The silver mines of Kellogg and Wallace, Idaho, are still in existence today, and are the common areas of conversation when the discussing the subject of mining in Idaho, but the town of Murray, Idaho, is largely unknown or forgotten; however, it played a key role in mining history. Murray is known as the cradle of the Coeur d’Alene Mining District, and Spokane owes much of its early growth to the silver and gold mines across the state border in Idaho.
In 1882, a discovery of gold on Pritchard Creek created a feverish gold rush and in three years, Spokane’s population of 800 grew rapidly as over 10,000 people came to the area in hopes of cashing in on the riches of the day. Murray, Idaho, became the central city in the gold rush, and its credits include the last great mining discovery in the continental United States. Miners branched out in the area during the next years and in addition to finding rich sources of gold, they discovered the largest silver mine in the world about 17 miles south of Murray. Over the next 115 years, the area produced 1.2 billion ounces of silver. Road crews in the area today are still known to uncover gold and silver. How is the Empire State Building connected to Murray? The Guggenheim profits from the gold rush in Murray built it.
Today, Murray is a semi ghost town inhabited by prospectors, loggers, and retirees. It has some fascinating sites. The Sprague Pole restaurant and museum is a must see. The museum, located inside the restaurant, is unexpectedly very large – and cold; dress warm. It has many period rooms, rock, mineral, and gem collections, old mining equipment, coin collections, as well as memorabilia. Also, stop in at the Bedroom Goldmine Bar where you can see a mining hole through a bedroom floor. The owner, convinced that he was sleeping on a gold mine, ripped up his floorboards and dug down 36 ft to bedrock and gold. Overlooking Murray about one mile south of town is the Murray Pioneer Cemetery containing the graves of many pioneers of the area as well as the man credited as being Mark Twain’s inspiration for Huckleberry Finn, Captain Toncray.
Murray is about a two hours from Spokane, Washington, with beautiful scenery along the Coeur d’Alene River Road as you drive north from I-90 just past Cataldo. Turn on Pritchard Road which will take you to Murray. Let me know what you discover when you go to Murray, or what you remember if you’ve ever visited. I want to go again. Does anyone have a metal detector and sturdy shovel I can borrow? Pick ax?