The History of Idaho, The Gem of the Mountain, by James H. Hawley, Volume I, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1920:

Capt. E. D. Pierce is generally credited with being the discoverer of gold in Idaho, but others knew of its existence at an earlier date. Bancroft, in his History of the Pacific States, tells of a man named Robins, a resident of Port-land, who purchased some gold nuggets from a Spokane Indian in 1854 and learned from the Indian that the ore came from the mountains farther east. There is also a story that a French Canadian found gold on Clark's Fork near Lake Pend d'Oreille in 1854, but this report is not well authenticated. Two years later, however, General Lander found gold while engaged in exploring a route for a road from Fort Bridger to the Columbia River, and Father De Smet, the Jesuit missionary, was aware of the existence of gold in Idaho several years previous to that time, but it does not appear that he imparted his knowledge or the location of the deposits to any white person. Capt. John Mullan, whose name is inseparably connected with the Mullan road, wrote to A. F. Parker of Eagle City under date of June 4, 1884. and said in his letter:
"I am not at all surprised at the discovery of numerous rich gold deposits in your mountains, because both on the waters of the St. Joseph and Coeur d'Alene, when there many years ago, I frequently noticed vast masses of quartz strewing the ground, particularly on the St. Joseph River. * * * Nay more: I now recall quite vividly the fact that one of my herders and hunters, a man by the name of Moise, coming into camp one day with a handful of coarse gold, which he said he found on the waters of the north fork of the Coeur d'Alene."

Captain Mullan was more interested at that time (1856) in finding a route for a railroad and discouraged any attempt to look for gold. His company was composed largely of old miners, who frequently remarked to him that the whole country between Lake Coeur d'Alene and the Rocky Mountains had the appearance of being a gold-bearing region.

After the discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the rush to the mines, prospectors were soon wandering to all parts of the Northwest in hope of discovering new deposits of the precious metal. Among those who were interested in the matter was Capt. E. D. Pierce, who had traded among the Indians and who had come to the conclusion that gold was to be found in the mountain streams east of the great bend of the Snake River. He made no attempt for some time to verify his opinion, on account of the attitude of the Indians toward prospectors in their country, and continued to live in California, apparently taking no active interest in mining operations. In 1858 he made a trip to the Nez Perce country, but found no favorable opportunity to prosecute his search for gold. Two years later he again went into the Nez Perce country, and this time he was more fortunate. There is a romantic story of how Captain Pierce happened to make a wonderful discovery.

According to this story a Nez Perce Indian told Pierce that while encamped in a mountain defile with two Indian companions one night, a bright light, like that of a brilliant star suddenly appeared among the cliffs. They thought the light was the eye of the Great Spirit, but when daylight came they went to the place where it appeared and found imbedded in the solid rock a ball that looked like glass. Thinking this bright object might be "good medicine," they tried to remove it, but were unable to dislodge it from its resting place. The story then goes on to say that Captain Pierce, believing that the bright ball might be a huge diamond, organized a small party to search for this "Eye of the Manitou." The party consisted of Captain Pierce, W. F. Bassett, James and John Dodge, Jonathan Smith and Thomas Walters.

When this little company arrived at the Nez Perce village in the spring of 1860, the Indians, suspecting their object, forbade them to go into the mountains. A Nez Perce squaw finally guided them to the north fork of the Clearwater River, where they established a camp on a mountain meadow. Bassett, "just to kill time," washed out a pan of dirt and obtained a small quantity of gold. The entire party then engaged in washing out the sands along the creek until about eighty dollars' worth of dust was gathered, when they returned to Walla Walla. The small amount of gold brought back by the prospectors failed to create any excitement, but Captain Pierce had a firm belief that more could be found and immediately began the organization of a party to spend the winter at the mines. Owing to the opposition of the military authorities, who feared an outbreak of hostilities if prospectors or miners were allowed to go upon reserved territory, many who under more favorable conditions would have been willing to join him declined to do so. However, he enlisted about thirty-five men and started for the. mines. A detachment of dragoons was sent after him with instructions to prevent his going upon the Nez Perce lands, but he managed to elude the troops, who turned back when they reached the Snake River.


Upon reaching the stream from which the eighty dollars' worth of dust had been taken, the party was visited by A. J. Cain, agent of the Nez Perce Indians, who did not warn them away, but complimented them upon their good behavior and the disposition shown by them not to interfere with the members of the tribe which claimed the land. They spent the winter in building cabins and preparing for active mining operations in the spring, occasionally washing out gold when the weather was favorable. To the collection of cabins they gave the name of "Pierce City," and as the gold found here was of exceptionally fine quality they named the mines "Oro Fino," a Spanish term meaning fine gold. This name was afterward given to the stream on which Pierce City was located about twenty miles above where it enters the Clearwater River. One account of this first mining venture in Idaho says:
"The conditions were not all favorable. The general level of the diggings was such as to make it difficult to dispose of the washed-out gravel; the gold was fine, requiring quicksilver to collect it, and black sand was present. Pierce recognized these drawbacks, but believed in the richness of the ground, and also that further prospecting would reveal gravel of still greater wealth."

