indicate a Paleocene age.


Readers are referred to Anderson (1943) and Ballard (1928) for a review of the early development and history of the mines in the Rocky Bar area. There has been very little significant work in the Rocky Bar area from 1943 to recent times. In 1986, a placer operator found several large blue-quartz cobbles containing thick bands of native gold in a test pit just west of the area. These samples are similar to the descriptions of ore mined at Rocky Bar before 1900 (Anderson, 1943). If the samples are typical, then the rich ore necessary to account for the early gold production in the district is believable, in spite of the lack of mineralized samples on the mine dumps today.

Marsh Creek Mine

The Marsh Creek mine, south of the Rocky Bar area shown on figure 24, is described in Ballard (1928). The principal working was a 400-foot-long adit that cut a large quartz vein about 30 ft wide inside the adit. In 1941, Marsh Creek Mining Company patented two claims on Marsh Creek. About 30 ft of crosscut was done in 1944. In 1947, the total workings consisted of two tunnels (150 ft and 180 ft long). A sample of adularia collected at the mine by R.F. Sanford in 1987 gave an Ar40/Ar39 date of 39.3 Ma that indicates an Eocene age for this deposit.

Prospects North of the Bonaparte Mine

The Bonaparte mine is described in Anderson (1943). In 1986, trees about 8 in. in diameter were growing on the old dumps of the mine and there was no sign of recent activity. North of the mine, at the end of the mine road, two open adits appeared to be relatively recent, but no further information on the property was available.

Ophir Mine

In 1952, Western Mines Inc., rehabilitated 400 ft of tunnel and 200 ft of shaft at the Ophir group in Blakes Gulch north of Rocky Bar. Four men were employed. At the time, the property was developed by 5 tunnels (the longest was 500 ft long) and a 300-foot-deep shaft. There was a mill at the site. All assets of Western Mines, Inc. were transferred to Western Consolidated Mines in April 1952. In 1954, Western Consolidated Mines, Inc., employed 7 men at the Ophir who completed 110 ft of drifting and 60 ft of crosscuts and made surface improvements. There was little work after this.

Other Occurrences in the Rocky Bar Area

In the early 1980’s, Galli Exploration optioned a large claim block in the Red Warrior, Rocky Bar, and Hardscrabble Gulch area. In 1986, the company drilled about 20 holes in Hardscrabble Gulch. Later that year, Royal Apex Silver, Inc., acquired Galli. In 1987, when Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation merged with Royal Apex Silver, what was Galli Exploration was spun off as a separate company called GEXA Gold. An additional 26 reverse circulation holes totalling 7,450 ft were drilled in 1987 and 25 more holes were drilled in 1988. Most of this work was in Hardscrabble Gulch. Estimated reserves at this time were 275,000 tons of 0.037 ounces per ton gold in Hardscrabble Gulch and 313,000 tons of 0.046 ounces per ton gold in Wide West Gulch for a total of about 0.5 million ounces of gold.

In 1989, GEXA signed an agreement with Newmont Exploration Limited to evaluate and develop the GEXA’s 179 claims in the Rocky Bar area. Newmont drilled 19 reverse circulation holes in 1989, 30 holes in 1990, and 11 holes in 1991, including a deep hole at the Ophir mine. The drilling program increased both open-pit and underground reserves but not enough for Newmont’s needs and the property was returned to GEXA in 1991.

from: pg 31-32 U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2064-W

More Rocky Bar Photos at the Idaho State Historical Society

Link to Alturas County, Idaho 1864 to 1895

Link to Esmeralda, Alturas (Elmore) County, Idaho

Link to Peg Leg Annie

link to Rocky Bar part 1

Idaho History Sept 22, 2019

Rocky Bar Altures (Elmore) County

(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 Alturas County, Idaho 1864 to 1895

Link to Esmeralda, Alturas (Elmore) County, Idaho

Link to Peg Leg Annie

Idaho History Sept 15, 2019

William Manson Troven “Six-Shooter Jack” Lobb

Altures (Blaine/Camas) County, Idaho

Six-Shooter Jack

One of the hallmarks of the old west is outlaws with colorful nicknames. Idaho had seen a few. One of them, Sixshooter Jack, met his end at the hands of a posse on Camas Prairie in present day Camas County.

The attached images contain the story from Hailey’s Wood River Times, June 16, 1883.

– Ben Rast


Wood River Times, June 16, 1883

General E. E. Cunningham arrived in town, late last evening, bringing the news of the killing of Sixshooter Jack, a noted highwayman and desperado, and the arrest of one of his accomplices.

For some days past H. G. Valiton, of Montana, who has had several horses stolen by highwaymen, has been on the trail of Sixshooter Jack, whom he suspected of stealing the animals. Last Wednesday Mr. Valiton applied to Sheriff Furey for a posse, saying that his man was on Willow Creek. As this information was corroborated by a letter from Mr. Hutchins, the Bellevue livery stable-keeper, Sheriff Furey at once organised a posse composed of Deputy Sheriffs Cunningham and McCurdy, and of H. G. Valiton, County Jailer Campbell, H. Stevenson, Frank King, George Dyer, Al. Theriot, Major Meusch, and a driver of an express wagon which was taken along.

