Thursday, January 24, 2013

Blast from the Past - Mackay Miner Mid Summer Edition 1908 Page 1 of 9


Special Industrial Edition, Issued by the Lost River Development Company of Mackay Idaho

1908 Bird's-Eye View of Mackay, Showing Lost River Range Of Mountains In The Distance

This is busy, bustling, go-ahead Mackay, the business center of Vast, Rich, Active Central Idaho, as it appears today. It is the home of a population of happy, industrious people who are as up-to-date as any city between the oceans. The varied resources of the large district tributary insure a continuation of happiness, thrift and progress. It is soon to be electrically lighted; it has the purest water in its water system in the West. Its banks, stores and business institutions are of a high order and its homes are models of neatness and comfort. It is growing with a steadiness born of a substantial, industrial environment. The climate is the equal of any and its mountain breezes bear healing on their wings. The supply point of an empire, the clearing house of a district made rich through mining, metal refineries, farming, stock raising and the kindred industries. This is Mackay of today. What will it be when the mining and smelting and milling industries are fully developed, when the immense irrigation projects reclaiming every acre of tillable land in its valleys are carried out, when the merchantable timber is made use of, when the cattle, horse and sheep industries are developed to the fullest capacity of the grassy hills, even the blindest can see – a city of ten thousand inhabitants.

The town is beautifully situated in a well watered valley, with jagged, lofty mountain peaks piercing the heavens on either side. School and churches are maintained that are the peer of any in the “Gem of the Mountains” state. The citizenship is of a high order – a western town whose chief characteristics are energy, fair play and kindliness.

Opportunity, as surely as the gold-filled mountains await the beckon of the miner; as surely as the arid land thirsts for the redeeming stream of the irrigator; as surely as the grass covered hills call forth to the flocks and herds, has been the summons that has peopled with enterprising, hardy pioneers the hills and valleys of Central Idaho. A great inland nation of many resources, independent of yet drawing continually upon the outside world for men to wrest its riches from its bosom, it has advanced with wonderful strides during the six years that have passed. The miner has beckoned and gold pours into his lap; the irrigator has turned the melted snow upon the deserts and they blossom and bear fruit; the stockman has herded his cattle and sheep upon its hills and has waxed prosperous, Central Idaho has come into its own.

Since the beginning, American has had its “boundless west.” The prairies were settled by the first comers. Others, undaunted by dangers and hardships pushed on across the great mountain ranges to the Pacific coast, there to establish an empire of wealth and culture. Cities sprang up and sky-scrapers replaced the Indian’s tepee. Prosperity dawned for the whole country and with added vigor and determination, the sons and daughters of pioneers left the beaten trails to follow the prospector and trapper into the richer districts. To Central Idaho, to Lost River and the Salmon River and to Mackay came these people, and the homes and treasures that they sought have been theirs.

A great trio – a trinity of natural wealth – has made this section possible. Mining combines with farming, and farming with stock-raising, to bring success. The three industries rely jointly upon one another and therein has lain the advantage. Mining has been made profitable and easy by the close proximity of a food supple base for men and horses. In turn, the farms have prospered because of this ready market offered by the mining camps. The theorem and its converse hold true in the same manner with regard to the stock ranches. The magic touch of King Midas transforms all.

Mackay is the heart of this natural treasure-trove with its energetic, busy souls. Half a decade ago there were no more than half of five thousand residents; a decade ago less than half of twenty-five hundred. The district has been peopled by steady, earnest home seekers of good stock and its future is more brilliant than its present and immediate past. Railroad extension, mine development and a new reservoir and canal project that will bring under cultivation thousand of acres of land, make this assured.

Millions have been expended in bringing to the surface the gold and silver, as well as the lead and copper of Center  Idaho, and millions in profits have justrified the investments of the sanguine operators. There are today a number of mines and smelters in operation in the district and all are fulfilling the expectation of the owners. Back in the ore-bearing hills, lie more of the precious metals and new claims with startling prospects still thrill the people.

In the early days, when the lone prospector looked down upon the valley stretching southeast and northwest from what is now Mackay, a great waste of sage and sand greeted his eye. In the center ran a shining flood of melted snow and spring water, coursing turbulently along its bed and dropping some miles below into the pits of the lower desert. This river was named Lost River and for many years it was truly “lost” as far as concerned man.

But today, “Lost” River is a misnomer. Instead of lost , it branches out in numberless canals and ditches to irrigate and bring to life hundreds of acres of the parched land that had been awaiting this process. The sand and brush gave way to waving fields of hay and grain. Roses bloom instead of cacti and the wealth of the earth is extracted as surely as by the miner’s hand. Every drop of water that is diverted from the main stream serves its separate purpose and the prosperous farms are the visible result.

Farming is carried on by irrigation, a system which insures a good crop each and every year.

The future of farming by irrigation offers wonderful possibilities and opportunities. Three miles above Mackay, a mammoth dam is now in course of construction; a gigantic mass of masonry that will back up water enough to bring under cultivation all the land in the Lost Rier valley – a project that in itself insures a population of many thousands more people.

