Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boise Basin Has Thousands of Claims, but Water Short for Mining

On August 6, 1863, The Oregonian published a letter from a correspondent in Bannock City, in the Boise Basin. By his observation, Bannock City (the future Idaho City) had grown to be by far the largest of the gold towns in the Basin.

He also had another measure of business in the Basin. He wrote, “There are over 2,500 claims recorded in the Bannock City District, most of which cannot now be worked on account of the scarcity of water. Both Moore’s [sic] and Elk creeks, which unite in this city, are falling, not furnishing as much water by one-third as three weeks ago.”

Since lode mining was not yet an important factor in the area, this severe drop in flow continued to throw men out of work. The writer went on, “In the Centreville District over 2,000 claims have been recorded; and nearly or quite the same number in the Fort Hog’em or Pioneer District.”

Finally, the reporter wrote, “In the Placerville District over 4,500 claims are recorded; making a total of over 11,000 mining claims taken up and recorded – for the most part months ago.”

The writer also observed that the Basin had additional paying ground that had not been claimed and formally recorded. He concluded, “Perhaps 15,000 claims would not be too high a figure at which to estimate the mining region of Boise already located.”

Another handle on Basin activity was, he said, “the number of pack animals and freight wagons constantly employed bringing in freight.”
Freight Team in Rough Country. Library of Congress.

The trip from Umatilla to Bannock city had taken thirteen days. The correspondent wrote, “We met or passed on an average not less than ten pack trains per day, many of which consisted of from 50 to 100 animals; none of less than 15 to 20.”

He had also counted sixty to seventy heavily-loaded freight wagons on the road headed toward the Basin. His counts lead to the conclusion that during that one snapshot in time, perhaps 250 tons of supplies were headed toward the mines.

References: “Election at Boise,” The Oregonian, Portland (August 6, 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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