The party left about 9 o’clock Thursday morning, going by way of Croy’s gulch to Willow Creek, where they arrived about noon. There they learned that the highwaymen had started from Willow Creek three and a half hours before, going west on the Boise road. The posse followed in haste. About 5 o’clock Jones’s was reached, where the posse got supper, and learned that the party was three-quarters of an hour ahead of them. The posse then sent Frank King, a cowboy, ahead, to fall in with the thieves, scan them closely and examine the brands on the horses, to make sure that the parties were those sought.

King overtook the highwaymen about six miles out, role with them four miles, and returned to report them camped near the next stage station west of Jones’s, and about 60 miles west of Hailey, close to Grave Creek.

The posse thereupon moved down the creek, and organized by electing General E. E. Cuuningham commander of the party. This gentleman at once directed that the posse proceed until near the point where King had left the men; there they were to leave the team, wagon and horses, and a reconnoitering party was to go forward to discover the camp.

Arrived at the place designated, Messrs. Cunningham, McCurdy and Theriot went afoot to Grave creek, about one mile away, and discovered the outlaws’ camp by moonlight, it being between 11 and 12 o’clock at night. The outlaws were in bed in the open air, in a small plot of ground half surrounded by brush, on the west side of the creek, and just above the Boise road. The stolen stock was found about half a mile up the creek.

The reconnoitering party returned to the posse, and adopted the following plan of operations: They were to surround the camp quietly, each man taking the position assigned to him, and to remain there until the sights of their guns could be seen clearly.

At daylight General Cunningham was to call upon the camp to surrender, and at this call each man of the posse was to spring forward, cock and level his gun on the thieves’ camp, and order the outlaws to throw up their hands. In case of resistance General Cunningham was to fire, and at this signal the posse were to discharge a volley into the camp.

Messrs. Cunningham, McCurdy and Stevenson took the east side of the creek, within ten steps of where the outlaws laid, while the remainder of the party completed a circle around the camp.

At daylight General Cunningham called upon the camp to surrender. McCurdy and Cunningham stood side by side, and Stevenson a few yards below them, on the creek. McCurdy and Cunningham leveled their guns upon the bed where Six-shooter Jack and Charley Warfield were lying. They were awake and had been talking a few minutes before. Each one of the posse sprang forward when Cunningham spoke, and yelled: “Throw up your hands!”

Warfield raised up first, and partly put up his hands. Jack raised immediately afterward, glanced at McCurdy and Cunningham and reached for his guns with both hands. Cunningham fired first, McCurdy following two seconds after, and the rest of the party discharged a volley into the camp. Jack was shot through, and as he fell back he had a pistol in his right hand and discharged it. The rest of the party – five men – thereupon threw up their hands and were handcuffed. As, with the exception of Warfield, they were evidently simply travelers who had joined the outlaws’ party, they were allowed to go.

McCurdy now went to Jack’s bed, where he found and possessed himself of six revolvers, and in about five minutes Jack drew his last breath.

The wagon was now brought up, a man sent half a mile after a team which Jack and Warfield had stolen in Montana, the other six horses feeding being claimed by the other members of the outlaws’ party, and the posse, after breakfasting, started on the back track, arriving here about 9 o’clock this morning.

Six-shooter Jack was from Butte, Montana, where he was known as Loeb. He killed a man there some years ago, and was sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary. After serving only 22 months he was pardoned, and since then he has been a horse-thief, brawler, and bad character generally, and at times, while laying around Butte, would discharge two guns at once, shooting the spots of two aces every time. He was a great lover of fancy arms, and always had three or four fine revolvers about him.

The Coroner’s Inquest

Coroner Wheeler held an inquest over the remains of the dead outlaw to-day, and the evidence being substantially as above, the verdict of the jury was that deceased was killed while resisting arrest. He will be buried in Hailey Cemetery.

source: Ben Rast, Hailey’s Wood River Times, June 16, 1883
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Wood River Times Newspaper, Hailey, Idaho


Wood River Times newspaper, next to it is the oldest building in Hailey. MT. Della is in the distance. July, 1913.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Hailey Cemetery


William Manson Troven “Six-Shooter Jack” Lobb

Birth: 14 Nov 1849 Blue, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
Death: 15 Jun 1883 (aged 33) Camas County, Idaho, USA
Burial: Hailey Cemetery Hailey, Blaine County, Idaho, USA
Plot: Buried in the old Blaine County cemetery part of Hailey. There are no Headstones in this section

Killed at Grave Creek, Camas (Blaine Co) Idaho

He was a great lover of fancy arms and always had three of four fine revolvers about him. It was said he could shoot two guns at once shooting the spots off two aces every time.

Family Members
Manson L Lobb 1824–1853
Elizabeth Ann Crump Fisher 1825–1891

Fannie Ellen Lobb Prewitt 1852–1878

Half Sibling
Maud H. Fisher 1866–1885

source: Find a Grave
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‘Horse thief Six Shooter Jack killed out Croy Canyon’

In 1883, the weeks leading up to Hailey’s Fourth of July celebration were anything but quiet

By Tony Evans Express Staff Writer Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In late June of 1883, a deluxe railroad car carrying mining baron George Hearst stopped in the dusty frontier town of Hailey, Idaho. Hearst was one of the biggest mining men in the world and T.E. Picotte, publisher of the Wood River Times, knew his visit would put the town on the map.

