The Coeur d’Alene Mining District

This article, as well as that following, concerning the lead belt of the district, is contributed by F. R. Culbertson, under date of July 9. 1898:

The Coeur d’Alene mineral belt of northern Idaho, in area about twenty miles square, first came into prominence as a gold-placer camp in the summer and fall of 1883. Placer gold was first discovered on Pritchard creek, near Eagle City, now a deserted camp in Shoshone County. Fabulous reports of the richness and extent of this gold soon spread and attracted the attention of the outside world. In the spring of 1884 there was quite a stampede into the Coeur d’Alene district, being somewhat similar to the present excitement over Klondike. Prospectors for the Coeur d’Alenes from the west outfitted at Spokane and proceeded thence by rail to Rathdrum, by stage to Coeur d’Alene city and from this point on by the old Mullan road (built by the government as a military road) to Evolution, about twenty miles above the Mission; and from this point on by trail to Eagle City. Prospectors from the east left the main line of the Northern Pacific at Herron and Trout Creek and continued from there by trail into the mines. The stories told by the old prospectors of the difficulties of get-ting into the country over these trails remind one of the description and accounts of the Skaguay trail.

In the spring of 1884 Eagle City had grown to be a town of two thousand people and became a full-fledged mining camp with all the accessories, including dance halls, gambling houses, restaurants, etc., where the prospector paid from one to two dollars for a meal consisting of bacon and beans, and one dollar for a bed, which meant the privilege of furnishing your own blankets, which were laid on the floor, the landlord furnishing the tent. It was during the year 1884 that the town of Murray, about five miles up the creek from Eagle City, was laid out, and this new camp soon superseded Eagle and for several years was the main town of the Coeur d’Alenes. It was during this year that the town of Thompson Falls, on the Northern Pacific Railroad, was laid out, and a trail from there to Murray was built, this being the shorter distance from the railroad, and it was the main outfitting point for the prospectors from this time on. A wagon road was built out from Thompson Falls a distance of fifteen miles to what was known as the Mountain House; a stage line was run to this point; and from there to Murray, a distance of fifteen miles further, a trail was built and the traveler either footed it or took a cayuse (Indian pony, so called from tribe of that name). It was also during this year, 1884. that Captain I. B. San-born, C. B. King and John Monohan built the steamer Coeur d’Alene to ply between Coeur d’Alene City and the Old Mission, a distance of sixty miles. Nelson Bennett put on a stage line between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene City, and considerable travel and freight were brought in by this route. During this same year from four to five thousand people had come into camp and had prospected Pritchard creek from mouth to source, including the tributaries, and considerable placer gold was taken out up to this time. Prospectors in this year began to branch out and look for new fields. Several prospectors found their way over to Canyon creek during this year and Canyon creek, near the town of Burke, was first located, for an extent of several miles, with placer locations, and considerable work was done but no gold found in paying quantities.

In September 1884, John Carton and Amedos Seymour, while looking for placers on Canyon creek, discovered some float, which they followed up and, discovering the source, located the Tiger quartz lode. The next day the Poorman quartz lode was discovered by Scott McDonald. These two claims, both on the same ledge, were the first quartz discoveries found in the lead belt of the Coeur d’Alenes. Other quartz discoveries soon followed on Canyon creek, the Ore-Or-No-Go, Diamond Hitch, Black Bear, Badger, Frisco, Gem and others of less importance soon fol-lowing. Very little work of any consequence was done on any of these properties during the year 1884, except on the Tiger, which was bonded in the month of October to John M. Burke and by him to S. S. Glidden, at that time in Thompson Falls, Montana, Mr. Glidden being engaged in the wholesale grocery business in St. Paul and having a branch wholesale house in Thompson Falls. To Mr. S. S. Glidden, now president of the Old National Bank of Spokane, as much, if not more, credit is due as to any other single individual for the development of the quartz interests of the Coeur d’Alenes. Mr. Glidden took hold of the Tiger mine in October, 1884, and has been connected with it up to the recent date, now being president of the Consolidated Tiger & Poor-man Mining Company, one of the principal mining companies in this district and one of the largest producers. Development work on the Tiger was carried on during the winter of 1884. In the spring of 18S5 Mr. Glidden closed out his grocery business at St. Paul and Thompson Falls and devoted his entire time and energies to the development of the Tiger mine. Trails were built by him to connect with the Thompson Falls and Murray roads, also to connect at Placer Center, now Wallace, with the old Mullan wagon road. During the summer and fall of 1885 development work was carried on at the Tiger, and the value of the property sufficiently determined to take up the bond for thirty-five thousand dollars, this being the price the property was originally bonded for.

