During the gold rush of the late 1800s and early 1900s, the State of Idaho became home to some of the most successful and vibrant mining destinations in the west. Here are five of these mining gems, each known in its own special way.
Located in Idaho County and 14 miles’ northeast of Riggins, Florence became a big part of Idaho’s gold rush shortly after gold was discovered in Pierce. Gold was discovered in Florence during the winter of 1861 and quickly became settled as a placer mining camp. After winter’s thaw, the population began to boom even more in the spring time. It was not long before the town became the seat of Idaho County.
Miners panned for gold in the waters of Black Creek, Hi Yu Creek, Hely Creek, and French Creek. While the creeks were abundant in gold, the deposits were mined quickly over the course of the next five years. However, the discovery of hard rock quartz sparked another surge in the area albeit short-lived.
Chinese miners began to slowly take over the mining operations around 1869 after previous miners abandoned or leased out the mines.
The town came back to life once more from 1895 to 1900 because of more lode mining. However, that was short-lived as well. By the mid-1900s the power of Florence had quickly disappeared. By 1940, only ten residents remained in the town. It was not too long after then that the town was abandoned and a ghost town.
Also, located in Idaho County, the town of Warren was home to some of the richest gold deposits in Idaho. The discovery of gold occurred in 1862, shortly after the gold strikes in Pierce and Florence.
A great deal of gold was mined in the area during the gold rush until the valley was completely dredged by the mid-1900s. However, despite the valley being thoroughly dredged, a substantial amount of gold was later recovered from the past mining operations. Dredges can still be seen today in the meadows of Warren.
Gold may have been king in many areas in the west, but to some, silver was queen. Idaho town, Wallace is known as the “Silver Capital of the World” with silver being the leading force behind the growth of this town. In fact, to this day, silver mining is still a part of the area economy. In fact, the silver deposits discovered around Wallace ended up being some of the richest discovered.
In 1884, W.R. Wallace built a cabin in the town site of Wallace. He named the town Placer Center originally, but that name quickly changed to Wallace in 1885, being named after the founder of the town. The railroad arrived in the area in 1886, and Wallace’s population reached 500 people.
Over 1.2 billion ounces of silver has been produced in Shoshone county since 1884, and Wallace and the area surrounding it became known as “Silver Valley.”
While a fire destroyed much of the business district in 1890, many of the brick buildings that were built after the fire are still there today.
Wallace is known as well for the fact that all downtown buildings are listed on the official National Register of Historic Places, and the town has been given the designation of being “the Center of the Universe.”
Silver City was settled in 1864 shortly after the discovery of silver in War Eagle Mountain. Settlers soon flocked to the area, making the city one of the fastest growing in the Idaho Territory.
Miners began mining for both gold and quartz, but by the time Idaho became a state in 1890, much of this mining had played out. Many also attribute the downturn to the remote location of Silver City in comparison to other mining towns in Idaho. Although the mining slowly decreased, it never completely went away. Small-scale operations did continue periodically until World War II with the last mine, Potossi, operating all year, run by Ned Williams.
Silver City was also known for quite a few “firsts” during its time. The very first daily newspaper and first telegraph office in the Idaho Territory started Silver City. The city was one of the first in the area to receive telephone and electric service.
Approximately 70 buildings still stand in the city this day, all of them privately owned. Most of these buildings are owned by residents who are third or fourth generation descendants from those who originally mined the area.
Noah Kellogg discovered gold along the hillside above Milo Gulch in 1885. This discovery led to the settlements of Idaho mining towns, Wardner and Kellogg. From that time, Kellogg’s growth took off tremendously, and thus, one of the longest and most successful mining runs in Idaho began. Mining lasted for well over a hundred years. It became the largest town in Silver Valley and was home to the famous Bunker Hill smelter complex.
Kellogg remains one of the most successful mining operations from the Idaho gold rush and it is now a wildly successful tourist operations. It also is home to the world’s longest single stage gondola.