On March 4, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that created the Territory of Idaho, a geographical monstrosity roughly the size of Texas and Illinois combined. Newspapers across the East acknowledged the event with a short paragraph, buried among equally-brief items about other Congressional actions.
A week later, the New York Herald had assembled enough material to publish a map (of sorts) and a longer descriptive article about the new political district. More a celebration of Western expansion, the item contained almost as much mis-information as information. Still, one fact stood out: Idaho had Gold! and perhaps a lot of it.
But the Civil War raged and the Territorial birth had to share headlines: Victory in Tennessee? “Piratical Operations” of Rebel privateers at sea. Vicksburg. And More. At first, no one in the West knew even the exact borders. Was Lewiston in or out? A governor and other officials were quickly appointed, but took months to arrive. Who were these men, and what policies would they impose?
But, more importantly: Where, exactly, could one find gold? How do we get there? What do we take with us? Guidebooks say to be alert and have our guns ready: Are the Indians really that dangerous? Why won’t the Army do something about them?
Using contemporary published articles and letters from the gold camps, Idaho: Year One, captures the day-by-day excitement and uncertainty as hopeful prospectors poured into the area. Was the latest reported gold strike real, or was it a “humbug” meant to lure in suckers? You could never be sure.
|Table of Contents|
|1. March 1863: We’re a Territory. Now what?|
|2. April 1863: Waiting for the Season|
|3. May 1863: Mining Booms, and Spreads|
|4. June 1863: “Gold … Plentiful as Dirt"|
|5. July 1863: Summer Lull Setting In|
|6. August 1863: Optimism Despite a Mining Lull|
|7. September 1863: Harbingers of Settlement|
|8. October 1863: Winter is Coming|
|9. November 1863: Weather Slows Mining|
|10. December 1863: Baby Steps For Law and Order|
|11. January 1864: Politics at Center Stage|
|12. February 1864: Busy Politicians and Hopeful Miners|
|Afterword: Territory Partitioned|
Periodically, I will post samples here of the daily "news" that make up the book. These posts will be labeled with the Territorial Sesquicentennial logo created by the Idaho State Historical Society.
Several earlier examples were published as "sesquicentennial" posts on the South Fork Companion, such as: "Miners Lack Water But Prospectors Still Hopeful, Politicians Meet." In most cases, the comparable item in the book includes more background material, and sometimes additional news.