The haze you see is due to smoke from a very large forest fire to the south and east. In-spite of the smoke, it is a beautiful part of Idaho. 9-8-12
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The fabulous gold rush days of Idaho began on September 30, 1860. When W.F. Bassett struck Gold just about here.
E.D. Pierce, who knew the country, had led twelve prospectors, including Bassett, out from Walla Walla in August. After news of the strike spread, about sixty men came in and wintered nearby in spite of snow and Indians. Next spring the stampede was on, and by that July this six-month-old county cast the largest vote in Washington territory.”
Photo above and below, area where gold was first discovered.
Pierce Idaho, mining then logging town.
“The History of Pierce (Idaho)
1860 - Captain E.D. Pierce and his party of gold seekers, led by Jane, the daughter of Chief Timothy, arrived at Canal Creek in present day Pierce. The resulting rush brought as many as 6,--- gold seekers to town.
1861 - Ferry built at Greer to accommodate travel to the Pierce City and Oro Fino City mines. Judge I.B. Cowen made weekly express trips on foot from Pierce City to Lewiston.
1862 - Pierce City was established as the county seat of Shoshone county, originally Washington Territory. Idaho’s oldest government building, the courthouse and jail, was erected (still standing). First regular sawmill constructed by Alonzo Leland.
1863 - An estimated 800 Chinese miners moved in to work the claims, while the prospectors moved to the next rush in Idaho City. Lewiston, a tent city supplying the area miners, became the capital of the newly created Idaho Territory.
1864 - First post office built.
1867 - Oro Fino City (“Fine Gold”), two miles south of Pierce City, burnt down and was not rebuilt. (Name later used for the current City of Orofino on the Clearwater River, established in 1898.) Discovery of quartz ledges brought in a new wave of prospectors.
1877 - Nez Perce War, lead by Chief Joseph. The Greer ferry was burned as a result. A small log fort was built on a hill just east on (of) town.
1884 - Shoshone County Seat moved to Murray, Courthouse sold to private owners for $50.00.
1885 - A band of vigilantes hung five Chinese men accused of murdering D.W. Fraser, owner of the Fraser Trading Post.
1890 - Father and son, C.D. and Nat Brown, arrived from the East seeking new areas of timber and found “green gold” - the largest stand of white pine and other coniferous types in north Idaho.
1899 - Destructive fire swept down the East side of Main Street. Many log buildings destroyed and replaced with frame structures.
1901 - Pierce City platted into a town-site.
1902 - Pierce City with “confession tree” (Photo on reverse side of panel [another picture]). The tree was used to hang suspects until they confessed, and then they were released and dealt with accordingly. Telephone service connected residents to the outside world. Summer “wagon road” built between Orofino and Pierce City. Pierce City Miner newspaper first published by the Greer Brothers of Orofino.
1911 - Clearwater County established, with Orofino as the county seat. Clearwater National Forest created.
1920 - Chinese remains began to be disinterred from the Chinese Cemetery and returned to China for proper burial. The Chinese believed that if the remains were not returned to the sacred soil of China, the departed spirit would wander forever and never find peace.
1925 - Railroad constructed to facilitate hauling the wood harvest to sawmills.
1928 - First log drive from the North Fork of the Clearwater River to Lewiston’s Potlatch mill.
1931 - Our Lady of the Woodland log church constructed (still standing). Current IOOF Hall completed.
1945 - Last gold dredge worked in the Quartz Creek area.
1953 - Highway 11 paved from Greer to Headquarters.
1959 - Bald Mountain Ski Hill was developed.
1965 - Jaype plywood plant constructed and the first bank, First Security arrived in Pierce. The Whispering Pines subdivision added much needed housing for the influx of mill workers.
1969 - Last graduating class from Pierce High School. The new Timberline High School between Pierce and Weippe combined the students from the two towns, ending their long-time athletic rivalry.
1971 - Dworshak Dam and Resevoir completed - Last log drive down the Clearwater River. Grangemont Road paved for recreation access into the area from Orofino, and to enable log hauling by truck.
1973 - “Breakheart Pass” movie, with Charles Bronson, filmed on the railroad. After the Boys Club building burnt down, the Pierce Community Center and Pool was constructed.
1979 - New Pierce Elementary School built. Closed in 2007 and Pierce and Weippe elementary schools combined at Timberline.
