As I looked through the different websites assigned this week I kept going back to the “Were you There.” I loved going through all the comments from people attending Elvis Pressley concerts or describing there experiences during the racially charged sixties. There was a part of me though that questioned the authenticity of the authors. I’m not sure how or if they verify the submitted stories. I’ll have to check into that further.
The early history of the territory that would become the present day state of Idaho was a history of those passing through on their way to another destination. Whether it was the fur trappers of the mountain man era passing through on their way to find rivers rich with beaver pelts or early settlers on their way through to the fertile valleys of the Oregon or California, Idaho wasn’t seen as a place to settle down. All that changed with the discovery of gold by E.D. Pierce in 1863 and along with the hordes of gold seekers, Idaho would have the distinction of being the only state in the union to be settled with a west to east migration!
Within a few short years after Pierce’s discovery, similar strikes were made in Florence, Warren and Idaho City along with discoveries in Centerville, Placerville and a hundred other boom to bust towns that make up Idaho’s mining history. And make no doubt about it, Idaho was settled and built by the mining industry. Soon after the discovery of these precious metals, came the industries and businesses needed to support them. Those thousands of miners needed food and supplies, lumber for building their saloons, shops and schools and plenty of whiskey and other “entertainment” to get them through the long, cold Idaho winters.
Fast forward almost 150 years and all that remains of those bustling boom towns are some dilapidated buildings, a few mine tailings and a scattered history of a bygone era. Those towns that sprouted out of the forests, sagebrush and river valleys to supply the mines have grown up to be modern cities with few connections to their mining roots. Almost every one of those people strolling through the streets of Lewiston or shopping the stores in Boise have no idea that a little over 100 years ago the fortunes of both “towns” were tied directly to the mining regions they supplied.
There are many difficulties that arise when we start to discuss how best to share this rich history of Idaho’s mining industry with the public. Many are unaware of the location of these mining towns. With Idaho’s vast geography and extreme winters, most of the ghost towns of the mining era are difficult if not impossible to get to part of the year. Some are only accessible by four-wheel-drive or ATV vehicles. But the visuals of these ghost towns are necessary to fully understand the history of this era so the question becomes how do we overcome these difficulties and insure that the general public have access to our rich mining history?
My public history project will attempt to solve these problems and will hopefully shine the light on Idaho’s mining history. Because Idaho’s mining areas are scattered throughout Idaho, my project will combine all the attributes of an auto tour guide, walking guide, history guide, naturalist guide and recreational guide. With the thought that most people will be driving from Idaho’s major population centers, the first part will be an auto tour to the mining town. The second part will be a walking tour around the town. I will also include an optional ATV tour so that those with offroad machines can tour the surrounding area.
The current website that I found a while back and will be using as an example can be accessed through the links below. Although it is fairly simplistic and isn’t as polished as other websites, it contains the basic ingredients that I believe, when improved upon, will satisfy the needs of my project. It is an auto tour from McCall to the mining town of Warren, along with a walking tour of Warren itself. If you click on the link provided below you can seen that it includes information on mileage from McCall, natural resources of the area like Payette Lake, wildlife and their habitat and of course the history of the area. The website was completed by some locals who live part of the year in Warren. I believe it was created for other “locals” who live in and near Warren as well as for those who annually visit Warren. The people who created it love the area and wanted to share that love with others. I do believe it is replicable and plan to use this format and duplicate it for each mining town in the state. Below is a picture of the pool at Burgdorf Hot Springs which is on the way to Warren, along with some information provided.
I guess when you read something, the more you feel a personal connection to it or can relate a memory to it, the more you enjoy reading it and the more you remember what you read! In Chapter 6 JB Jackson discusses how monuments affect the landscape and change your views of the town or city you are visiting. This chapter reminded me a lot of Washington D.C. As a state legislator, I was fortunate to be on a task force that met back in Washington D.C. every spring so I was able to walk among many of those monuments that dominate that city. As I studied these monuments and read the information supplied, I was filled with a sense of historal awe of this capital city of ours. After reading JB Jackson, I started wondering what if those monuements weren’t there in D.C.? It made me realize how drastically those monuments changed my perception of the city.
Another section in this weeks readings was in chapter 13 with the concept of private property affecting the landscape. This really hit home for me for a number of reasons. First of all, having lived all my life in this setting and being an avid outdoorsman I have seen thousands of these signs he described. Second of all, my family has a private ranch surrounded by national forest that we (especially my Dad!) guard ferociously. My dad has crudely lettered “no hunting” and “stay out” signs posted in several locations giving visitors an ominous feeling as they pull up to our place. My favorite though was a sign up in Alaska that said “If you saw the movie Deliverance you will know not to trespass on our property.” I think JB would have loved that one as well!
As a first time blogger, I’m not sure what I’m doing but I’ll give it a shot. I missed the deadline on this blog but I thought I’d follow through with this anyway. In the readings for last week JB Jackson talks a lot about the the roadside landscape as well as the small town rural landscape, both of which I could personally relate to. Born and raised in small town Idaho along US 95, I’ve spent my whole life going up and down that highway, in and out of the small towns that appear every 20-30 minutes as you drive. Every town is the same and every town is different. Each is unique in it’s own way too. As you pass the many old homesteads that make up all the farms and ranches between these small towns you see what I call the “real” Idaho and every broken down tractor, barking dog and old barn along the highway make me feel like I’m home.