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The Mines And Town Of Leesburg

It was in 1866 that a prospecting party led by Frank Sharkely found gold in the Salmon Valley area of Idaho. This gold discovery was quite rich and soon word got out and more prospectors and miners started coming into the area. It didn't take long and there was a few hundred people in the area and it was at this time the people decided to name the town Leesburg. The town took its name from Confederate General Robert E. Lee. because most of the people who were in these areas of Idaho and Montana were Confederate sympathizers.

By the end of that first year there were about thirty odd buildings had been built that year which included a few stores, a blacksmith shop, and a couple butcher shops. Around 500 miners were determined to stay the winter at the site and while prospecting was not feasible during the winter months new arrivals busied themselves building cabins and speculating on town lots.

The first winter was very harsh with lots of snow and it wasn't long before the town ran out of supplies as food was running scarce. By February of 1867 it was urgent to get supplies so a few dozen men started shoveling a trail out by hand and by mid March they had opened a road for mule trains and pack horses to start bringing in supplies. By the end of that summer almost 2000 people were living in the town and over 130 houses had been built.

The first mining season didn't prove out to be very profitable with only about $300,000 worth of gold being mined out the creeks however the following year it is said that a million dollars worth of gold had been mined. Water was kind of scarce so miners had to dig ditches to divert water to where they were mining. In totalover 400 miles of ditches were dug to carry water to sluice out gold. Most of these mines were small manned by just a few miners that would team up. Although the creeks were rich, the gold soon ran out and by 1870 there were only a few hundred people left and by 1895 it was mostly chinese miners working what little was left behind. There were the usual folks that hang on forever and mined what little they could however so the town always had a few residents.

Mining started again in the mid 1920's with hydraulic mining and by the mid 1930's miners came in using draglines. Draglines were able to move vast amount of material but after a few years the creeks were pretty much depleted of gold.

The Gold Dust mine was a lode mine and was the largest mine in the area. The owners of this mine would buy out all the lode claims from other miners and was able to keep mining a lot longer and was the most long lived of the Leesburg lode claims and operated between 1895 and 1939. However for as many years as it this mine operated, it's take of the gold was quite small compared to all the rest of the mines which were alluvial mines. In the end it is estimated that this region produced $16,000,000 in gold.

Today very little remains of the of a town that had a once had main street that was almost a mile long and had 500 residents. What does remain of the town now belongs to the National Register of Historic Places.

Robert E. Lee