The Coeur d'Alene Stampede
Source: Eugene V. Smalley, "The Coeur d'Alene Stampede." The Century Magazine, XXVIII (October, 1884), 841-847.
Mining brought the essential elements for rapid and sustained growth to Idaho. Capital flowed into the territory. The increasing population provided a labor force for farms, ranches, and mills as well as providing markets for their goods. The industrial and economic growth and development of Idaho must be traced back to the discoveries of gold and silver, and the steadily developing technology, which exploited the mineral wealth.
Idaho's mining history began in 1860 when Captain Elias Davidson Pierce and his companion, Seth Ferrel, discovered placer gold on the North Fork of the Clearwater River on February 20. The gold seekers spread out and a new strike was made on September 30 by W. R. Bassett on Canal Gulch where it entered Orofino Creek. By the end of the year miners established Pierce City. Before another decade passed more discoveries led miners over most of the territory. Strikes occurred in rapid succession throughout Central Idaho; in the Boise Basin, in the Owyhee country of southwestern Idaho, at Leesburg in the Lemhi country, and at Caribou in southeastern Idaho.
The heady atmosphere of the mining rushes had cooled considerably when new discoveries in the Coeur d'Alene mountains brought a rush into what became Idaho's richest and most enduring mining area. The story of this rush was captured by a journalist, Eugene V. Smalley, whos account is one of the foremost contempory literary efforts in Idaho's mining history.

In the phraseology of the mining regions a "stampede"" is a wild rush for some newly discovered diggings. It is a mania that spreads throughout the older mining districts with astonishing rapidity. People do not wait for definite information about the character of the new "find", or the geography of the country where it exists, but hasten to be first on the ground, either to take up claims, or to furnish whisky or provisions to the miners. The mines must be of gold, and not of silver. The cheaper metal has no great fascination about it; besides, it is always locked up in the rocks, and can only be extracted by costly crushers and smelters. Furthermore, they must be placer mines and not quartz; for only placers can be worked with picks and shovels, and such rude appliances of ditches and sluice-boxes as every miner knows how to make. The news of the discovery of "pay dirt" causes a thrill of excitement to traverse the whole vast region between the British possessions on the north and Mexico on the south, and between the great plains on the east and the Pacific coast. Everybody who has ever seen a placer mine feels as if he would like to take a risk in the fascinating lottery of searching in the mud and gravel for the glittering yellow nuggets. There is a stir in the camps of Arizona and New Mexico, of Colorado and Utah, and the "old timers" of California, recalling the days of '49, feel young once more and long for the rude, vigorous life and the splendid hopes they once enjoyed in the Sierras.

Stampedes have been very rare in late years. So thoroughly have the gold-fields been prospected that the chances of paying placers having been overlooked are very remote. The prospecting goes on every summer, however. In the loneliest valleys of the Rocky Mountains you are likely to come upon unkempt men digging a hole in a bank or washing a pan of dirt in a stream. These men always hunt in couples, and address each other affectionately as "partner" or "old pard." They are inveterate prospectors, who during the inclement seasons manage to pick up a living somehow in towns or on ranches, and in summer take to the woods and the gulches. Here and there they find a little "color" to encourage them, but the rich diggings, where nuggets as big as an egg can be picked out of the gravel, are always a little farther on.

Of all the stampedes in old times or in recent years, the Great Coeur d'Alene stampede of the winter and spring of 1884 was probably the most remarkable. The country it invaded was less known than any other part of the Rocky Mountain chain. No roads traversed it; there was not even a bridle trail. To make matters worse, the entire region was covered with a forest growth of cedar, pine, and fir, so dense as to resemble a Hindostan jungle. "Begorra, ye'll find the trees growin' as thick as a bunch of matches." said an old Irish miner, whom I encountered on my way to the region, and he did not greatly exaggerate. To make matters still worse, the snowfalls are phenomenal, and the stampede began in the dead of winter, when the snow was from twelve to twenty feet deep in the mountain passes. Yet, inspite of these obstacles, over five thousand men made their way into the heart of the Coeur d'Alene Mountains during the months of January, February, and March. With them went scores of women of a certain class, dressed in men's clothes and hauling their feminine wardrobes on sleds.