1984 - Courtyard Park created by the Beta Sigma Phi sorority.
1990 - The J. Howard Bradbury Logging Museum was completed for Idaho’s 1990 Idaho Bi-Centennial celebration, in the relocated 1928 log cabin of Bert Curtis. The Courthouse was also re-opened to the public.
1995 - “Wild Wild West” movie, staring Will Smith, filmed at Revling.
1998 - Construction begins on the Pierce Play Park next to the ball field.
2000 - Jaype plywood plant closes.
2004 - Deer Creek Dam and Reservoir completed.
“Pierce City, the land of Indian legend, the miner’s dreams, the express ride’s daring, the packer’s paradise, the merchant’s emporium, government’s beginning, and the lumberman’s inning.”
Dr. H.L. Talkington, head of the history department at Lewiston Normal School, LewistonTribune, 1928.”
(Note: Chief Joseph was only one of many leaders of the non-treaty Nez Perce during the war)
“Potlatch Clearing History in Pierce
Polatch Corporation has had a presence in the Idaho forestry industry for over 100 years. When the company first started in 1903, horse-drawn carts were the typical transportation method used for logging. Early in the 1900s, Potlatch moved toward the railroad system to transport logs. Many of the main forest roads in use today are a result of this early railroad logging.
By the 1960s, log hauling had moved from railroads to trucks, which were not limited by hauling capacity.
In 1865 Potlatch Corporation built a plywood mill in Pierce, Idaho. Pierce was the first established town in Idaho, founded in 1861. The town was originally part of the gold rush. However in the 1890s, residents turned their attention to the “green gold” in the nearby hills, starting Pierce’s history in lumber.
Today, Potlatch Corporation reforests every acre harvested, either through replanting or natural regeneration. The company plants between 7 and 15 million trees per year, and since 1990 has planted over 190 million trees.
1900 The Clearwater Timber Company formed in Pierce, Idaho, attracted by the area’s white pine trees. Soon after the company’s formation, some of the founders established the first fire protection organization in the state, the Clearwater Timber Protective Association.
1925 A crew of up to 2,000 men began construction on a 40-mile railroad from Orofino to Headquarters to support the company’s land and timber holdings. The company also started construction on a “giant white pine” sawmill in Lewiston. Both projects were completed in 1927.
1928 With the completion of the Lewiston mill, Clearwater Timber Company began using river log drives. A total of 41 drives through 1971 brought logs, poles, railroad ties and other wood products 80-90 miles down the North Fork and Clearwater Rivers to the pond in Lewiston.
1931 The Clearwater Timber Company joined with Potlatch Lumber Company and Rutledge Timber Company to form Potlatch Forest, Inc.
1965 Potlatch Corp. continued to grow in Idaho, purchasing a plywood plant in Pierce
2000 Raw material and transportation issues led to the closure of the plywood mill in Pierce.”
For a view of of the early log drivers down the rivers, see Charlie the Lonesome Cougar
“The City of Pierce
To poet Joaquin Miller, who first saw it in 1861, Pierce City was a brisk town of white tents and dark woods, of jolly companions and fortunes for the taking. To some others it was less pretty. Life was difficult in that first spring. The region had been entered by its discoverer, Capt. E.D. Pierce, only the summer before and a mere handful of men had kept the place going through the winter. But conditions got better when summer came, the snow disappeared and the water dropped. The full scale mining began for the first time, the yellow harvest was underway in earnest and morale sprang up.
Estimates of the population of Pierce and the surrounding area at that time vary, for few records were kept. Historians have guessed that there were 4,000 to 6,000 in the area of whom 1,000 to 2,000 actually were mining.
Historian Byron Defenbach reported that “only 2,000 were real miners. A thousand were doing better things like cutting trees, sawing boards for building and boxes, running stores, playing cards, selling or drinking whiskey, driving teams, digging ditches, sometimes digging graves.”
Provisions, most of which were packed in from Walla Walla, could be had for reasonable prices. Bacon ws 40 cents a pound, fresh beef 20 cents, mutton 20 cents, tobacco 25 cents, coffee 50 cents, salt $1, sugar 50 cents and whiskey $5 to $6 a gallon.
The food that was not packed in was bought from Nez Perce Indians, who began trading with the miners shortly after their arrival and continued to deal with them on a friendly and mutually profitable basis for many years.
