Slightly before California was obtained by the United States, gold flakes were found in the American River by a man named James Wilson Marshall. It took a few months for others to catch wind of the discoveries being made in that far, western territory, but once word got around, a flood of people hitched up their horses and oxen and travelled west to find fortune for themselves. This was the beginning of the California Gold Rush, though it was not the end of migration for the purpose of hitting it rich.
Throughout the western territories, later to be called states, people were finding reasons to build mines for many natural resources that were valued quite high. Idaho is one of the states that had many mining towns, though once the mines were completely gutted of all useful materials, towns tended to lose residents until they were finally deserted by people who were looking for a new place to earn their money. This left many town that had previously been considered boomtowns depleted of resources and citizens, which most often lead every last person to leave because they couldn’t remain in a town on their own with no one else to exchange goods. Thus, ghost towns were born.
Now that many years have gone by, people are fascinated by the places that previously held inhabitants, though have long since been ravaged by the scars of winter, wildlife, and time. Visiting Idaho’s old mining towns is a very interesting way to spend a few hours and is worth a peek for those who are intrigued by the mystery that time leaves behind. Travelling through the state shows that there are many towns in varying states of decay, though each holds its own stamp and uniqueness that can’t be felt at any other sites.
Near Challis, Idaho, is the Custer Historic Mining Town. Just over thirty years was how long this town was full of people. At one point, 600 people called this place home and the population dipped and jumped throughout its short life span. People came to be employed by one of two mines- the Lucky Boy Mine and the Black mine. The state decided to keep the open for curious adventurers to view, mostly thanks to the local museum.
Yellow Pine, Idaho, sits in the center of a hub of exchange where miners of all types stopped in to trade on their way to Stibnite. This town really took off in the 1940s due to an increase in demand from the war. Because there was so much interest in tungsten to assist inn strengthening steel, people flocked to the area when built up both the town of Stibnite and the town of Yellow Pine. Small though it may be, Yellow Pine is still home to several residents who have thriving businesses, though Stibnite has since been vacated and it’s glory days, which brought with them luxuries including a small hospital and even a ski team, have since been laid to rest- landing it in the graveyard with other ghost towns. This mine was home to various types of miners throughout its life, having different chief resources throughout the years, though gold and tungsten were primary. In fact, the efforts for Stibnite were so influential in World War II that over 3/4ths of the tungsten provided came from this small mining town in west central Idaho. Likewise, it was hard to find antimony that did not come from Stibnite. This ghost town, with such a rich history, has been instrumental in the history of the United States, and has made its impact on the world.
Owyhee County houses a rather large ghost town that held a proud heritage of gold and silver miners- Silver City. Still relatively well preserved when compared to many other abandoned towns throughout the state of Idaho, this place has become weathered, though still has some interesting features that can be explored and there are a few small businesses. The four businesses still operating out of Silver City dwarf in comparison to the roughly 75 that could be found when this city was in its prime. With electricity coursing through its veins before 1900, it was a very well connected place. This could also be because there were many railways that swung through the area. It has been approximated the $60 million in gold and silver were taken from the surrounding area, though there is little way to know exactly and it can be supposed that that number is low. The last mine closed up shop in 2000, so Silver City has only recently become dormant on the front of mining, though it has not been forgotten.
Ghost towns hold fascinating stories of overarching histories as well as each location passing through the lives of many individuals before finally becoming a place to be left behind. Looking into the gaping maws of long since abandoned homes whose doors have rotted from their hinges to behemoth buildings with varying degrees of decay that used to be the places of employment for so many in the mining profession can be intriguing and a little bit spooky. Perhaps that is why so many flock to these areas to explore and remind themselves that life can change at the drop of a hat, so it is best when lived to the fullest, in the moment.