lt would be an error to suppose that the motive which led all these people to plunge into a trackless wilderness in the rigors of a Northern winter was alone the hope of large and sudden gain. It was the adventure and the daring and excitement of the affair which appealed to their imaginations, as well as the prospect of making money. To be "a stampeder" is to be something of a hero, and the wild life of a new mining camp is full of charms to those who like it. Even men of education and of intellectual fiber discover a fascination in sleeping on pine boughs in a log cabin, and living on bacon, beans, and dried apples, pawing around in the dirt, and listening to the grotesque tales, the boasting and blarney, and the fantastic oaths of a mining camp.

The Coeur d'Alene Mountains are the nothernmost part of the great Bitter Root chain, which swinging off to the westward of the Rocky Mountain ranges in Southern Montana, leaves one principal valley and numerous lateral valleys between it and the main divide, and ends at Lake Pend d'Oreille in northern Idaho, in a confusion of separate ranges and groups. The name Coeur d'Alene means heart of an awl, or awl-hearted, and was bestowed by the early French trappers upon the tribe of Indians inhabiting the shores of the lake on the western side of the mountains. The tradition is, that the trappers found these Indians so inhospitable and so close in their fur bartering operations that they declared that their hearts were no bigger than the point of a shoe-maker's awl. So the name stuck, first to the tribe, then to the lake, then to the river, which is the lake's principal affluent, and to the mountains it drains, and lately it has been applied to everything connected with the new mining camp. Placer gold is found on both sides of the mountains, but chiefly on the western slope, in the deep and narrow ravines drained by the little streams that form the Coeur d'Alene River.

As long ago as 1867 a party of prospectors, headed by a man named Wilson, penetrated the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, and reported that gold existed there; but the region was at that time much too remote to attract miners from the prosperous gulches of Montana and Southern Idaho, and the memory of the Wilson expedition had almost faded out, when in the falI of 1882, a man named Pritchard made his way from the old Jesuit Mission, on the Coeur d'Alene River, up that stream to its headwaters and came back asserting that he had found gold in paying quantities. His reports were generally doubted, but some restless ex-miners in Deer Lodge and Bozeman, Montana, organized a party in the spring of 1883 and started into the mountains. This expedition is known in the history of the present camp as the Bozeman stampede. The party found the snow about twelve feet deep in the gulches, and returned disgusted. While traversing central Montana, in May of that year, I met some of these stampeders on their way home. They declared that there was no gold in the Coeur d'Alene, and that they had left Pritchard hanging to a tree. They were wrong in both statements Gold there is, as subsequent events have shown and Pritchard is alive and still digging for the yellow nuggets. In the fall of 1883 he discovered what is known as the "Widow's Claim", so named by him in honor of a friendly widow who had "grubstaked" him. --- That is, furnished him with money to live on while prospecting. Stories of the gold found on "the Widow's Claim" got abroad on both sides of the mountains and a few people made their way into the new diggings before the snows fell.

The great rush did not occur, however, until February, when the toboggan period began. A toboggan is the long, low sled used in Canada, and until the snows melted in April last it was the only mode of transportation to the mines. The toboggan men, wearing snowshoes, and hauling from one to two hundred pounds on their rude sleds could make from ten to twenty miles a day over the mountains, following the "blazing" on the trees that indicated the trail. When they camped at night they cut green saplings and laid them on the snow to support their fire. In the morning the smoldering embers would be down at the bottom of a well in the snow twelve or fifteen feet deep. Twenty-five cents a pound was the price for hauling freight from the railroad forty miles to the camp established in the fall at the forks of Eagle Creek, and called Eagle City. Sometimes the toboggan men sold the goods and pocketed the proceeds, and even if they were tolerably honest there was sure to be a serious shortage in the whisky and tobacco invoices.