The first building at Pierce were made of hand-hewn logs or whipsawed lumber. Since a good sawyer could turn out only some 200 board feet of lumber a day - and god $20 a day for it - building by this means was costly and time consuming. To make it less so, L.M. Starr, Alonzo Leland, C.W. Buchanan and Joseph Tucker formed Starr & Co and purchased equipment for a sawmill from a foundry at Portland.
In 1861 and 1862, newspapers sold readily for $1 a copy, even though they were many days late by the time they reached the camp. The Civil War had begun and sympathizers of both North and South were eager for news of it.
Debates on the war were common and often heated. They occurred in the saloons, in miners’ cabins at night and along the creek bottoms during the day. Sometimes they led to violence, as when Jack Sullivan, a Confederate sympathizer, shot William McCue, a loyal Yankee, in the back of the head.
Emotions aroused by the war sent bullets whistling through the first flag raised at Pierce, and loyal Union men were hard pressed to keep Old Glory flying in the face of Confederate determination she should be dragged down.
The area where gold was discovered, and which became the town of Pierce City, was part of Spokane County, Washington Territory. The territorial legislature at Olympia had established the county in 1858. In 1861, after the discovery of gold but before the beginning of the rush, the legislature redesignated that area as Shoshone County.
The first county seat was at Colville, but within a short time - probably by June of 1861 - the county seat was moved to Pierce. Shoshone County was attached to Walla Walla county, however, for judicial purposes.
(From the Centennial Edition of the Lewiston Tribune, August 7, 1960)”
“Wanted: Henry Plummer Leader of the Plummer Gang
There was no more notorious outlaw band in Idaho history than the Henry Plummer gang, which operated between Lewiston and the mines in the early 1860s.
Plummer was a handsome man born to a sea captain in Addison, Maine in 1832. He migrated west and in 1856 was elected marshal of th ethird largest settlement in California. After his involvement in a murder, he was sentenced to prison but released after contracting tuberculosis. In 1862 Plummer landed in Lewiston working at a casino. While there Plummer and his former cellmate formed the gang and had their headquarters near the present site of Cul-desac, on the route to Oro Fino. They would waylay travelers to and from the mines. Henry Plummer’s gang is best remembered for the murder of Pat Ford.
William Patrick Ford was one of Oro Fino’s favorite saloon keepers, largely because he employed Spanish dancing girls to entertain the miners. His murder, many believe, was because he had openly denounced the gang.
Traveling on his way to Oro Fino, Ford avoided the spot where the gang was known to ambush travelers. The gang had in fact intended to ambush Ford but he was far down the road when they discovered he had outsmarted them. They set out after him, stopping on the way to rob two Frenchmen.
The gang went to Ford’s saloon, “where they ordered drinks and proceeded to shoot and demolish the place.” After, Ford followed them to a feed yard. “Shooting began and when the smoke of battle was over ford was dead and one of Plummer’s accomplices, Charlie Ridgley, was seriously sounded.”
Ford’s murder so outraged the people of the mining country that Plummer moved his operations to Montana. The gang was operating in the Bannack area of 1862 and later moved on to Virginia City.
Plummer was the most notorious outlaw who frequented the area, but many lesser known individuals preyed on the miners and citizens. It is rumored that Wyatt Earp had ventured as far as Pierce. It is documented that he spent quite a bit of time near St. Maries..
Well known Characters
African American miner William Rhodes established a mining settlement near Pierce. He came to Idaho in 1860 and by 1862 had accumulated $80,000 in diggings. His skills brought him the attention of many financial backers and he died in the winter of 1886 while developing a mine for silver ore deposits in the Bitterroot Mountains. Rhodes Creek is named for him and was the gulch where he had his operation while in Pierce.
Israel Cowan held many town positions but is well known for his mail carrying feats. Deep snow made the trail from Lewiston to the mines impassable to horses in the winters of 1863 and 1864. Cowan walked the route on snowshoes, carrying the express on his back. He was born with a club foot. It was 80 miles from Lewiston to Pierce and he could make the trip in about 10 days.
In the 1940’s a character known as “the Ridgerunner” tormented the Forest Service on the North Fork. He was known to take items from tents, lookout towers and ranger stations. For years no one saw him, but he was known to travel to the most inhospitable places in the worst of weather. That earned him the regard of locals who appreciated the cost of survival under such circumstances. Once apprehended, the Ridgerunner proved to be both witty and ornery -- a man who said he simply wanted “to live like a coyote.”
