Owyhee County Its History, Towns, Industries

In 1862 the present county of Owyhee was a part of Boise County, which comprised all of the western portion of Washington Territory lying south of what was then called Idaho county, its area being nearly equal to that of Pennsylvania. When Idaho was created a territory by act of congress, March 3, 1863, Boise county became part and parcel of the territory of Idaho, and at the first session of the territorial legislature, held at Lewiston, Idaho, Owyhee County was created, December 31, 1863, out of all territory south of Snake River and west of the Rocky mountains.

In 1864 Oneida County, and in 1879 Cassia County, were cut off of Owyhee County, reducing it to its present limits. Its northern boundary line is the Snake River. Cassia County on the east, state of Oregon on the west, and the state of Nevada forms its southern boundary. Its area is 8,130 square miles, being somewhat larger than the state of Massachusetts. Its name, “Owyhee,” is believed to have been borrowed from the Hawaiian language, and to have been given to the Owyhee River by two Kanakas in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Prior to the spring of 1863, Owyhee County was an unexplored country, inhabited only by bands of hostile Indians, while at that time the diggings of Boise basin and Oro Fino boasted of a population of over ten thousand miners. A legend of the early immigrants to Oregon of the “Blue Bucket diggings,” in the vicinity of the Owyhee mountains, wherein they used sinkers of gold for fishing purposes, led several adventurous spirits to organize a party of discovery at Placerville, in May, 1863. The party consisted of the following: Michael Jordan, A. J. Miner, J. C. Boone, P. H. Gordan, L. C. Gehr, G. W. Chadwick, Cy Iba, William Phipps, Joseph Dorsey, Jerome Francisco, John Moore, J. R. Cain, W. Churchill, H. R. Wade, A. J. Reynolds, James Carroll, William Duncan. Dr. A. F. Rudd, F. Height, W. L. Wade, John Cannon, M. Conner, C. Ward, R. W. Prindall, D. P. Barnes, W. T. Carson, J. Johnson, A. Eddington and O. H. Purdy, in all numbering twenty-nine.

We take the following from the narration of O. H. Purdy, a member of the party, a well-known citizen of Silver City, who was killed in the skirmish with the Bannack Indians at South Mountain, in June 1878:

We crossed Snake River at the mouth of Boise River, traveling in a southwesterly direction, until we came to, at that time, quite a large stream, which we named, in honor of the laziest man in the company, “Reynolds creek,” We camped here one day. During the day, two of the party. Wade and Miner, ascended the divide westerly from camp, on a tour of observation, and discovered still farther south and west what appeared to be a large stream, judging from the topographical formation of the mountains, which were well timbered. This was reported to the balance in camp.

The next morning (May 18, 1863) our party of twenty-nine men and about sixty horses and mules was headed in the direction of the supposed water-course, which we reached about four o’clock p. m., at a point we named “Discovery Bar,” about six miles below where Booneville now is. The locality presenting a favorable place for camping., it was so agreed. Dr. Rudd, a verdant emigrant, not waiting to unpack his mule, took his shovel, and, scooping up some of the loose gravel on the bank of the creek, “panned it out” and obtained about a hundred “colors.” The excitement and amazement which followed this “discovery” can better be imagined than described. In ten minutes, every man, with pan and shovel (except the lazy man), was busy digging and panning, and upon their return about an hour after, each man had favorable prospects to exhibit.

The prospecting continued up the creek for ten or twelve days, when, at “Happy Camp,” the laws of the district were made and adopted, the creek and district named, and claims located the creek and district taking the names of two of our company, Michael Jordan and W. T. Carson.

It may be interesting to know the future of this party of twenty-nine, but a great many of them have unfortunately passed into obscurity. Michael Jordan and James Carroll fell victims to Indians in 1864. H. R. Wade was the first County treasurer-elect, and he and W. T. Carson died at Silver City in 1865. William Duncan died in 1873, in Nevada. J. R. Cain moved to Boise valley. Height and Iba emigrated to southeastern Idaho and Height recently sold the Hailey hot springs, of which he was the proprietor. Purdy as stated before, met his fate by Indians in 1878. The return of the party to Boise basin with the news of the discovery at once created a “stampede” for Owyhee, and the mining towns of Booneville and Ruby City were speedily in course of erection, and gold hunters busily engaged in changing the formation of Florida and War Eagle mountains. In July 1863, the first quartz ledge was discovered and located, in Whiskey gulch, by R. H. Wade & Company. A few days after, the Oro Fino quartz ledge was discovered and located by A. J. Sands and Svale Neilson, who a month later also located the “Morning Star.” The first quartz mill, called the “Morning Star,” with an equipment, of eight stamps, was erected by Moore, Fogus & Company. In May, 1864, the Oro Fino Gold & Silver Tunnel Company was incorporated in Carson district, to run a tunnel through Oro Fino mountain, on which were at that time thirty locations, one of which was the “War Eagle,” which gave its name subsequently to the mountain. The tunnel company, however, never materialized, though the project has again been agitated in the later days.

