Sunday, June 23, 2013

Boise Basin: Rivals Claims and Future Litigation, No Place for Families

On June 23, 1863, correspondent Hal wrote yet another letter to The Oregonian, as he had done on the 7th and the 21st. He said, “The singular energy displayed by the miners in this part of the country, in the matter of taking up and recording claims, is one of the wonders of the age. The same amount of enterprise applied to the working of the claims would assuredly make a fortune for all concerned.”

In fact, he said, some ground had been claimed several times. To explain, he went on, “In all the districts of these mines, a man may hold a hill claim, a gulch claim, a bar claim, and a creek claim. The size of claims varies in different districts; but in any one of them a miner may take up enough ground to make a small farm.”

However, the miner had to work the claim at least once a week, or someone else could “jump” it. In theory, he could forestall this by recording the claim and posting a certificate at the claim itself. But a newcomer comes along and “thinks there is a flaw in the manner of taking up a claim; and he at once jumps the claim, and goes through the same routine of claiming, recording and posting.”

Then both of them might rush off to investigate the latest so-called bonanza, leaving the ground deserted and the certificate exposed to wind and weather. Obviously this could happen multiple times. Eventually, who owned what would have to be settled in court.

Hal then briefly listed travel distances to the new Owyhee mines, and said, “There is nothing definite in regard to the extent of the discoveries, and there are many conflicting stories about their richness.”

Hal closed with some observations on the “Prospect for Families Coming to Boise.” In his opinion, “This is no place at present for respectable women.”

He then offered contrasting images in graphic detail. On one side of the street he had seen a hard-working, “honest woman,” who was “clothed in garments of mean quality, faded and tattered.” At the same time, a woman of another sort passed. She was “bespangled with jewelry, and flounced to the waist in garments of great cost.”

Yet respectable women still came. He went on, “Coming in from a prospecting tour by an unfrequented trail, I met a man and his wife who were bound for Bannock. Both were afoot, and their baggage was packed on a single pony.”
Miner and Wife. Colorado State Historical Society.

Apparently everything they owned – little as it was – was on the pony. After a brief conversation, the two struggled on. Hal said he had been “penetrated to the heart with a sentiment of respect for womankind, of which I had no consciousness before. For there can be nothing more affecting than a wife’s devotion to a man in poverty and hardship.”

References: “Letter from Boise Mines,” The Oregonian, Portland (July 9, 1863).
Merle W. Wells, Gold Camps & Silver Cities: Nineteenth Century Mining in Central and Southern Idaho, 2nd Edition,  Bulletin 22, Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Mines and Geology, Moscow, Idaho (1983).

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