History Project

NEW The history project has gotten too big for one page!  After many requests for "more history stories" I have gathered together several documents from different sources.  With the aid of a borrowed scanner (thanks Chris!) there are some historical photos - please, be patient, some of them will take a while to load!  While you are waiting, scroll down the page to read the stories.  This page has some general history, Click on the links below to access the page for a specific "town."  (Things are a little scattered right now too.)
Check this page from time to time, as more will be added!!! 
Page Updated 07-24-04

Idaho in 1895

Idaho in 1990

Click here:
To see this map of Idaho in 1985 at full size.  * Note *  this map was drawn
before Valley County, Yellow Pine, Cascade or McCall existed.

NEW Click here:
To view this 1990 Idaho map full size

History Links

NEW Click here: to go to the Idaho State Historical Society home page

Updated!! Click here: to see some historical facts of the Donnelly area.

Click here: For a link to Lafe and Emma Cox's book:
Idaho Mountains, Our Home

Click here: To see a great book review about Lafe and Emma Cox's book.

Click here: for a link to the book about Deadshot Reed.

NEW Click here: to go to Outdoor Idaho - Yellow Pine (PBS)

NEW Click here: to go to Outdoor Idaho - Stibnite (PBS)

NEW Click here: to go to the Books Page

NEW Click here:  for a story about the history of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness by the McCall Star News.

To give you some reference points - here is a map showing the relationship of the areas talked about on this site.

Cascade is the seat of Valley County and the nearest town to Yellow Pine.

Yellow Pine is a small village, located about 68 miles from Cascade, and about 150 miles from Boise, Idaho.

Thunder Mountain, Stibnite, Roosevelt, and Big Creek (Edwardsburg) were once home to many people - not to mention the old "primitive area" down Big Creek itself.

If you would like to see your story or PHOTOS on these pages - please contact yptimes2(at)ruralnetwork.net

Many thanks to local authors who have generously let me share some of the wonderful stories (and historical photos) to show how it was to live and work in the backcountry.

Click here:  To visit the Idaho State Historical Society - documents source.

IDAHO STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY REFERENCE SERIES

[Excerpted from:]  MINING IN IDAHO       Number 65                Revised February 1966

In a little more than a century of mining, Idaho has produced an estimated $2,920,000,000 worth of minerals, mostly in metals.

Six Idaho mining regions stand out considerably above the others:  aside from Coeur d'Alene--which, with more than a $2,000,000,000 production, is in a class by itself--they are Boise Basin, Wood River,
Stibnite, Blackbird, and Owyhee.  Each of these has turned out more than $40,000,000 according to the best estimates.  Boise Basin, going back to 1862, and Owyhee, following the next year, are early gold and silver producers.  Wood River, in contrast, is a lead-silver region which did not become prominent until 1880, when it became the leading mining section of Idaho.  Stibnite (primarily antimony and tungsten) and Blackbird (primarily cobalt) are noted recent producers of metals that scarcely were mined at all during the earlier years when gold and silver, and then lead and silver, predominated.

Eight additional areas--Atlanta, Bear Valley, Bayhorse, Florence, Gilmore, Mackay, Patterson, and Yankee Fork--ranged from something like $10,000,000 to $25,000,000 in yield, while Elk City, Leesburg, Pierce, Porthill, Rocky Bar, and Warrens make up the rest of the twenty major Idaho mining areas which stand out in the sixty or so regions of production worthy of mention…
Publications--450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702--208-334-3428

IDAHO STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY REFERENCE SERIES

[Excerpted from:]  IDAHO METAL PRODUCTION 1860-1980  Number 110    Revised 1983

Big Creek              $400,000
Stibnite               53,000,000
Thunder Mountain  500,000
Warren's             16,120,000
Long Valley         3,500,000

Many of these totals are based largely upon reliable sources (usually Bureau of Mines or other governmental compilations), but some are of unknown accuracy.  Most lode and dredge production figures are reliable, and almost all Idaho metal production is of those kinds.  Less than 2% of the total production of $4,405,590,000 are from sources of uncertain accuracy.  This table must be used with great caution, since mineral prices--even for gold--varied greatly over the century the figures cover.  Inflation has weighted the period since 1940 very heavily.  Gold and silver prices after 1976 have fluctuated ten or twenty times as much.  Boise Basin's gold values, for example, recently have risen to more than one or two billion dollars.  Other major gold districts (Elk City, Florence, Leesburg, Pierce, Rocky Bar, Warren's, and Yankee Fork) have increased similarly.  Silver prices have varied much more.  Assignment of smelting values and federal support prices also affects some of these totals (such as Blackbird) to a marked degree. 
Publications--450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702--208-334-3428

IDAHO STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY REFERENCE SERIES

[Excerpted from:] MINING IN IDAHO   Number 9     Revised 1985

Most of the production statistics and much of the descriptive information for this brief account of Idaho's more important metallic mining areas were supplied by Ernest Oberbillig.  Prepared by the Idaho State Historic Society in 1960, this compilation has been revised to cover production through 1969.

