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Bonanza, Idaho Ghost Town of the Month

The original gold find dates back to 1866.  Despite many flurries of activity no boom occurred for a decade.  In 1876, three men found an easy-to-work ledge.  The General Custer Mine was staked, then after some brief litigation, the miners old out for $286,000 ($286,000 of 1876 dollars would be worth: $6,355,555.56 in 2014).  In 1877, Bonanza city was platted, laid out and lots were sold. The first two log buildings that went up were a store and a saloon. To supply lumber for construction a sawmill was built.  The population reached somewhere between 600 and 1,500 by 1880. During that time it housed a cafe, grocery store, hardware store, newspaper, hotel, a school, saloon and a post office.  A 30-stamp mill was also completed in 1880 at the General Custer Mine and was supported by Custer and its population of 300.

A fire swept through Bonanza in 1889. With a thriving Custer nearby many people relocated and Custer was soon booming with 600 residents. In 1897, another fire ripped through the area and sealed Bonanza’s fate. Custer was booming – until 1910 when the census found only 12 families to count.

Bonanza is located along the Yankee Fork for the Salmon River – nine miles north of Sunbeam.  Some buildings remain at both Bonanza and Custer. Custer has a museum and other buildings are being restored.  Bonanza has a handful of wooden building set in beautiful Idaho.; the town is a magnet for photographers.  A massive 988 ton dredge mined the gravel near Bonanza until 1952.  Over its 12 year lifetime the dredge crept along 5.5 miles of river, processed more than 6.3 million cubic feet of material and produced more than $1 million in placer gold.

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Reference:

Ghost Towns Yesterday & Today by Gary B. Speck