Thursday, July 11, 2013

Boise Basin Mining Hampered by Lack of Water, but Prospectors Still Coming

A correspondent for the San Francisco Evening Bulletin wrote a letter to the paper from Auburn, Oregon on July 11, 1863. The writer proposed to describe “the state of things in this region, and including an account, in brief, of the prospects of Boise.”

The news was mixed. “There are some men there who are earning good wages working for others, and thousands are there idle, and unable to earn any wages at all.”

The problem was: “Boise is drying up, too, and in many localities the work of mining has ceased for want of water. Some of the large creeks still afford a considerable supply, but no very rich diggings have as yet been found outside of the famous Boise Basin.”

Apparently, this correspondent, sitting in Auburn, has not yet heard of the finds along the South Fork of the Boise River. Still, despite the thousands of prospectors who have already arrived, “The emigration from Denver City is already pouring into Boise, and the roads are described as more than usually dry, and grass as poor. The first arrivals from Colorado are complaining sadly of the road, and their stock comes in jaded and worn down.”
Prospector with Pack Mules. Library of Congress.

The immediate future for these newcomers seemed bleak, he observed. However, it might well also offer “the most favorable opportunity … to procure good diggings there, as the scarcity of water will induce many to sell rich claims at a reasonable figure, and the supply of water will be increased another year by ditches now being constructed.”

The writer felt that prospects for lode mining were bright in the Basin. He then turned to other areas, including “rich regions south of Snake river, on the waters of the Owyhee. Many of them returned disappointed; but a good mining region has been discovered there, and some are already doing well.”

But he also offered a warning: “Boise has become a perfect paradise of ruffianism. Banditti from Pike’s Peak, Washoe, California and Salmon river, are there banded together to rob. Many small robberies have taken place, and it is unsafe to travel from there in this direction. Those who carry treasure go in crowds.”

References: “The Oregon Mines,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (August 13, 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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