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Idaho: Six Months in the New Gold Regions (1864)

Idaho: Six Months in the New Gold Regions (1864)

Idaho Idaho





As usual in new gold regions, gulch mining, as the easiest worked, is first resorted to, but this is mere gleaning as compared with the solid and permanent yield of quartz mining when properly carried on. A private letter from Bannock City, an extract from which we insert below, gives details of a simple and effective quartz mill introduced there by Mr. Allan, being the only one as yet in operation in Eastern Idaho. Others more complicated and costly are being introduced. We give above a diagram of Mr. Allan.s apparatus.

"My first operation was to put up a very rude structure in the shape of a quartz mill formed in this way : An ever-shot wheel, twenty feet in diameter, is placed on a shaft eighteen feet long, with large pins in the shaft for the purpose of raising the stamps. These stamps are fourteen feet long and eight inches square, and strapped with tire iron on the bottom, which work into a box that is lined on the sides with copper plate galvanized with quicksilver, so as to catch the gold as the quartz is crushed and dashed up on the sides of the box. Then we have an opening on one side of the box, with a fine screen in it through which the fine quartz and fine gold pass, and run over a table covered with copper. The quartz lodes here are very rich. We have taken out between fifty and sixty thousand dollars from one claim alone. We have five claims. We have picked up pieces that weighed two and three ounces of beautiful gold.



Let us suppose that a party of men have arrived at the Missouri river who are going to Idaho, and wish to prepare for a trip across the plains. What kind of a team and wagon is most advisable to take? What variety of provisions will be most suited to a journey of this kind; what quantity ought a party of four men to take; and how should it be prepared? What mining and other implements is it necessary to provide? Will the party

[36] need a tent when their wagons are covered? What arms, if any, should be carried, and what supply of clothing should a person have for a trip of this kind?

The first question to be settled is, what kind of a team is it advisable to take—should it be horses, mules or oxen? For many reasons the ox is preferable. Firstly, a team of this kind is much cheaper than any of the others. Three yoke, at $75 per yoke, would amount to $225, and would be fully equal to two span of horses or mules, which would cost double that sum. Secondly, they require less feed and attention, and very seldom stray so as not to be readily found, neither are they as liable to be stolen, or stampeded by the Indians, as horses or mules. As to a wagon, it does not require an expensive one; just such a one as a farmer would select to do his farm work (a common lumber wagon) is the most suitable. This kind will meet with a ready sale in the mines, whereas more expensive wagons with springs and stationary covers are less in demand. It should be made of the best of seasoned lumber, and put together firmly so as to stand the drouth [sic] of the plains. The thimble skein axle is preferable. It should be covered with canvass, and it would be well to have it lined overhead with oil-cloth so that goods will be protected from the weather, however hard it may storm.

As to the provisions and the variety suited to take, first we say that no party should leave the Missouri river next spring for Idaho without a supply sufficient TO LAST THEM NINE MONTHS. The emigrant may ask, why cumber our wagons with such an amount when we shall be but sixty or seventy days on the route? But remember, you are not going to an agricultural country, or at least one developed, but are going to a very new section where produce is scarce and high, and has to be freighted many hundred miles; and should all go with just enough to last them through, much suffering would be inevitable, and more particularly so the coming season, from the fact that the surplus of produce grown in Utah the past season has already been freighted to this new territory, and bears a high price, owing to the large emigration that has already reached the mines. When we contemplate the immense emigration that must inevitably pour into that country from both the East and the West the coming season, we can but admonish all who go to be sure and carry provisions enough to last until after another crop shall have been grown in Utah. There are further reasons why parties should take a good supply. It may be some little time after arriving before getting

[p.37] into business, and to have to pay twenty-five or thirty dollars per hundred for flour, and for other necessaries in proportion, or fourteen dollars per week for board, would be too great a drain upon the pockets of many; hence go prepared.

Each party should take at least one good cow for milking purposes, as milk is relished upon in the plains, and on many occasions when great dispatch is required in the getting up of a meal, or in case of a storm when cooking cannot be done, it is resorted to, and serves a tolerable purpose. A tent too is almost an indispensable article, and each party, however well their wagons may be covered, will do well to take one. They are readily pitched, and with a stove situated in one corner with the pipe protruding through the roof, they answer the purpose of a house, and with a good supply of eatables, one can be "quite at home," however distant from civilization; whereas, without one, the party must cook in the open air whatever the weather may be, and the sleeping apartment in the wagon, too, is not desirable, from the fact that it is always stored with boxes, kegs, etc., while the tent furnishes a comfortable sleeping place, which is one of the requisites to health in a trip of this kind.

