Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Almost exactly in the rugged center of Idaho on the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River
 (also known as The River of No Return) is a ghost town named after the 
General Custer gold mine.  The town of Custer was founded in 1879 not long after a 
mother lode of gold was discovered along the river. 

Gold was extracted from the rocks using stamping mills.  The heavy machinery 
was hauled to the area by mule packers along the rugged trails from places 
as far away as Salt Lake City, Utah.

The town reached its peak population of about 600 in 1896.  It had houses, stores, 
restaurants, a school and plenty of saloons. By 1904 the mines and the mill closed 
when the gold played out.  By 1911 it had become a ghost town, but not before 
millions of dollars of gold had been recovered.

Some of the settlement has been restored and preserved.   
We visited after Labor Day so the buildings were boarded up and…

…the museum in the old school was closed.

Still we could peek inside the buildings and see some of the old furniture and antiques.

Other items were left to rust and return to the earth.

Some lady must have been so pleased to have a new stove 
in her cabin kitchen…

…hauled all the way from St. Louis

 …by horses or mule team.

The Empire Saloon now serves as the gift shop.

Next to the saloon was a vintage outhouse. 

Fortunately for visitors there were also better facilities provided by the Forest Service.

 Everywhere we walked there were bits of broken glass and pottery left behind 
by the people who lived in the old mining town.

Most of the glass was purple, indicating it was made between 1860 and 1915 
when glass makers used manganese instead of lead due to lead shortages 
created by the Civil War.  Glass containing manganese eventually
 turns a light purple when exposed to sunlight.

The road that leads to Custer and its sister city, Bonanza, follows the river up the canyon. 
The whole river bed looks like it’s been churned up by a giant monster gopher.
  Once placer mining was exhausted the owners of the gold claims knew
valuable gold still existed so they joined together and

in 1939 they built a huge dredge the size of a hotel.  
It could dig down 35 feet thaul up the gravel ore.  
The dredge washed and separated the rock and dirt from the gold. 

It operated until 1949, pulling out another 16 million dollars in gold.

On a whim I picked up a rock about the size of a baseball 
and threw it against another rock.  
I kept the piece that split off and put it in my pocket.

I didn’t notice until I was home that…

I could see flashes of light and metallic sparkles in the rock 
when I turned it in the sunlight.


TexWisGirl said...

i'd spend all day digging in the dirt around there - not for gold, but for relics. :)

Anzu said...

My daughter often carried a few stones or shells or glass from her travels. I love such a behavior like you did.

Anonymous said...

I love the rusty old stove - but not so sure about the outhouse!

Sarah said...

As I got to the end of your poat I wondered if there would be any gold left to find-and then you found some! I would love to wander around there, it looks fascinating.

Debbie said...

purple glass...really?!

i love that rusty old stove, that's a gem!!

Jeannelle said...

I love travelogue-style blogposts and this is a great one!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Now that is a great place to visit!! Thanks for taking us along! You struck gold! :)

Anonymous said...

That was fun Leenie! Thanks!

Anairam said...

Interesting little place - pity it is so neglected now. On the other hand, maybe that affords you a better idea of what it was like. Sometimes little places like this can become so touristey as to completely lose their original flavour.
Now you simply need to visit every single day and pick up a rock. Then one day you will be rich!

Jill said...

fascinating stuff - to think of all the dreams of fortune that were made and lost there.

Buttons Thoughts said...

Oh I love this I am almost ready to jump on a plane this is the stuff I love. Thank you for sharing. B

Carla said...

Such cool information! The purple glass info was the best. I would never have guessed that's why it was purple.
You think about old stuff like I do----who it might have belonged to when it was new.

Unknown said...

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