The great discovery of 1865 was the celebrated Poorman mine. According to Professor Gilbert Butler, it was discovered by O’Brien, Holt, Zerr, Ebner, Stevens and Ray, and was first called the “Hays & Ray.” Some say it was discovered by D. C. O’Byrne, and others mention Charles S. Peck. It is said that it was first discovered by Peck, about one thousand feet from the present discovery shaft, in which he (Peck) uncovered a rich chimney, but concealed his discovery, and, finding that it lay within the boundaries of the Hays & Ray claim, endeavored to purchase the mine from the owners, but was unsuccessful. The chimney, however, was uncovered by another company of prospectors, and the mine was then named the “Poorman,” on account of the discoverers being without capital to work it. Peck was subsequently given an interest in the mine by the owners, but in the meantime a fight for possession was imminent, the owners barricading the entrance of the mine and mounting a couple of pieces of ordnance, naming the fortifications “Fort Baker.” The ore taken from the Poorman was a silver chloride, richly impregnated with gold, easily worked, and soft as lead, which it resembled, tinted crimson, which gave it its name of ruby silver. As it came from the mine it readily sold for four dollars an ounce, which was said to be much below its real value. At a depth of one hundred feet a body of native ore was uncovered weighing about five hundred pounds, which was one solid mass of ruby silver crystals, specimens of which were exhibited at the Paris exposition of 1866 and were awarded a gold medal. Two thousand tons of second and third class rock yielded $546,691.59, and tailings went over $70.00 to the ton, first-class rock ranging from four thousand dollars to five thousand dollars per ton. Other mines of note were discovered in Carson, Mammoth and Flint districts, and between 1863 and 1865 two hundred and fifty mining locations were recorded, the principal ones, aside from those previously mentioned, being the Golden Chariot, War Eagle. Ida Elmore, Whiskey Gulch, Minnesota, Silver Bullion. Hidden Treasure, Noonday, Centurion, Golden Eagl6, Allison, Blazing Star, Montana, Home Ticket, Floreta, Silver Legion, Eureka, Calaveras, Caledonian, Empire, Dashaway, Red Jacket, Mahogany, Stormy Hill, South Chariot, Illinois Central, Belle Peck, North Extension Poorman, South Poorman, Lucky Poorman, Big Fish, Boycott, Glenbrook, Clearbrook. Idlewild. North Empire, South Empire, San Juan. Dubuque, Silver Cloud, Louisiana, Ruby Jackson, Silver City, Ruth, Sinker, By Chance, Potosi, Rattling Jack, St. James, Northern Light, Crook & Jennings, Brannan, Home Resort, Savage, Piute. Miami, Lone Tree. Home Stake, Little Fish. Silver Cord, Golden Cord, Standard, Philox, Webfoot, Wilson, Idaho, Gentle Emma, Stoddard, Ohio, Henrietta, Tremont, Crown Point, Redemption, Booneville, Empire State, Florida Hill. Seventy-Nine, Paymaster. Cumber-land, Black Jack, Leviathan, Sierra Nevada, Yreka. Owyhee Treasury. Avenue, Rose, Hudson, Phoenix, and Carson Chief, all in Carson district, besides the Webfoot and Garfield in

Wagontown district, and Rising Star, Astor and Twiliglit in Flint district.

The Owyhee mines, up to 1881, were worked to a depth which varied from one hundred and fifty to one thousand five hundred feet. The Owyhee Treasury, at a depth of one hundred feet down, yielded ore worth seventy-five cents per pound. A “stringer” in the mine, worked in a common mortar, yielded forty-six dollars to a pound of ore.

The mining camps for several years flourished and enjoyed a continuous run of unparalleled prosperity until the year of 1875, when the suspension of the Bank of California and other causes for a while paralyzed the mining industries of the County, and resulted in the withdrawal from the field of a number of large companies who had been in active operation here.

While it was considered somewhat hazardous in the early history of this County to follow the pursuit of what might be termed “experimental farming” in a country which was generally regarded as the home of the miner, and a locality where the sage brush blossomed as the rose, nevertheless a few hardy pioneers of agricultural proclivities, like their worthy congeners, the honest miners, prospected the soil with good results: others followed in their footsteps, and to-day, where formerly the hardy sage brush flourished and the wary coyote trod, we find thousands of acres covered with thrifty farms and orchards, yielding annually almost fabulous quantities of cereals and esculents. The valleys of the Bruneau, Reynolds creek, Castle creek, Catherine creek and Sinker creek are unsurpassed for fertility and productiveness of soil, and the mountain slopes in season are luxuriant with the most nutritious grasses, affording the best of ranges for stock raising. With irrigation scientifically applied, Owyhee farmers have succeeded in transforming what was termed in immigration days the “God-forsaken country” to an earthly paradise. Wheat is always a sure crop, and great success has been met with barley and oats. Hay of all descriptions, mostly alfalfa, is produced in large quantities; and potatoes, cabbages and all the smaller garden vegetables grown in great profusion. Fruits, vines and shrubs, wherever planted, have turned out thrifty and produced largely.
To the weary traveler crossing the dreary, monotonous and arid plains of Owyhee, the emerald and picturesque ranches, sequestered in the deep canyons of the creeks, are a source of joy and beauty.

