Idaho Ghost Towns


Of literally hundreds of Idaho ghost towns, the following list includes some of the more interesting and more accessible old mining camps which have declined severely or turned entirely into ghosts.

In northern Idaho, Pierce, founded in 1860, is anything but a ghost town. Yet an old county courthouse built in 1862 is an important reminder there of the early mining days. In contrast, Florence shows little trace, except old diggings, of the 10,000 or more of miners who came there in 1862. Nearby Warrens, however, still has many buildings and some population. Around Elk City (which really isn't a ghost town either) are Dixie, Orogrande, and Newsome. Farther north, Murray still has buildings and people as well, but little remains of Eagle City and Pritchard, which also were prominent in 1884 during the rush to the Coeur d'Alene mines.

In the southwest, most of the Boise Basin ghost towns trace back to 1862. Placerville, Pioneerville, and Quartzburg still have buildings or old mills, while little remains to mark early Centerville. Idaho City, although scarcely a ghost town, has preserved many important early structures from the time that it reigned as the leading early mining center. To the northeast of the Basin, a number of interesting log cabins are still to be found in the ghost town of Banner. Of the old Owyhee communities, Silver City and Delamar are visible and accessible: much of the mining days of Silver City still is to be seen in that "patriarch of Idaho ghost towns." Representing the early Alturas mines, Rocky Bar, a true ghost town, and Atlanta, now largely closed down, also had their beginnings in 1863 and 1864.

In the Salmon River mountains, Leesburg (1866), Bonanza and Custer (both 1878), and Bayhorse retain some old buildings and relics of the mining days. Other Lemhi ghost towns of interest include Gibbonsville, Gilmore, Shoup, and Ulysses. At the head of the Salmon, parts of old cabins are to be seen at Vienna and Sawtooth City. An old bar survives at Galena and the Wood River mines; some cabins still stand at White Knob, directly above Mackay on Big List River; on neighboring Little Wood River, Mulddon once had a smelter.

Further to the southeast, a few traces of log cabins and of early mining still mark some of the camps which once existed on Cariboo Mountain. And on the north side of Snake River at Bonanza Bar, a few old cabins of the mining days still are visible across the river from the present highway. On the whole, though, the old mining camps of the Snake River placers have pretty largely disappeared. Even the ghosts have gone.

A Few of the Better Known Idaho Ghost Towns

Pierce - 1860 Florence - 1862 Placerville Pioneerville
Quartzburg Centerville Idaho City - 1862 Banner
Silver City Delamar Rocky Bar - 1863 Atlanta - 1864
Leesburg - 1866 Bonanza - 1878 Custer - 1878 Bayhorse
Gibbonsville Gilmore Shoup Ulysses
Vienna Sawtooth City Galena Wood River
White Knob Mackay Mulddon Bonanza Bar

Atlanta, ID

 Pierce - 1860 - Located in Clearwater County.  Elias D. Pierce and Wilbur F. Bassett made the first discovery of gold in Idaho, on Orofino Creek (Canal Gulch) in 1860, just one mile north of the town that is now Pierce.

Florence -

Placerville - 1862 - Placerville was founded in December, 1862, when thousands of miners began to enter Boise Basin in search of gold.  By June 1863, the population of Placerville had reached 2,000.  Initially the first stop for suppliers coming into the Basin, Placerville became an important center for mining claims spread throughout the surrounding hills.  Idaho City, its chief rival, had a longer mining season and soon eclipsed Placerville to become the main Boise Basin town and the country seat of Boise County.

Unlike the earlier Idaho mining areas of Florence and Pierce, the Boise Basin mines provided good returns over a period of many years, the peak years being 1863 through 1866.  For that  reason the Boise Basin rush was significant in early Idaho settlement, bringing a substantial number of people who stayed to establish towns and providing a population base for retailing and agricultural settlement in the Boise Valley.  Boise Basin had a higher percentage of families than did most mining areas, and the major towns, like Placerville and Idaho City, acquired substantial buildings, lodges, churches, schools, and post offices.  Placerville was unusual in that it even had s street grid and town squire, known locally as the "plaza".  Additionally it had an Episcopal church, thirteen saloons, seven restaurants, five butcher shops, five blacksmith shops, as well as hotels, druggists, express agents, bakeries, livery barns, carpenters, sawmills, dressmakers and a millinery shop.

