If ever there was a place to film a Hallmark Christmas Movie its Idaho City during the first snow of the season. What a time I had wondering around this- nefarious whiskey drinking gold rush town of old. The snow was so peaceful it almost covered up all the murder, almost….
It all began in 1862 when gold was found in the hills and the town of Bannock was founded. Suddenly, overnight the name was changed to Idaho City to avoid confusion with Bannock, Montana. Now, Idaho City was no little operation, the town had over 200 businesses (two dozen of them law offices); opera houses, theaters, and breweries lined the streets. Idaho City was larger than Portland at the time. However, the city had a bit of a reputation.
For miners, a good week would yield about 2,000 dollars. One can only imagine the tense competition for such riches, and the whiskey drinking that came along with the strikes. Gun fights were common. Nearby BootHill Pioneer cemetery claims that only 20 percent of its inhabitants deaths were caused naturally. The other 80 percent? Murder or other such tragedies. I took a visit to the cemetery and while it was a peaceful experience, it left me with a few…paranormal takeaways, more on that later…
Alas, as the gold was plucked from the pine tree hills the town faded into fires and desolation. Burning 4 times, it was rebuilt time and again with the remaining gold claim riches. However, not many stayed.
Many of the building are still preserved (even some from the original town of Bannock) and visitors can walk the street on a self guided tour. Plaques and a museum give lots of information on the City which is a functioning town now with a few restaurants, an old time toy store, court, and post office.
One final must see is the pest house/jail, a building devoted specifically for the sick to quarantine. A pine box props itself again the wall of the one room wood house- a grim reminder of the fragility and temperance of life- both then and now.
Idaho City, a beautiful snapshot of a rough and tumble life gone by- the gold is gone but the ghost of history still haunts the hills.