In the fall of 1885 the Bunker Hill and Sullivan mines were discovered at Wardner. The surface showings at the discovery were so much larger than any-thing that had been found up to that time that quite an excitement was created at that place, and numerous other valuable quartz properties were located. Also during the early part of this year the Hunter, Morning, Evening, and other quartz properties were discovered at Mullan. The Bunker Hill and Sullivan property was leased by the original locators to Jim Wardner, after whom the town was named. Through him some Helena parties were interested in the deal and a contract entered into with the locators for concentrating fifty thousand tons of ore at five dollars per ton, which at this date would be considered a very extravagant price to pay. These locations all coming to the front, and with a boat running between the Mission and Coeur d’Alene City, Mr. Glidden turned his attention to interesting par-ties in the building of a railroad up the South Fork from Spokane to Burke. A company was organized for this purpose, and of this Mr. Glidden was one of the first promoters. The first company organized fell through, and afterward D. C. Corbin became interested in the project and organized the Coeur d’Alene Railway & Navigation Company, buying out the boat and building a narrow-gauge railroad from Mission to Wardner. About this time the Washington & Idaho, now the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, commenced building from Pendleton to Spokane, with a branch from Tekoa into the Coeur d’Alenes. Neither of the roads at that time would entertain the idea of building up Canyon creek, and Mr. Glidden organized the Canyon Creek Railroad Company and built a narrow-gauge railroad from Burke to Wallace, to meet the other two roads which were heading for that point. This road was built by Mr. Glidden and afterward sold by him to D. C. Corbin, of the Coeur d’Alene Railway & Navigation Company, who later disposed of the same to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, who had started to build into the country from the main line of their road at De Smet, about six miles west of Missoula. The Northern Pacific also built a branch from Hauser Junction to Coeur d’Alene City, making a rail, river and lake route from Burke to Hauser Junction. The Washington & Idaho reached Wallace a short time afterward, giving the camp two transcontinental railroads, and reducing the freight rates on ore shipment routes.

The first concentrator in the district was placed on the Bunker Hill & Sullivan mine, at Wardner, and was built by A. M. Esler, in the interests of Helena parties having the fifty-thousand-ton contract, and it was of one-hundred-tons capacity. Before the expiration of this contract this property was sold to Sim Read, of Portland, who paid the different parties interested in the property at that time about six hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, which was considered at that time a very extravagant price for the property. Two-thirds of this money found its way to Spokane and helped to build up the town. The title to the property was in litigation at the time of the sale and numerous interests had to be bought out to perfect the title. The principal parties interested at that time, and the amounts that they were sup-posed to have received for their interests, were: Noah S. Kellogg, $100,000: Goetz & Bear,’ now of Spokane, $150,000; Cooper & Peck, $75,000; Phil O’Rourke, $75,000; Con Sullivan, $50,000. The Helena parties interested in the lease were paid fifty thousand dollars and the cost of their concentrating plant, to cancel the lease; the different lawyers interested in the litigation received about one hundred thousand dollars out of the deal, and the balance went to other parties, who had smaller interests. Sim Read worked the property for several years, afterward selling out to the present company, who are California parties and members of the Standard Oil Company. This property is now under the management of F. W. Bradley, with head office at San Francisco, California, and F. Burbidge as resident manager at Wardner. The company have been gradually absorbing all the adjacent claims, and now have control of something like forty or fifty locations adjoining and connecting, and, with the exception of the Last Chance Mining Company’s property, they have about all the desirable mining property in Wardner. As a whole, it is probably the greatest lead property in the world, exceeding that of Broken Hills mine in Australia, which has always been heretofore considered the greatest lead producer.

The company have extensive improvements and are now operating a seven-hundred-ton concentrating plant, producing about three thousand tons of shipping ore per month. The property could probably produce double this quantity of shipping ore by enlarging their concentrating plant, without making any serious in-roads on their ore reserves. They give employment to about four hundred men and are now constructing a tunnel two miles in length from their mill at Kellogg to their mine at Wardner which will cut their ledge at seven hundred and fifty feet vertical depth below their lowest workings and. with the incline of the ledge, will give them about one thousand five hundred feet of stoping ground. This tunnel will be used for drain purposes and bringing ore from the mine to the mill; it will require about fifteen months for completion, and when completed will give them a large amount of ore which can be taken out without any pumping, and no doubt at that time the capacity of the mill will be enlarged.