It was early discovered that cattle that were fed on the nutritious bunch grass and white sage that abounded on the plains and mountain slopes of Owyhee County attained a perfection of bone, muscle and flesh not equaled by any other locality, and this led to a rapid settling of the ranges of Bruneau, Reynolds, Castle, Catherine, Sinker, Cow and Sucker creeks, which were speedily covered with immense herds of hardy cattle. In 1882 the number of cattle assessed in the County was 24,559, which was believed to be 6,000 short of the actual figure. In 1885 it was estimated that there were over 60,000 head of cattle within the confines of Owyhee County. In 1888-9 the cattle interests in the County reached their maximum, and, as we are reliably informed, there was at that date over 100,000 head of cattle in the County. At that date the principal cattle owners were: Murphy & Horn, 12,000 head; Scott & Company, 18,000 head; Grayson & Company, 16,000 head; Hardiman Bros., 5,000 head; Sommercamp, 5,000 head; Jack Sands, 3,500 head: Con Shea, 5,000 head; Sparks & Harrell, 5,000 head; Bruce Brothers, 2,500 head; total, 72,000 head. Add to this several stock raisers with herds numbering 500 to 1,000, a very low estimate would be 18,000 head, making a grand total of 100,000 head. These were the flush cattle times of Owyhee, when the cattle kings viewed with swelling pride their increasing herds and pocketbooks; but a couple of severe winters, the inability to find sufficient suitable food for such large herds, and several other causes, created a great loss of cattle, and the cattle trade gradually shrank to its- present condition, there not being, it is believed, at present date, over 15,000 head of cattle within the County.

But the loss of one industry has been the gain of another, viz., the sheep industry, which from small beginnings has gradually risen to its present proportions, and it is generally estimated that at this date there are over one hundred and fifty thousand head of sheep in Owyhee County.

The first settlement in the county was made at Booneville, now Dewey, which took its name after Boone, one of the discovery party of twenty-nine. A little later the town of Ruby City sprang into existence, and by the summer of 1864 boasted of a population of eight to nine hundred, and was made the County seat upon the organization of the County on December 31, 1863. Its location being an unfavorable one, a rival town sprang up, which was named Silver City, which not only gradually absorbed Ruby City, but became the County seat in 1866. Fairview, located on the apex of War Eagle mountain, was also a thriving little burg, and would have been made the County seat were it not for its inaccessibility-It was destroyed by fire October 16, 1875, loss being about one hundred thousand dollars, and never recuperated from the disaster.

De Lamar, another flourishing town, with a population nearly equal to that of Silver City, was first settled in 1888, and has since shown considerable improvement. Guffey, the baby town of the County, and the terminal point of the B. X. & O. Railroad, is rapidly increasing in population, making extensive improvements, and giving great promise for the future.

The United States census of 1890 gave the population of Owyhee County as 2,021. At the last presidential election, in the fall of 1896, there were 1,240 votes cast, and the estimated population of the County at present date is about 5,000.

The total value of taxable property in Owyhee County, as per assessment roll of July, 1896, amounted to $795,549.00, which embraced 10,769 head of cattle, 122,777 sheep, 8,299 horses, 170 jacks and mules, and 188 hogs. The total value of taxable property in Owyhee County, as per assessment roll of July 1897, amounted to $894,786.00, which embraced 11,636 head of cattle, 118,705 sheep, 8,687 horses, 238 jacks and mules, and 231 hogs.

The Only Legal Hanging in the County

The morning of Friday, October 15, 1881, the day appointed for the execution of Henry McDonald, dawned dark and disagreeable, a heavy snow storm prevailing, as if nature was angry that man, created in the image of God, should fall so low as to make capital punishment a necessity. All preparations for the execution had been completed by Sheriff Springer, and at one o’clock, p. m., the prisoner was taken from his cell, and in company with the sheriff and deputy, walked down to Jordan street, where a wagon was in waiting to carry him to the gallows and the grave. He showed no signs of emotion; walked very erect, and got in the wagon, in company with the sheriff, deputy and Father Nattini, and was driven to the place of execution, at the old Ruby City cemetery, which has been unused for many years. About three hundred people gathered about the scaffold, many having come in from the adjacent valleys. At seventeen minutes past one o’clock the prisoner firmly ascended the scaffold, and until i 45 remained in consultation with Father Nattini, at which time Sheriff Springer read the death warrant. McDonald shook hands with those who had guarded him while in jail here and the priest, bidding them good-bye, but had nothing else to say. James T. Griffin pinioned his hands and feet, and Father Nattini adjusted the black cap. At six minutes before two o’clock the sheriff sprung the trap, and thus without a sign of emotion or word of complaint the bloodstained soul of Henry McDonald was ushered into eternity. In fourteen minutes life was pronounced extinct by Dr. Belknap, and the remains were buried within a few yards of the scaffold.

The evidence in this case is well known and the law has been vindicated. not only should the youths of this place remember, but those men who are ready to draw the deadly knife and revolver, that “He who sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” This is the first execution by law in this County: may we hope that another will never be required.

The Marion More Tragedy

As there are several versions afloat of this lamentable affair, we present to our readers such facts as we have been able to glean from the sources at our command, which will probably be new to the rising generation and will refresh the memories of the old timers.

During the winter of 1867-8 a dispute arose between the celebrated “Ida Elmore” and “Golden Chariot” Mining Companies as to the respective boundaries of their mining lines, which at first it was thought would be settled by compromise or litigation. To the surprise of all, however, force was resorted to, and each parts-secured the services of well known fighters, heavily armed, to protect their interests. March 1868, found both parties strongly fortified and closely watching each other, and on the morning of March 25 hostilities were commenced by the Golden Chariot party storming the works of their opponents. Desperate fighting ensued and during the charge John C. Holgate, an owner in the Golden Chariot, was shot in the head and died instantaneously. Shooting was kept up at intervals during the night, and the next morning Meyer Frank, one of the Ida Elmore contingent, was fatally wounded and died a few hours subsequently. At noon another Ida Elmore man named James Howard was seriously wounded and several others on both sides received slight wounds.