“Mr. Hearst’s visit here will do us a great deal of good, as his movements are usually watched and when possible imitated by a number of smaller capitalists who have the utmost confidence in his judgement,” Picotte wrote. “When a district gets good enough for Hearst, they say, it is good enough for any mining town.”

During that summer, Hailey was trying out a “new-fangled electric light” for the first time. It frustrated citizens because “the dadgasted thing can’t be made to work when wanted.”

Along with Hailey’s rising fortunes as a silver-mining town came a certain amount of bad behavior. An 1881 newspaper notice for the Fourth of July Ball at a new Main Street hotel warned that “no objectionable characters will be admitted.”

Objectionable or not, the characters that populated Hailey during the silver boom of the 1880s often made it into the newspaper, and have now become part of the lore of the Wood River Valley. Miners, after toiling in the rocky hills and gulches around Hailey, came to town to drink and gamble on Main Street or patronize the brothels on River Street. William Kennedy shot and killed Hank Lufkin at the former Broad Gage Bar in 1889, the same year that Lem Chung, a Chinese cook, was fatally stabbed, following a quarrel over a $2 gambling debt. George Hailey, son of Hailey’s founding father, John Hailey, allegedly stabbed a man to death in front of the Hailey post office and fled, never to be captured.

As Hearst’s train approached town, two weeks before Independence Day in 1883, Hailey Sheriff C.H. Furey must have felt some pressure from the town fathers to do something about Six Shooter Jack.

Jack was from Butte, Mont., where he was also known as Loeb. He had killed a man there several years before and was sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary. After serving only 22 months, Jack was pardoned, and according to the Wood River Times, had become “a horse thief, brawler and bad character, generally, and at times, while laying around Butte, would discharge two guns at once shooting the spots off two aces every time.”

Picotte said Jack was “a great lover of fancy arms and always had three or four fine revolvers about him.” Furey wasn’t taking any chances going after the gunslinger, who had lately been implicated in a rash of horse-thieving on the road from Butte.

“This morning a calvacade of fierce looking men armed to the teeth and accompanied by a wagon filled with provisions, ammunition, and extra guns, carbines, cutlasses and revolvers, left the sheriff”s office for Camas Prairie, going via Croy Gulch,” Picotte reported on June 20.

Onlookers thought the posse had been mustered to suppress an Indian outbreak, or defend newly discovered gold fields to the west. In fact, Furey had made up his mind to do something about horse-thieving in Alturas County after receiving the following telegram from H.G. Valiton on June 10:

“Look out for Six Shooter Jack and Charles Warfield. They passed here Friday, on the road to Arco, horseback, riding chestnut sorrels and bay horses, carrying large rolls of blankets behind their saddles.”

Valiton had requested the well-armed posse from Furey after losing horses and a wagon to Six Shooter Jack. General E.E. Cunningham was elected leader of the posse after Jack was reported camped in Willow Creek west of Hailey on the road to Boise City.

It was 5 o’clock in the afternoon when the posse spotted Jack and several others in his band in the distance. A cowboy by the name of Frank King was sent to fall in with the thieves, identify the brands of the stolen horses and report back.

King found the desperados after riding six miles, rode with them for four miles and returned to Cunningham to report on the location of their camp, about 60 miles west of Hailey near Grave Creek.

Cunningham and two deputies approached the camp by moonlight and on foot. They found the outlaws sleeping in the open air in a clearing surrounded by brush. By daylight the entire posse had surrounded the men, and called on them to surrender.

Jack went for his guns and was shot through with a volley of bullets. His partner, Warfield, was arrested. Four others were let go as they were deemed innocent and had only ridden along with the criminals.

Deputy McCurdy went to Jack’s bed and took six revolvers. In about five minutes he watched as Jack drew his last breath.

The Fourth of July celebration in Hailey began two weeks later with an anvil salute at daylight that “awoke the country for miles around,” wrote Picotte. The Miner’s Union, 250 men strong, paraded through the streets of Bullion and into Hailey. Grand Marshal W.T. Riley joined the procession with the Ogden Brass band and a mile-long parade of vehicles of every description, “from the hay wagon to the family carriage.”

Some 3,000 people gathered at Dorsey’s Grove to hear E.O Wheeler, poet of the day, from Ketchum, read “Hail Columbia, Gem of the Ocean,” a song that, at the time, vied with “The Star-Spangled Banner” for national anthem status. The Red Stocking Nine baseball team of Hailey played the Gate City Nine of Bellevue. Picotte reported that the umpire made so many bad calls against Hailey that the team walked away rather than finish the game.

“The Red Stocking refused to continue, although they could readily have vanquished their opponents,” he wrote.

Just after 9 p.m., the fireworks began with a signal rocket sent up from the south end of the Chief of the Hill claim on Carbonate Mountain.

George Hearst would leave town that summer after inspecting his claims in Hailey, no doubt telling stories one day to his son, William, about the Wild West of Idaho.

Young William Randolph Hearst, perhaps enchanted by the stories of America, would one day found an empire of his own in journalism.

source: Tony Evans, Idaho Mountain Express Copyright © 2019 Express Publishing Inc.
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4th of July Parade Hailey, Idaho 1883

4th of July parade down Main Street in Hailey, headed by Miners’ Union.

shared by Bob Hartman
source: Copyright 2012 Idaho State Historical Society.

link to: Wood River, Altures (Blaine) County, Idaho

Idaho History Sept 8, 2019

Wood River, Alturas (Blaine) County, Idaho


(no larger image available)
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Major Lead-Silver Discoveries Spark Rush to Wood River Area

by Evan Filby

On April 26, 1879, Warren P. Callahan filed on a lead-silver claim at the base of the ridge a mile or so west of the present town of Bellevue, Idaho. This filing was a major milestone for what would quickly build into a rush into the Wood River mining districts.

