Thursday, June 13, 2013

Florence Miners Doing Well and Feeling Optimistic

On June 13, 1863, The Oregonian reported that, “We were permitted yesterday to read a letter from Florence, written by an entirely reliable gentleman there, who says that the prospects of the miners in that vicinity are highly encouraging and even brilliant.”

With so many prospectors drawn out of the area by other rushes, those who remained around Florence could take their time searching. They continued to find good to excellent gold placers for the rest of the season. The item went on, “Wages were high; men would not work for less than $150 per month, and there was a spirit of confidence in the mining resources of the region far beyond what has heretofore been entertained.”

However, although the writer might have been “reliable,” his judgement of the region’s potential fell short. While output continued for a number of years, the mines were mostly small. Many passed into the hands of Chinese miners, who patiently worked claims that whites had no interest in.

But the end of summer, only a few hundred people remained in and around Florence. Most of the rest had moved on to Boise Basin. One of those who did was a young man (boy, really) named James Henry Hawley. Born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1847, Hawley lost his mother as an infant and grew up with his maternal uncle. The family moved to California in 1861.

Although he was supposed to stay in school, gold excitement drew him to Florence in the spring of 1862. He worked there through the season, wintered at The Dalles, and went to the Boise Basin in May 1863. Jobs in and around Placerville provided enough of a stake so he and two partners could purchase placer claims of their own.
J. H. Hawley. [Illust-State]

In 1864, Hawley returned to California. With a diversion to “knock around” the Orient, James finally returned to Idaho, where he completed his education in law. Over the next few years, he served in both branches of the Territorial legislature, on the Boise County Commission, and as a Territorial District Attorney.

He moved permanently to Boise City in 1891-1892.  By then, he was one of the best known lawyers in the new state of Idaho. A biographer later asserted that Hawley had acted on one side or the other of “more murder cases than any other member of the bar in the United States.”

Hawley was elected Boise mayor in 1902, and Idaho Governor in 1910. His four-volume History of Idaho was published in 1920. He passed away in August 1929.

References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“Items from the North,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (June 20, 1863)

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