A glance at a map of the region will show that the Northern Pacific Railroad makes a long loop to get around the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, going northward down Clark's Fork as far as Lake Pend d'Oreille, and then turning to the southwest. The first explorers went in from the western slopes of the mountains, following up the Coeur d'Alene River and fording its icy waters thirty-six times up to their saddle-girths. The stampeders mainly went in from the east, penetrating the dense forests and climbing over the mountains. Trails were opened from two stations in the woods on the Clark's Fork---Belknap and Thompson's Falls---and both developed into mushroom cities of shanties and tents as outfitting points. It was at one or the other of these places that the adventurers from the East brought their toboggans, their blankets, and their grubstakes. Those from Oregon and Washington Territory, together with the "old timers" from California, opened a trail from the old Mullan Road near the Coeur d'Alene Mission, over two or three ranges to the camp on Eagle Creek. To the snowshoe and toboggan mode of transportation succeeded the pack-mule trail, and in the spring a wagon road was cut through the forest, from Thompson's Falls up to the foot of the mountains. On the western side of the mountains the Mullan Road, built by the Government before the Civil War as a military and emigrant route from Fort Benton, on the Upper Missouri, to Walla Walla, near the Columbia, afforded, in connection with a steamboat on Lake Coeur d'Alene and the river, access to a point called Jackass Prairie, about twenty miles from the mines. There was still another route opened. Bateaux were built, and by dint of much pluck and muscle, goods and machinery were poled up the swift river thrity-five miles above the head of steamboat navigation. Thus the camp got its communications opened, such as they were, with the outside world.

It was a wild, strange settlement that grew up on the snow, in the lonely mountain gorge, at the junction of Eagle and Pritchard Creeks. Everybody was gay and hopeful. There was no lack of amusement of the sort most popular in mining towns. Song and dance halls, half tent, half shanty, were opened. Gamblers arrived by the dozen from Leadville, which has grown quiet and respectable of late. Of ten buildings or tents, nine were sure to be drinking-saloons. A glass of whiskey cost half a dollar. The Jew trader followed close upon the heels of the saloon-keeper, with his stock of goods. Wherever gold is discovered the whiskey-seller is just behind the prospector, and the enterprising Hebrew merchant is never far in the rear. Hundreds of adventurers who had followed the construction camps on the Northern Pacific Railroad and had been left stranded when that highway was completed, drifted into the new diggings. There was enough good material in the population to keep a fair degree of order, however, among the steady element being a considerable sprinkling of farmers from the Palouse Country in western Idaho, and eastern Washington, who staked out claims on the snow with the rest.

Society organizes itself with great rapidity under such circumstances. Lawyers and doctors pitch their tents and put up signs, split out of cedar stumps and inscribed with the red end of a hot poker. All the necessary articles for miners' use are brought in. Carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, and bakers who have come to dig for gold find they can do better by plying their respective trades. A weekly newspaper chronicles the events of the camp. Almost all callings are represented except those of teaching and preaching. There are no children, and Sunday is abolished. In a rude sort of way the ordinary appliances of living are obtained. Knives and frying pans must be brought in, but wash bowls, or troughs, are hewn out of pine logs; stools and benches take the place of chairs, and "Idaho feathers," as pine boughs are called, do not make a bad mattress when covered with blankets. Tin cups and plates serve for queen's-ware. The bill of fare is alike for breakfast, dinner, and supper, but appetites are enormous when men have been tramping over the mountains prospecting, or wielding the pick and shovel all day.

