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In 1880 the following quartz lode mining claims near Bullion, about seven miles west of Hailey, were discovered, namely, Jay Gould, Bullion, Mayflower, May Queen, Idahoan, and others. Bullion in its heyday had over 500 men at work in the mines and its population was estimated at 700. It had two general stores, a shoe shop, a Post Office, a school house, four boarding houses, a Miners’ Union hall, a livery stable, a daily stage that made round trips to Bailey, a pipe line with hydrants and hose, a large number of dwelling houses, seven saloons, etc. The mines adjoining Bullon produced more ore than did any other mining camp in the county. The post office was discontinued October 15, 1890. A short distance west of Bullion was the Red Elephant group. Across the ridge on Deer Creek were the following groups, Red Cloud, War Dance, Narrow-Gauge, Nay Aug, and other mines. In the Little Wood River District, situated about 18 miles northeast of Bellevue, were the Muldoon group, Silver Spar group, Eagle Bird, John A. Logan, and others. There was a little town called Muldoon near these mines. In its palmy days there were about 200 men employed at those mines.
The Smelting Industry
There were smelters near Bellevue, near the mouth of Indian Creek, a few miles north of Hailey, Ketchum, Galena and Muldoon. Both Vienna and Sawtooth had stamp mills and a large amount of silver bullion was shipped from each of these places. In addition to the above, there were several concentrating works and samplers. The Philadelphia Mining and Smelting Company’s works at Ketchum are worthy of special mention. The first unit or furnace was built in 1882. In the summer of 1883 this company made extensive improvements to their smelting works, which already had two stacks. They constructed two additional buildings, the one 200 feet long by 50 feet wide, the other 60 by 60. The first mentioned was an ore house and was divided in to bins, in which the various lots of ore purchased were laid and prepared for the furnace. These bins were on each side of the building, and a roadway wide enough for two teams and their line of loaded trail-wagons to pass extended from end to end of the building. The other building was a furnace house.
These buildings had solid masonry foundations. A huge brick stack also was constructed at this time. Two new furnaces were erected. These, in addition to the two stacks which were al ready in operation, gave the company a smelting capacity of 180 tons per day. This was not a net capacity, but a gross one. That is to say, the total tonnage just stated included iron, lime, charcoal, etc., mixed with ore, as well as the ore itself. Of the latter, the quantity reduced was from 80 to 130 tons per day, the daily capacity depending upon the character of the ores. The ores of this entire region which had been taken to this smelter up to the time in question, carried an average of 50 per cent lead and about 100 ounces of silver. Two tons of ore, therefore, on an average, made one ton of bullion. With the four furnaces in operation the daily output was from 40 to 60 tons of base bullion. All these buildings, in addition to the 20 kilns which were constantly converting wood into charcoal, the boarding houses, assay and business offices, the wood and lumber flumes, etc., and the necessary yard room for 50 or more teams to move about at once, required a great deal of room. But as the company owned 400 acres there was ample room.
The location of the works was probably the very best that could be had in this region. The furnaces and ore bins were erected on the edge of a high bluff bordering on Wood River, a little west of Ketchum. The works were run exclusively by waterpower derived from Warm Springs Creek, which never froze, and thus afforded all the required motive power, the year round. The mines which furnished the most of the ores to this smelter were the Elkhorn, Parker, West Fork, Bullion and Mayflower. In 1887 a certain mortgage was foreclosed and the property, including the Muldoon smelter, was sold at Sheriff’s sale and bid in by James M. Rhodes, personally. Shortly thereafter the Philadelphia and Idaho Company was organized and commenced operations at Ketchum. This company owned the Ketchum and Muldoon smelters and the following mines, to-wit: North Star, Silver Star and West Fork groups, the Star of Hope and two mines on Boyle mountain. This smelter continued to operate until 1890. It was started again in the fall of 1892 and closed down permanently early in 1893.