Gold Exploration and Mining in Idaho
The gold exploration and mining activities in Idaho were developed in placers and veins deposits. The deposits were worked at a good profit in nearly every county and during 1880 many new and rich deposits were opened up in the Wood River district, Salmon River Mountains. The chief veins were exploited in the Salmon River and Owyhee Mountains. On the Snake River placers, in 1864, gold dusts was collected and sent through regular transporting agencies and it is estimated that nearly as much more was forwarded by other means.
The equipment first employed was a rocker provided with an amalgamated copper plate, which afterwards gave place to improved appliances. The gold exceedingly fine was found with heavy black sand. Most of the mines were argentiferous galena containing some gold and the bulk of the ore was sent to Salt Lake City for Treatment. The Wood River district was reported to have produced over $ 1,000,000 worth of bullion in 1881. Although there was a Jesuit mission established on the St Joseph River in 1842 for the Coeur d’Alene Indians and was later moved to Coeur d’Alene River, no knowledge of gold or silver was found until several years later. Gold gravels were discovered in the Pen d’Oreille River as early as 1852 by a French Canadian and seven years later on the Sunelkameen River. In the spring of 1860, a rush occurred and for a time excitement ran high. Placers rivaling those of California were located on the Oro Fino Creek by E. Pierce in 1860. In May 1861, auriferous gravels were found at Elk City covering an area of fully twenty miles square and consisting of gulches, bars and flats. This was at the head of the Clearwater River. A small area about two miles square was discovered in August 1861 on the creek tributary to the Salmon and was probably the richest gold placer ever worked.
The veins of the Warren district often known as the Washington district, lying in the Owyhee Mountains south of the Salmon River were discovered in 1862, but mining did not really begin until 1866. After the exhaustion of the placers of Silver City and DeLamar, attention was turned to the quartz veins located in 1863. The Oro Fino and War Eagle mines were the first of importance discovered by W. Kellog. According to Kellog he had been prospecting on the mountain and while so engaged, the donkey wandered further up the slope. On going for him Kellog’s attention was attracted to an outcrop which had been exposed by the donkey stepping upon it. Thus was the gold deposits discovered.
In 1901, gold was found on Thunder Mountain in the central part of the state. During the following year Thunder Mountain did not come up to expectations. Nevertheless, Owyhee, Boise and Lemhi counties produced gold. Silver had become the most important product of the mines in 1904. An important discovered of tellurides was made in the Iron Spring mine located on a Tributary of the Rapid River. During 1905, the gold production decreased owing to several causes such as light snowfall and short winter season which seriously affected the placer mines and second the burning of the Kittie Burton mine in Lemhi county.