From the Payette National Forest Warren Historic Walking Tour
As you look down Warren main street, imagine the history that occurred here. After the gold discovery in 1862, the town held over 2,000 people. During lulls in mining activity the population plummeted but soared again as dredging started in the 1930's.
Many have walked Warren's streets: Sylvester "Three-Fingered" Smith, the hunter "Cougar Dave" Lewis, Madam Saux, born of French nobility, Polly Bemis, Ah Khan and Ah Sam 'honorary mayor' of Warren.
Warren winters promised skiing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, Chinese New Year celebrations and temperatures as low as minus 41 degrees. Except for occasional bar fights, Chinese tong wars, highway robberies and a huge 1904 business district fire, Warren was considered a relatively calm mining camp.
In 1989, the Whangdoodle wildfire threatened the entire town. The fire started in the Whangdoodle Creek drainage. During the fire, burning twigs and ash rained down on the town. In 2000, flames from the Burgdorf Junction fires were visible on the ridges northwest of town.
Site 1 - Warren Guard Station -
In 1918, the Forest Service moved its Guard Station from Hays Station, near the South Fork of the Salmon River, to Warren. Construction dates at the station site range from the barn built in 1909 to the 'modern' 1959 ranch style, one level frame house. The other facilities were built by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps. The water cannon, or "hydraulic giant," now in front of the station, washed the hillsides through sluice boxes as part of the placer mining process. The Guard Station offers information and exhibits on the history of the area. It is only open during the summer.
Site 2 - Warren School -
In 1868, Warren had the first public school in Idaho County and boasted four students. In 1887, the community collected $180 to build a new school house, signalling a banner year in nth century education. Subjects included spelling, penmanship, reading and singing. Books for the entire school cost about $27 per year and the institution was sustained on between $100 and $150 each year.
The front, one-room portion of the building is over 100 years old. The back half was added to accommodate increased attendance during the 1930's dredging. During the same time, there was a debate in town about correction of the backwards "N" on the sign over the school's entrance. Correction was defeated because "that was the way it had always been and there was no reason to change it now."
Site 3 - Green House -
The office and residence for the Justice of the Peace was the "Green House." Andy Kavanaugh assumed the office in 1895 and was distinguished by never rendering a verdict. Kavanaugh threw all his cases out of court on the basis of "hearsay evidence": because "it made a lot smoother living in the community." After selling his two-thirds of the warren Meadows to a dredge company, Kavanaugh left town and was never heard from again.
Site 4 - Barn -
This barn, probably constructed by Warren merchants Kelly and Patterson in the early 1800's, was a reaction to the paranoia of attack by area Native American tribes. The gun ports (small openings in the walls of the barn) allowed defenders to fire from protected positions. Warren was never attacked.
Site 5 - Business District -
Businesses have come and gone during Warren's long history. In the early days, the town boasted a boarding house, butcher shop, blacksmith shop, hotel, general store and several bars. The 1904 fire destroyed many commercial establishments. It was never established whether the fire was accidental or arson-caused. The 1904 fire also destroyed the Kelly and Patterson Store whose inventory, everything from personal items to mining equipment, came to Warren on pack trains. The distinctive domed store belonged to Otis Morris who purchased it from Jess Root in 1926. It collapsed under the weight of the snow and was removed.
Site 6 - Cemetery -
Like many gold rush cemeteries this one holds locally famous and the unknown. Seventy-nine of the 90 graves are names. Most of the infants died of childhood diseases. Causes of adult deaths include illness, old age and violence. Just a few stories of the people buried here include: James Rains, 1879, Warren pioneer killed by the Sheepeater Indians; John "Tow Head" Bablon got his name while mining the "Tow Head" claim; Steve Winchester, who was later acquitted, shot Dick Hambley with an Iver-Johnson .38 caliber pistol; Ah Am, 1933, was the "honorary mayor" of Warren because he was well-liked and respected by his fellow residents.
