Monday, July 8, 2013

Pony Express Links Boise Basin, Glowing Reports from the Mines

On July 8, 1863, the Deseret News in Salt Lake City published an article about Idaho Territory. An express rider, one H. McFarlane, had completed the first regular pony express run between Bannock City, in the Boise Basin, to Salt Lake. The paper said that he had been “about fourteen days in making the first trip.  It is intended however to make regular weekly trips as soon as this new pony institution shall be fully established, which the proprietors intend extending east to Fort Bridger.”

The News went on, “Mr. McFarlane tells some big, not to say fabulous stories, concerning the productiveness of the Boise gold mines, which are situated on the south side of the Boise river, about forty miles above its confluence with the Snake river, and are represented to be about forty miles in extent, divided into seven or more mining districts.”

Estimates suggested that the region contained eight to ten thousand people. The article said, “Among the towns or cities that have sprung up are Placerville, Centerville, Hoggam City and Bannock City, in each of which from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty houses have been built.”

“Hoggam City,” usually rendered as “Hog'em,” was founded in October 1862. Latecomers to the Basin had assigned that derisive name because they felt that earlier arrivals had “hogged” all the best claims. The town soon attained the more respectable name of “Pioneer City” or Pioneerville.
Pioneer City. Idaho State Historical Society

The article noted that prices for provisions were very high. However, “Mr. McFarlane stated unequivocally that four men had taken out one hundred and forty-four ounces of gold in ten hours in one claim, and others were nearly as productive.  He also asserted that it was no uncommon thing for claims to yield four ounces per day to each miner, who worked ten hours.”

In closing, the News said that McFarlane “came by Jeffrey’s route, in the north side of Snake river, and crossed at Meeks & Gibsons’ ferry,  The pony express, as we understand, will be established on that route.”

The ferry, near the mouth of the Blackfoot River, was the competitor to the Eagle Rock Ferry described for June 20. The “Jeffrey’s” trail ran northwest from there and looped north of what we today call the Craters of the Moon.

References: “Goodale’s Cutoff North of Timmerman Hill,” Reference Series No. 1071, Idaho State Historical Society (April 1995).
“A New Pony Express,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah (July 8, 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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