BIG CREEK (Gold)
Prospecting of the Salmon River mountains increased considerably after the Sheepeater War of 1879, and organization of Alton district on Big Creek, June 15, 1885, extended mining from Warren's east into that region.  Although there were a number of prospects on upper Big Creek, the main production was realized at the Snowshoe which yielded $400,000 between 1906 and 1942.

LONG VALLEY (Gold, Monazite)
Gold Fork placers, discovered at Copeland in 1863, came into production in 1864, and two other Long Valley districts followed at Hawkeye and Lake City.  Miners from Long Valley also had some Salmon River south fork placers across a high ridge separating those drainages.  Deep placers at Copeland's Bar finally were largely worked out in 1870-1872, but a nine-mile ditch to serve Hawkeye was delayed until 1879.  When the principal sources for monazite (India and Brazil) were cut off in 1946 and 1950, an examination of Idaho possibilities led to extensive monazite dredging in Long Valley beginning in January, 1951.  Three dredges were in operation that year, although one capsized and sank in 1953.  Lack of a market led to suspension of the other dredges in 1955, after a production of about $2,000,000.  By-products raised this to $3,500,000.

STIBNITE (Antimony, Tungsten, Gold, Mercury, Silver)
Surpassed only by the Coeur d'Alene, Boise Basin, and Wood River mining regions, this camp finally assumed some of the importance that originally had been anticipated for nearby Thunder Mountain.  Discovered during the Thunder Mountain rush, Stibnite developed slowly because of its isolation.  Gold and antimony claims were recorded there in 1914, and a mercury excitement (encouraged by wartime shortage) occurred there in 1918.  (Another wartime mercury shortage helped to make the Stibnite area the second largest producer in the United States in 1943.)  After F. W. Bradley acquired the mines there in 1927, serious development got underway, and production of gold and antimony began in 1932.  Important tungsten deposits came into production in the United States.  Total yields for the active period, 1932 to 1952, amounted to $24,000,000 in antimony, $21,000,000 in tungsten, $4,000,000 in gold, $3,000,000 in mercury, and $1,000,000 in silver.  After being abandoned for three decades, Stibnite was reopened in 1982 with another major open pit operation.

THUNDER MOUNTAIN (Gold)
Thought by early prospectors to be a mountain of gold, Thunder Mountain received very flattering notice after Ben and Lew Caswell, who located claims there July 10, 1894, announced their find in 1897.  Excitement gradually built up into a major gold rush by the spring of 1902.  The mines there eventually yielded almost a half million dollars, but the main production proved to be capital investment from Pittsburgh, rather than a bonanza greater than Cripple Creek that was expected to transform central Idaho.  In 1909, the nearly abandoned town of Roosevelt (the chief community there) was gradually flooded by a lake formed when Monumental Creek was blocked by a slide, but by then most of the early production (about $350,000) had been achieved.  An incidental result of the rush to Thunder Mountain was the discovery of the nearby Stibnite and Marshall Lake districts.    Later operations in 1937 through 1939 and 1948 and 1949 may have raised Thunder Mountain's total yield to something like a half million.  Finally in 1980, large scale mining, made possible by modern equipment and careful development work, came to Thunder Mountain.  After eight decades, some of that district's early promise finally was realized.
Publications--450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702--208-334-3428

IDAHO STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY REFERENCE SERIES
[Excerpted from:] RECOVERY PROCESSES FOR IDAHO ORES  Number 380    April 1966

Miners in Idaho had to use several different recovery processes to handle varying kinds of ore.  Of these, stamp milling-mercury amalgamation of gold ore, Freiberg and Washoe processes (either one with or without roasting) for silver ore, and blast furnace smelting of lead-silver ores were the four important early processes.  Cyanide and floatation processes were important later developments.  A few others (Von Patera hypo leach for silver, and copper blast furnaces, for example) also were tried.

...Free milling gold ores could be processed with stamp mills and mercury amalgamation plates.  This is an old European process used in Georgia and widely in the west.  The Homestake in South Dakota, and many Idaho districts including Rocky Bar, Warrens, Florence, Elk City, Boise Basin, Buffalo Hump, and
Thunder Mountain, could operate stamp mills.  Arastras often were used initially in place of stamp mills in this process, especially in remote districts...