(Material collected from the Centennial Edition of the Lewiston Tribune, August 7, 1960 and from “The Ridgerunner” which can be found in the Pierce library or purchased at the forest service office in Orofino.)”
“Oro Fino City
Commercial center of Idaho’s earliest mining district in the great days of 1861. It flourished here for more than a year.
Pierce City was only 2 miles away but another town sprang up near some rich gold strikes. In its first few weeks, Oro Fino City had “about sixty houses -- more going up every day; nine or ten stores, more saloons that are needed, two smith-shops, two butcher - shops, three families and about five hundred inhabitants,” --- But with the gold rush over, the place was abandoned. The deserted town burned to the ground August 10, 1867.”
Highway by where former Oro Fino City stood, below.
Charged with hacking a prominent local merchant to pieces, five Chinese were hanged here by vigilantes Sept. 18, 1885.
They were just setting out on a long, hard 240 mile trip from Pierce to face trial at the county seat in Murray when the vigilantes struck. A large group of armed, masked men forced the deputy sheriff and his posse to give up the Chinese prisoners and to return to Pierce. A marked trail leads 365 feet from here to the site where this incident occurred.”
“Murder and Vigilantes
One summer’s night in 1885, it is alleged that five Chinese men gained entrance to the Fraser General Store, while their fellow countrymen set-off fireworks up and down the Main Street. It was a stormy night and the fireworks supposedly helped drive-off the evil spirits. The store’s owner, David M Fraser, a well-known and respected pioneer, slept in the back of his store. No one heard a shot, but the next morning his dead body was found by his packer, who had been sent to see if he were ill when he did not arrive for his usual breakfast at a boarding house nearby. It appeared that Fraser had been brutally attacked with axes, hatches and knives while sleeping, since there was blood on the pillow, on the bed, on the floor and a stream of blood trailed all the way to the front door, where the struggle ended with a gun shot through the mouth. Blood was also smeared on a rack of pick handles, as if Fraser had attempted to grab a weapon and defend himself. Interestingly, Fraser’s safe and property went completely untouched.
Seven Chinese suspects were rounded up and thrown into jail. A group of citizens from Lewiston and the Camas Prairie, upon hearing of the murder arrived in Pierce to investigate. The surrounded the town, and sent in a small posse to learn of the situation. A tiral was arranged, but it was not an ordinary trial. From lack of evidence and confessions, the court decided to try an old ruse. A man named Lon Sears, who had learned the Chinese language in the mining camps of Warren, Idaho, was disguised as a drunken Indian and thrown into jail with the suspects. Sears’ ruse was apparently not successful, as the next day, a mock hanging was arranged at the Pierce Confession Tree, thinking it might be possible to frighten the guilty ones into confessing (photo of tree at Pierce Historical Kiosk). This also failed, so the prisoners were returned to the jail. The court, unable to determine guilt, released the two oldest men. The five remaining were turned over to a deputy sheriff, loaded into a hayrack wagon and started on the long journey to Murray, Idaho, for further trial.
Three miles south of Pierce, at a place called Hangman’s Creek (near this present location), the entourage was met by a band of masked vigilantes. Without hesitation or interference from the guards, the vigilantes slung a pole between two black pine trees, put up five ropes and hung all five of the prisoners. The vigilantes were never found in the following years of searching. The bodies of the Chinese men were buried in the Chinese Cemetery (located at the corner of Moscrip Drive and Stover Drive in Pierce). According to custom, the bones of all Chinese in the cemetery were later dug up, washed, and sent back to China. David M. Frasier’s remains are buried in the Pierce Cemetery (Cemetery Road in Pierce), and the Community of Fraser (between Weippe and Greer) was named in memory of him. (Photo of original painting by Roger Cooke, courtesy of the Weippe Discovery Center. Text adapted from Layne Gellner Spencer’s “And Five Were Hanged.” c1971)”
“Boom and Chinese of Pierce
During the gold rush boom of Pierce, the population exceeded 6,000. At that time, Pierce was actually located in Washington Territory. In 1861, Pierce became the first established gold rush town in Idaho, and the county seat of Shoshone County. In 1862, the county built a courthouse/jail at a cost of $3,700, which was Idaho’s first government building (still standing behind the J.H. Bradbury Logging Museum in Pierce). The Idaho Territory was established in 1863 and Pierce remained the Shoshone County Seat until 1885, when the county seat was moved to Murray. Lewiston, which was a prospering tent city as a result of providing supplies to the miners of Pierce, was actually Idaho’s first capital in 1863. (A late-night theft of the state’s seal and archives ended that claim in 1866.)
