Big Boom of 1880

1880 was the year of the Wood River boom. Thousands of miners came and found ready employment in mines that were reputed to be making their owners “rich beyond the dreams of avarice.” So ubiquitous seemed prospectors that every mountain and hill was covered with them in their search for precious metals. While the country was virgin they struck many prospects, which afterward developed into good pay ing mines. Of the prospector, it truthfully can be said, in the words of Pope, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” and furthermore, that hope never dies while he lives. He hopes on, hopes ever, firmly believing that he is within a short distance of a rich streak of ore. In a log hut with a dirt roof and floor, pole bunks for bedsteads, and candle and soap boxes for seats, at times many miles distant from any other habitation, with the bare necessities of life, alone save for his faithful dog to bear him company, he spends a life of unremitting toil, too often, alas, unrequited. Yet who will say that his is not a happy life? When he lies down upon his humble couch, gentle sleep “weighs his eye lids down and steeps his senses in forgetfulness.” Here is a good illustration of the following words of Goldsmith, and, at least, a partial substantiation of them: “Still to ourselves in every place consigned, Our own felicity we make or find.” Millions of dollars in ores were shipped out of this region, but how many millions it is im possible to say. Many believe that there may be as much ore shipped out of here in the future as there has been in the past. Gold in good paying quantities was discovered on the Gold Belt in the early eighties. There was considerable mining activity there for many years.

A little town by the name of Doniphan was built there. It was situated about 15 miles southwest of Hailey. It was named in honor of Judge Doniphan, who was the principal operator. It had a Post Office, a school house, a general store, a shoe shop, a boarding house, several dwelling houses for the miners, a saloon, etc. About 25 years ago all the tailings containing gold were worked over by the cyanide process. With so many miners at work all the way from Broadford to Vienna, on East Fork, Deer Creek, Bullion, the Gold Belt, and Rocky Bar, and mining being a hazardous occupation, it was necessary to have a hospital where they could receive treatment.

A miners’ hospital was accordingly built in the early eighties. It was a frame building situated near the Hailey Hot Springs, about two miles west of Hailey. Each and every man who worked at the mines was assessed one dollar a month for board, room, medical and surgical treatment. Any one severely injured was generally taken to a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. In connection with the miners’ hospital was a ward for the care of the sick and dependent poor of the county. This building was destroyed by fire in the nineties.

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