On the 28th Governor Ballard issued a proclamation commanding both parties to disperse peaceably and submit to the proper authorities, and a squad of United States cavalry was sent from Fort Boise to the seat of war. On the morning of the 29th, however, the principal parties on both sides effected a compromise and hostilities ceased and the armed men were with-drawn.

On the evening of April 1,1868, Sam Lockhart was seated in front of the stage office at the Idaho hotel, when Marion More, accompanied by one Jack Fisher and two or three others, came up, and an altercation ensued between Lockhart and the More party, and shooting commenced on both sides. Several shots were exchanged and Lockhart was wounded in the left arm. Fisher received an ugly wound in the left thigh. More was shot in the center of the left breast and ran about fifty yards, falling in front of the then called Oriental restaurant, into which he was taken and promptly attended to, but he was pronounced in a dying condition, and death ended his sufferings the following afternoon.

More was well known in Idaho as a member of the firm of More & Fogus, and his death was universally regretted. His remains were conveyed by the Masonic fraternity, of which he was a member, to Idaho City, where they were interred. Subsequent to the affray several arrests were made, but proceedings were afterwards quashed and peace and quietness again reigned in the town of Silver City. Lockhart’s arm was amputated, but blood poisoning ensued, and he died on the 13th of July following.

The Baldwin Affair

The failure of the Bank of California in August, 1875, led to the closing of several of the prominent mines on War Eagle mountain for lack of funds, causing considerable distress and destitution among the miners and their families, a good many of the miners being forced to quit work upon seeing no prospect of securing their pay.

For a while the “Golden Chariot,” which since November 15, 1875, had been under the superintendency of M. A. Baldwin, met its engagements in due season, but eventually allowed two months to elapse without a pay day, though making many promises which did not materialize. Certain actions on the part of the officers, such as removing the valuable property of the company and the peremptory closing of the mine, were looked upon as rather suspicious by the miners, who were smarting under their grievances and roused to action by the destitution of their families, which they justly attributed to the conduct of the company, and after a cool and deliberate consultation they concluded to take action them-selves, and not wait for the uncertain and tortuous windings of the law. About midnight Friday, June 30, 1876, about one hundred men comprised of the “Golden Chariot” employees, and miners from other mines, assembled and proceeded to the office of the company, located near the mill, and conducted the superintendent, M. A. Baldwin, to a house at Fairview and placed him under guard, at the same time informing him that he would not be released unless assurance was given that the employees of the company would receive their just dues. Everything was conducted in a very peaceable manner, and Mr. Baldwin’s wants fully provided for. On the assurance of the San Francisco officials of the company that the pay of the miners would be forthcoming, Mr. Baldwin was released from durance vile on July 21, 1876 and allowed to proceed to San Francisco. He returned from there a month later, and the miners were paid off as promised, and operations for a short period resumed, but eventually the mine was closed down and has, with the exception of an occasional spurt, remained in sta’u quo ever since.

Silver City

Silver City is a flourishing mining camp in southwestern Idaho, containing a population of nearly two thousand people. It was laid out in 1864 and through its mining interests is known in nearly every quarter of the globe. The town lies in a canyon, on the headwaters of Jordan creek, and at an altitude of about 6,300 feet. War Eagle mountain on the east, and Florida mountain on the west, rise to heights of about eight thousand feet, the former being the higher and the most prominent peak in southern Idaho. From the summit of War Eagle Mountain, on a clear summer’s morning, with the aid of a telescope one can see the Teton range in Wyoming, the southwestern corner of Montana, the Wasatch range in Utah, a butte in Washington, four hundred and twenty-five miles northwesterly, and glimpses within the state lines of Nevada, California and Oregon.

The climate during the summer months is nearly perfect, the days never getting very warm, and the nights so cool that quite a weight of clothing is necessary for comfort. Mosquitoes, gnats or fleas are unknown. In the winter the snow sometimes falls to considerable depth, but the cold is not severe, and teaming of any character can be done at all seasons.

The social life of Silver City is free from the petty jealousies and heart-burnings that are so common in small places, where the “upper ten” and “codfish aristocracy” swell over their inferiors. Here there is a pleasant, natural commingling between all classes, and a cordial hospitality rules society. Church services are conducted at odd intervals, there being no resident ministers. The Masonic order has two lodges in Silver City, chapter and blue lodge, and Odd Fellows three, encampment, subordinate and Rebekah. The Knights of Pythias are also represented with a strong lodge. Silver City Union, No. 66, of the W. F. of M., was organized August 8, 1896, the first officers installed being: O. D. Brumbaugh, president; Simon Harris, vice president; W. H. Hutchins, financial secretary; D. C. Wilson, recording secretary: Thomas James, treasurer; T. W. Drew, conductor pro tem.; and J. McLeavey, warden pro tem.

Since its organization the union has paid out in benefits to members and their families about six thousand dollars, and also expended fourteen hundred and fifty dollars on the Miners’ hospital, of Silver City, which was opened during the latter part of October, 1897.