Between 1861 and 1866, it is estimated that $3.4 million in gold was produced in the area. By 1885, however, the town of Pierce had decreased significantly in population. Most of the white men had moved on to more promising gold strikes to the south and east. When they left, the Chinese moved in, leasing and working the abandoned claims. There was a great deal of friction and lack of trust between the Chinese and remaining white men, which caused a number of violent incidences on both sides. (Text adapted fro Layne Gellner Spencer’s “And Five Were Hanged.” c1971)”
“Pierce Gold Rush
A few weeks later, a larger group of men and horses made a second journey to Pierce. The group passed near several Nez Pierce Indian encampments, which had not seen many white men since Lewis and Clark passed through almost fifty years prior. The Indians seemed friendly and caused no difficulty, but an Indian agent, A.J. Cain, was less cooperative. As the area was the Nez Perce Reservation, he attempted to stop the miners from reaching their destination. First, he tried to persuade the Indian ferry not to transport them across the river. When that failed, he sent 100 United States dragoons with orders to stop the miners, which also failed due to bad weather. Without incident, the group reached Canal Gulch ten days later, and began setting up camp. Eight rustic cabins were quickly built, which were the first building in what was to become Pierce City. The mining started on February 28, 1861, when the Boston Company, which included W.F. Basset and John W. Parks, started shoveling pay gravel into their sluces. Because of freezing temperatures, mining was difficult, but the prospectors could see the fine gold through the ice. Each day they struggled to mine some more; sometimes several feet of snow had to be shoveled first. By March 1861, enough gold had been mined that J.C. Smith snow-shoed to Walla Walla, where the $800 in gold caused a great deal of excitement. The rush to the Pierce mines was on. (Text adapted from Layne Gellner Spencer’s “And Five Were Hanged.” c1971)”
Hearing rumors of gold in the hills, Captain Elias Davidson Pierce started his first journey from Walla Walla to this area on August 12, 1860, with a crew of ten. The crew included: Benthnel Farrell (18), Horace Dodge (22), Joseph L. Davis (37), J.R. Benefield (22), Jonathan E. Smith (22), Wilbur Basset (30), Frank Turner (22), David Diggins (24), Samuel B. Reed (28), and John W. Parks (Unkown). They arrived in what is not called “Pierce” on September 28, 1860. Basset found the first gold in the Canal Gulch. When he returned to camp later that day, he told all the men about his find. The next day everyone was out before dawn sinking holes in creek bottoms and gulches, finding gold almost everywhere. Excited with the good news, they headed back to Walla Walla.
(Photo of Captain E.D. Pierce courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society. Text adapted from Layne Gellner Spencer’s “And Five Where Hanged.” c1971)”
Shoshone County's original courthouse--and Idaho's earliest public building--still stands in Pierce. Where it was built in 1862.
Although Pierce gained a large population for a year after gold was discovered here in 1860, most miners soon moved on to other camps. By 1880, Shoshone County had only 469 people left , of whom 296 were Chinese. When a new gold rush 80 miles farther north led to removal of county government to Murray in 1885, Pierce’s courthouse became a private home. Eventually preserved by Mrs. Henry Spencer Lawson, it now is a component of Nez Perce National Historical Park.
(National Register of Historical Places Idaho [now] Clearwater County)
When the courthouse was built in 1862, Pierce was a boom-town. Gold discovered in the nearby hills was attracting thousands of miners. There was one catch; they were all trespassing on Nez Perce Land. The government solution was to draw up a new treaty, reducing the size of the Nez Perce reservation by 90 percent, placing Pierce and the gold veins outside reservation boundaries. The gold was exhausted in a few years, but the Treaty of 1863 had a catastrophic and lasting impact on the Nez Perce people. The courthouse is significant not for what occurred within its walls but for what it symbolizes.
Pierce Courthouse was the first courthouse in Idaho. After the country seat moved to Murray in 1885, a series of private owners used this building as a residence.”