When the snow went off the stampeders got to work. A few paying placers were opened, but in most cases the bedrock was found to be from twelve to twenty feet below the surface, and covered with deposits of gravel and boulders. lt took an enormous amount of labor to get down to it. The "pay streak" in most diggings, is found just on top of the first stratum of rock below the soil, the particles of gold having, in the course of ages, worked down through the earth until stopped by the rock. In the Coeur d'Alene region the miners had to work through an enormous amount of surface deposit. Those who got down, however, found free gold in flakes and chunks. The largest nugget discovered was worth three hundred and twenty dollars. That was found in Dream Gulch. To this gulch attaches a romantic story. One night in August, 1883, a man named Davis, who lived in Farmington, in the Palouse Country, and had been thinking of going to the Coeur d'Alene region, had a dream. In his dream he traveled up a heavily timbered gulch in search of gold, and turning to the left entered a side ravine. A little stream ran down the ravine. He came to a place where the stream forked, and there he found a ledge, from which he chipped pure gold with a hammer and chisel. The dense forest was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Next night the same dream came again. He chipped off more gold until he was tired, and awoke. The third night he was once more in the ravine, loading four mules with gold. The treble dream made such an impression on his mind that he persuaded two friends to go with him to the Coeur d'Alenes. After prospecting for several days he found a ravine that corresponded to the one seen in his dream. Passing up it he found it all familiar ground. He recognized the trees, the underbrush, the pools of water. The ravine forked just where he expected it would, but there was no ledge to be seen. Davis and his companions washed a pan of dirt, and found color. A second pan yielded three dollars. They dug down in the hill-side and found a quartz lode. Not long afterward a nugget, worth ninety-seven dollars was unearthed. Davis named the place Dream Gulch. He has not yet loaded the four mules with gold, but up to the first of July, when the water gave out, he and his companions had taken forty-two thousand dollars out of that ravine. Many prospectors have tried to dream out a fortune since then, but none have had Davis's luck.

"The bloom was off the boom," as they say in Dakota when I went to the Coeur d'Alenes in July last. Numbers of people had learned that locating a quartz claim on a mountainside, or sitting down in the cedar woods of a gulch and imagining how much gold there may be under twenty feet of gravel, is not a short cut to wealth. It costs a great deal of money to open a placer, and a great deal more to get gold out of quartz, and most of the stampeders had only enough to keep them in provisions for a few weeks. They hoped to sell their claims but no one came with capital to buy. Very few were able to dig ditches, build sluices, and begin cleaning the bed rock. An exodus from the mines began in June, and continued in a straggling way all summer. "It was not a poor man's country," said the returning adventurers, as they footed it over the mountains to the railroad. "What could a fellow do with only a shovel, a pick and a plug of tobacco, when it took a thousand dollars worth of labor to get down to the pay dirt?" All the trails were filled with processions of melancholy men, sweating and swearing under their loads of dirty blankets. Among them were merchants who had sold out their stocks at a loss, and gamblers looking for more promising fields. The camps were by no means deserted, however. Only the driftwood went out on the ebb of the tide.

The best way to visit the mines is to go in on the trail from Thompson's Falls, over the mountains, and come out by way of the river, floating down the swift current in a canoe. As a mode of travel the canoe is much more comfortable than what is commonly called the hurricane deck of a Cayuse pony, but on the other hand, it is much more risky. The tourist can avoid the canoe, but the only alternative to the pony is going afoot. My companion and I set out from Thompson's Falls one morning, mounted on sorry nags and dragging a pack animal along, Indian fashion, by a rope attached to his neck and twisted about his lower jaw. We turned to take a last look at the broad green rivers slipping along to the foaming, roaring rapids at the raw little shanty town beyond, which has three hundred inhabitants and thirty saloons, and at the near horizon of mountain summits, and then entered the forest. "You can't get off the trail, unless you cut your way out with an axe," was the parting salutation of the owner of the ponies. He was right. Nothing less nimble than a deer could well get through the jungle of fallen trunks and underbrush that covered the ground between the tall pines, tamaracks, and cedars. This superb forest of the Pend d'Oreille is a vast lumber preserve for future generations. The pineries of Michigan and Minnesota look like open parks compared with it. Nowhere else in the United States, save on the western slopes of the western mountains, in Washington Territory, can be found such a prodigious amount of timber to the acre. It stretches along both sides of the Pend d'Oreille, or Clark's Fork River, for a hundred and fifty miles, and laps over the Coeur d'Alene and Bitter Root Mountains, embracing Lake Coeur d'Alene and its tributary rivers, and having a width of at least a hundred miles. The bull pine is the predominant tree; but there is considerable white pine, tamarack, and fir, and in places the cedar excludes all other trees, and attains a surprising girth and height.