Tributary to the Lost River valley are numerous other valleys, just as fertile, just as prosperous, with just as brilliant a future. There is the Little Lost river valley, the Pahsimari, the Salmon river and leading into these there are smaller valleys that furnish farm land for scores of land tillers and cattle and sheep men. While the land along the Salmon river is not abundant yet there is enough to maintain several health little towns, but what the Salmon river country tributary to Mackay lacks in land it makes up for in the precious metals that have ever lured the American westward.

Covering the hillsides that surround the valleys of this empire is an abundance of timber for fuel and for building and fencing purposes. The farmer makes good use of this commodity, which is his for the trouble of cutting and hauling, thus the fuel is a cheap article, as is also fence building. Several lumber mills are operated in the district and their product finds a ready market, the mines making a great demand upon this feature of our commercial life.

Good roads are a country’s best investment and here, where the commerce of the country is transacted largely over it public thoroughfares, they are one of the important factors. The road of Central Idaho are a great advertisement. There is but one railroad, tapping the district, which terminates at Mackay, leaving an enormous tonnage to be handled by freight teams over the wagon roads. To a man in the prairie states where railroads traverse the country every ten miles, where every spring and fall the farm product is delayed in marketing by reason of mud, Central Idaho would be a dream of paradise. Here roads are built at a small cost and maintained at a trivial expense. When it is considered that in the neighborhood of five hundred head of horses are engaged in hauling freight from Mackay to interior points it follows that the roads must be in good shape.

“Cattle on a thousand hill.” This is the situation in Central Idaho. Unlimited feed has attracted called and sheep men with thousands of head of stock and the ready markets have caused them to maintain their flocks and herds in this section. The cattle industry is one of the greatest in this district, as it is elsewhere, and in the days to come, when irrigation has converted all the desert into farm land, the raising of stock will still be a profitable adjunct to the farmer on account of the grass covered hills that surround him.


Situated in a beautiful canyon at the foot of White Knob mountain, about six miles from Mackay, is a beautiful, clear, cool, crystal spring; secluded from all other streams, making it impossible for the water to become polluted, or come in contact with anything impure. This spring is called “White Knob Spring” and is about two thousand feet above the town of Mackay.

Without going further, the reader would know what enterprising people would do with such a spring as this. But not to leave it open for conjecture, will say that this water is sent speeding down the mountain side through a powerful steel pipe to furnish water to our city. A complete water system is installed, having fire plugs on every corner of town with sufficient water power to hurl the water over the highest building, and furnish an abundance of water for sprinkling lawns and household use. There is a common saying that if you get one drink of this water, you will live and die in Mackay.


A prominent practicing physician of Custer county is authority for the statement that the death rate in the county during the past three years, the period of his residence therein, is less than ten person per thousand per year, in other words, just one-half the death rate in other parts of the United States. Such fatal diseases as diphtheria, tuberculosis and scarlet fever, seen so abundantly elsewhere through the country, are never encountered in this county. The doctor attributes this exceedingly healthful condition to the pure mountain water, the bracing and enervating air, the abundance of nature’s provender – fish and game of all descriptions – and the unremitting vigilance of the county health authorizes in protecting the community from infectious and contagious diseases.

The statement has oft been truly made that there are more aged persons resident in Central Idaho, to the square inch than in any other community in the world. Coming to the country when youths, they are reluctant to leave the healthiest place in existence and consequently are with us yet – old, yet as active as athletes – devout worshippers at the shrine of Hygeia and Panacea, situated in the broad and fertile valleys of our county.

This fountain of health flows free for all; the productive fields await you; the never-ending mountains gorged to gluttony with precious metals are calling upon you for relief; the fish and game in overabundance are pleading for a prominent place on your table. Are you willing to pass up the boundless gifts of Nature so free to you all?


When Mackay was first laid out, the promoters of the town were farseeing men and to add to the beauty of the coming Copper City of the West, they placed in the center a park. This park has been sown to lawn grass, and rowed out in different directions with all varieties of trees, and will soon make a shay nook where all desiring recreation after their day’s work is over will find a lovely spot to while away the time among the trees in the center of our beautiful village.

Along with other harmonious things, this makes our town better.


With large tracts of farming and grazing land uncultivated, with a list of taxable property annually lengthened with giant strides, with increasing revenue and deceasing taxation, with railroad building, with good schools and churches and little crime, with stock ranges of luxurious vegetation, with an admirable climate favorable to health, with a fertile soil rich in fruitful products and with a vast mineral wealth in gold, silver, copper, lead, iron and the precious metals – Custer county is blessed with natural gifts and advantages that will prove tis brief though vigorous existence to have been but a puny part of its progressive career.

Custer county embraces in irregular outline about 5000 square miles, and it is as large as the state of Connecticut, and larger than Delaware and Rhode Island together. You cannot find a more inviting place for investment.


The new westerner is as proud of the plains as were the pioneers; as valiant in their defense; as eager in their eulogy – but he exaggerates less and qualifies more. The west is being pictured as it is, and in dealing thus in candor and frankness its children are establishing their fortunes on surer foundations.

1908 Mackay City Council Frank M Leland, Charles F. Baker, C.V. Hansen, Dr. Francis H. Poole, and William T Brennan

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