“Let’s Go Fishing
Brook trout; Bull trout: Remember it is a protected species - catch and release only! Rainbow trout; Small mouth bass; Large mouth bass; Westslope cutthroat; Kokane
Family Fishing Waters
General limit of six trout and six bass (no limits on other species)
Any standard fishing gear may be used
1. Campbell’s Pond
2. Deer Creek Reservoir
3. Fenn Pond
4. Hoodoo Lake
5. Moose Creek Reservoir
6. Palouse River
7, Red River Pond
8. Soldiers Meadow Reservoir
9 Spring Valley Reservoir
10 Tolo Lake
11. Winchester Lake
Hunting Big Game in the Clearwater Region of Idaho
Hunters are offered some of the most diverse hunting experiences in the state. Elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer thrive here.
Be sure to consult with current rules books. Call your local Fish and Game office if you have questions.
3316 16th Street
Lewiston, ID 83501
“Welcome to the Clearwater National Forest
You are at the gateway to the North Fork of the Clearwater River. Beautiful river canyons, world-class fly fishing, camping, hiking and winter snowmobiling await you. The sights and sounds of water follow you as you travel along the river road and jagged peaks beckon the sturdy hiker.
At each bend of the river new adventures reveal themselves. Whether you are seeking quiet solitude or a family camping adventure, the North Fork offers unparalleled opportunities..”
“Pierce City: Idaho’s Golden Beginning
Mining was the first industry of Idaho, and it all began in Pierce. Even today, more than 140 years after the discovery of gold, mining remains a keystone of the Idaho economy. It has shaped the state’s political boundaries, built cities, and supplied the nation with minerals necessary for today’s modern lifestyle. The history of mining in Pierce is as colorful as the metal that first drew thousands of fortune seekers to the Gem State.
In the fall of 1860, Captain Elias D. Pierce and his part of 12 gold seekers quietly entered the Nez Perce Reservation of Washington Territory in search of mineral wealth. After hearing stories from area trappers and traders, he became convinced that the Clearwater country held large quantities of gold. Led into the area by Jane Silcott, daughter of Nez Perce Chief Timothy, th eparty camped on Canal Gulch near what is now the town of Pierce.
One of the men in the party, Wilbur F. Bassett, is credited with panning the first ... (gold) from the creek bed. The following March, party member J.C. Smith, returned to Walla Walla on snowshoes, carrying $800 of gold dust. The news spread quickly, and it set-off one of the largest migrations in American history, forever changing the part of the country that would become known as Idaho.
By August 1861, an estimated 6,000 men jostled each other in Pierce city and neighboring Oro Fino City, and 1,600 claims were staked along Canal Gulch. The prospectors came from the gold fields of Sacramento, San Francisco and Vancouver. Their migration up the Columbia and Snake Rivers caused Idaho to be one of the only two states settled west to east.
The discovery of gold resulted in Nez Perce treaty renegotiations, and Washington Territory established Shoshone County to cover the growing mining area. In 1861, Pierce City became the first established town in Idaho, and the county seat of Shoshone County. In 1862, the county built a courthouse which was Idaho’s first government building (still standing [as of 2012])
The Idaho gold rush also attracted merchants who set up a supply center at Lewiston. In 1863, the Idaho Territory was created and the tent city of Lewiston became the capital. The gold fields of Pierce City helped to establish the town of Greer on the Clearwater River, which has a ferry to make possible the transport of goods up to the mining claims. Pierce City remained the Shoshone County Seat until 1885, when it was moved to Murray.
The first season’s yield of extracted gold approached $1 million. A force of several hundred white miners produced from $400,000 to $800,000 a season. According to the Idaho State Historical Society, between the years of 1860 and 1866, $3.2 million worth of gold was extracted from Pierce City.
As gold became more difficult to mine, gold seekers moved on to find new strikes and in 1865-1866, the claims were sold to the estimated 800 Chinese men in Pierce. The Chinese were more patient miners, and they worked the diggings for over 20 years. Quartz discoveries in 1879 led eventually to a revival of gold mining in Pierce City, primarily in the decade after 1896.
The Gold Rush lasted into the early 1900s, as other gold extraction methods replaced the placer mining - hydraulics, dredging, and quartz mining. The last dredge was worked on Quartz Creek in 1945.
