A Stoplight Laying “In State”? A Small Town Made The Government Do What? This Is Our Favorite Stop On Our Journey So Far!

Most Unbelievable, But True, Story at Wallace, ID!

Thursday 07/22/21 Time to leave Glacier National Park.

View of Large Flathead Lake.

We took Hwy 93 to Hwy 28, Hwy 200, Hwy 135 to Interstate 90. It was a great drive with mountains, pine trees, open grazing areas and the Clark Ford river.

A Small Campground With A Mine To Tour.

Our campground is Crystal Gold Mine RV Park in Kellogg, Idaho. It has just a few campsites: electricity, water, fire pit, and a dump station. Nice big aspen type trees that makes great shade. To make a reservation, you call them. Nothing is done on the internet. In fact, Kevin called them again a few weeks before to make sure we still had the reservation. When we booked it, they said someone would call in March for a deposit. When Kevin called a few weeks ago, they said, oh, just pay the full amount when you get here. When we walked into the shop to check in, he pulled out this huge, probably 2 ft by 1 ft graph paper and had all the reservations on it. So cool and old-school. We asked what to do in Kellogg and he said we would be better off to go to Wallace. So we did.

All Sizes of Drill Bits on Display for Hands-On Learning at Wallace, ID Visitor’s Center.

We went to the visitor’s center (at 4:45 pm) but it was closed. Looks like it might be closed all the time. But there are signs to read outside and then we discovered what I thought was a kids park that was really all sorts of mining equipment with great descriptions on them. It was fantastic! Some history from one of the signs: “The main reason behind Wallace’s National Register designation is Interstate 90. In 1967 the federal government wanted to pave over the town to build the freeway. But the town fought back and held up the project in court for 17 years. In that time city fathers and mothers quietly put every building in the downtown on the National Register. It was a major precedent for the National Preservation Act and forced construction of the $43 million bypass you see to the north.” That has us laughing hard every time we think about it. Smart people! Another one: “Battles over those riches [fabulous riches] also fueled two violent labor conflicts – the result of which was the blowing up of mills, trains and people, mass arrest and incarcerations, declaration of martial law and the assassination of an Idaho governor – 1892-1905.” One more: “Wallace’s history is also entwined in the nature surrounded it. The most significant natural event was the Great Fire of 1910 – still the largest land fire in US history. It burnt 3 million acres, 36 houses, including a third of Wallace, and claimed 80 lives. President Teddy Roosevelt, who visited Wallace in 1903, used that sacrifice of men and material to secure and expand the US Forest Service’s’ mission to protect our nation’s forest.” Back to HOWE (our travel trailer named for Home On WhEels) for chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes.

Friday 07/23/21 Almost got cold last night but not quite. We were nice and toasty under our comforter. But when we got up to use the bathroom…burr. We like to sleep with the windows open. 🙂 We didn’t get up until 9:00 am Pacific time (10:00 our body time). Breakfast was going to be on the griddle but we weren’t that hungry so just had bagels. Then we walked to the Crystal Gold Mine for a tour. Our campsite is part of that Mine and in the same parking lot. It looks like a family running the place. A teenage-looking boy gave the two of us a 40 minute tour. Kevin signed a few things to me in American Sign Language.

Dark streak Is Quartz with Gold In It.

This mine started in 1901 and was a total of only 5 guys. They found a vein of quartz and gold. At the end: “Decline is 60 ft deep on quartz vein. You are 550 ft into the hill. 900 ft from surface. Temperature 48 degrees F year-round.”

Gold Nuggets

The guys found the high grade gold and quartz but keep digging and found a 1 1/2 ft think vein 100 ft later. 

Pinkerton Security Guarding $3,000,000.

There is a picture of Pinkerton detectives guarding $3 million concentrate in bags. When the 5 guys decided they had more money than they could ever spend, the closed up and blocked the entrance. Years later, a new owner saw water seeping through the rocks and got curious. He blasted a section and found the entrance to the mine.

A Must-Stop-And-Visit Museum. See I-90 Above and Behind? 🙂

Then we drove to Wallace. There are 4 museums there so we went first to the Northern Pacific Railroad museum. This was a treasure of information and one of the best museums. It was interesting to read about the Mining Wars, how  the owners lowered pay and the miners got mad. Each camp formed their own union. They started fighting with each other and some even set off dynamite and did a lot of destruction. Engineer LW Hutton’s train was hijacked at Burke by the men who blew up the Bunker Hill & Sullivan Mill at Wardner Junction on April 29, 1899.

Payment From A Thief.

A letter received 05/20/77 with $20.00 said: “Dear Sir, Conscience payment for a few tools I stool form the company in the depression days.” It was sent to American Smelting & Refining Co, Wallace, ID.

The Last Stoplight from Seattle to Boston.

“The Last Stoplight. Lying ‘in state’ is the last stoplight to operate on interstate 90 between Boston, Massachusetts, and Seattle, Washington. When the viaduct over Wallace was completed in 1991, it allowed 4 lanes of traffic to move across the continent. The removal of the stoplight seemed to be an important event to commemorate. The ceremonial lowering of the stoplight was enhanced with the mournful music of the Royal Canadian Pipe and Drum Corp. The coffin with the stoplight was placed in a horse drawn hearse and transported to the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot Museum lawn. Councilman Mike Alldredge gave a solemn eulogy and a proper wake was attended by many. On July 11, 1992, the stoplight was exhumed and place in the Wallace District Mining Museum.” Isn’t that the best thing you have read?! We saw the stoplight there in the museum. 

The Last Stoplight, Wallace, ID.

Did you know that Wallace is also the center of the universe? There is a theory that if you can’t disprove something, it must be true. The city capitalized on that. They declared themselves the center of the universe. No one has disproved it yet, so it must be true! There is a compass painted in the center of an intersection indicating the center of the universe.

We drove up to Burke. On the way we saw the historical marker that said, “ In the 1880s, Silver Valley miners organized into unions. In response, mine owners formed a mine owners Association. As a result, miners face reduced wages and increased work hours. The work day jumped from nine to ten hours, with no added pay. Strike! In 1892, miners walked off the job. To quell the strike, mine owners brought in replacement workers. They also hired Pinkerton guards to protect the new workers, and to infiltrate the unions. Tensions rose. On July 11, shots rang out. A gunfight soon raged at Frisco Mine. Miners claimed the guards opened fire. The guards said, no, the miners shot first. Bullets weren’t the only weapons used. Union miners dropped powder into the four-story mill building through a flume. The structure exploded, killing one. The battle continued until the Pinkertons surrendered, but the miners’ win was short-lived. Idaho’s governor declared martial law, and on July 14 the Idaho National Guard subdued the miners. In 1899, another labor dispute burst into violence. This time, armed union miners hijacked a train and blew up the mill at Bunker Hill Mine. The revolt ended when President McKinley sent in the US Army.” Oh there is so much more than even this that we learned. What a place!!!

You never know what you will discover along the journey. Be sure to stop at lesser known places. Always ask the locals for their suggestions on places to see and eat. We have found true treasures by doing this. Wallace, ID, through all our travels up to the date of this posting (03/04/22) has by far been our favorite place to learn about, to admire, to be in awe of what can be accomplished, and to remember with great chuckles. You, reader, MUST visit this place.

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