The Last Chance Company has several valuable claims at Wardner. They are operating a one-hundred-and-fifty-ton concentrator and producing seven hundred and fifty to nine hundred tons of concentrates per month. Plans have been drawn for enlarging the mill and the property can easily be made to produce double the present quantity of ore that is now being taken out. Unfortunately, for several years the property has been handicapped with more or less litigation, which has had the effect of retarding the development to that extent which the property would war-rant. There are other valuable properties in Wardner, but at present none are being worked to any great extent.

Between Wardner and Wallace on the South Fork there are several promising prospects, from which considerable ore has been shipped, the principal value of the ore being silver; and with an increase in the price of silver considerable work would be done on them.

From Wallace, which is now the main town of the Coeur d’Alenes diverge Placer creek. Nine Mile creek Canyon creek, and the continuation of the South Fork above Mullan. There are quite a number of prospects on Placer creek, but no extensive development work has been done. On Nine Mile are situated the Custer and Granite mines, both of which properties have concentrating plants and have been heavy producers, but neither of which are being at present operated. Development work is being carried on in both properties with good showings and fair prospects of resuming milling operations. Numerous other properties are situated on this creek, and considerable development work is now being done. Sunset Peak, on which are situated some of the largest surface-showings in the camp, is reached from this canyon, and with a railroad up the canyon from Wallace, the roadbed of which has already been graded, the Nine Mile properties would be brought to the front in a short time.

At Mullan, seven miles up the South Fork from Wallace, are situated the Hunter, Morning, Evening. You Like, and numerous other properties. The Hunter Mining Company had the misfortune to lose their mill by fire this summer and at the present the property is not being operated. Report is that they expect to rebuild this winter and arrangements and plans are now made for new concentrating plant. The mine is a valuable one and produces a high-grade ore. The Morning Mining Company, situated at this point, is operated by Larson & Greenough, who are working the Morning, Evening and You Like mines. They have a six-hundred-ton concentrating plant in operation, a narrow-gauge railroad and are producing about two hundred and fifty thousand tons of concentrates per month, giving employment to about two hundred and fifty men.

Canyon creek is and has always been the heaviest producer in the Coeur d’Alenes. At the mouth of the creek is situated the Standard mill, the ore from the Standard mine five miles up the creek being brought down by the railroad to the mill, concentrating about four hundred and twenty-five tons per day, and producing about two thousand two hundred tons of concentrates per month. The ore from this property produces the highest grade of concentrates in the camp and as a dividend-payer has probably exceeded that of any other company in the district. The Formosa mine and mill is the next property up the creek, being situated about a mile below Gem. The company have erected during the present year a seventy-five-ton mill, which has only recently been completed and very little ore has yet been taken from this property. The Granite mill comes next and at present is not being operated. The Gem mill belonging to the Milwaukee Mining Company comes next and is now being run on ore from the Mammoth mine. The Mammoth vein is on the same ledge as the Standard and this property also produces high-grade concentrates. The Gem mine has been a valuable producer and dividend-payer, but at present only the upper workings are being worked by leasers, the lower part of the mine being allowed to fill with water during the low prices prevailing for lead and silver last year. The mill having been leased to the Mammoth Company, it is not likely that any extensive mining operations will be resumed until the expiration of this lease. The Frisco mine and mill, about a mile above the Gem, are being worked very extensively. The company has expended a large amount of money in improvements and development work since January 1st of this year. The mill started up in July and is now shipping from one thousand eight hundred to two thousand tons per month and giving employment to about two hundred men. The product from this property is considerably above the average, running high in silver. The controlling interest has recently changed hands and is now in the possession of the London Exploration Company, of England. Joseph McDonald is the resident manager for the company. The Black Bear mine and mill, about a quarter of a mile above the Frisco, were operated in early days, but for several years have lain idle, the company, composed of eastern parties, becoming more or less involved in financial difficulties during the panic of 1893. The Standard mine is the next property and adjacent to it is the Mammoth. The ore from the Standard is taken to the mouth of Canyon creek and milled, and that from the Mammoth to the Gem Mill at Gem. The Standard mine at this point gives employment to about one hundred and seventy-five men and at their mill about twenty-five more, Emerson Gee being the manager of the mill and mine, and Richard Wilson the manager of the Mammoth. The Mammoth Company give employment at the mine and mill to about one hundred and twenty-five.