Following a trail through the gloomy solitude's of this wilderness is not a cheerful proceeding. The sky is rarely visible, and there are no sounds to break the stillness, save the roar of a torrent, or a crashing in the underbrush and a whiffling grunt that tell of the retreat of a bear. The incidents are the fording of streams, scrambling over rocks, and plunging through mire. In our case there was the adventure of running the gauntlet through a forest fire. The flames were on both sides of the trail. There was no way of getting around them with the horses, and it was a question of turning back or dashing through; so the little caravan was put to a gallop, and after an exciting minute in the smoke, came out with no damage, save some singeing of hair. If a traveler be tough and well mounted he can go in a day's hard ride from Thompson's Falls to Murray, the chief mining camp. One unused to the saddle gets all the journey he wants for one day when he reaches a half-way station called Mountain House, where there is a clearing big enough to see the sky through. A log hotel, a store in a tent, two canvas lodging houses, and three saloons give the place quite an urban look. The hotel has two rooms---the front room being a bar, sleeping apartment, and sitting room, and the rear division the kitchen and dining room. The sleeping accommodations consist of two tiers of berths, in which tamarack poles serve as springs, and pine boughs as mattresses. Half a dollar seemed a reasonable price to the tired wayfarers for the privilege of spreading their blankets on the boughs and enjoying the sense of shelter and the pleasant warmth of a fire burning without stove or chimney in the middle of the room, and sending its column of smoke up through a big square hole in the roof. Of the fare served in the other apartment by the dignified, military looking gentleman who acted as cook, it can truthfully be said that, if not choice, it was abundant, and that the flapjacks were beyond criticism. In the days of the stampeders and the toboggan trains, this was the only house on the trail, and a blessed haven of rest it seemed to many a poor fellow struggling through the snow.

"How do you hook up?" was the landlord's greeting in the morning, a teamster's salutation much in use in Montana. The old miner usually asks, "How do you pan out?" or "How are you striking it?" The truth is we hooked up badly after a night on the tamarack poles, but the mountain air and the flapjacks were good restoratives. Sundry specimens of silver ore from ledges near by were examined, a look taken at a ditch down ten feet on its way to bedrock and an uncertainty, and then the horses were mounted and the trail was resumed. The forest grew denser. The day before it seemed as if trees could not grow closer together than they did along that part of the trail, but higher up they stood in such serried array that a pack-mule could not squeeze through between them. Away up in the air some two hundred feet was a little slit through which the sky could be seen. It was like looking out of a deep crevice. The trail grew more and more abrupt, and the divide was reached after three hour's travel.

The line between Montana and Idaho follows the crest of the range. Probably the summit of the pass is five thousand feet above the sea level. The mountains on either side rise probably two thousand feet higher. They are not rugged and precipitous like some of the ranges of the Rockies, but carry timber almost to their rounded, green summits, and in midsummer show only patches of snow. The trail was enlivened by meeting numerous packtrains going out for return loads, parties of prospectors, and numerous pedestrians of a class indicated on the register of the hotel at Thompson's Falls by the letters "D. B." opposite their names meaning "dead broke." It is the kind custom of the country not to refuse a meal to these unfortunate reformed stampeders.