As to a stove, many, indeed nearly all who cross the plains, use what is called the "emigrant stove," which is simply a small sheet-iron stove answering a very good purpose, but which soon burns out, frequently not lasting through the trip. The common cast-iron cooking stove, which sells in the states for from eighteen to twenty five dollars, sells in the mines for from one to two hundred dollars, and may be readily carried and used on the way, and upon arriving, if desired, it will sell for at least one hundred dollars profit whereas the sheet iron stove will be comparatively worthless.

In regard to clothing, persons had better be too warm than suffer from cold, yet it will not be necessary to take a very large amount; say one or two extra suits of good durable clothing are sufficient. Each person should have a rubber coat and leggings, also two pair of woolen blankets or similar bedding of some kind. The emigrant should have two extra pair of double-soled boots. Parties should go well armed. Each should have a rifle or shotgun, and a revolver. Very few who cross the plains have occasion to use them, but the fact of having them along serves to fortify parties against an attack from either the marauding whites or hostile Indians.

A pony is not an indispensable requisite to a trip of this kind, yet it is advisable for a party to have one come along; they can be had cheap at the Missouri river, and will save many a step for the weary emigrant in the way of herding and collecting his stock; and for the purpose of enjoying the buffalo chase or the more daring encounter of the grizzly, the pony is quite indispensable.

The following table comprises the necessaries for an outfit of nine months for four persons:

3 yoke of Oxen, $75 per yoke $225.00
1 Wagon and cover 100.00 Brought Forward... $522.50
1 Tent 12.00 1 Skillet 1.50
12 sacks of Flour 36.00 2 Water Buckets .50
400 pounds of Bacon 40.00 2 Small Tin Pails 1.00
100 pounds of Coffee 30.00 75 feet of Rope 2.50
40 pounds of Candles 10.00 6 Table Spoons .50
10 pounds of Tea 10.00 2 Camp Kettles 1.25
Yeast Powders 5.00 4 Gold Pans 3.00
50 pounds of Salt 1.00 4 Picks 5.00
3 pounds of Pepper .50 4 Shovels 5.00
2 bushels of Beans 3.00 2 Axes 2.50
15 gallons of Vinegar 4.00 2 Bread Pans 1.00
25 pounds of Bar Soap 3.00 1 Wagon Bucket 1.00
50 pounds of Lard 5.00 Hand Saw and Drawing
1 gross Matches 1.00 Knife 2.00
1 ten-gallon Water-Keg 1.25 2 Chisels and Augers 2.00
1 Coffee Mill .75 1 pair of Gold Scales 4.00
2 Coffee Pots 1.50 2 Files .50
8 Tin Plates .50 Hatchet and Hammer 1.00
8 Tin Cups .50 2 Gimlets .25
2 Frying Pans 1.00 10 pounds of cut and
4 Butcher Knives 2.00 Wrought Nails .75
6 Knives and 6 Forks 2.00 1 Whetstone .10
200 pounds of Sugar 25.00 4 bushels Apricots 6.00
1 bushel of Dried Peaches 2.00
Carried Forward $522.50 50 pounds Rice 5.00

Should the party take a cooking stove with furniture, many of the above mentioned articles could be dispensed with, by an economy of use.

As to a diet situated to the plains, very many who cross the plains seem to think that none of the luxuries of home can be enjoyed in a trip of this kind. From this fact they provide themselves with only breadstuffs and meats, while fruits, butter and eggs are left quite out of the bill. We have observed a very great difference as to the health of parties. Those who use meats and little or no fruit, incline to the scurvy, while those who use fruits and very little bacon or meat, never have it. Bacon and hams should be snugly packed in a wagon where the sun cannot reach them, nor should they be frequently spread upon the ground in the sun m as is often the case, as they will soon taint, but should be kept dry and seldom moved. Fruits, either canned or dried

[39] may be carried with perfect safety, and a good supply of the latter should be taken. Butter too may be carried in safety by putting it up in cans. From ten to fifty pounds may be put into a can, and it will be highly relished, and should be taken by all means. Eggs packed in an box with oats or bran may be carried for use during the trip. The emigrant will find that these articles will add much to the luxuriousness of his table, and render camp life more like home.