Wood River Valley, looking south. Illustrated History, 1899.

The Boise Basin gold discoveries of 1862 drew thousands of hopeful miners to southern Idaho. Soon, all the best claims had been staked, so prospectors began to broaden their explorations. Various parties visited the Wood River area in 1863-1865, and a few found enough “color” to do some mining there. However, the finds offered only minor returns, so no one particularly wanted to risk the unfriendly Indian bands that frequented the area.

In 1864, Callahan himself reportedly found the galena lode he would later claim. (From there, he went on into Montana.) Some prospectors knew that galena, a lead sulfide ore, often contains small amounts of silver. An ounce in twenty pounds of galena would be among the highest known silver fractions.

Few in the West, however, knew how to process the ore. Moreover, even a lode rich in galena versus useless stone, and high in silver fraction, required a major investment to pay out, because of the processing cost. In 1864, with gold fever in the air, no one had much interest in looking for silver.

By around 1875, however, silver discoveries in Colorado and Nevada had made shrewd (or lucky) investors fabulously wealthy – the Comstock Lode being probably the most famous. People all over the West searched eagerly for the next big strike. However, in Idaho deadly clashes with indigenous Indians delayed serious exploration until 1879.

Numerous other filings followed Callahan’s and triggered a substantial rush into the region in 1880. The towns of Bellevue and Ketchum soon followed, and then Hailey in 1881. An experienced miner from Silver City toured the area and noted (Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho, February 26, 1881) that the prospects were “exceedingly rich.” He also wrote, “There are about five hundred people in Bellevue at present, and the town contains four saloons, seven stores, five hotels and restaurants, two livery stables, a Postoffice and jail … ”

Main Street, Hailey, 1888. Hailey Historic Preservation Commission.

For awhile, all the ore had to be shipped out of state. Loads went first by freight wagon to the railroad station at Kelton, Utah. Trains carried it to smelters in Salt Lake, or even as far away as Denver. To offset the substantial expense, investors selected only the richest ores for shipment. One ore body, reportedly the richest ever found in the U. S. up to then, assayed out at “112 ounces of silver to the ton.”

As soon as possible, developers built smelters in Hailey and then Ketchum. Their initial capacities were limited and ore shipments continued until they could be upgraded.

Finally, in May 1883, the Oregon Short Line completed a branch line into Hailey and the production of the mines skyrocketed. The railroad extended its branch into Ketchum in August 1884.

As so often happened, the boom times passed rather quickly. There would be later discoveries, but the Wood River economy soon turned more to stock raising and farming.

source: South Fork Companion
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Site Report – Wood River

Historic-site reports contain information designed to assist in two preservation functions. One is preservation planning at the local level. The other is the work of federal agencies in carrying out their responsibilities to comply with historic-preservation requirements prescribed by federal statutes and regulations. These reports summarize local archaeological, historical, and geographical contexts; existing surveys of historic sites; architectural, engineering, industrial; and other cultural resources; and available maps and literature concerning each area. Natural geographical, rather than governmental, boundaries have been used to identify seventy-two areas that vary greatly in size. Site reports reflect a broad cultural and geographical disparity characteristic of diverse regional components found in Idaho, but the areas are designed to incorporate cultural elements of immediate local significance that need to be taken into account for preservation planning.

Geographical context:

Wood River descends from high mountain sources (forested aside from bare rock exposures characteristic of steep slopes) to a fairly broad valley prior to emerging into a central Snake plains segment. This mining, logging, ranching, and resort area has highways up Wood River and Trail Creek connecting with Stanley Basin and Lost River farther north. Rail service reaches Hailey and Ketchum. Noted particularly for superlative ski slopes and Silver Creek’s fishing resources, this area has become a diversified resort development of national significance. Elevations rise from at Magic Reservoir to 12,078 at Mount Hyndman.

Historical summary:

Mineral discoveries on Wood River go back to the gold rush years following the Boise Basin mining excitement of 1862. A premature stampede to Wood River was reported early the next spring, and serious prospecting continued there in 1864. Nothing of great interest turned up then, except for Warren P. Callahan’s discovery of a galena lode which he noticed right along Goodale’s Cutoff south of later Bellevue, when he was passing through the valley on his way to Montana. Prospectors set out for Wood River from Rocky Bar again in 1865: most finished their search entirely disappointed, but some of them found some claims worth locating near the divide between Camas Creek and Wood River in a district later known as the Hailey Gold Belt.

Indian opposition helped to hold back any development there for fourteen years. Eventually two of the original discoverers returned during the Wood River rush and saw their mines flourish. Meanwhile, Warren P. Callahan came back to examine his galena lode near Goodale’s Cutoff. He and his brother located a claim there September 3, 1873, and followed up with another in 1874. They did their annual assessment work regularly for the next four years.