On the western side of the mountains the trail plunges down into a narrow, dark ravine, where Pritchard's Creek rises. Every few rods there are written notices stuck on the trees announcing that the undersigned claims "five hundred feet of the gulch from rimrock to rimrock," but no mining is seen until one gets down to Raven, the most advanced settlement toward the pass. Here are a dozen cabins and a mine on a mountainside, where the dirt is thrown into a wooden slide, and so got down to the creek for washing. The cleanup averages about ten dollars a day per man, and the owner said that as he could hire men for four dollars a day he had a fairly good thing. He emptied a buckskin bag of small nuggets and dust, and thrust his fingers through the yellow stuff in an affectionate way. Three miles farther down the creek is Butte, a new camp of log huts in the thick woods. Here some sluicing was in progress. This place bears no resemblance to its namesake in Montana, save in the hopes of its founders. Near Butte is the "Mother Lode," whose discovery last May was the talk of all the camps. Miners suppose that all gold placers were caused by the breaking up of some rich lode in the mountains by convulsions of the ground in old geologic times. To find this "Mother Lode'' is the object of much zealous prospecting. Three old farmers from Washington Territory had the luck to find in the mountain side, close to the creek, a vein that is accepted as the mother of the Coeur d'Alene placers. They uncovered a boulder about four feet in diameter, thickly splashed on its surface with gold, and containing several rich veins. The lead to which it belonged they opened for a few yards from the bank to the creek. Then they sat down to look at their wonderful find, and to enjoy the congratulations of visitors, the happiest trio to be found in all the camps of the Coeur d'Alene country. When I saw them and their gold-streaked boulder, they were waiting for some one to come and offer them forty thousand dollars for their claim.

A little farther down the stream, wedged in a narrow crease between precipitous mountains, is Murray, now the chief town of the Coeur d'Alene country. It is composed of a hideous halfmile long street of huts, shanties, and tents, with three or four cross-streets that run against the steep slopes after a few rods progress. The discovery of Dream Gulch, of the Mother Lode, and of several other promising leads and places nearby, created Murray last spring, and almost depopulated Eagle, the other center of the region, five miles below. A more unattractive place than Murray I have seldom seen. The trees have been cleared away, leaving a bare gulch into which the sun pours for sixteen hours a day with a fervor which seems to be designed by nature to make up for the coolness of the short July nights, when fires are needed. Stumps and half charred logs encumber the streets, and serve as seats for the inhabitants. Chairs can only be found in the principal gambling establishments. Every second building is a drinking-saloon. Newspapers sell for "two-bits" (twenty-five cents) apiece. Descending the hill into the town, we encountered a procession of perhaps three hundred men, marching after a long board box. It was the funeral of a printer who had been shot by his employer, the editor of the local journal, for demanding his pay. The propriety of lynching the editor was discussed after the funeral, but as the judge of the district was expected next day to hold court, it was decided to let the law take its course. The town was full of men out of employment and out of money, who hung about the saloons and cursed the camp in all styles of profanity known to miners' vocabulary. Nevertheless, gold was being shipped out every day by Wells Fargo & Co's express, and new discoveries were constantly reported. All the facts pointed to a rich auriferous region. The men who were making money kept quiet, worked early and late on their claims, and let the talking of the town be done by those who had neither the means to open claims, nor to live on while holding them. The placers are probably the most difficult to work that have ever been discovered. First, there is the enormous timber growth, then a thick alluvial soil, and farther down comes from five to twenty-five feet of gravel and boulders, before the bedrock is reached. Besides, the water of the streams soaks down through the ground, and must be taken out of the ditches and shafts by pumping. A reasonable estimate of the region is that it is rich in placer gold, and contains many valuable quartz veins both gold and silver, and that, when time has tested merits and made them known, capital will be attracted and mining enterprises undertaken on a great scale. Probably a year or two will elapse before an active, systematic development of the placers and lodes is fairly begun. Meantime, placer mining will be carried on in a rather small way by men working their own claims under difficulties. The camp is very poor. Many of the prospectors were farmers from the plains of eastern Washington, who went home in the summer to gather their crops; many others were penniless adventurers, or old miners who had wasted their gains in other camps. The number of old men is remarkable. They are mostly veterans of former California and Colorado days, who came to have another taste of the rude life of the mines and the fascinating occupation of seeking for the yellow dust. One pities these grizzly ancients, who at their time of life should be sitting by their own firesides, with children and grandchildren around them.

