|Route to the Montana Gold Mines|
(approx. the same route as I-15 and Highway 91)
James was successful in finding a new and shorter route through Cache Valley to the newly discovered gold mines. On this trip he headed due north from Salt Lake City, through the settlements of Richmond (Utah) and Franklin (Idaho). Eight miles north of Franklin, he crossed the Bear River into Marsh Valley (present-day Bannock County, Idaho). The new road turned out to be “an excellent one, with abundance of feed and water.”(5)
Bannack reached its peak population of nearly three thousand inhabitants in spring 1863, with nearly two thousand others living downstream. The settlement dissolved as quickly as it had sprung up when another rich gold vein was discovered in May at Alder Gulch, eighty miles to the east. The first prospectors on the new site took their gold to Bannack to purchase supplies. Once they got a little whiskey under their belts, they couldn’t resist bragging that they had found the “mother lode.” As the news spread, many prospectors pulled up stakes and headed for Alder Gulch, which soon became the thriving settlement of Virginia City.(12) Alder Gulch yielded an estimated $30 million in placer gold(13) in just three short years between 1863 and 1866. (Not to say that every prospector got rich there. The typical miner struggled to make a living wage, and ended up with more blisters, aches and pains, than he did gold.)
- Church History in the Fulness of Times, chapter 30.
- James Gemmell, letter to his sister, Jane, January 1, 1870.
- The ghost town of Bannack is now Bannack State Park, located just 24 miles southwest of Dillon. Take I-15 to exit 59 (State Highway 278), and travel west for 17 miles. Turn left on the Bannack Bench Road and travel south for 4 miles to the Park entrance on the left-hand side.
- Madsen, Brigham, North to Montana, p. 75. Flour purchased in Salt Lake at $6 for a one hundred pound bag was sold in Montana for $40 a bag.
- Deseret News, “New Road North”, December 10, 1862. The new road followed roughly the same route as present-day Highway 91 and I-15. (See also Joseph C. Walker, p. 64.)
- Deseret News, “More Indian Murders”, January 14, 1863.
- During the Civil War, the government sent seven hundred troops to Utah Territory to protect the overland mail and the transcontinental telegraph stations from Indian attacks. Instead of using the recently vacated Camp Floyd, they chose a site east of Salt Lake City and named it Camp Douglas after Stephen A. Douglas. The troops came in October 1862 and stayed until the end of the Civil War. ( See Church History in the Fulness of Times, Chapter 30.)
- The military action became known as the Bear River Massacre (about 250 Indians were killed).
- Deseret News, “Pack Train for the Mines, March 25, 1863.
- Madsen, Brigham, North to Montana, p. 27.
- The Journal of Captain James Stuart, with notes by Samuel T. Hauser and Granville Stuart. (See “The Yellowstone Expedition of 1863”, Historical Society of Montana 1876, Vol. 1, p. 149.)
- http://www.legendsofamerica.com/mt-virginiacity.html The majority of avowed secessionists living in the camp, which was then part of Idaho Territory and therefore "belonging" to the Union, made it primarily a "southern” town, with its residents’ sympathies lying with the Confederates. Furthermore, the camp was producing enough gold to win the Civil War for whoever could capture it. Due to this strategic position, President Lincoln soon sent northern emigrants into the mining camp to help hold the gold for the North. This of course caused all kinds of tension in the new city, which quickly became one of the most lawless places in the American West.
- Placer gold mining, or free gold prospecting, should not be confused with hard rock gold mining. Placer mining involves dust, flakes, and nuggets, while hard rock mining involves veins of ore.
- http://www.virginiacity.com/#photos Virginia City is now frozen in time. See a 19-minute video about its preservation.