Besides the social position which this association holds in the community, it has ever been ready to preserve the harmony which exists between the large mining companies and their employees. Its membership in 1898 was five hundred and twenty-five, all in good standing, and financially the union has ever kept itself in a flourishing condition.

Silver City has six general merchandise stores, two hardware stores, a tin shop, two meat markets, two hotels, four restaurants, eight saloons, bakery, one shoe shop, a photograph gallery, brewery, soda-bottling works, two livery stables, a feed store, three drug stores, a jeweler, three blacksmith shops, a furniture store, two lumber yards, a tailor shop, three barber shops, a newspaper, four lawyers, two doctors, etc., etc.

This is essentially a mining town and is wholly dependent upon this industry for its support and prosperity. The whistle of hoisting and mill engines, and the sullen roar of giant-powder blasts, are music to her people. She has four stamp mills carrying an aggregate of fifty stamps, and two arastras. The mines are about equally divided between War Eagle and Florida mountains, each being covered with a network of veins carrying precious metals.

War Eagle Mountain is of granite formation. The veins lie generally north and south and the mountain is traversed east and west by numerous porphyry dykes. Generally speaking, the bonanza ore bodies found in that locality have been where the veins came in contact with these dykes. The ores of this mountain are free milling and carry a nice percentage of gold, the bullion running from $3.50 to $13.00 per ounce. War Eagle has a credited production record of about thirty millions of dollars, taken out during the first ten years of the camp’s history.

Florida Mountain, until very lately, was considered to be of porphyry formation with some granite upheavals, but the deep mining now done by the companies operating thereon has exploded this idea, and demonstrated that the rock masses are of granite, capped with porphyry. The veins of this mountain also maintain a north and south course, but dykes are not as common as on War Eagle. The ores, too, generally carry more iron, requiring concentration before amalgamation. Some of the largest and most exclusive gold veins in the camp are found on Florida Mountain, which furnished the rich auriferous deposits that attracted the attention of the early prospectors to this camp. Florida Mountain is covered to considerable depth by gravel and loam, making it extremely difficult to prospect, but when access to her treasure vaults is once obtained, powder, steel and muscle are sure to win.

The country surrounding Silver City abounds in game of all kinds, and the mountain streams are plentifully supplied with speckled trout, making it a grand locality for camping parties in the heated term. Grouse, sage hens and prairie chickens are numerous. In the higher mountains deer are found in large numbers, and antelope are frequently seen in isolated valleys near South Mountain, and on the lava beds which skirt the southern boundary of the county.

The Idaho Hotel, of Silver City, was first erected at Ruby City, Owyhee County, as early as 1863, by J. K. Eastman; and the following year, when Silver City was started, the building was taken down and moved to the latter place. Mr. Eastman conducted the hotel for a time and then sold it to Tim Regan and M. McGregor, who were the proprietors and managers until December 1889, when S. T. N. Smith purchased the establishment. He conducted the hostelry until April, 1898, when it was bought by Shea, McLain & Getchel, who are now running it as a first-class hotel.

It has sixty well furnished rooms, a large and commodious sample room, a stage office and an express office. The present proprietors, energetic, ambitious and polite, take great delight in preserving the fine prestige of the institution and even of making all the improvements that may be demanded by varying circumstances. They have a large patronage of the first class.

Trade Dollar Mining and Milling Company

The Trade Dollar Mining and Milling Company was incorporated under the laws of the state of Kentucky, in July 1891. The headquarters of the company are at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and the present officers are: President, Hon. J. M. Guffey: vice president, A. W. Mellon: secretary and treasurer, T. B. McKaig; superintendent, James Hutchinson; foreman, Joe H. Hutchinson; accountant, L. J. Weldon. The company owns the following mines located on the southern slope of the Florida mountain, all of which are patented: Colorado, Sierra Nevada, Jumbo, South Pluto, Black Bart, J. G. Blaine, Pluto, Pluto mill site. Trade Dollar, Fraction, Blaine Extension, Caroline: and the following claims unpatented: Alpine, Harrison, Alleghany, Standard and Little Chief.

The company did not have a patented claim when Mr. Hutchinson assumed charge, and three-fourths of the producing territory at the present time is from claims acquired since he assumed charge. The property today ranks with the best paying properties on the Pacific coast. At the present time there is over three miles of track laid, railed and tied; and over five miles of tunnels, drifts, adits, etc. The main tunnel is 3,854 feet in length, and connects with the Black Jack tunnel at its northern boundary. The company plant is very complete, consisting of a ten-stamp combination mill, office buildings, department shops, bunk and boarding houses, Ingersoll-Sergeant air compressor, compound Corliss engine, drill press, lathe in fact, a full and complete mining and milling outfit.

The officers at the eastern end have been liberal and progressive, and the management at this end conservative and intelligent. While it may seem preposterous, the facts are that the Trade Dollar in 1897 paid larger dividends than any one mine in Cripple Creek, according to published records of dividends.

Cumberland Gold Mine

This mine, which is located on the eastern side of War Eagle Mountain, is owned by James Shaw, and has been operated under bond by Sonneman & Branscomhe, of Spokane, since September 1897, since which time the property has been equipped with hoist, shaft house, ore house, and other improvements made necessary for extensive work.