Five miles below Murray is Eagle, where the stampeders harbored last winter. Its rise and fall covered a period of only six months. Lots, with log buildings, which sold last February for one thousand five hundred dollars, can now be bought for fifty dollars. Yet, the place occupies the only natural town site in the whole region, having an open flat of a hundred acres, where one can see a horizon of mountain tops up at the head of Eagle Creek, and where the vision is not limited to moss hung trees and a hand breadth of sky. When the quartz leads on Eagle and Pritchard Creeks are worked, Eagle will have a new growth. Just now its disconsolate inhabitants are eager to dispose of their huts, tents, and town lots, and their goods and whiskey, at any price, and are only staying because they cannot get away. From Murray to Eagle, and on five miles farther to the Coeur d'Alene River, there is a pretense of wagon road. Vehicles are got over it, but the traveler finds it much more fatiguing to ride them than to go afoot. Pedestrianism in this somber twilight realm of dense foliage and trailing tree moss has an especial charm when it leads out toward light and civilization. Then it is but an easy walk to the river, and at the river you are done with sore backed horses, dead-axle wagons, and tramping over tree roots and through quagmires; for there you find the canoe, and can slide out of the wilderness on peagreen waters at the rate of ten miles per hour. I can recall nothing more delightful in travel in either hemisphere than the canoe voyage of forty miles from Eagle Landing down to the old Jesuit Mission. There were five of us travelers, who embarked in a dugout made from the trunk of a pine tree. Two lithe, muscular boatmen navigated the craft, one standing at the bow and one at the stern, and each equipped with a paddle for use in still waters, and a long, iron pointed pole to keep the canoe "head on" and off the rocks in running the swift rapids. There is a spice of danger in the trip, which makes it exhilarating. The dugout rolls like a log, and the captain in the stern lays down to the passengers the one rule, which they must obey, namely, that there must be"no monkeying around," which means that everybody is to sit still in his seat. About once in every mile there is a rapid. If it takes a straight shoot in the middle of the stream and hides no big rocks, there is no trouble; but if the current sheers off to the shore on one side, and makes a sharp turn after, striking full against the face of a precipice, it requires all the strength and skill of the boatmen to keep the canoe from being hurled against the rocky wall and upset. Then there are jams, where the river is blockaded by enormous masses of fallen timbers, and along the narrow channels that suck through the wedged in trunks and branches the canoe must be coaxed, or forced; and shallows occur, where the boat grounds, and the crew leap overboard into the seething, icy current and "rock her off," tilting her by stem and stern until she floats again. Once we lost our steersman in a comical way, making everybody laugh and overlook the imminent peril of the situation. The canoe had plunged down a curving rapid with great velocity, and, to keep it from striking, the steersman thrust his paddle against the bank. There was a crevice in the rock in which the blade stuck. Before he could pull it out the boat had swept on, leaving him hanging to the paddle and a root, with twenty feet of water under him. One of the passengers seized the pole, which luckily remained in the boat; the craft was steadied, stopped, and pushed back, and the steersman rescued.