Early in the year 1861 Sergt. J. C. Smith returned to Walla Walla with dust worth $800 taken from the Oro Fino mines. A little later three others came in with a larger amount. The news spread and, notwithstanding the military regulations, miners flocked to the new gold fields. E. R. Geary, superintendent of Indian affairs, realizing that it would be impossible to prevent the gold seekers from entering upon the Indian lands, called the chiefs together and proposed a treaty that would meet the new conditions, but by the time the treaty was concluded several hundred men were already in the field prospecting every spot that looked like "pay dirt." A firm of Portland merchants took a stock of goods to Pierce City to be ready for the rush which they foresaw was bound to come upon the conclusion of the treaty. A company was organ-ized to run a line of steamboats on the Columbia to handle the traffic in both passengers and freight. In May, 1861, the Colonel Wright ascended the Snake River to the mouth of the Clearwater and up the latter stream for a distance of about twenty-five miles, being the first boat ever to reach a point that far inland. Prior to that time no boat had passed above the mouth of the Tucanon River.

At the place where the Colonel Wright landed a town immediately sprang up and was named "Slaterville" after its founder. It was only about thirty-five miles from Pierce City and its projector no doubt had visions of a metropolis that would be the great depot and supply point for the surrounding mining districts. Within a few days after the landing of the Colonel Wright "the town consisted of five houses of canvas, two of which were provision stores, two private dwellings, and the other a saloon. The saloon was roofed with two blankets—a red and a blue one. On its side was written the word 'WHISKEY' in charcoal and inside the stock in trade consisted of a barrel of the liquid. Two bottles and two drinking glasses constituted the furniture."

Slaterville at that time boasted a population of about fifty people. It was soon discovered that the rapids of the Clearwater were too difficult for steam-boats to negotiate, and most of them discharged their cargoes at the mouth of that stream. The little Tenino made a few trips up to Slaterville. after which the town was abandoned. Then a town was started lower down, near the junction of the Snake and Clearwater rivers and named Lewiston in honor of Captain Lewis, the head of the Lewis & Clark expedition, and this place was soon recognized as the starting point for the mining regions.


The mines discovered near Pierce City were neither particularly rich nor very extensive and the prospectors who flocked in there early in the spring of 1861 began searching for other and more favorable deposits. Gold was struck down the Oro Fino River near the mouth of that stream and soon the old camp of Pierce City had a formidable rival at a point where supplies could be more readily obtained, than they could be at Pierce City, and the Town of Oro Fino was soon established, and by the middle of the summer of that year had a population of about five hundred people.

In May, 1861 a party of fifty-two men left Oro Fino to prospect the south fork of the Clearwater and its tributaries. Upon the south fork they came to a Nez Perce village, the chief of which reminded them that under the terms of the treaty, the lands south of the Clearwater were not open to exploration. The majority of the prospectors then turned back, while the others continued prospecting and soon found placer deposits that would pay and started a town, which they named Elk City, so named on account of the great number of elk in that vicinity. Several hundred men soon found employment in the camp.

Early in July a party of twenty-three men left Oro Fino to prospect in the Salmon River country and a portion of them continued their explorations until they came to a basin in the mountains about one hundred and ten miles southeast of Lewiston, at the headwaters of what was afterward known as Slate Creek and Miller's Creek, tributaries of the Salmon River. Here upon what was known as Miller's Creek, the first discovery was made by one of the party after whom the creek was named. This original discovery was quickly suc-ceeded by other discoveries in the immediate vicinty, and Summit Flat, Baboon Gulch, Smith's Gulch and other small areas of very rich placer ground were soon opened. The gold found was worth only about $12 an ounce and was much lighter than the gold in the Oro Fino or Elk City sections, but the some-what narrow pay streak in the different gulches struck was very rich, and as soon as work really, commenced upon the claims the oldest miners were astounded at the amount of gold that was taken out. By the first of November nearly a thousand men had. reached the camp, but there was very little opportunity of obtaining supplies and the greater portion of them had to leave. A band of the Nez Perce Indians lived in the vicinity of Slate Creek and under the immediate command of Captain Jack, who was sub-chief and who afterwards was distinguished as a friend of the whites, were the owners of a number of beef cattle and had also planted potatoes the year before in a considerable quantity and the Indians reaped a rich harvest by selling these articles to the miners who remained in the new camp. The winter started in early and there was but scant opportunity of obtaining supplies; a few of those who had secured claims had gone out to Lewiston in the fall and packed in a limited amount of flour and other necessaries.

