Vigilante Days and Ways.  Lewiston has taken the law into its own hands, summarily hanging three captured outlaws in the dead of night. Meanwhile, outlaw gang leaders Charlie Harper and Henry Plummer sense danger and manage to escape capture, laying low in outlying areas. Plummer uses his down time to get married. Langford provides some insight into the short lifespans of most mining towns, miners stampeding from played-out placers to the next, newest and most promising ones. Rumors, gossip, a woman scorned and avenged…some things never change.

Dream Gulch near Murray, ID, 1887. Gold was discovered in 1883 by a Palouse Co. farmer named Davis who dreamed where to dig. Photo: U of Idaho Digital Collection.

Chapter XII: Desertion of the Mining Camps   The decay of a mining town is as sudden and rapid as its growth, and the causes which occasion it as problematical. Few, comparatively, of the great number of placer camps in the Rocky Mountains, once peopled with thousands, survive beyond the third year of their existence. As soon as the placers fail to remunerate the miners they are abandoned. The crowd departs, and if any remain, it is that sober, substantial class which is satisfied with small gain as the reward of unceasing toil. Intelligence of new discoveries brought to a failing placer will cause the immediate departure of great numbers engaged in working it. These stampedes are among the most notable features of mountain life. Sometimes when the discovery of a new placer is announced, the entire population of a mining town strive with each other to be the first to reach it. Horses are saddled, mules are packed, sluices abandoned, and the long and unmarked route filled with gold hunters. Away they go, over mountains, across streams, through canyons and pine forests, with the single object of making the first selection of a claim in the new location.

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About the author

Rebecca Wallick

Rebecca is a freelance writer and publisher living near McCall, Idaho. A Seattle native and recovering attorney, she much prefers the quiet, slow pace, and distinct seasons of the West Central Mountains, enjoying the skiing, hiking and running opportunities provided by the nearby Payette National Forest. Rebecca is a Contributing Editor with Bark magazine, and the author of Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot’s Daughter (Feb 2014).

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