Site 7 - Amalgamation/Assay Office -
The front portion of this building was built in the 1890's. The back portion, with the unusual chimney, was added to the structure in 1931 by the Baumhoff and Fisher Dredge Company, the largest producer in the district.
The Baumhoff and Fisher Dredge Company mined thousands of ounces of gold. Mercury, used to capture the gold in the dredge's sluice boxes, was removed before the gold was sent to an assay office. This gold/mercury mixture, also known as amalgam, was taken to this office and retorted. "Retorting" is a process which uses heat to turn mercury to a gas, leaving the gold as the final product. The highly poisonous gas was vented out the small chimney on the back of the building.
The gold was cast into bricks, each eight inched long, four inches wide and one and one-half inches thick. The bricks were wrapped in brown paper and shipped to the Boise assay office by parcel post. Each brick was worth $10,000 when gold sold for $35 per ounce. At this rate, the Warren dredges recovered about $4 million worth of gold. The office sold gold scales and wights and evaluated ore samples for local miners. Dredge company trucks were serviced by the gas pumps in front of the building.
Site 8 - Warren Hotel -
Previous hotels and boarding houses have been destroyed by time and the 1904 fire. This structure, known as the "new Warren Hotel," was built about 1912. Proprietors Ed and Ethel Roden offered rooms and food. During the 1930's, the hotel was home for many dredge workers.
Site 9 - Warren Tavern -
This tavern and the Last Chance Saloon, now a private residence, represent Warren's historical watering holes. Less than a year after the 1892 gold discovery, several saloons were operating. In 1890, Charles Bemis was proprietor of the warren Saloon (no longer standing) which offered "Pure Whiskey, Wines, Liquors and Cigars." Bemis occasionally held dances, closing the bar so ladies could enter. Between 75 and 100 people danced to flute, banjo, accordion and two violins. Dances included schottishes, quadrilles, polkas, mazurkas, minuets and waltzes. Including a midnight buffet, the festivities often lasted until dawn.
The Last Chance Saloon was primarily a card room/gambling parlor. The building originally straddled Warren Creek. When mining activity threatened the site the whole building was picked up and relocated.
In the early 1900's, the bars were temporarily closed because no liquor was allowed on Forest Service land. Idaho County voted to "go wet" in 1911. Bars reopened with hours from 5 am to 12 pm, closed on Sundays and election days. "Prohibition" briefly closed the bars during the 1920's through Warren's strict compliance with that law is arguable.
Site 10 - Warren Dance Hall -
This hall was owned buy local merchant Otis Morris. From 1905 to the start of World WAr II, Saturday night dances lasted until 2 am. Local musicians played violin, trumpet and a bellows-powered organ that was transported to Warren by pack mules. Dances included fox trots and waltzes, as the jitterbug had not yet become a craze in Warren.
Site 11 - Chinese Miners -
A display of local Chinese artifacts may be viewed at the Winter Inn and at the Warren Guard Station. Most of the Chinese came to America to build the transcontinental railroad. In 1869, the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads were untied with the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point, Utah. Upon completion of the railroad, Chinese laborers came to mining camps in the Northwest.
Site 12 - Unity Mine Tailings -
The Unity Mine tailings can be seen at the end of the landing field nearest the town. Waste material from the mine formed long, rectangular mounds, hence the name "tailings." As excavation extended further into the granite mountain, discarded rock was loaded into track-mounted ore cars. The cars were then pushed out of the mine and dumped, forming the mound. The top of the mound was kept level so the tracks could be extended as the tailing accumulated.
Site 13 - Warren Landing Field -
The original landing field was built in 1931 by Baumhoff's Idaho Gold Dredging Company. During Idaho's severe winters, trails and roads were blocked by snow, and to this day, airplanes transport Warren's supplies and mail. Dredging destroyed the original field. In 1937, the dredge company, Forest Service and local citizens leveled the dredge tailings and the field became usable again.