Very many of those who had secured rich claims, however, were unable to obtain any supplies, whatever, from any source, although they had ample means to pay for them and were compelled, in order to save themselves from starvation to start for Lewiston. Their route led them across Camas Prairie and over Craig's Mountain and the snow soon became deep and it was im-possible to take horses over a great part of the trail. Lawyer was at the time the head chief of the Nez Perces and his entire tribe prided themselves on always having been friendly to the whites, and while many perished that left the mines, still a very great number were saved by the kind assistance afforded them by Chief Lawyer and his Nez Perces.

Practically all those, who remained in the camp during the winter, were without supplies in the spring and suffered untold hardships; in fact had it not been for Captain Jack and his Indians living near the mouth of Slate Creek, very many would have perished from lack of food, as the winter of '61 and '62 was the hardest ever known either before or since in the Northwest.


The original placer gold discoveries found in California in 1848, and which caused the rush to that state in 1849 and the succeeding years were by this time well nigh exhausted and the restless, turbulent spirits, who had been engaged in placer mining in the mountains of the Golden State were eagerly awaiting for some new El Dorado, in which they could again take their chances for a quick fortune. After the discovery of gold in California, great rushes were constantly made from one section to another and it was characteristic of those who engaged in mining to be ready at any time to leave claims, in which they were doing fairly well to take a somewhat remote chance of doing far better in newly discovered diggings. The time was ripe in the early part of 1862 for another of the great rushes that had almost depopulated on several occasions, not only the mining camps of California, but those of Southern Oregon as well. The last of these great excitements was the Frazier rush in 1857, in which thousands of gold seekers suffered untold hardships and practically none of them reaped any reward.

Even this did not dampen the ardor of the many who were desirous of prospecting in new fields and the reports from the "Salmon River Country" as the new gold fields were called, were of the most flattering nature, and while these reports were well founded, so far as the richness of the new placers was concerned the mistaken supposition that they were extensive was thoroughly believed. Even before the spring opened thousands of adventurous spirits from the mining camps of California and Oregon flocked to the Northwest. The small towns that had already been established became crowded with adventurers, anxious to go to the new mines as soon as weather conditions permitted. The trails, however, leading into the new camp were impassable until the early part of April, and it was after the first of May before horses could be taken into the camp. Thonsands of men made the trip in April, but the loads were car-ried in on men's backs the last twenty miles, and the prices hs late as the first of May on the most ordinary necessaries of life were held at an outrageously high figure. Flour even at that time sold for Shoo a pound and other things in proportion.


After the discovery of gold and in November of 1861, a town was laid off on the flat at the head of Baboon Gulch and the question of a name for the new camp was discussed, and one of the party, "Doc" Ferver suggested "Florence" after his adopted daughter, who was residing in California.

As the country was well timbered, comfortable and substantial log houses were easily erected and the new town soon assumed a more prominent appearance than is usually seen in mining camps. After the trails were opened in 1862, John Creighton, Ralph Bledsoe and C. C. Higby, who were for many years afterward well known residents of Idaho, came in with stocks of goods and opened stores, carrying a general assortment of supplies in demand among miners. Saloons and gambling houses were soon established and Florence for a number of months was the most lively mining camp upon the Pacific Coast, and it was by adventurers starting from that camp, that most of the discoveries of 1862 were made.


Of the thousands who came into the new camp of Florence during the sum-mer of 1862, nearly all stopped for a short time at least. The limited area of placer ground, however, in that vicinity soon became apparent and pros-pecting parties started in all directions. As usual in all mining camps the unfounded reports of rich discoveries soon became circulated among those remaining in the camp, and it was early in the summer of 1862 that a rumor became current there that rich mines had been discovered at the base of the mountain known as Buffalo Hump, a well known mountain, situated about forty miles northeast from Florence, and to the new El Dorado went practically all of those who had come into the new section; they packed their scant amount of provisions and blankets on their backs and started for the new El Dorado, but only disappointment awaited them there, as they soon ascertained. There was no placer and the gold bearing ledges cropping out in many places were of a low grade and could not be profitably worked at that time.

The Buffalo Hump excitement was soon succeeded by another. James Warren with a few others left Florence in the early summer and crossing the Salmon River to the south side, extended their trip into the mountains and soon struck gold in paying quantities and established a camp known as Warren's Diggings. The placer ground in the vicinity of the new camp was quite rich and much more extensive than the Florence diggings, and for a great many years a con-siderable number of men were engaged in very profitable placer mining. There has been a revival of mining in this old camp during the past two years, as large quartz lodes are being developed and some of its old glories promise to be restored. The name of James Warren, the head of the party that discovered the camp has been preserved not only in the name of the little town of Warren, but in the main creek of the camp, which was called after him.

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