The situation is on the mineral zone which contains all the famous properties of War Eagle mountain, and on the system of veins on which are located the Oro Fino, Elmore, Golden Chariot, Minnesota, Mahogany, the aggregate production of which, amounting to thirty-six mil-lion dollars, did much towards producing the enormous amount of gold bullion produced by Owyhee County in the past. The Cumberland is the southerly extension of the Oro Fino, a celebrated producer, and a parallel location to the Golden Chariot, which carried pay ore to a depth of one thousand five hundred feet, and has a record of shipments through Wells-Fargo express of fourteen million dollars. The Cumberland is virgin ground, and is proving on development to be as rich as any of the adjacent properties. It is the second quartz property to have been opened in Owyhee County, the Oro Fino, on the same vein, being an earlier location. In the early sixties, a no-foot shaft was sunk on the Cumberland vein, and some stoping done on the richest ore; but, on account of the large amount of trouble from the placer miners, and the depth demanding a poyver hoisting plant, work was stopped, and the shaft quickly filled to the collar with the debris washed down the canyon. The property eventually passed into the hands of Shaw, who has run upwards of 200 feet of tunnel on the vein above the collar of the old shaft. Most of the ground above this tunnel he has stoped, and, in spite of large expense attached to hauling, arastra milling, and large loss in tailings, the greater percentage of the silver value escaping, has averaged a clean-up of over one hundred dollars per ton.

The ore is quartz, occasionally stained by small percentage of copper, and carrying nothing else but silver and gold, in proportion of one ounce of gold to ten of silver, or, at present quotations, eighty per cent, gold and twenty per cent, silver. Very, often the gold percentage will exceed ninety, but never less than eighty. The gold values are entirely free-milling, the silver occurring as silver glance (argentite), and occasionally as native silver.

On securing the property, Sonneman & Branscomhe immediately commenced to secure depth, by sinking a winse in the Shaw tunnel, and by cleaning out and sinking to greater depth the old shaft, unentered for thirty years. Besides the increased value and size of ledge in the winse, the showings uncovered in the old shaft are most pleasing. Considerable stoping had been done to within forty feet of the bottom, but, in the faces of these old stopes, a vein is left which pays well to extract, and below these stopes, to the bottom of the shaft, and in the bottom, is a good vein ready for stoping and of high-grade ore. During the winter the work will be continued by sinking shaft, which has a present depth of one hundred and seventy-five feet, by three shifts, and pushing both the one hundred foot level and the Shaw tunnel ahead. These developments are made justifiable by the presence of ore in the faces of both tunnels, the vein in the shaft being nearly two feet in width, and running over two and one-half ounces in gold and thirty ounces in silver.

While all development indicates that the ore bodies in the Cumberland will equal in richness and tonnage those of the adjacent properties, the fact is already proven that in this mine is a strong, perfectly continuous ledge, the ore chute being three hundred feet long and of an average width of twelve inches, which will, yield to ordinary mill methods a return sufficient to reward the investors heavily and encourage others to investigate, develop and reopen the long neglected veins of War Eagle mountain.

De Lamar

The town of De Lamar is prettily nestled in a cluster of hills, prominent among which is the De Lamar Mountain, distant sixty miles from the capital, Boise City, and nine miles from the county seat, Silver City. It is lighted electrically, and supplied with telegraphic and telephonic communications with the outer world. The town is located on the banks of Jordan creek, famous in the early history of Owyhee County, the approaches of the town being lined with well built residences. In the center of the town is located the plant of the De Lamar Mining Company, Limited, consisting of mill buildings, department shops, offices, hotel and bunk houses, and surrounded by the principal mercantile houses. A little farther on, still within the hearing of the hum of industry, is another branch of the town, called by the residents “Tough Town,” which in mercantile activity fully equals that of the town proper. From there the road to Oregon is skirted by the residences of ranchers, teamsters, milk dealers and woodmen, with here and there an occasional evidence of mining industry, such as the Henrietta mill, Jones’ mill, and John Scales’ mill, at Wagontown.

The earliest settlement was at old Wagontown, located about two miles below the center of the town of De Lamar, which was a road station on the stage line running from Silver City to Winnemucca, Nevada. The first mine was located by J. W. Stoddard, which was afterwards patented, and is now a portion of the De Lamar group. John A. Wilson was the discoverer of the Wilson mine, which forms the nucleus of the De Lamar group. He disposed of his properties in September 1888, to Captain De Lamar, who subsequently purchased the Sommercamp and Lepley claims. Captain De Lamar vigorously developed his properties, erecting mill, hotel, and other necessary buildings. Peter Adams opened a boarding house, and Tom Jones, John Arvidson, Lewis Walker and others erected buildings, and 1890 found the town in a booming condition, and with a good-sized future. Montie B. Gwinn, of Caldwell, and others, opened a general merchandise store, under the name of the De Lamar Mercantile Company, which is now being carried on by Isay & Gombrig.

In the early part of 1891, Captain De Lamar disposed of his entire interests to the De Lamar Mining Company, Limited, an incorporated company of London, England, who have since their inception made many substantial improvements, besides erecting a substantial hotel, with first-class appointments, taking the place of the one erected by Captain De Lamar, which was destroyed by fire; and it is largely due to the unceasing application of the resident managers that the company possesses a plant whose standard of excellence is unexcelled by that of any mining company in this portion of the west. The claims of the De Lamar Company numbering about forty, are located on De Lamar mountain, and in the vicinity are located the Big T, Silver Vault, Garfield, Lepley, and many other promising mining properties, which are being exploited with excellent results. The De Lamar hotel, owned by the mining company, is ably managed.

