Welcome to Western Mining History

Featured Mining Town: Custer, Idaho

Featured Mining Town: Custer, Idaho

The town of Custer was laid out and settled starting in 1878, in conjunction with the planned construction of the General Custer Mill. Custer would grow to be the economic center of the Yankee Fork area of Central Idaho during the late 1800's.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Idaho City, Idaho

Featured Mining Town: Idaho City, Idaho

Originally known as “Bannock”, Idaho City was settled in December of 1862, early in the gold rush to the Boise Basin region of southern Idaho. The Boise Basin rush was the largest since the California Gold Rush of 1849, and by 1864 Idaho City would become the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, eclipsing even Portland, Oregon.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Atlanta, Idaho

Featured Mining Town: Atlanta, Idaho

With production estimated at over 16,000,000 dollars, Atlanta was one of the more productive mining areas in Idaho. However, due to the extremely remote location, it took several years for any significant production to occur after the initial ore discoveries in 1863, and almost 70 years for the district’s mining industry to be fully developed.  Continue Reading

Incredible Photos of Boom Town Tent Cities

Randsburg, California Tent Saloon

The discovery of gold or silver in the West was usually followed by a rush of people attempting to arrive at the new district first to get established in mining or business. New mining camps were hastily constructed out of materials that could be easily transported over great distances and on difficult terrain. The most  Continue Reading

Journigan’s Mill – Death Valley National Park

Water tanks at Journigan's Mill

Journigan’s Mill was built in the 1930s at a site in Emigrant Canyon that was near several springs. Water is Death Valley’s most precious resource, and mills were usually located where there was access to springs nearby. During the course of the mills roughly twenty years of operation, water would be piped to the site  Continue Reading

The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns of Death Valley

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, built in 1877, are one of the best preserved and largest examples of historic charcoal kilns in the West. The kilns are located in the western part of Death Valley National Park, in Wildrose Canyon. This part of the park is an excellent destination for camping and hiking so if you  Continue Reading

The Mackay Mansion of Virginia City, Nevada

The Mackay Mansion in 2018

The Mackay Mansion in Virginia City, Nevada is one the Comstock Lode's oldest and best preserved buildings. Built 1860, the mansion was originally the offices of the Gould and Curry Mining Company, as well as housing for the mine superintendent.  Continue Reading

Underground Hoist Room Construction Captured in Photo Series

Large underground mines often have important infrastructure and facilities built in underground chambers, hundreds or thousands of feet below the surface. Storage facilities, repair shops, and even modern hoist houses can be found deep within the mines. These facilities weren’t often captured in photographs, so it is a rare treat to be able to see  Continue Reading

Total Devastation: The Butte, Montana Explosion of 1895

Volunteers help sort through the devastation of the 1895 explosion in Butte, Montana

In January of 1895, a warehouse fire ignited a large store of dynamite resulting in a great explosion that devastated several blocks of Butte, Montana, and killed an estimated 58 people. The following account is partial text from the 1895 publication “The Great Dynamite Explosions at Butte, Montana: January 15, 1895” The Fire and Explosions  Continue Reading

A Look at California in 1851, Two Years Into the Gold Rush

El Dorado County, California in 1851

For anyone familiar with California in modern times, it is difficult to imagine what the state must have been like during the California Gold Rush. The famous gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill happened in 1848, but it wasn’t until 1849 that news of the discovery reached the East Coast and the rest of the world.  Continue Reading