...Later processes used for various Idaho ores include cyanide, developed in Australia, for some finely divided gold and silver ores where copper is absent after 1893.  Copper blast furnaces, developed in Baltimore and used in Arizona, also were tried in Idaho in remote camps such as Yellow Jacket and the Lost Packer on Loon Creek.  Finally floatation, invented in 1910 and used widely after 1920, was available for gold, silver, copper, or lead ores.  Wood River, Coeur d'Alene,
Stibnite, and Atlanta used floatation to advantage...
Information supplied by Ernest Oberbillig.
Publications--450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702--208-334-3428

IDAHO STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY REFERENCE SERIES

LATE NINETEENTH-CENTURY PROSPECTING AND MINING    Number 740    1982

During four decades of prospecting and mineral development prior to Idaho's Thunder Mountain gold rush of 1902, miners and community leaders in a variety of isolated camps had learned many different lessons concerning resource management.  They had overcome obstacles common to those faced by farmers, ranchers, and lumbermen, and had dealt with additional problems of their own.  Unlike farmers and ranchers, who at least could identify lands superior for their purpose, or lumbermen who had no trouble finding forests with commercial timber stands, miners had two major problems in locating commercial mineral resources and in developing processing technology that varied greatly in different districts.  Except for gold producers, miners had marketing problems similar to those of other Idaho pioneers. Lode developers also encountered identical obstacles to raising investment capital during national financial panics (particularly 1873, 1884, and 1893) that plagued large irrigation canal enterprises as well.  Declining silver prices in 1888 and 1892 put many of Idaho's miners at a special disadvantage.  Otherwise, they had investment experience similar to other large scale western transportation, irrigation, and forest resource enterprises.  Gold and silver promoters often had an ability to induce capitalists to participate in operations that offered little or no expectation of success, or even of investment salvage.  Land salesmen, however, also managed to sell worthless holdings, even though useless lands could be identified easily, while mining properties often could not be evaluated satisfactorily.

Compensating in part for unusual difficulties in mineral prospecting, exceptional opportunities to gain fabulous wealth accounted for a special kind of excitement that attended almost any search for gold and silver, or even lead and copper.  Eager bonanza hunters almost never succeeded in selling high grade claims for a fortune, and many competent prospectors were too restless to quit even if they enjoyed a degree of success.  Until about 1900, they always had more places to explore.  Not too many large gold and silver regions remained undiscovered after 1900, and lead-silver-zinc and copper prospecting predominated after 1880.  Most free-milling gold and silver had been noticed when lead-silver began to attract more interest, so new tests and prospecting procedures had to be learned.  Neither silver nor base metals could be traced from placer deposits very easily, and values of lead-silver or copper ores could not be tested at depth by simple panning methods.  Prospectors managed to recognize new kinds of mineralized outcrops so that they could get assays which would identify valuable lodes, and they found enough small, rich ore bodies to keep up a mining fever through another decade after 1900.  An occasional district turned out to be of major importance, but prior to extensive development, major lodes could not be distinguished from minor producers without a great application of effort.

Early Idaho lode miners had another special problem, shared with railroad transportation but with few other enterprises.  Industrial labor, often employed in hazardous or disagreeable locations, required protection that had to be achieved through formation of miners unions.  During times of national economic adversity, unrest and strikes, such as attended Wood River's 1884 financial reverses, resulted from economic hardships that disturbed many other Idaho camps as well.  National railroad strikes, such as those of 1886, also affected Idaho's mining communities.  Idaho's economy always had been subject to national financial and labor trends, but this dependence became much more evident in later years.

Regardless of economic difficulties characteristic of large scale western enterprises, Idaho's miners joined enthusiastically in resource development.  They appropriated public lands for mineral rights just as farmers, ranchers, and loggers did.  Farmers had obtained a homestead act in 1862 to provide a legal basis for their taking over what land they needed, and miners got a similar federal concession in 1872.  (Ranchers and lumbermen, unable to obtain suitable legislation, simply went ahead using public lands anyway, although they eventually ran into restrictive statutes that farmers and miners had managed to avoid.)  Miners and stockraisers sometimes failed to avoid friction, but their claims wars and sheep and cattle wars generally were fought out in court litigation with only occasional violence attending their development of Idaho's resources.
Publications--450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702--208-334-3428

Photos from "The Middle Fork
and the Sheepeater War"
by Johnny Carrey and Cort Conley -
copyright 1977

Before roads, everything had to be packed in on the backs of man and beast!

These photos are dedicated to the intrepid pilots that are still delivering mail and supplies to folks in the backcountry.

Photos from "The
Middle Fork and the Sheepeater War"
by Johnny Carrey and Cort Conley - copyright 1977

Work Horses of the Backcountry!

Today, they may fly newer planes, but the pack-strings are still the same!