The Tiger & Poorman, at Burke, being the oldest location in the Coeur d’Alenes. more work has been done on this property than any other; both mines have been steady producers since January, 1887. The Tiger concentrator was completed in January, 1887, and during the same month the narrow-gauge railroad from Burke to Wallace was also completed. The Tiger mill was the second concentrator in the Coeur d’Alenes being originally built for a one-hundred-ton mill. The Poorman concentrator was the third mill built in the Coeur d’Alenes and was finished during the fall of 1887, the concentrator being a three-hundred-ton plant. Prior to October 1895, both the Tiger and Poorman were operated as separate companies and both were fully equipped with mills, hoists, surface buildings, etc. Patrick Clark was the operator of the Poor-man Company up to the time of the consolidation in October 1895. The two companies consolidated their interests, extensive improvements were made for the economic working of the two properties as one, and at about the time of the completion of these improvements, in March. 1896 a fire occurred, completely destroying both mills and all surface improvements, excepting the Tiger hoist, of the two properties. The mines at the time of the fire had reached a depth of one thousand feet, and, owing to the destruction of their boiler plant, the mines were allowed to fill with water. Considerable doubt was expressed at the time as to what the consequence might be in allowing the mines to fill with water, and fears were entertained that the ground might cave after being pumped out. Rebuilding of the plant was commenced immediately after the fire and a five-hundred-ton concentrator with the latest improved machinery and appliances for the economical handling of ore was completed and started up in February of this year. Pumping out the mines was started in August and the mine was unwatered by the middle of January, with no bad results showing on account of its having been allowed to fill. The property is now producing from one thousand eight hundred to two thousand tons of concentrates per month and giving employment to one hundred and sixty men. The property is well equipped with the heaviest mining machinery in the Coeur d’Alenes and is so arranged that all the machinery can be operated by either water or steam power, the company having a water power amply sufficient for all purposes during a portion of the year. The company are also operating an electric plant of about one hundred and seventy-five horse-power capacity which at the time of its completion, some seven or eight years ago, was the largest electric plant in the United States. Both mines are worked from one shaft, which at the present time is down to their one thousand three hundred station, being one thousand one hundred feet vertically below the bed of the creek. The lowest workings show an improvement both in quality and quantity of ore as depth is increased. From all indications shown in the lowest workings, there is no reason why it is not safe to say that the ore will go down to that point where the cost of handling the water will stop further operations. With improved pumping machinery, water and electric power, this point should not be reached until after the three-thousand-foot mark has been passed. The depth of the Tiger & Poorman augurs well for the future of the Coeur d’Alenes and the mines of this section, insuring a long life ahead as a mining camp.

While we read a great deal about the rich mines of Rossland, Cripple Creek, Creede and other camps, there are but few camps in the west that compare to the Coeur d’Alenes as steady producers, and with little or no notoriety they have gone forward and kept steadily at work for the past eight years, excepting a period of six-months shut-down during the strike of 1892, and with lead down as low as two dollars and fifty cents and silver as low as fifty-one cents. At the present time the shipments from the Coeur d’Alenes will show a tonnage of thirteen thousand tons per month, which tonnage is made up as follows:

Tons per month.

Bunker Hill & Sullivan……. 3.000
Standard…….. 2,200
Tiger & Poorman……..1,800
Helena & Frisco……..1,800
Last Chance……..750
Other smaller properties including prospects……..350

Making a total of 13,000

The output has averaged fifty-five per cent lead and thirty ounces of silver, which at present prices show a valuation of over seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars per month or nearly ten million dollars per year added to the wealth of the world by the lead and silver shipments from the Coeur d’Alenes, to say nothing about the gold from the north side, of which there is considerable quantity, furnishing steady employment to over two thousand men at the best wages in the west. What other mining camp outside of Butte can beat this record?

The total lead production of the United States for the year 1896 amounted to 174,692 tons, of which 135.332 tons were desilverized lead. 33,428 were soft lead from the Missouri and Kansas districts, and 5,932 tons were hard or antimonial lead. In addition to the domestic production there were 80,159 tons imported in all forms, chiefly as base bullion, from Mexico and Canada. This year’s production will probably show an increase, and the Coeur d’Alenes will produce nearly one-half of the entire production. It is to this camp that American Smelters now have to look for their largest supply of lead ore.

Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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