Mining in Placerville began with placer workings for gold, but miners soon turned to quartz mining as well.  By 1864, a stamp mille was working in the area.  Hydraulic giants were also used.  By 1870 much of the excess population of the region had been drained off to other mining rushes and returns on claims had fallen.  The population in Placerville shrank from 2500 in 1863 and 1864 to 318 in 1870.  By that time a good percentage of the population was Chinese, as the Chinese were allowed to work the less rewarding claims that the white miners would not touch.  The Chinese also established services like laundries and restaurants.

Only few early buildings remain in Placerville as was the case in most mining towns.  Placerville suffered more that  once from fires that burned a large part of the town.  The fire that is most remembered is the 1899 fire, which practically destroyed the town.  The streetscape remaining today dates mostly from the rebuilding immediately after that fire and another fire that burned several buildings ten months later.

Pioneerville -

Quartzburg -

Centerville -

Idaho City - 1862 - Idaho City was founded near the confluence of Elk and Mores Creeks as Bannock (sometimes referred to as West Bannock) in December 1862 during the Bjoise Basin gold rush.  As its population grew, the Idaho Legislature changed the town's name to Idaho City to avoid confusion with Bannock, Montana.

In 1863, St. Josephs Catholic Church was established; it was the first Roman Catholic parish in the territory.

Banner - 1864 - Banner was an important town on  the road north from Idaho City.  A rich silver lode was discovered in 1864 by two prospectors from Boise Basin who quickly sold out to the Elmira Silver Mining Company.  The company ran a steady operation fro many years and the mine produced well over three million dollars in silver bullion.  The old mill site is still identifiable along with a number of original cabins that housed the miners. Latitude: 44-01' 12: N  Longitude: -115.5356594

Silver City - 1864 - Silver City was founded in 1864 soon after silver was discovered at nearby War Eagle Mountain.  The first daily newspaper and telegraph office in Idaho Territory was established in Silver City.  The town was also among the first places in Idaho to receive electric and telephone service.  After the placer and quartz vein mines were played out around the time Idaho became a state in 1890, and due in part to its extremely remote location, Silver City began a slow decline, but was never completely abandoned.  Small scale mining continued off and on until World war II; the last mine to be operated all year round in Silver City was the Potossi and the Manager was Ned Williams.

Delamar - 1888 -Located 4.5 miles west of Silver City and named after Capt. J.R. Delamar who inhanced the development of the area with the discovery of a rich vein of silver and gold in 1888-89.  The Delamar mine was formed in 1888-89 on Delamar Mountain.  The town grew around the mine and reached its heyday in 1890.  Mining was limited as the silver and gold soon declined and so did the population.

Rocky Bar - 1863 - founded in December 1863 by H.T.P. Comstock, the namesake of the Comstock Lode in Nevada.  Gold had been discovered along the nearby Feather River about eight miles north of Featherville located at the confluence of Bear and Steel Creeks.  In 1864, with a population of nearly twenty-five hundred, it became the county seat of Alturas County.  Along with Idaho City, Rocky Bar became a contender for the site of the territorial capital.  When Alturas County was created in 1864, the first Territorial Legislature designated Esmeralda as the County seat.  However, since Esmeralda wasn't much of a village and Rocky Bar was starting to boom, the county officials quietly moved their office up to Rocky Bar.  This honor was held by Rocky Bar until 1881, when Hailey won the election and became the seat of Alturas County.  Within two years it had become the main settlement in the area and was even considered as a possible capital for Idaho Territory.  The town was destroyed by fire in 1892.  Although it was rebuilt, afterwards it began a slow decline.  Located 62 miles northeast of Mountain Home.

Leesburg -