Then the Bannock War of 1878 kept them out. During that time, they displayed galena samples from their lode in Rocky Bar with little effect. Miners in Rocky Bar got excited about gold and silver but could care less about lead. By the end of the Bannock War, though, times were changing. Profitable methods of smelting lead and silver ores had been worked out in Eureka, Nevada, and improved still more (for areas where the ore could not be worked as advantageously as in Eureka) in Leadville, Colorado. Better transportation also was on the way with railway construction extending through Idaho not too far from Wood River. Lead prospects that amounted to little before the Bannock War now seemed worth developing. So Warren P. Callahan came back to relocate his galena lode, April 26, 1879, and other prospectors began to look over the entire Wood River area. David Ketchum came across some promising lead silver mines at the head of Wood River in May. Frank W. Jacobs found the Queen of the Hills — one of the major producers of the region — near later Bellevue (five or six miles north of Callahan’s property) on July 15, and by August another belt of lead silver ledges at the head of Little Smoky (where limited gold discoveries in 1864 had led to a modest amount of mining from 1873 on) brought mining to the Wood River divide northwest of the Callahan and Jacobs lodes.

Still other mines were found near later Ketchum and Hailey that summer. By this time W. H. Broadhead had a lot of uniformly good assays (100 to 140 ounces of silver per ton) from the upper Wood River mines, where the town of Galena was organized early in September. Jacobs City (renamed Broadford in 1880) followed almost immediately on lower Wood River where Frank Jacobs had turned up the Queen of the Hills, and forty hardy settlers prepared to spend the winter in scattered parts of the extensive new mining region. W. P. Callahan shipped out a batch of ore to test that fall in Salt Lake: with an average recovery of $431.46 in gold and silver a ton, he proved that the new mines would pay well.

Thousands of fortune hunters joined the rush to Wood River in 1880. New towns, destined to overshadow Galena and Broadford, sprang up in the valley. A post office called Ketchum was established April 19, and the townsite for the new community was laid out May 2. (The townsite locators still were calling the place Leadville, unaware that a postal clerk in Washington had refused to allow any more Leadvilles and had decided to call the place Ketchum, which he named for David Ketchum who had discovered the upper Wood River mines the year before.) Bullion City followed discovery of the Bullion Mine May 28 and got a big boost with the addition of the Mayflower and Jay Gould, July 4. Bellevue got a post office June 12, and settlement followed quickly. With discovery of the Minnie Moore — the most important of the early Wood River mines — at nearby Broadford, September 22, Bellevue had genuine promise of becoming the major city of the region. A winter population of three to four hundred stayed there after the rush.
Then John Hailey (whose Utah, Idaho, and Oregon State Company served Wood River until the railroad came) took up land between Bellevue and Ketchum, December 6, 1880, and that month another trading center was started on Hailey’s site. Rivalry between Hailey and Bellevue entertained the inhabitants of Wood River for the next several years.

Hailey had the advantage of organized promotion by the Idaho-Oregon Land Improvement Company that also established Caldwell, Mountain Home, and tried to take over Weiser) with an energetic developer backed by lots of capitol resources. Robert E. Strahorn managed the promotion, and Andrew W. Mellon (later Secretary of the Treasury) got some useful business experience as secretary of the townsite company while a young man.

Shipment of ore from then Wood River mines still was fairly limited in 1880. Some Boise owners of the Idaho Mine at Bullion sent out $17,000 in the fall, but that amounted to only a modest beginning of what they had in sight. The other mines, even at Bullion, were not even that far along. Smelters were needed close to the mines, and another Boise company, headed by David Falk and Alonzo Wolters, put up the Wood River Smelting Company plant at Hailey the next season. Hailey profited substantially from the early development of the mines at Hailey the next season. Hailey profited substantially from the early development of the mines at Bullion which used the new smelter, and production rose greatly in 1881. With $80,000 to its credit, the Hailey smelter accounted for not much more than 10% of the total. Another Wood River promoter, with interests around Ketchum in 1880, went east that winter to Philadelphia where major capital investment for the region was obtained. During the summer a large smelter was built at Ketchum, and other smaller ones were started for other mines.

By this time lead miners at Eureka, Nevada, had learned that small smelters did not work very well, and the Philadelphia smelter profited from that lesson. It always had more capacity than it needed, and used the most advanced methods and equipment. Opening October 8, 1881, for a ten-day test, the Philadelphia smelter prepared for major production in 1882. The Wood River mines exceeded a million dollars that year, with close to a fifth of the total handled by the Philadelphia smelter.

Most of the ore still was being shipped out to Omaha, Salt Lake, Kansas City, or Denver, but at this point the Philadelphia Mining and Smelting Company decided to offer prices competitive with the outside smelters. The plant was doubled in size the next spring, and an electric light plant (the earliest in Idaho) was installed then. The Philadelphia Company acquired a lot of new mines in 1882 to help utilize the larger capacity, and other investors put considerable capital into similar mine purchases. Altogether, over one and a half million dollars was put into the Wood River mines in 1882. Philadelphia and Salt Lake City were important sources for funds. Fourteen major sales took place in 1882, the largest being the Mayflower at Bullion which was purchased for $375,000. E. A. Wall, who already had important properties at Bullion, added the Bullion mine to his holdings, spending $200,000 for this acquisition. Sparing the $200,000 when he bought it, this production amounted to little more than development work.

The same could be said for most of the Wood River mines up to 1882.

