Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leesburg Gold

Another story I had to abbreviate for the article was about the gold finds in the Leesburg region of Idaho. Leesburg is now a Ghost Town, with nothing left but a few worn pioneer structures. Photo: Leesburg Idaho School.

However, in its heyday Leesburg had some of Idaho’s richest gold fields. The town is high in the mountains, ten miles or so west and a bit north of Salmon, Idaho. To get there, you must surmount the ridge that rises some 4,600 feet above Salmon, and then drop 1,800 feet into the Leesburg basin. In pioneer times, pack trains couldn’t even get in during the winter. (They probably still can’t, assuming you tried.)

The “History of Lemhi county,” by  George Elmo Shoup in a series of columns in the Salmon Register-Herald, May 8 – October 23, 1940, had this to say about Leesburg: “The extreme richness ... produced $1000.00 to the wheelbarrow load of gravel on bedrock.” Moreover, “Much coarse gold was found and nuggets of $5.00 to $50.00 were common.”
Not especially impressed? At today’s gold prices, that would be $200 to $2000 per nugget … and they were “common.” Estimates of the gold value taken out of the Leesburg area range from $350 million to $1.6 billion (today's prices).

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