The public schools are in a flourishing condition, under excellent supervision, with a membership of about one hundred and fifty pupils.

A flourishing miners’ union, a lodge of Odd Fellows, with a Rebekah lodge, comprise the secret organizations, and the welfare of the town is generally looked after by the De Lamar Nugget, a spicy and entertaining newspaper mentioned in the chapter concerning the press of the state.

The De Lamar Mining Company, Limited, was incorporated in March 1891, under the laws of Great Britain, with a nominal capital of 400,000 shares of one pound sterling each. The principal officers of the company in 1898 were: Francis Muir, Esq., of London, chairman board of directors; Charles Pakeman, Esq., of London, secretary board of directors; D. B. Huntley, resident manager; E. V. Orford, accountant and resident assistant manager; and Thomas Davey, mine foreman. The company are the owners of about forty mining claims and mill-sites, mostly patented, and situated at the town of De Lamar. These several groups of mines were located in the eighties, and in 1887 were purchased of the original owners by Captain J. R. De Lamar, who in the early part of 1891 disposed of them to the De Lamar Mining Company, Limited, the purchase price, it is said, being about two millions of dollars.

The working openings of the mines embrace about six miles, and the main workings of the property extend seven hundred feet in vertical depth; and beyond this an incline shaft is now being sunk for prospecting purposes. A three-rail gravity tramway, about two thousand and three hundred feet in length, connects the mines with the mill, which is a pan-amalgamation plant, equipped with forty stamps, twenty-eight pans, etc., and has a capacity of treating one hundred and fifty tons of ore daily. Connected with this mill is a fifty-ton plant of the Pelaton-Clerici cyanide process. These mills are run by a Corliss engine of two hundred and fifty horse power, and for about three months in the spring of the year the water power is utilized by means of a six-foot Pelton water wheel. The plant owned by the company is the most complete one in this section of the country, consisting of hotel and office buildings, store houses, department shops, mill, assay buildings, bunk and boarding houses, tramways, etc., and is covered by an insurance of fully one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. The company also carries a large stock of wood and other material, and duplicates of machinery, in which there is a large amount invested. The mills and mines give employment to about two hundred men, there being no interruption to the work, except on prominent holidays.

The energy and perseverance of the local managers, together with the liberal support of the home management, has placed this company in the foremost rank of the best mining properties of the west, and the gross output since the organization of the company to date amounts to over five million dollars.

The Miners’ Union of De Lamar is the oldest existing branch of the W. F. of M. in Owyhee County, and was organized on April 18. 1896, the first officers installed being: President, J. J. Bennett; vice-president, Thomas Duncalf: recording secretary, Samuel Honey; financial secretary, Ed. Wood; treasurer, William Cayzer; conductor, Charles Morris; warden, William Brasher; trustees, James H. Rodda, Fred Tyacke, John Pascoe. Richard Temby and Henry Warren.

Since its organization the Miners’ Union of De Lamar has paid out in benefits to members and their families some four thousand dollars, and, aside from its social features, has been ever the means of maintaining the harmonious feeling which exists between the De Lamar company and its employees. Its present membership amounts to one hundred and fifty, all in good standing. Its financial affairs are in a flourishing condition, and the great good it has accomplished in De Lamar is acknowledged by all.

Dewey

The town of Booneville was first settled in the summer of 1863, the first inhabitant being Captain Boone, from whom the town was named. For a time the town enjoyed a large population, and was in a very prosperous condition; but subsequently fell into decay, and for a good many years was simply a stopping place for wayfarers, stages and teamsters, the only building of prominence being the old Booneville hotel. In the spring of 1896, the hotel and surrounding property was purchased by Colonel W. H. Dewey, and operations were at once set on foot for the improvement of the town. During the summer of 1896, the Florida M. & M. Company erected a twenty-stamp mill, which is by far one of the largest and best equipped in the west. The Hotel Dewey was also erected, a large and commodious building, whose appointments and architectural structure are unequaled by any hotel in the state. The building is of the southern hotel order, three stories in height, surmounted by a large cupola, and fronted with a double portico. The building is thirty by sixty feet, with an L of thirty by seventy-eight feet. To the left of the hall are the barrooms, card-rooms and the store-rooms, the bar fittings being very elaborate, and unexcelled in this section of the country. To the right of the hall are the offices, reading-room, billiard-room and wash-room. The hall terminates with the dining room and kitchen, and the upper stories are devoted to parlors and rooms, single and en suite, elegantly furnished with modern-style furniture, equal to that of any caravansary on the coast. In the third story is a large hall, completely fitted up for theatricals, dances and other amusements. The hotel is heated by steam-heating apparatus of the latest pattern, and lighted by an electrical plant supplied by the mill, and the sanitary and sewerage conditions are as perfect as can be made by labor and science.

Adjoining the hotel are the offices of the Florida M. & M. Company, and the residence of the superintendent, both of which are of modern design, artistic structure and substantial erection. Facing the hotel, several substantial buildings have been erected, viz., general store, butcher shop, steam laundry, barber shop, variety store, post office, livery stable and barn, etc., and in the upper part of the store building is a large hall, fitted up for lodge rooms, assemblages, etc.