Transportation improvements — particularly construction of the Oregon Short Line to Hailey, May 7, 1883, and on to Ketchum, August 19, 1884, allowed the early Wood River mines to reach their maximum production. Up through 1882 for the mines around Hailey, and until most of 1884 for those at Ketchum and beyond, miners preferred to hold back until they could profit by shipping at reduced railroad rates. They expected to save $20 a ton over wagon freighting.

Rail transportation also provided faster, more comfortable passenger service. Until the Oregon Short Line entered the area, daily stage lines from the Utah Northern at Blackfoot and the Central Pacific at Kelton served Hailey and Ketchum. Even after the railroad arrived, stages and freight wagons still had to take care of places like Bullion and Galena that were too high in the mountains to be reached by rail. And by the beginning of 1884, a new toll road up Trail Creek from Ketchum to Lost River and Bayhorse provided a route that served as a worthy test for H. C. Lewis’ huge ore wagons that are still preserved in Ketchum.

With the railroad boom, Bellevue, Hailey, and Ketchum reached their peak. For a time, Bellevue had two daily newspapers (until the railroad went on to Hailey), and Hailey had three. (These were not the earliest daily newspapers in Idaho by any means, but at that time they were the only ones.) With Idaho’s earliest phone service, as well as Idaho’s original electric light plants, Wood River rates as the most progressive region in the territory.

Producing over two million a year for the next three seasons after the railroad brought added prosperity in 1884, mining on Wood River offered wonderful returns to those fortunate enough to own the right properties. In a single year, Isaac I. Lewis’ Elkhorn Mine near Ketchum yielded ore sold to the smelter for $161,841.72 for a cost of only $35,372.33: while this did not amount to a really big producer, a net profit of over $126,000 a year gave its owner capital to invest in organizing the First National Bank of Ketchum in February, 1884, and amounted to a profit of almost 80% of the yield. The largest of the early producers — the Minnie Moore — was sold to a director of the Bank of England, February 25, 1884, for $450,000 with ore reserves of $675,000 on hand. With a declining price for silver, operating expenses exceeded profits somewhat, but before the British operation shut down, the mine had produced well over a million more than had been blocked out at the time of purchase, and profits far more than repaid the initial investment.

An even bigger sale (unaccompanied by such spectacular returns) of the Bullion Mine for $1,050,000 at the same time — with $685,000 in cash, and the rest in shares — also held great promise with around one to two million dollars worth of ore still in sight. This investment, also of British capital, marked the height of the early Wood River mines.

When the Triumph was discovered on the east fork early in June, the owners declined a $40,000 offer for an underdeveloped, but fabulous looking, prospect. Eventually the Triumph turned out more value than the $20 million or so from all the early Wood River properties combined — but it took until 1927 to get major production going there. Some of the Triumph metal sold at higher prices, and altogether $28 to $29 million was realized there between 1936 and 1957. Long before that, the early Wood River mines had gone into decline.

Labor difficulties, generally brought about by attempts to reduce miners’ wages in face of expected rising costs and declining prices, foreshadowed the end of Wood River’s early prosperity. On July 20, 1884, the miners at the Minnie Moore struck in protest of failure to receive their pay, and ten days later they won a settlement that warded off wage reductions which had been promised. But early in 1885 the miners’ union emerged less successfully from a similar dispute. Under threat of military intervention if it were necessary, the mine union lost their fight to maintain their wage levels, and after a lot of protest and excitement around Bellevue, the mines went on to attain their peak production during the early years. Cost reductions through 10% wage cuts helped the various Wood River districts to maintain high production for two more years. An abrupt drop in 1888 (in which the total fell almost in half, but still exceeded a million dollars), followed by a much more severe collapse after 1892, reflected an abruptly falling price of silver.

What had been low grade ores were ruined, and what production there was had to be shipped out for smelting. The Philadelphia smelter had to shut down with the 1888 decline: with capacity to handle everything that Wood River produced, the Ketchum smelter suffered from a remote location in which technically trained specialists were hard to find and where repairs to equipment were hard to make. Large smelters in places like Omaha got ore from many different places, and could mix various ores in the combinations needed to satisfy the complex chemical requirements for processing refractory lead ores. In the early years of high grade production the central Idaho smelters could afford to ship ore back and forth by wagon to each other to meet such needs. And the Ketchum smelter could afford to import iron ore from Wyoming, coke from Utah, and to make large amounts of expensive — and not too satisfactory — charcoal in twenty-one charcoal kilns. After the Philadelphia smelter in Ketchum shut down, costs of sending ore by rail to distant smelters ($10 or more a ton) exceeded the actual smelting cost of $6.50 to $7.50 a ton. Reopened from 1902 to 1906, the Minnie Moore put out more than another million dollars in spite of such costs. But by then, the early years of mining prosperity on Wood River were over.

Industrial archaeological and engineering sites summary:

Surface evidence of placer mining in this area offers opportunities for study of industrial procedures utilized in historic production. Hydraulic pits, patterns of dredging operations, or tailings that distinguish hill claims from stream claims — or that identify Chinese services — provide information of historic importance. Prospector’s pits disclose gravels that were searched unsuccessfully for gold.

Ditches, flumes, stream diversions, and similar evidence of water sources also are important.

