Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Silver Excitement and Town Growth in the Owyhee Country

On October 23, 1863, the “Regular Correspondent” in Auburn wrote another letter to The Oregonian about the Idaho mines. In contrast to the severe cutbacks in the Boise Basin, he said, “The latest excitement is the silver leads at the Owyhee. Assays from Portland show these ledges will rival the Comstock ledge itself, and experiments made here have started speculation forth a month ago.”

Gold, of course, had fueled a major rush into the Owyhee mountains in June and early July. No one paid much attention to the possibility of silver lodes until July, when experienced prospectors located several ledges. However, little happened with these finds for a couple months after that.

But now, that was about to change. The correspondent went on, “The Owyhee will make a name for itself before long as a silver region, and these ledges will astonish the world as much as any thing that has ever been discovered. … One return showed $3,400 per ton in silver, and that was only medium quality; another more than doubled it.”

About this time, various gold camps along Jordan Creek began to coalesce into towns, including Booneville and Ruby City. Both would be fairly short-lived, although Ruby City would last long enough be a county seat through 1866. But Silver City, located higher on the creek, would soon surpass the other towns in the area.
Silver City in Its Heyday. H. T. French*

The letter from Auburn continued, “The Owyhee country has attracted many of our citizens thither the past week or so, and will considerably deplete our population should the excitement continue.”

References: A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press, Silver City, Idaho (January 1898).

“Letter from Auburn,” The Oregonian, Portland (November 5, 1863).

*Hiram Taylor French, History of Idaho: A Narrative Account …, Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago and New York (1914).

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