Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Road to Idaho Planned, Gold in the Palouse?

On August 15, 1863, The Oregonian published a brief item about the Boise Road Company. It said, “The following gentlemen were elected directors at the meeting held at the Dalles on Wednesday, for the purpose of organizing the company: Wm. C. Laughlin, J. R. Robbins, D. M. French, O. S. Savage, Chas. Miller, N. H. Gates and W. Nix.”

A bit over a week earlier, backers of the Boise Road Company had canvassed people in The Dalles and had collected $4,500 in just “a few minutes.” At that point, they had about $7,500 in subscriptions for the new route. The Oregonian item went on, “The capital stock is $20,000, and the work will be commenced immediately.”

Notwithstanding that intended quick start, construction of the new road took almost a full year. By then, the business was called the Canyon City and Boise Road Company. Advertisements in the Oregon papers, as well as the new Idaho Statesman, in Boise, trumpeted that the road had good access to grass, firewood, and water: “Eight miles being the greatest distance without water.”
Road Construction With Horses & Hand Tools. National Archives

The ad said the road “follows John Day river to the summit; thence across to the head of Willow creek; thence down Willow creek to Snake river.” At a stated distance of 176 miles from The Dalles, the route passed through Canyon City, a gold town of some note. In fact, for about two hundred miles running west from the Idaho border, the route roughly follows modern U.S. Highway 26.

Also on August 15, the Lewiston Golden Age headlined a “New Mining Region … where it is said some rich gold discoveries have been made lately.”

They described the location as on “the South Fork of the Palouse, … about 75 miles in a northeasterly direction from Lewiston.” In fact, the item said, “Parties who have been over the country represent it as the most favorable looking gold country in the Territory.”

As often happened, these “parties” grossly over-stated the potential. A little gold was indeed found in the Hoodoo Gulch area along the South Fork, but the placers quickly played out.

References: [Brit]
“New Mining Region,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (August 28, 1863).
“The Boise Road Company,” The Oregonian, Portland (August 15, 1863).

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