Eventually “gold fever” subsided and from the late 1800s to today, the rich “green gold” of the logging industry became more important to Pierce’s economy. In 2006, there is still one active gold mine, but the majority of the gold panners in the area continue to seek the precious metal for purely recreational purposes. There are few signs today in the surrounding landscape to remind us of Pierce’s golden beginnings, but it remains the original Idaho “Gem” - where Idaho First Began.”
“The Founder of “Pierce City” E.D. Pierce
Elias Davidson Pierce was born between July 3 and October 3. He always gave his birthplace as either Virginia or West Virginia, but there is some evidence that he was born in Ireland He dies February 15, 1897 in Pennville, Indiana.
Before his death, Pierce dictated an account of his life in the west to Mrs. Lula Jones Larrish, a niece to Mrs. Pierce. This dictation makes up “The Pierce Chronicle”, some 600 pages of manuscript that feel into oblivion in family attics until (it was) subsequently published by the Idaho Research Foundation.
Very little is known of Pierce’s childhood, but we do know on September 14, 1844, he set out from his home in Harrison County, West Virginia, to see the “wide west”. He got as far as Hartford City, Indiana before his funds ran out and he was forced to find a job. It was here that, under the tutelage of an E.G. Carrol, he trained as a lawyer. Eight months later he began practicing, moving to Kokmo, Indiana.
He joined the Army in 1847 to serve in the Mexican American War. He returned to Indiana the next year. During the winter of 1848-49 he made plans to journey to the gold fields of California. Also at this time, he met Rebecca Genevieve Jones. The two became engaged, but wouldn’t marry for 20 years, after Pierce returned from out west.
In May of 1849, Pierce traveled to the gold fields of California. He said he “landed all safe and well in Sacramento valley, camped near Lawson Ranch and I suppose that a more merry crowd never…”
He spent the next three years in California trying his hand at different places and in different businesses. After serving in the California state legislature on behalf of Shasta City, and being in the first group of settlers to climb Mt. Shasta, Pierce traveled to the Northwest to trade with the Nez Perce in 1852.
He spent a successful winter among the Indians. Pierce left for Walla Walla driving 100 of the Nez Perce’s highly-prized Appaloosa ponies. He sold the horses in California for a tremendous profit. Pierce made several trips back to the Nez Perce reservation and was reputed to have a very good relationship with them.
Then in August 1860, Pierce put together ra small band of men and left Walla Walla for the junction of the Snake and Clearwater near the site of Moscow. Then they turned eastward, crossing the Potlatch River near Kendrick. “About sundown” he…the North Fork of the Clearwater. The trail had to be cut for the pack animals. At first sight of the North Fork the party had to descend about a mile to it and slipped and slid to the river.”
The group stopped to pan gold on each stream they came to, but did not find enough to warrant further investigation. Finding it impossible to follow the North Fork any farther, the group traveled south through such thick forest that they would have to ascent to some high point, and climb a tree to take stock of their position.
On they traveled, sometimes covering only two miles a day. Until, “On the 28th of September moved down and camped on nice stream of water, a beautiful place and nice surrounding country. This was to be our headquarters until we gave that section a general prospecting. On the first of October commence our labor. Found gold in every stream, in flats, banks and even bedrock. Second of October we moved down and camped on … called Orofino.”
Because of his many contributions to western settlement and economic development, it is easy to see why the City of Pierce was named after him.
(Quotes come from “The Pierce Chronicle” and the Centennial Edition of the Lewiston Tribune; August 7, 1960.) The “Pierce Chronicle can be found at the City library.”
“Annual Events (as of 2012)
April - Pierce-Weippe Chamber of Commerce Banquet
May (Memorial Weekend) - Weippe Camas Festival and Fun Run
June - Fishing Tournament at Deer Creek Reservoir
June - Jeff Houston Memorial ATV Run
July - Pierce-Weippe Chamber of Commerce Wine Tasting
August (1st Weekend) - Pierce 1860 Days Celebration
August (3rd Weekend) Wild Weippe Rodeo
September (Labor Day Weekend) - ABATE Mororcycle Friendship Run
November (Saturday before Thanksgiving) - Pierce Holiday Bazaar
December - Pierce Festival of Trees
Pierce Quick Facts
Average Annual Precipitation: 42”
Lowest Average Daily Temperature: 14 degrees
Highest Average Daily Temperature: 85 degrees
Outdoor Recreation Opportunities
Hiking & Photography in the North Fork River canyon area.