The water facilities and fire system of the town are the best to be found in any mining camp this side of the Rocky mountains, the water being piped from natural springs located nearly two miles from the town, and conveyed to tanks having a capacity of 1,500 barrels, situated at an elevation of about three hundred and fifty feet on the hill east of the hotel, giving a pressure of about two hundred and forty pounds to the square inch through a four-inch main, to twelve fire-plugs located in different parts of the town; and thereby securing for the town an almost complete immunity from fire. There has also been constructed an ice house and slaughter house, and, in fact, nothing has been neglected in the way of making the town complete as to conveniences for its inhabitants, as well as an illustration of what can be done by applied energy and industry.

In the spring of 1897, through the efforts of Colonel Dewey, a post office was established, and the name of the town changed to Dewey, in compliment to its founder: and James Gartland, the genial accountant of the F. M. & M. Company, and affable manager of the Hotel Dewey, received the appointment of postmaster.

The town of Dewey is located at the base of Florida Mountain, and in easy distance of all the principal mining properties located on that mountain, and is also the terminal point of the B. N. & O. R. R. Company, now in course of construction.

Reynolds Creek

Reynolds Creek valley is sixteen miles from Silver City and fifteen from Snake River. The earliest settlers here were Thomas Carson, Joseph Babbington and James C. Bernard, who came in the spring of 1864. Since then the valley has been settled rapidly, the population now numbering over two hundred. The chief productions of the valley are hay, grain and fruit, which find a ready market at the mining camps, and considerable attention is given also to the rearing of live stock.

The village itself is characterized principally by J. M. Brunzells hotel and Share’s stage-house. The latter well known resort, familiar to the patrons of the California, Oregon & Idaho Stage Company, as well as to the wayfaring public in general, was opened in April, 1877, by Charles E. Share, as a stage station and teamsters” headquarters, and has been continued by him ever since without interruption.

Guffey

This village is the present terminal point of the Boise, Nampa & Owyhee Railroad, located at the Snake River, thirty miles from Silver City and one mile below the railroad bridge of the B., N. & O. Railroad. The first building was erected May 27, 1897, by Fred Brunzell, and the town now comprises a general store, express and post offices, hotel, blacksmith shop, livery stables, stage barns, boarding-houses, etc., and enjoys a population of over a hundred, with indications of a steady increase.

The railroad bridge at Guffey was completed by the Boise, Nampa & Owyhee Railroad Company during the summer of 1897. The height from low water to the track is fifty feet. The bridge consists of two spans, each two hundred and fifty feet in length.

Grand View

This post office is located on the south side of the Snake River, forty-five miles from Silver City and twenty-two miles from Mountain Home. It is an outlet for a large scope of agricultural country, there being several fine ranches in the back country and vicinity. It is also the headquarters of the Owyhee Land & Irrigation Company, who are the owners of a fine, substantial hotel and store, besides the ferry.

The chief productions of the valleys and ranches bordering on the canal are hay, grain and fruits, which are raised in large quantities, and considerable attention is given to placer-mining along the banks of the Snake River.

The earliest settlers here were Captain White, John McVann, Wenzel Turmes and Henry Dorsey.

Bruneau Dam

This dam, located on Bruneau River, a mile and a half above its mouth, was constructed by the Owyhee Land & Irrigation Company, is twenty -five feet high and one hundred and ninety feet wide at the bottom, and a hundred and eighty feet long at the top. Upon this foundation is a crib dam, made of iron and timber, one hundred and seventy-six feet long on the crest, terminating at each end in vertical masonry abutments.

At the south side are the head gates of the canal, having an opening of forty feet in width, and from this point the canal follows the contours about ten miles in a westerly direction and at a distance of one to two miles south of Snake River.

Bruneau valley is situated in the northeastern part of Owyhee County, is fourteen miles in length and one to two miles wide. The Bruneau River flows through the center of the valley and empties into the Snake River.

The earliest settlers in this valley were John Turner, “Uncle Abe” Roberson, James H. Whit-son and B. F. Hawes, who located here in the sixties.

Fruit, grain and hay, especially the latter, are the chief products of the soil. Some livestock, including sheep, is raised. The horses bred and reared here are as good as the average in the best’ of localities. The temperature rarely falls to zero.

The town of Bruneau has a general store, hotel, post office, blacksmith shop, etc.

Hot Springs

Hot Springs district comprises the upper half of the beautiful valley of the Bruneau, and takes its name from the innumerable hot springs which are located mainly on the ranches of the Robersons, Arthur Pence and Lewis & Olsen. The soil is extremely fertile and abundantly watered by the Bruneau River, and the ranches are noted not alone for their picturesque beauty but also for their large productions of hay, cereals, fruit, etc.

The Oreana Valley

The Oreana Valley embraces Picket, Hart’s and Catherine creeks, and is about fifteen miles long, one to three miles wide and has many creeks. Grain, hay and fruit are the principal productions.

The town of Oreana has a general store, blacksmith shop and school, besides the post office, which was established here in 1884.

The earliest settlers here were James and John Driscoll and Tim Shea, who located here early in the sixties.

Castle Creek Valley

Castle Creek Valley is about fifteen miles long and one to two miles wide, through which flows the beautiful creek. Farming and stock raising are the chief industries, the valley being good for hay.

The earliest settlers in this valley were Captain G. W. Paul, M. H. Presby, P. S. Cooper and W. H. Barnes.



MLA Source Citation:

Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 18 December 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/idaho/owyhee-county-its-history-towns-industries.htm - Last updated on Jun 30th, 2013


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