Have a good reason for breaking the old moorings before looking for better ones, and when you start on a trip of this kind, do not cherish the idea that it is to be but a holiday excursion, soon to be over, when you will tumble into some rich gulch, only to come forth, laden with stores of gold.

To succeed in any new field of labor, great industry and perseverance is required, and the emigrant to Idaho will secure his fortune only through hardship, privation, endurance and great industry. Let well enough alone when you are comfortably situated, and do not believe every story that goes the rounds. Few who appreciate these facts and go fully determined will fail to prosper.


Persons who have good homes and means of livelihood, should not be induced by extravagant stories, however true they may be, to emigrate to a far-off country after a phantom fortune. Neither should any man who is so indisposed to labor as to have always failed at home to obtain an honest living, ever think of succeeding in a mining country, however rich it may be.


All cannot mine. Some must make shoes, some follow blacksmithing, others work in wood; and the choice farming lands adjacent to every mining camp will be immediately put under the most profitable cultivation. Simply digging gold or other precious metals is a lottery in which there are many prizes but very many blanks; and I doubt whether there is a class of people in the world who succeed generally so well in life as the mechanic and industrious farmer, especially when these vocations are followed in the vicinity of productive mines.





(NOTE. The following, it should be stated, does not give the full list of all the ranches on the route, but those given are sufficient and reliable and the success of the emigrant in finding others will still give him no cause to complain of misrepresentation in respect to accommodations on the route.)

One mile from the Omaha, you will find good accommodations for
     your stock ....................... 1
Little Papillon ......................... 8—8
Papillon.............................. 4—13
Reed's Ranche [sic]. Water, grass and good camping ........ 3—16
J. F. Munger. General accommodations ............... 3—19
Elkhorn City. Good accommodations for emigrants ........ 3—22
Bridgeport. (On Elkhorn river, one mile from Elkhorn City. Several
     Stores and large settlement,-good camping ground for the
Night. Wood, water and grass.) ............. 1—23
Farmers' House. Good accommodations; plenty of water and grass.. 11—34
Fremont. Small town and settlement .............. 3—37
Dale House. Corn meal, hay and stabling. Good camping ground... 3—40
North Bend. A good camping ground here. The Platte strikes the road. 12—54
Ranche and store ..................... 2—54
Platte Valley House: by R. Graham. Blacksmithing, wood, water and
grass ........................ 1—55
Buchanan House, at Shell Creek. Wood water and grass........ 8—63
Sixty-nine Mile House.from Omaha. General accommodations;
     good water and grass .................
Junction Ranche: by H. Bushnell. General accommodations .... 2—71
Joseph Russell's. Wood, water and grass ............. 1—72
Peter Murie's. All kinds of produce for sale. Good camping ground.. 10—82
Columbus. Situated on the north branch of the Loup Fork. Ferry
    across here. The last town you will pass. Here secure any
    needed supplies not before secured ............. 3—35
Crossing Loupe Fork, the next ranche is
Guy C. Barnum's. Good camping ground ............ 1—86
Prairie Creek Ranche. Good accommodations. Creek is bridged .... 11—97
James Cummins. Station .................... 9—106
Lone Tree Ranche. Groceries, hay corn and stabling. On the bank of
    :The Platte ....................... 25—131
Station, by Samuel G. Hayward. Good camping ground ....... 1—132
E. D. Hurleys. Groceries, stock of all kind kept ........... 10�
Jesse Shoemaker's Point. Good accommodations ......... 1—143
Grand Isle City ........................ 1—153
Wood River ....................... 10—163
Boyd Brothers. Nebraska Centre post office. Brewery and Blacksmith
shop........................ 22—185
Miller & Co.'s Ranche. (Opposite Fort Kearney.) Hay, corn, stabling
and general accommodations. On the bank of the Platte, at the
crossing. Here the river is divided by several islands, and is
two miles in width; difficult crossing at high water ..... 10—125


From the Graphic Arts collections of the American Antiquarian Society



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Last updated May June 16, 2005