Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Heavy Shipments of Gold Dust from Boise Basin, Another Big Rush

The Evening Bulletin in San Francisco reported a mixed bag of items from The Oregonian published on June 25, 1863. It began, “Since  the sailing of the last steamer, over $200,000 in gold dust have been brought to this city.  And this is undoubtedly a low estimate. In the Boise mines, according to the statements of reliable and candid men, there is at least the sum of $500,000 in dust, ready for shipment.”

Between the Indian unrest and threat of road agents along the routes, many miners would only ship if a strong party was headed out of the Basin. They also waited anxiously for the Army to select a site and build a fort to (hopefully) over-awe the tribes.

The report went on, “In consequence of the good news from the Boise, a stampede took place at Lewiston, on the 16th of June, when numerous trains laden with provisions, clothing and mining tools for the use of the miners, left for the Boise country. It was estimated that … there were nearly 1,000 horses and mules on the road heavily laden with supplies.”
Pack Train in the Mountains. Library of Congress.

With the mines on Orofino and other northern camps declining, merchants in Lewiston founds themselves with an excess of goods. Much of that, of course, arose from their previous push to stock up while freight rates were low.

The good news had another effect: “The mines were draining the country of the natural supply of labor, and it was estimated, by the [Walla Walla] Statesman, that 400 men could find employment about Walla Walla in assisting to harvest the crops.”

Of course, farm hands would clearly rather make $5 a day laboring on someone else’s claim than earning a tenth of that on a farm. They’d come out ahead even if supplies cost two or three times as much. And there was always the chance they could hit a rich claim themselves.

Reference: “Later from the North,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco (June 29, 1863).

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