Idaho City, Idaho – Queen of the Boise Basin

I.O.O.F. Hall, Idaho City, Idaho

I.O.O.F. Hall, Idaho City, Idaho

In 1875, I.O.O.F. Hall, Pioneer Lodge N. 1 was rebuilt since the original one had burned in the fire of 1867. This time the Odd Fellows built their structure on a hillside overlooking the city in the hope of protecting it from a fire. The two-story, wood frame building was constructed at a cost of $1,974.00. The upper floor was used for lodge meetings and the ground floor for social gatherings. Pioneer Lodge No. 1 was originally established on April 16, 1864, making it both the oldest continuing lodge and the oldest lodge building in the State of Idaho.

Unlike some fabulous placer booms which went through a quick cycle from gold rush to ghost town, mining in the Boise Basin lasted for several decades, with Idaho City as the center of a major gold-producing region,

It is estimated that more than $250,000,000 was taken from this area in the two decades following its discovery.

In about 1900, economic diversification led to the use of Boise Basin timberlands. When the Intermountain Intermountain Railway was completed in 1915 from Boise to Centerville, timber rather than mining undergirded the region’s economy.

From 1919 until 1926, mining was limited largely to lode properties. Idaho City’s population fell to 104 by 1920.

Dredge mining which began in 1898 continued until 1952.

Idaho City, Idaho Main Street, courtesy Wikipedia

Idaho City, Idaho Main Street, courtesy Wikipedia

Today, the once mining bustling mining camp relies mainly on tourism, though with high price of gold, many of the old mines are active once again. The town’s current population is about 460 residents.

Visitors can enjoy a number of historic buildings and sites throughout the picturesque town. Some of these include the 1867 St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the 1865 Masonic Temple, the 1867 Pon Yam House, the Idaho City Hotel built in 1929, the 1867 Idaho World Newspaper building, and many others.

One of the most interesting buildings in Idaho City os the Boise County Courthouse located at Main and Wall Streets. Construction on this building was begun in July 1873 and completed in October 1873. After the earlier fires in the community, the building was built with fire protection in mind. The great iron folding doors, each weighing half a ton, were made in San Francisco, barged up the Columbia River, and carried overland by horse and ox teams. Three feet of packed earth filled the attic space and local clay bricks and mortar finished the walls.

Bpose County Courthouse, Idaho City, Idaho

Boise County Courthouse, Idaho City, Idaho.

The brick structure was built as a general store operated by the Reverend C.S. Kingsley, a Methodist minister and a successful businessman. Kingsley was well known in Idaho City, having preached the first sermon in Idaho City before a large crowd gathered in the union hall in 1863. In 1865 he organized the first meeting of the local vigilante movement.

Of the buildings constructed during this time, none were greeted with more fanfare than Kingsley’s new brick store.

A “Mechanic’s Ball” marked the grand opening of the new store which the Idaho World described as “one of the largest and most commodious fireproof buildings to be found this side of Portland…” The newspaper also deemed the ball, which was attended by approximately 70 men and 35 women, as a “huge success.”

Kinglsey sold the store in 1880 to John Kenally, a miner, tinsmith, and merchant, and was used as a hardware store. Later, the building was rented to Alex and Mary Orchard who converted it into the Ochard Hotel.

In 1909, Boise County bought the building for $1,000 and changed it into a courthouse. The original offices of the Boise County Courthouse were housed in a pine frame building that still stands on Montgomery Street, now used as storage quarters for the county equipment.

Today the building still functions as a courthouse.

Another interesting stop is the Old Pioneer Cemetery, sometimes referred to as Boot Hill. Established in 1863, there are said to be over 2000 people buried here, including hundreds of unknown or unmarked graves, many a result of the violence at this 1860s Gold Rush town. Of the first 200 graves, only 28 were for people who died of natural causes. Approximately 200 grave markers still stand in the cemetery that was originally sectioned off to accommodate the Masonic and Odd Fellows Societies, the Catholics and the Chinese. The Masonic part is just a small area of the main cemetery. Most all Masonic tombstone were lost in a fire. The ground was set aside back in 1864 and has never changed. The Cemetery is located just northeast of town.

Historic Idaho City is located 45 miles northeast of Boise on Highway 21.

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander, May 2018.


French, Hiram Taylor; History of Idaho: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, Volume 1

History of Idaho

History of Idaho-2

History of Idaho-3

Idaho City Chamber of Commerce


Also See:

Ferd Patterson – Living and Dying by the Gun

Ghost Towns of the American West

Idaho Ghost Towns

Sumner Pinkham – Dead at the Hands of a Gunfighter

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