Fishing in the North Fork of the Clarwater River, Kelly Creek with “Blue Ribbon” Trout, Deer Creek Reservoir and Unlimited brook trout streams.
Downhill Skiing at Bald Mountain Ski Area.
Snowmobiling along 300 miles of groomed trails.
Cross-Country Skiing at Musselshell Nordic Ski Trails
ATV riding on abandoned logging raods.
Camping at various campgrounds.
Big Game Hunting including: Elk, White-tail Deer, Cougar, Black Bear, moose, Wild turkey and Pheasant.
Visit the Historic Lolo Trail includes the Nez Perce historic Trail and the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail.
Gemstone Hunting throughout Clearwater County.
Rich abundance of huckleberries and mushrooms in the surrounding forests.”
“The Chinese Presence in Pierce
As in the gold fields of California, the presence of Chinese was prevalent in the Idaho mining towns, and Pierce was no exception.
During the early days of the gold rush in Pierce, Chinese workers were not allowed to enter or work in the mines. In 1864, the easy gold had been taken and most Caucasian miners moved on to other gold finds. Then the Chinese were allowed to mine, but only with a license. The shortage of laborers was acute during 1864 and by March, “heavy claims holders’ were urging that Chinese be allowed to winter and work in the mines. Idaho law enacted a tax of Chinese laborers of $4 a month.
Since the Chinese were aliens-the Oriental Exclusion Act prevented their becoming citizens - they could not own their claims. They usually leased claims from white men who had moved on to new finds. The Chinese were not averse to hard labor, and by toiling in the worked-over diggings, some made fortunes where a white miner would have starved to death.
The Chinese diggings were always tidy. R.H. Bailey of Seattle recalled that “the Chinese piled the white quartz up as little fences. Looked like a little park. Their workings were just beautiful.” After the Chinese had gone, Moore’s Gulch, with its beautiful park-like workings, remained for many years a bot of China in the Clearwater Mountains.
An important part of that society was the joss house, the Chinese meeting place and temple. The first joss house at Pierce was a 2-story log building which stood on the south end of Main Street. A gambling room occupied most of the main floor. The remainder was devoted to a kitchen, living-dining room and two bed-rooms. On the second floor was the temple, large room for religious meetings, and one that was seldom entered by a white man. The joss house remained until 1904 or 1905 when it became a fire hazard and was torn down. A second house was built, but this one, too, has disappeared.
Each Chinese person belonged to a tong, a far flung clannish society operating both in China and overseas. The tong served, in part, as a sort of mutual insurance. It was one of the responsibilities of each tong to see that the bones of its members were returned to China after death. Every fall each tong sent a medical inspector to the mining camps to check the members. If one looked too old or ill to make it through the winter, the tong would buy him a ticket home, on the premise that it was cheaper to transport a live Chinese person that a dead one. Those that did die among the alien pines of Pierce would be buried by procession in the Chinese cemetery across from the white church. These bodies were later exhumed and returned to their homeland.
Not all of the Chinese experiences in Pierce were positive. This includes the murder of prominent Pierce merchant D.M. Fraser.
On a stormy summer night in 1885, the Chinese were setting off firecrackers along Main Street in Pierce. It was custom to do this to frighten away the evil spirits of the storm.
Fraser slept in the back room of his store. His body was found on the floor near the front of the building the next morning, cruelly mutilated.
He had apparently been attacked while he slept. There as blood on the pillow, bed and floor. Blood trailed to the front door where the struggle had ended. He had been hacked to pieces with axes, hatchets and knives. A bullet had entered his mouth and gone out the side of his neck.
Because of the noise from the firecrackers outside no one heard the shot.
Five Chinese were accused and taken by posse to federal court in Walla Walla. Three miles out of Pierce, the prisoners and their guards were stopped by a band of masked vigilantes. The vigilantes slung a pole between two black pine trees, put up five ropes and hanged all five of the prisoners.
(Taken from the Lewiston Tribune, August 7, 1960 and from “Idaho Chinese Lore”)
This is the site of the graves of the Chinese who died in Pierce.
All bodies have been returned to their homeland. Chinese artifacts broken tools and rotting cabins are still found in the nearby hills.”