Mining History Association

Annual Conference, June 4-7, 1992

Boise State University

Boise, Idaho


The 1992 Annual Conference of the Mining History Association (MHA) was held on the campus of Boise State University, in Boise, Idaho, June 4-7, 1992.  Boise was founded in 1863 following the discovery of gold in the Owyhee Mountains to the south and Idaho City to the north.  The University is on the south bank of the Boise River which was named by French fur-trappers.  Julia Davis Park, Zoo Boise, and the Boise Art Museum (BAM) are on the north bank of the river.  The Idaho State Historical Museum adjoins the park.  In 1870 the U. S. Mint Bureau established an Assay Office in Boise which now houses the State Historic Preservation Office and the Archaeological Survey of Idaho.


Boise is the Capital of Idaho and the domed Capitol Building is a focal point in the downtown area.  The Basque Museum and Cultural Center are nearby.  The downtown is filled with restaurants and bars meeting all tastes.  Back on the south bank, railroad history buffs will enjoy a visit to the historic Union Pacific Depot.  Southern Idaho offers all types of outdoor recreational activities.  If you fancy hiking, biking, and water sports you are assured of having plenty to do in the Boise area.


The MHA Conference included the usual sessions with presentations on a wide range of mining history subjects.  In addition, two special workshops were included, one on Historic Landscapes and another on Museums and Education.  The Welcoming Reception was held at the Idaho State Historical Society Museum.


Two tours of historic mining areas were available to the conference attendees.  Idaho City is located 40 miles northeast of Boise, at the head of Moores Creek, a pine tree shaded tributary of the Boise River.  This is the heart of the Boise Basin (map after Ballard, 1924) mining area which produced 2.9 million ounces of gold.  The town is well preserved and contains much from the gold rush era.  The initial discoveries took place in 1863.  The subsequent rush brought 20,000 prospectors and miners to the basin.  Hydraulicking was used on the placers for over two decades.  It was followed by dredges.  The remains of placer mining can be seen along the creeks and streams.  Quartz mining began shortly after the placer discoveries and continued into the 1930s.  The buildings and surrounding landscape reflect Idaho City’s 1860’s and later mining-based activity.  The Forest Service and The Idaho City Historical Foundation have worked hard to preserve the community, its museum, and the area’s history.


The second tour was to Silver City located 85 miles to the south of Boise.  It was a contemporary of Idaho City and a center of hardrock gold and silver mining that boomed in the 1860s and again in the 1890s.  Production continued until the 1930s but had peaked twenty years earlier.  The Silver City community has exceptional nineteenth-century, wooden structures, remnants of historic mines and mills in the surrounding hillsides, and evidence of ephemeral camps – Dewey, Ruby, and Bonneville – along the roads into town.  Silver City sits in a valley of pinion and juniper trees and the intermittent Jordan Creek in the Owyhee Mountains, isolated by winding dirt roads and harsh winters.  Summer-time brings residents, the reopening of the town museum, and visitors like the MHAers.


In response to the rising gold prices in the 1980s, the historic Delamar Mine was reopened by NERCO. It was an open pit mining and heap leach operation with a gold recovery plant.  About 2 million ounces of silver and 24 thousand ounces of gold were produced annually.  By 1984, production of gold and silver had equaled the historic production of the 1800s and early 1900s.  Ownership changed, with Kinross Mining as the operator when the mine closed in 1998.  The site has subsequently been reclaimed.


For more information on the mining history of southern Idaho, check out the Reading and References below.

(Adapted from Bob Spude’s articles in the March and May 1992 editions of the Mining History News.)



Welcoming Reception, Idaho State Historical Society Museum, June 4, 1992.

Banquet, Boise State University, June 5, 1992.

Speaker: Carlos Schwantes, University of Idaho, “Tourism, Mining Landscapes, and the Mining West”


Presidential Luncheon, Boise State University, June 6, 1992.

Speaker: Russell R. Elliott, University of Nevada, “John P. Jones, Miner-Politician Extraordinaire”


Idaho City and Boise Basin Tour, June 6, 1992 (Half-day)

Silver City and NERCO’s Delamar Mine Tour, June 7, 1992 (Full-day)

Unfortunately, no photographs have been located from the 1992 conference or the tours.  Patty Pickett has graciously shared some of the collection of photos she has taken of many of Idaho’s historic mining towns and camps, including Idaho City and Silver City which were visited on the MHA field trips.  CLICK HERE to enjoy her evocative pictures of Idaho’s mining heritage.

Merle W. Wells’ “Gold Camps and Silver Cities” contains a wealth if information about both Idaho City and Silver City plus many historical photographs. CLICK HERE to download.   The Idaho City Historical Foundation has published “Bricks and Boardwalk,” a walking tour guide to the nearly two dozen historical buildings and other sights in the town.

CLICK HERE for a map of the Major Gold Dredging Sites in Idaho.  The map is from Clark Spence’s 2016 book, “A History of Gold Dredging in Idaho.”  (Courtesy University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO)



Idaho Tourism Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau

Boise State University

Kinross Delamar Mine Closure

The Idaho City Historical Foundation

Idaho City Chamber of Commerce

Historic Silver City, Idaho


Note:  No reading list was issued for this meeting.  Although each of these references are technical geologic reports, they all contain sections on the history of the mines and mining areas.

Samuel M. Ballard, “Geology and Gold Resources of Boise Basin, Boise County, Idaho,” Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 9, (Moscow, ID: Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1924).  Downloaded 5 October 2014,

Merle W. Wells, “Rush to Idaho,” Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 19, (Moscow, ID: Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1963).  Downloaded 5 October 2014,

Merle W. Wells, “Gold Camps and Silver Cities,” Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, Bulletin-22, 2nd Ed, (Moscow, ID: Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1983).  Downloaded 5 October 2014,

A. L. Anderson, “Geology and Ore Deposits of the Boise Basin, Idaho,” US Geological Survey, Bulletin-944c, (Washington, DC: GPO,1947). Downloaded 5 October 2014,

Waldemar Lindgren, “The Gold and Silver Veins of Silver City, De Lamar, and Other Mining Districts in Idaho,” US Geological Survey, Twentieth Annual Report, Part III, (Washington: GPO, 1910) pp 65-256.  Downloaded 9 November 2014,

“Mining in Idaho,” Idaho State Historical Society, Reference Series 9, 1985.  Downloaded 5 October 2014,

Russell A. Carter, “Nation’s Newest Silver Mine Uses Open Pit Methods,” Mining Engineering, v30 n1, (Littleton, CO: SME, 1978), pp 41-44. (Accessed 10 April 2015).


Ron Brown

Evelyne Pickett

Merle Wells

Robert Romig

Tom Greene

Dan Hutchinson

Carl Barna

Ken Swanson

Will Reed


US Assay Office, National Historic Landmark, Boise, ID


Idaho City, ID, ca1922 (after Ballard)r



Hydraulic Mining in Idaho City, ID (after Ballard)


Gold Dredge in Idaho City, ID ca1910 (after Ballard)


Silver City, Idaho ca1900 (after Lindgren)


Delamar Mine and Mill, Delamar, ID, ca1900 (after Lindgren)



(Photos courtesy the Library of Congress, Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, and US Geological Survey)


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