The Coeur d'Alenes Gold Rush and Its Lasting Legacy
by Tony and Suzanne Bamonte
In 1883, two significant events converged that would forever change the Inland Northwest’s history. Both were powerful forces that shaped and defined the development, demographics, and terrain of the areas affected. One was the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad’s transcontinental line, which provided transportation into the largely unsettled Inland Northwest. The other was the announcement of a gold discovery in the wilds of North Idaho. This set off a huge gold-rush frenzy, fueled by the Northern Pacific’s promotional advertising. During the harsh winter of 1883-84, as thousands of hopeful fortune seekers traversed the rugged mountainous region into the Prichard and Beaver creeks drainage, which became known as the North Side District or the Murray Gold Belt, towns and mining camps quickly burst forth wherever there was a promise of finding gold. Although the gold rush was relatively short-lived, other mineral discoveries followed. Mining claims soon proliferated and hard-rock mines began to develop, some of which continue to be worked or explored to this day.
As prospectors fanned out in search of minerals, they crossed the mountain ridges to the south and quickly discovered valuable stores of lead, zinc, and eventually silver along the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River. This gave rise to one of the greatest silver-producing districts in the world. The entire region where the minerals were located is officially the Coeur d’Alene Mining District, but the South Fork region is now more commonly known as the Silver Valley. Although the activity there overshadowed the part of the district where the gold was discovered, the North Side’s ongoing prospecting and mining, as well as the rise and ultimate demise of the towns and camps, is rich in history.
This book covers the gamut of activity, very little of which has previously been recorded or compiled in one place. It not only captures all the related aspects of mining, including brief biographical accounts of some of the key people, but also the challenges faced in gaining access to this wilderness mining district, resulting in the construction of trails, wagon roads, and railroads. In addition, it explores the early 1900s' burgeoning timber industry’s harvesting of vast stands of timber, including the prized white pine; the region's role in the early formation and preservation of the U.S. Forest Service; the Civilian Conservation Corps’ presence; and the significance of the area as a desirable outdoor recreational destination and tourist attraction (see chapter titles below). Murray, formerly the Shoshone County seat and the only remaining town, offers an inviting step back in time. The huge piles of tailings from the powerful Guggenheim family’s gold dredging operation (1917–1926) quietly speaks to the untold wealth in gold removed from the area.
In addition to the rich narrative, augmented by quotes from original source documents, chronicling the history of the North Side District, the book is filled with numerous photographs. The majority of the rare photos are from the collection of Butch Jacobson, a native of the Coeur d’Alene Mining District, but the authors were also fortunate to have access to other private collections of historical photos that have never before been available to the general public.
1. Early Gold Discoveries in the Coeur d'Alene Country
2. The Great 1883 Discovery and the Rush to the Gold Fields
3. Eagle City, the New Gold District's Town of Many Names
4. Murray, the Center of the Gold Belt
5. Other Gold Rush Towns on the North Side
6. Buried Golden Treasures: Developing the Hard-Rock Gold Mines
7. Discovering Nature's North Side Vaults of Lead, Zinc, and Silver
8. Living Along the North Fork River
9. A Forest Under Siege
10. The Good Old Days
"I've read just about everything I could get my hands on about the history around here [the gold rush area] and, without a doubt, your book is the all encompassing reference book that future generations will turn to when researching the 'North Side' history."
Bob Lowe (aka GoldFever Bob), founder/owner of
Eagle City Park ( a recreational gold prospecting/
small-scale mining park). For more information,
go to: http://www.goldfevermining supply.com
"The Coeur d’Alenes Gold Rush has unearthed a bonanza of nuggets of long-lost history. It is a wonderful chronicle of men in their timeless search of gold. The North Side hard-rock mines had not previously been well recorded, but this subject has now been extensively researched. This book is very well written with fine continuity."
The late Richard G. Magnuson, whose accomplishments were many, but who wished to be identified simply as “retired judge and historian from Wallace, Idaho”
"I fully expect this volume will become the definitive go-to resource on the early history of Shoshone County and the North Side portion of the Coeur d’Alene Mining District. The tremendous amount of research is evident on almost every page. Tony and Suzanne Bamonte have uncovered sources that other authors might have either overlooked or never knew existed. With this voluminous collection of facts and stories, they have skillfully assembled a very readable and entertaining book that will serve amateur and scholastic historians, as well as the general public, for many decades. This work deserves all the praise it will undoubtedly receive."
John Amonson, historian, and former executive director, Wallace District Mining Museum
"Tony and Suzanne Bamonte hit pay dirt and discovered a bonanza. What they discovered, with all their research and hard work, is greater than all the immense wealth of gold that was discovered in 1883-84 and later, because no amount of wealth could keep the memory of these gallant prospectors, fortune seekers, and adventurers alive. Only their long-awaited discovery could do that – in the form of this great, wonderful book."
Frederick K. Bardelli, retired art and history
teacher, Wallace High School; artist;
environmental activist and wolf advocate