Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Governor Issues Proclamation to End Owyhee War [otd 03/28]

Idaho Governor D. W. Ballard issued a proclamation on March 28, 1868 to halt a shooting war near Silver City. The statement said, in part, "the lawless proceedings of the parties referred to must cease and peace and order be restored, and to that end the whole power of the territory will be used."
Mine and mill buildings on War Eagle Mountain, 1866.
Historical ... Directory of Owyhee County.

The conflict, now known as the "Owyhee War," occurred between two competing mining companies: the Ida Elmore and the Golden Chariot. Both had claims on War Eagle Mountain, 1-2 miles southeast of Silver City.

The lode that developed into the Ida Elmore had been discovered in the summer of 1863. Within a few years, mining investor J. Marion More and a partner gained control of the mine. More had arrived early in the northern mining regions, and then got in on the ground floor in the Boise Basin. By the mid-1860s, he was one of the wealthiest capitalists in the Territory, and well known in Western mining circles.

Prospectors also found several other likely veins in War Eagle Mountain, one of the most promising being the Golden Chariot. By the end of 1867, owners had shipped or stockpiled over 350 tons of valuable ore.

Registration records for the claims showed that they overlapped on a two-dimensional map. However, no one paid much attention to this commonly-occurring feature; the respective veins were at quite different depths within the ridge. Developers assumed – in perhaps a bit of wishful thinking – that the two lodes did not connect deep below ground.

That turned out to be an incorrect assumption. When their tunnels met, the confrontation escalated into an underground shooting war. The first deaths occurred on March 25 and 26, when one man on each side was killed. Soon, the exchanges became extremely heavy, and included blasts with “giant powder” and fire bombs. A later investigator observed that one 15-inch supporting beam had been "nearly cut in two" by bullet impacts.

The same day as the proclamation, the Owyhee Avalanche, in Silver City, published (March 28, 1868) an overview of the dispute. The article concluded, “As there are, at least, fifty men armed to the teeth, on each side, we are prepared, at any time, to hear of a bloody battle.”

Aside from such reports, the governor had been forced to act by wide-spread rumors claiming many battle deaths and secret burials. (Later, investigators were unable to substantiate any of the wild claims.)

J. Marion More, ca. 1864.
Idaho City Historical Foundation.
The proclamation, delivered by a Deputy U.S. Marshal, led to an uneasy truce. But bad feelings remained, and opposing viewpoints exchanged hot words.

As usual in such affairs, what happened next is highly muddled. A Chariot supporter shot J. Marion More, supposedly because More was about to brain him with a rough walking stick. An Elmore partisan then shot the Chariot man in the arm.

J. Marion died soon after the shooting. The Chariot man survived an amputation but died from gangrene several agonizing weeks later. Expressions of regret over More's death poured in, for he had friends all over Idaho. His body was returned to Idaho City for burial with full Masonic honors.
References [B&W], [Illust-State]
Dale M. Gray, “War on the Mountain," Idaho Yesterdays, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Winter 1986).

1 comment:

  1. Been researching my great-great grandfather, Gov. David W. Ballard, quite intensely recently. I appreciate the information.