The Boom Towns of Lost River Existed
 
 
    The years 1884 and 1885, will of down in history of  Lost River Valley as the era of boom towns. Several of them sprang into being as a result of a rich strike made in the mountains above the present town of Mackay. The White Knob mine was then known as Big Copper and was discovered in the spring of '84 by Col. Lewis and his son-in-law Frank Lamb.

    News of the big strike spread like wild fire. The "diggin's" were on the south side of the present mine and a town named Cliff City was laid out in the fall of '84. A company headed by Frank Brown and Bruneau Brothers bought the interests of Lewis and Lamb. They were successful in attracting the Pacific Iron Co., of San Francisco to the property and after an investigation the were so convinced that it was a big strike that they built a smelter. It was the only two stack smelter in the central Idaho country and was one of the boasted industries of the new west. Later the Clarks of copper fame from Butte, Montana, became connected with the smelter. Cliff City had a population of between 200 and 300 men and was quit sizeable town. It was looked upon as eventually to become a rival of Butte as the largest copper camp in the west, but it soon passed out of existence. The townsite was situated four miles up the canyon from the ranch now known as Mystum Lodge on the townsite of old. Houston.

    The discovery of Big Copper brought a rush to central Idaho. Towns sprang up almost overnight. Carbonate was started up the valley from Cliff City about six miles and occupied part of the present townsite of Mackay. It only continued in existence about a year. There was no particular need for a town at that place as in the meantime Houston had taken on sings of life, and because of its location was a stage station.

    Alder City, located at the mouth of Alder Creek, was located two miles south of Cliff City. Like the other boom towns in that immediate vicinity, it owed its existence tot he Big Copper. Alder city first saw the light of day when some forehanded individual set up a store and saloon. These establishments were started in tents and a short time later occupied pretentious frame structures. Alder City was located in the fall of '84 and had a short time hectic career. With the mine closing down the town was doomed.

    Houston was started in the spring of '84 as a rival of Cliff City. It had the advantage of being nearer the center of the valley and eventually became an important stage station. Houston continued to grow and prosper until the coming of the railroad in 19001 when the town of Mackay sprang into being. Houston was off the railroad about two miles and with Mackay at the end of the railroad, six miles north , and at the very door of Big Copper, there was no longer any need for Houston.

    Era came into being in the spring of '85. With the discovery of the Horn Silver mine by Frank Martin, in the spring that year, a grand rush was made for the new Eldorado. With hundreds of miners, prospectors and the usual following of boomtown citizens, Era gave indications of growing into a big camp. In the spring of '85. the first buildings were erected and by fall that year Era was a town of no small proportions.

    Other mines were discovered, among them the Last Chance and the Hun. The first load of ore from the Horn Silver was freighted to the smelter at Hailey in '85 by  G. W. Powell,  Joe Jenkins and  Vest Richardson, each of them having a wagon load. the town of Era was named by Frank Martin, the discoverer of the Horn Silver mine in honor of his nephew Era Martin who is still a resident of the Martin community.

    A huge dry crusher mill was built at Era in '85. After the mill was ready for operation, the ore began to dwindle and the decline was rapid. After a short run the low grade ore then encountered caused a final shut down, but not until over a million dollars worth of ore had been taken out of the Horn Silver and other mine in that district.

    Era was a typical mining town. It had a population of about 300 people, and supported the usual line of business houses from saloons to Chinese laundries. After the bottom fell out of the mine, a number of the old timers hung on for a year or two but finally gave up and Era joined the countless other ghost cities of Lost River valley and the west.

    The town of Gem was staked out in 1885. The lone cabin built on this townsite was erected by Al Mullah, a miner of the old school. It had only a brief career.

 

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