In shallow places the river is as transparent as cut glass, and the stones upon its bed form a beautiful mosaic of many colors; in deeper places it has a lovely pellucid green color. In the pools that lie at the feet of enormous craggy precipices it becomes an indigo blue. Everywhere the wilderness is unbroken; everywhere the forest covered mountains hug the shore. We saw many deer. They would stand still on the river's brink and look curiously at the canoe until it was quite near, but they seemed to have knowledge enough of gunpowder to throw their white tails up and scamper into the bushes the moment anybody showed a revolver. It was great fun to run races with the wild ducks, which would keep ahead of the boat for a mile or two, with their half-grown broods, clamoring and splashing along, before they would retreat to the shore. We saw no signs of human life, save a party of boatmen poling two laden bateaux upstream, until we had run thirty-five miles, and come to Kingston, a village in the woods, developed by the mining excitement. In high stages of water a steam-boat comes up to the place, and the transfer of goods and travelers to pack-mules and horses makes business for a few stores, saloons, and restaurants. Ordinarily the boat lands five miles farther down at the Old Mission, which we reached in the edge of the evening. This locality is called Mission City on the maps. The city consists of one store, a hotel of rough-boards, where there are twenty cot beds in the attic, the Mission church and buildings, and a score of Indian tepees.

The Mission is in charge of a single priest, old Father Joseph Joset, who established it in 1853. A new mission has been built recently east of the lake, and has become the center of life on the Coeur d'Alene reservation. As our party of travelers approached the door of the old church they found the venerable priest barring the way and forbidding entrance. "You Americans set a bad example to the Indians," he explained. "You have no reverence. You keep your hats on and act as if you were in a tavern. I cannot let you go in. This is the house of God, and if the Indians see that you do not respect it, the influence on them will be bad." It took some time to mollify the old man. I managed to win his good opinion by telling him that I had lately visited old Father Ravalli, at the St. Mary's Mission in the Bitter Root Valley and had stayed a week with the fathers at St. Ignatius's Mission, in the Flathead country. Finally he ordered the group of squaws that stood about the door to go away and allowed us to enter. There was really nothing to see except the dingy old altar and a few cheap tawdry pictures. The curious Italian facade of the church was the only interesting thing about it.

Below the mission the river changes its character, and instead of a swift mountain stream becomes a placid canal. The mountains recede and leave great tracts of rich meadow land, that would make excellent farms if released from the Indian reservation, but which are now vacant and solitary. A little steamer runs down the river thirty miles, and from the river's mouth twenty miles farther on the lake, to Coeur d'Alene City, another mushroom product of the mining "boom". Lake Coeur d'Alene is about thirty miles long by two or three wide. Its waters are clear, cold, and of a bright green color, and the mountain landscapes around it are fine; but its uninhabited, forest-covered shores are lonely and monotonous. Only at its northern end is it exempted from Indian title. There the town stands close to Fort Coeur d'Alene, established by General Sherman, some years ago as a permanent post, and regarded by army officers as one of the most desirable stations in the West. It is only ten miles from the post to Rathdrum, a small town on the Northern Pacific Railroad, and a good stage road leads through pine openings and across the great Spokane Prairie. The feelings of travelers who have extricated themselves from the Coeur d'Alene Mountains and mines, and find themselves approaching the railroad, are best expressed by a line from a song that used to be sung by the soldiers during the Civil War: "Aint I glad to get out of the wilderness!".
Students who are interested in first person accounts should read:
Dr. Ralph Burcham, ed., "Orofino Gold! E. D. Pierce's Own Story," Idaho Yesterdays, IV (Fall, 1960), 2-5, 8-9.
A useful overall discussion is August C. Bolino, "The Role of Mining in the Economic Development of Idaho Territory," Oregon Historical Quarterly, LIX (June, 1958), 116-151.
Excellent general treatments include Rodman W. Paul, Mining Frontiers of the Far West, 1848-1880, (New York, 1936) and William S. Breever, The Bonanza West: The Story of Western Mining Rushes, 1848-1900, (Norman, 1963).
This article was excepted from "The Idaho Heritage", Richard W. Etulain
and Bert W. Marley, editors, with permission from Idaho State University Press.