Lode mining operations left a variety of indications, many of them relatively permanent in nature. Disturbance of surface outcrops includes trenches and exploratory shafts. In other places, tunnels and raises or stopes that reached surface outlets reveal important aspects of mining activity. If accessible, underground workings have still greater importance for industrial archaeology and engineering analysis. Abandoned tools and equipment, along with items like timbering in tunnels and stopes, add to this record.

excerpted from: Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series Number 206 Revised December 1981
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by Bob Hartman

When in the spring of 1881, the citizens of Alturas county voted to remove the county seat from Rocky Bar to some point in the Wood River mining district, the town of Hailey had not even been founded. Before the election, which came four months later, this town had not only been laid out and started on, but it was successful in beating out Bellevue for the county seat.

In May, 1881, H. Z. Burkhart opened a stationery store in the new town of Hailey. Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Fox were the second arrivals for business. When he opened his grocery store, his wife opened a boarding tent, with a dirt floor.

Hailey was named after John Hailey. Hailey filed a homestead on the townsite in 1879, and a desert land claim in 1880 added another 440 acres. He, and his partners, had the townsite surveyed on April 20, 1881.

John was born Aug. 29, 1835, in Smith County, Tennessee. Moved to Missouri in 1848, Oregon in 1853, Washington in 1862.In the spring of 1863 he ran a pack train from the Columbia River to the Boise Basin mines, and by 1864 he had a stage line running over the same route. He was elected Idaho Territory delegate to Congress 1873, and again in 1885. He died April 10, 1921, at his home in Boise.

John Hailey is considered to be the founding father of the Idaho State Historical Society.

(History of Idaho: Hiram T. French)

Photos shared by Bob Hartman




source: Facebook
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Drug Store and Nevada Chop House – Hailey, Idaho 1884

(click image for larger source size)

source: Idaho State Historical Society – Western Mining History
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Hailey in Ruins

by Rick Just

With today’s 24-hour news cycle we sometimes reel from disaster to disaster. News did not travel so fast in the summer of 1889, but residents of Idaho must have felt a little whip-sawed nevertheless. First in the news, on May 31, there was the Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania, sweeping more than 2,200 people to their deaths. Then came the Great Seattle Fire on June 6, burning 25 square blocks of that city to the ground. Then, on July 2, Idaho got its own disaster.

The fire alarm started ringing in Hailey at 1:30 in the morning and didn’t stop until the sun was well up. A fire had started in the Nevada Bakery. As the fire spread, townspeople saw that a row of frame buildings between the bakery and the Merchant’s Hotel was going to be lost. The hotel, though, was made of brick, so there the fire would stop. Or so they hoped. The flames barely slowed, engulfing the hotel. Other buildings in town were called fireproof until they were turned to tinder.

Within a couple of hours, most of the businesses in Hailey were little more than ash. About four square blocks burned. Remarkably, the conflagration did not touch any residence, and it left the offices of two newspapers standing as if it wanted nothing more than publicity.

source: Speaking of Idaho
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Bellevue Idaho, The Gate City

(click image for to larger source size)

Bellevue is situated about five miles south east of Hailey. In 1880 the first building was erected there. It was a log building owned by Owen Riley, who was the first Postmaster. L. Young succeeded him in that office. The present Postmaster is Mrs. Florence V. Clark. In the building in which the first Post Office was located was a drug store owned by W. T. Riley and conducted by J. J. Tracy. The latter moved to Hailey in 1881 and has been conducting his own drug store here since that date. In 1883 a charter for the City of Bellevue was granted by the legislature, and with some amendments, is the charter under which the city still operates. Bellevue had a weekly newspaper, a bank, a school house, good business buildings and residences, and did a thriving business while the mines near Broad ford flourished. It was also the county seat of Logan County for five years. Today it has several general stores, a hardware store, a drug store, two garages with service stations combined, three churches, a grade school and an accredited high school, etc. It is one of the large lamb and sheep shipping stations.

On December 6, 1880, Hon. John Hailey filed on a desert land entry of 440 acres, for which he was granted a patent on April 5, 1884. This is the land on which the principal part of the city of Hailey is situated. The town was named for him, a pioneer of pioneers, and who served as a delegate to Congress for two terms. His first term began March 4, 1873 and ended March 4, 1875, and his second term began March 4, 1885, and ended March 4, 1887. The town-site was located by John Hailey, A. H. Boomer, W. T. Riley and E. S. Chase. It is situated about five miles northwest of Bellevue and about 12 miles southeast of Ketchum. It has an elevation at the Court House of 5332 feet. The promoters of this town-site at first thought of locating it at the mouth of Indian Creek, about three miles north of town, and naming it Marshall, in honor of Doctor R. W. Marshall, who was the first doctor on Wood River. But that idea was abandoned and the town-site never was established there. Ernest Cramer, S. J. Friedman, J. C. Fox, W. T. Riley, J. J. Tracy, Leon Fuld and H. Z. Burkhart were some of the early merchants, all of whom came in the spring of 1881.

