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Voices from the past in Idaho City

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Following my love for all things old and abandoned we recently took the short drive up to Idaho City for the day. Now while not abandoned it certainly is old and more importantly filled with history. Anyone that knows me knows I’m always intrigued by old cemeteries. That quiet sometimes spooky feeling is just something unique. Our primary sightseeing objective for this road trip was the supposedly haunted Idaho City Pioneer Cemetery. 

The cemetery in Idaho City has been in use since 1863 so you will find a few modern era grave makers near the entrance but the further back you walk the farther into history you go. Right now there are approximately 200 grave makers still standing due to the care they receive from the Idaho City Historical Foundation. The cemetery itself covers roughly 40 acres of timbered land and it’s estimated that their are 2,000 graves scattered throughout the area. With most of the grave maker of that era being made of wood a great deal of the markers were lost in a forest fire a number of years back, so sadly there are a lot of unmarked and unknown people buried there. If your into the paranormal you can see how that might cause a little unrest, although I have been here a number of times and never felt anything strange.


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Once a booming gold rush town Idaho City is now just a small town with about 300 full time residents. As you can imagine a gold rush town in the west was a pretty rough place to live and work and of the first 200 graves know in the cemetery only 28 of which were for people that died of natural causes.


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When gold was discovered in the Boise basin in 1862, Idaho City (also known as Bannock City or West Bannock during the early years)  was the destination of thousands of prospectors and business folks looking to provide services to the swelling population. At its peak there were more than 250 business in town with everything from clothing and food stores, barbershops, pool halls and a bowling alley. For those with a little more wealth or who had recently hit it rich there was the theater and opera house for a touch of the arts. In 1863 Idaho City’s population had grown to 6,000 and was seriously being considered for the territorial capital however that fell though and was moved to Boise City in 1864.


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Some of the more well known people buried in the cemetery include.

J. Marion More for whom Mores creek is named. He was buried in 1868 in the Masonic section after being killed in a gunfight that arose due to a mining dispute in the town of Silver City. More was a member of the Washington Territorial Legislature when in October of 1862 he came to the Boise Basin and founded a town of his own, Moorestown which lay just east of Idaho CIty. A very successful miner and a member of the Masons and Finians, which is the Irish political brotherhood.

Jess Bradford who was the mining partner to James Hawley. The two discovered and then owned the Banner mine which is located between the mining town of Atlanta and Idaho CIty. Bradford saved Hawley’s life from another miner and in gratitude Hawley named one of his sons Jess Bradford Hawley. That name is said to be in continued use by the Hawley family to this day. James Hawley went on to found what is now Hawley, Troxell & Ennis law firm, one of the biggest in the state. Hawley was also the 9th governor of Idaho. 

Edward Holbrook who sadly no longer has a identifiable grave marker. A headboard in his honor can be found on display at the Boise Basin museum. Holbrook who was a lawyer, helped organize Idaho’s Democratic Party. He was the 2nd territorial delegate to Congress and was once censured by the Speaker of the House for his use of foul language during a debate. However in 1870 Holbrook was killed in a gunfight on Main Street, how wild west am I right? Holbrook had supported a Republican candidate for sheriff whom won election defeating the Democratic candidate supported by a close associate Charles Douglas. Douglas was furious by this and called out Holbrook as a traitor. The two met in Idaho City where a total of 11 shots were fired and Holbrook fell dead. 


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There are so many other stories both known and those lost to time in the cemetery I highly encourage you to take the time and stop or make that road trip to investigate for yourself. Trust me you won’t be disappointed with your time spent in this great old mining town. As always though no matter where you are get out there and explore your town and state as there are so many great stories to be found. I hoped you all enjoyed this one and I hope you take the time to check out the other sections here at Lost River Photography and click the subscribe button if you’d like to keep up to date on our adventures.


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Idaho City Pioneer Cemetary

Lost River Photography spent the day in Idaho City, specifically the old pioneer cemetery. Stay tuned later this week for some great images and history or better yet subscribe to our blog and be notified by email when it’s posted.


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