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Prairie Pulse

Gold Point Mill discovery, or so it seems

ELK CITY – The trouble with researching history online – and fast to boot – is that invariably you get information incorrect.

On Oct. 12, I published a photo from our files that was not identified in our records. I scoured the internet hoping to connect the photo to a record of the Gold Point Mill. There it was, or so it seemed, at http://evanjonesphotography.zenfolio.com/p567757333/h5d909c2#h5d909c2.

However, during my weekly trip to the Bicentennial Library in Grangeville, as I flipped through a book in the genealogy library I found something different. There in black and white was my photo identified as the Central Idaho Mining and Milling Company, 1932.

I decided to put a bit more time into the search for a photo of the mill, recent or aged. I also wanted to verify my facts on this piece of history a little more thoroughly. Traveling down one rabbit hole was enough for me this week.

And while I am only slightly closer to finding a photo - there is one available from 1996 - it is in negative form. Which means it will need to be converted to digital format to include in this blog. I intend to upload the photo as soon as it is ready.

As for the mill, according to a National Register of Historic Places Registration Form dated to the year 2000, the mill is located along Forest Service Road 222 about 8 miles southeast of Elk City, Idaho. At the time of the filing the building was owned by Idaho Gold Fields Historical Society in Elk City and the land by Nez Perce National Forest.

According to the document, Gold Point Mines owned the mill from 1934 to 1957. At that time, it was sold to Floyd Patrin, who owned the mill until 1996.

One interesting note regarding the mill uncovered in the registration form is the form of power used to operate the mill. Typically, mills in the early 1900s ran off electrical power, however the Gold Point Mill was powered by steam.

According to the document, “Most of the remote ball mills in Idaho County ran on diesel power in the 1930s. Some of the small mills in Idaho County even used old automobile engines to power their machinery. The steam plant at Gold Point consists of two wood-fired steam boilers, one upright and one horizontal, providing a total of 75 hp. A corrugated-metal shed once protected the boilers from the elements; this has been dismantled and the sheets of metal are now stacked inside the mill.”

The document also goes on to detail the history of the Elk City Mining District. In short form, it describes how gold was discovered near Elk City in 1861. By the fall of that same year, the town was born – apparently by miners of a fleeting nature. By May of 1862 most had fled to Florence which was then experiencing its boom.

One paragraph in the historical narrative depicts one miner in particular, a German by the name of “Dutch Siegel.” He built a cabin upstream from the Gold Point Mill and “the ruins of a saloon built near his claim were visible in the 1930s on Tom Pritchard's Red River farm; these were the remains of the community known as Raymond.”

Apparently there are several blips on the map around the Elk City area that deserve fleshing out. I have found mention of the following communities: Jumbo, Frogtown, Frisco, American Eagle, Sungold, Badger, New York and Iron Crown.

Interesting footnotes in the history of Idaho County leading me to move along the trail of discovery. Since the miners fled Elk City for Florence, I expect I’ll move my research there next week.

Updated Oct. 22 to correct a date regarding the discovery of gold in Elk City.

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