Placerville, Idaho

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Placerville is a city in Boise County, Idaho, United States. The population was 60 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Boise CityNampa, Idaho Metropolitan Statistical Area.



Placerville received its name because of placer mining in the vicinity. The Ghost Town[2] is located 17 miles East of Horseshoe Bend. The townsite was selected December 1, 1862; and by December 16 there were 6 cabins in the camp. By the early summer of 1863, the town had 300 buildings and a population of 5,000. At the meeting of the first legislature held in Lewiston in 1863, the citizens obtained a charter for their city. Father Mesplie, a Catholic priest, held the first church service January 4, 1864, and in that same year a stage line was established between the Basin and Wallua to carry Wells Fargo express. It ran every other day from Placerville and went through in four days. By July 1864, 4500 claims had been recorded in the that district.[3]

Unlike the earlier northern Idaho mining areas of Florence (northeast of Riggins) and Pierce, the Boise Basin mines provided good returns over a period of many years, the peak years being 1863-66, during and immediately after the Civil War. For that reason the Boise Basin rush was significant in early Idaho settlement, bringing a substantial number of people who stayed to establish towns and providing a population base for retailing and agricultural settlement in the Boise Valley. Boise Basin had a higher percentage of families than did most mining areas, and the major towns, like Placerville and Idaho City, acquired substantial buildings, lodges, churches, schools, and post offices. Placerville was unusual in that it even had a street grid and a town square, known locally as the "plaza." Additionally it had an Episcopal church, thirteen saloons, seven restaurants, five butcher shops, five blacksmith shops, as well as hotels, druggists, express agents, bakeries, livery barns, carpenters, sawmills, and –attesting to the presence of women—dressmakers and a millinery shop.

Mining in Placerville began with placer workings for gold, but miners soon turned to quartz mining as well. By 1864, a stamp mill was working in the area. Hydraulic giants were also used. By 1870, however, much of the excess population of the region had been drained off to other mining rushes and returns on claims had fallen somewhat. The population in Placerville shrank from 2500 in 1864 to 318 in 1870. By that time a good percentage of the population was Chinese, as the Chinese were allowed to work the less rewarding claims that the white miners would not touch. The Chinese also established services like laundries and restaurants.

Only few early buildings remain in Placerville: as was the case in most mining towns, Placerville suffered more than once from fires that burned a large part of the town. The fire that is most remembered is the 1899 fire, which practically destroyed the town. The streetscape remaining today dates mostly from the rebuilding immediately after that fire and another fire that burned several buildings ten months later.

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