"The Idaho Rambler" by Betty Derig and Flo Sharp
Excerpted from "The Idaho Rambler" Copyright March, 1982 by Betty Derig and Flo Sharp
ISBN 0-9609754 Printed in the USA by Lithocraft Inc. Boise, Idaho
"Four miles from Yellow Pine a road marked "Stibnite 9, Monumental Summit 14," leads up to the old mining camps of the Thunder Mountain District. These mountains produced Idaho's last great mining excitement and the story reads like fiction.
"In the summer of 1896 the four Caswell brothers (Dan, Lou, Ben and Cort) prospected up Monumental Creek. After a while they decided that their luck was down and decided to pull out as soon as they tracked a stay mule. The prodigal led them along an unnamed creek where they found fabulous outcroppings of core. They called it the Golden Reef. An appropriate name because it turned out even better then the goose that laid the golden eggs. Every spring they took out a water bucket full of nuggets.
"In the meantime other prospectors came to stake claims and in 1900 Colonel Wm. Dewey, of Nampa and Silver City, bought the Golden Reef for $100,000 and renamed it the Dewey Mine. A picture of the check made out to the Caswell brothers was printed in the Idaho Statesman and prospectors rushed to Thunder Mountain like it was the fabled El Dorado.
"They swarmed in from all directions to make a fortune in this wild and rugged Salmon River country that even today is know as the Primitive Area. They came afoot, horseback, muleback, with endless packtrains struggling up one side of Monumental Summit and down the other. A good many of them camped at the base of the summit where Mule Creek meets the crashing waters of Monumental. Here the lively settlement of Roosevelt grew. It was a typical mining town, rowdy with gambling and saloons and high-priced flour. Food prices soared and men made good money packing flour in at $30 a sack over the 6 miles between Warren and Thunder Mountain.
"Most of the rich ore came in ledges rather than in simple placers, a kind of mining that required large sums of money for heavy machinery. Every nut and bolt had to be packed in on the backs of mules. Colonel Dewey bought in a successful ten-stamp mill and most of the $350,000 taken from the region came from his mine.
"By 1907 most of the inhabitants had drifted away and two years later, the whole town of Roosevelt disappeared. A landslide slithered down the mountainside, dammed the waters of Mule Creek and gradually drowned the town with Lake Roosevelt.
"Later on, settlers traveled to the lake to "fish." This meant building a raft and poling out on the water to hook a pot, pan or other useful item. Adelia Routson Parke remembered that the large and cherished mirror on their Salmon River ranch was fished from the lake.
"Discovery of gold at Stibnite came with the Thunder Mountain Rush of 1902, but the town took its name from an ore called antimony.
"Remote and overshadowed by Roosevelt and Thunder City, Stibnite got a slow start. The Bradley Company developed open pit mines here after 1927 and took out enough gold and antimony to stay in business. However, the real boom came during World War II when the pinch was on for strategic minerals.
"The U.S. Bureau of Mines sent in drillers who found much-needed mercury and tungsten. Subsequently a boom town grew in the wilderness as Stibnite because the leading Tungsten producer in the United States and runner up in the production of mercury.
"Today the old town is a heap of crumbling buildings, rusting machinery and ghosts of days past. However, alongside these old scars changes are taking place. The town was recently reborn when the Superior Mining Company sent in 60 workers to build an open pit gold mine. They expect the ore deposits to last about ten years. The waste from the new mine as well as some of the old eyesores will be covered up with soil and planted to grass…."