Ruby City, Idaho

Ruby City, Idaho Illustration ca. 1865
Ruby City, Idaho Illustration ca. 1865

Ruby City History

As the initial season of placer mining in the Owyhee Mountains was advancing into fall of 1863, lode discoveries were being made on the slopes of War Eagle Mountain. The first was the Oro Fino, followed shortly by the Morning Star. Placer miners began their exodus from the area late that fall, intending to spend the winter in more hospitable locations. A hardy group stayed for that first winter however, anticipating big things for the Owyhee mines, and wanting to get established before another rush to the area occurred.

In November of 1863 Ruby City was settled near the Morning Star quartz discovery. This was the second permanent settlement of the Owyhee Mountains, after Boonville down the canyon. Owyhee County was the first county established in the Idaho Territory, and Ruby City served as the seat of government from December 1863 until 1867, when it was moved to nearby Silver City.

Ruby City Idaho
Ruby City Stagecoach Rates in 1865

The 1867 publication Beyond the Mississippi described the town as it was in 1865:

"Two miles above [Boonville] is Ruby City, heart of the Owyhee district, and only six miles from the line of Oregon. It is a disorderly collection of buildings, on a wooded hill-side sloping down to Jordan creek. Hidden in the winding valley are many quartz mills—the cause, the support, the very life of the settlement."

By late 1865, Silver City was becoming the primary settlement of the Owyhee Mountains, and Ruby City stagnated. An October 13, 1865 edition of The Idaho Statesman mentioned Ruby City:

"Ruby City is alive. But few new business houses have been built this season; but there is considerable doing in the way of improving the old ones, and quite a number of new residences are building. The New York & Owyhee mill building is inclosed, and the machinery on the ground. Masons are laying the foundations for batteries, boilers and engines. The whole foundation of this mill rests on the solid granite. No firmer structure can be conceived. This company have a large gang of miners raising rock out of two of their mines, and also a numerous band grading roads between the mill and the mines.

"The mill and the roads will be ready to run in six or eight weeks from this time. Mr. Robbins is pushing the work of this company with remarkable energy. He had some croaking enemies a few months ago. He has none now. Success, my boy, don't you see? This is the only mill now building at this place.

"Ruby is very quiet, but everybody looks cheerful. Everybody is busy; no loafers to be seen. Nearly all kinds of hands are in demand at five to six and a half dollars per day. Mr. Robbins told me he could not get masons enough. A considerable number more of steady laborers and mechanics would get employment at this place.

"Two hotels here, the Idaho and the New State, are no discredit to the place, and are apparently doing a thriving business. In ordinary times you can hear but little talked of but quartz. Now the subject is changed. Now it is "Poorman." That don't mean quartz. Poorman is silver-seventy-five per cent. silver. This is no humbug."

Ruby City Idaho
Illustration of Ruby City ca. 1865

The Owyhee Avalanche, first newspaper in Owyhee County, started in Ruby City. Just over a year later it moved to Silver City. Ruby City was in steep decline at this point, and most of the residents and businesses in the town moved to Silver City. The post office, which opened in 1864, closed in 1867.

Idaho Gold

Where to Find Gold in Idaho

"Where to Find Gold in Idaho" looks at the density of modern placer mining claims along with historical gold mining locations and mining district descriptions to determine areas of high gold discovery potential in Idaho. Read more: Where to Find Gold in Idaho.