An appalling calamity occurred at the North Star Mine on the East Fork of Wood River about 3:30 on the morning of February 25, 1917. Three slides formed an avalanche, one from the east, one from the north and one from the northwest, which killed 15 men and injured 17. Following is a list of the dead: Emmett P. Russell, Philip Welch, John Fleming, Samuel La Barge, John Vaughn, John Kistle, John Mc Kelvy, all of Hailey; Israel Peterlin of Broad ford, John Hearn of Fairfield, William C. Schmidt of Rock Creek, E. P. Manjino, time keeper, of Mexico, Joseph H. Purnell of Boise, E. G. Cooley, W. R. Motley and Roy Judd. Following is a list of the injured: Andy Smith of Lost River, H. B. Richardson of Boise Basin, George Lee of Boise, John Lillquist of Rossland, Canada, M. S. Legault, O. E. Beeson, O. D. St. Amand, Bert Judd, M. S. Lesault, John Peterson, Pete Colombtta, K. D. Lindsay, H. F. Manard, A. E. Wood, E. C. Jones, Thomas Jay and J. R. Carter. Over 20 men escaped uninjured.
Of the men employed only 65 were at the mine; and they are all accounted for. The avalanche destroyed the office, storeroom, changing room, two-story bunkhouse and compressor room of the Federal Mining & Smelting Company, smashing them into kindling wood. The Bell telephone line being out of commission, the Hailey Electric Light Works was called over the Federal Company’s private line and Superintendent Rising was urged to send all the physicians and able-bodied men available to the scene of the tragedy. Mr. Rising thereupon aroused Doctor Wright by telephone and he called doctors Kleinman and Plumer of Hailey and doctors Byrd and Dutton of Bellevue, all of whom responded immediately. After consultation, doctor Plumer was left in Hailey to look after the relatives of the victims of the tragedy, many of whom re sided in Hailey, and the other physicians left for the North Star Mine, which they reached about 8 o’clock. They immediately turned the mill office into a temporary hospital.
A veterinary surgeon had begun to give first aid in the company’s office at the mill and had bandaged some of the rescued when the Hailey and Bellevue physicians arrived. In the meantime the mill hands and the mill employees who were unhurt had been rescuing those whom they could reach. By 9 o’clock, about 100 men were engaged in rescue work. Some of the men were buried under 20 to 30 feet of snow. Several of the dead showed no marks of injuries and are supposed to have suffocated. Others showed cuts and bruises. The company did all it could to locate the relatives of the dead or injured. The train was held at the siding near Gimlet for the purpose of taking the injured, accompanied by doctors, volunteer assistants, and miners, to Hailey and Bellevue. Of the injured, two died a short time later, making 17 deaths all told. This awful calamity has a parallel in Idaho, the number of deaths being the same as in the Coeur d’Alenes a few years prior when, an avalanche crashed through a part of the city of Wallace. It brought sorrow to many homes in Hailey where so many people were closely related by blood or marriage. Never have so many snow slides happened here as during the big snow storm of February 23, 24 and 25 of the year 1917. It seemed as if all the snow in the mountains had tumbled in to the gulches. David P. Clarke, the pioneer and former post master of Pierson, was caught in a snow slide on his way home from Stanley post office and killed. No other casualties were reported.
There was a gigantic snow slide at the Independence Mine which carried away the ore house, destroyed a part of the gravity tram to the mill, disabled the electric power and light and telephone line and lifted the mill six inches from the foundation, besides carrying down a lot of timber, lumber and cordwood. The slide came down 1500 feet with a width of 300 or 400 feet and caused $6000 in damages. The boarding house of the Eureka Mine, which is situated in Eureka Gulch, a fork of Bullion Canyon, was struck by a snow slide and seriously damaged. The building was occupied by the foreman, C. W. Pinney and family, and others, all of whom were uninjured. Snow at the Mascot Mine, where ever it had a chance to slide, piled up to a depth of 10 to 20 feet.
Source: Based on McLeod, George A. History of Alturas and Blaine Counties, Idaho. The Hailey Times, Publisher. Hailey, Idaho. 1930.