Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Miners Extract Much Gold from Boise Basin, Elk City Ditches

On May 29, 1863, the Evening Bulletin in San Francisco, California published a report from the Boise Basin, specifically Placerville and Bannock City (soon to be Idaho City). They said, “Gold is now being taken out of the mines in large quantities.”

One man from Oregon had, after working through the winter and spring, “brought out 53 pounds of dust.” Another miner “came out at the same time with 39 pounds of dust.” At that time, the Oregon man’s gold would have been worth $12-14 thousand … over $1.1 million at current prices. The other’s dust would be worth over $850 thousand at today’s prices. Not bad for a few months work!

The report also said, “The miners on the bars of Snake river are doing well, and the reports from them are encouraging.  They are confident many miners will find profitable employment there next winter.”

Over the years, prospectors found gold at many places along the Snake River itself, generally where tributaries entered the main steam. However, hardly anyone made much money in those endeavors because Snake River dust was exceedingly fine – almost like flour – and extraordinarily difficult to recover.

Almost in passing, the report observed, “At Placerville and Bannock City there is quite a spirit of rivalry on the subject of the location of the capital of Idaho Territory.  The idea that Lewiston has any claims is generally ignored altogether.”

Of course, that attitude made perfect sense. By this time, the population of Lewiston had dropped to a few hundred, while the two Basin towns had ballooned to several thousand each.
Elk City, Later. Idaho State Historical Society

The Bulletin also had news from further north. A correspondent reported, “Six ditches have been dug during the last winter in the vicinity of Elk City, and are now furnishing water to the miners.  The shortest of them is three miles, and the longest nine.” As could be expected, “The miners are doing much better than before the ditches were completed.”

References: [Illust-State]
“Items from the North,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (May 29, 1863).

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