Ernest Cramer erected the first building in the spring of 1881. It was a log structure situated on Lot 10, Block 42, and was used as a business building. The town developed very rapidly as the mines at Bullion and vicinity which were tributary to Hailey were being worked at capacity. Most of the merchants conducted their business in tents until they were able to have suitable buildings erected. Geo. M. Parsons was the first Postmaster and Leon Fuld the second. Austin A. Lambert is the present Postmaster. H. Z. Burkhart had the first express office. He burned 350,000 brick for the Court House, Alturas hotel and other buildings. J. C. Fox retired in 1927 with the record of the oldest dry goods merchant in the state.

source: Idaho Genealogy
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Ketchum, Alturas County, Idaho

Ketchum was first called Leadville. Albert Griffith was there in 1879. He left that fall but returned in April, 1880, and resided there permanently until his death. In 1879 there was only one cabin there and it was owned by David Ketchum, who lived in it. When application was made to the proper authorities for a post office by the name of Leadville, it was refused. Application was then made for a post office by the name of Ketchum and the same was granted. The name of the town was then changed to Ketchum in honor of David Ketchum. The Post Office was established in 1880 and William H. Greenhow was the first Postmaster. The present Postmaster is Jack Riley.

Ketchum is situated about 12 miles northwest of Hailey and is the northern terminus of the Wood River Branch of the Oregon Short Line Railroad. Even before the advent of the railroad it was a prosperous town. At one time it had three banks, seven daily stages, two hotels, several restaurants, seven stores, seven black smith shops, three doctors, three lawyers, six livery stables, two assay offices, a weekly newspaper, several saloons, etc., and its population was estimated at nearly 2,000.

Albert Griffith, Paul P. Baxter, Geo. W. Mc Coy, William H. Greenhow, Theo Hage and Geo P. Hodson were among its earliest residents. Isaac I. Lewis, T. E. Clohecy and J. O. Swift were some of its earliest business men. William Hyndman was an early resident of Ketchum. He was a Major in the Civil war, a practicing attorney-at-law and a prominent mining man. He died in Ketchum October 1, 1896.

Horace C. Lewis, son of I. I. Lewis, of Ketch um, started in business while quite young. He organized the Ketchum & Challis Toll Road company and was one of its stockholders. This company built the first wagon road over the Trail Creek summit. He owned the freighting outfit that freighted into Challis, Clayton, Bay horse, Custer and Bonanza. He had the mail and express contracts for the above mentioned towns and did practically all the freighting in that region. He had a large forwarding house and express office at Ketchum. He had the largest freight wagons in the State. They were drawn by 20-mule teams. He continued in the freighting business for a few years after the building of the railroad from Blackfoot to Mackay in 1901. At the time of the Thunder Mountain boom in 1902-3, he opened the road from Ketchum to Thunder Mountain in the dead of winter. On December 29, 1898, he conveyed to Samuel E. Rigg of Spokane, Washington, for a consideration of $80,000.00, the Croesus lode, Croesus Extension lode, Croesus millsite and Croesus Extension millsite, all patented, situated in Scorpion Gulch about three and one-half miles southwest of Hailey. He died January 19, 1911.

Ketchum is now quite a summer resort. In the spring of 1929, Carl E. Brandt had the hot water from the Guyer Hot Springs, (about three miles west of town) piped into town, and a large natatorium built. This water has a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit. There are 31 tourist cabins heated by this hot water and supplied with all modern conveniences. The town has two good general stores, one hotel, one restaurant, one garage, one service station, etc. It is one of the greatest sheep and lamb shipping stations in the state.

source: Idaho Genealogy
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Philadelphia Smelter: A Key Component of the 1880s Silver Rush in the Wood River Valley, Idaho

Slide show by John W. Lundin

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Guyer Hot Springs

by Bob Hartman



Developed by Isaac Lewis in 1887 Guyer Hot Springs, located in the Warm Springs area west of Ketchum included a bathhouse and restaurant-bar with a dozen rooms, including a ladies’ parlor, along with a twenty-by-forty-foot dance floor. Lewis wanted Guyer to attract Easterners with both the money and the time to reach remote Idaho, and was pretty successful. Local families also enjoyed Guyer Hot Springs, given the lack of local entertainment.

In June 1914, a new mission-style hotel, and bathing facilities was opened to the public.

Sun Valley: An Extraordinary History, by W. Holland describes the resort “At Guyer, an elevated bridge with guard rails crossed Warm Springs Creek, where paths led to the hillside hot springs. Just below the bridge was a large water wheel, which cooled water for the bathhouse. Guyer hotel guests enjoyed hot and cold water in their rooms, an open-air plunge, and bathing facilities separated for the sexes.

“Guyer Hot Springs was a fashionable resort. Local ladies wore plumed hats and sixteen-button gloves while they played tennis or croquet, swung on a big wooden swing, and danced in the pavilions. Women splashed in long pantaloons and dresses.”

Raymond Guyer, Lewis’s son, took over the resort in 1913, and changed the original structure into a beautiful two-story building with gables. The plunges and baths were kept in their original location near the springs, but he moved the hotel up to the bench above the river. Charles H. Grout, a former manager of the Idanha Hotel in Boise, was hired to oversee the resort when it reopened in March 1914. The resort boasted an electrical lighting system of it’s own powered by a turbine engine

Raymond sold out to Shoshone retailer, Carl E. Brandt, in 1927. Brandt closed the resort, and piped the hot spring water underground into town to the St. George Hotel. When the St. George burned down the next year, Brandt built the Bald Mountain Hot Springs motel and pool next door.

Today Guyer Hot Springs are used only to heat a few homes in the Warm Springs area of Ketchum.

source: Facebook

page updated Sept 19, 2019