(Rich gold ore.)
Idaho is no stranger to precious metals mining. Gold and silver abound in the "Gem" State, as do many precious and semi-precious minerals, which give the state its nickname. However, it's not gems that concern us here, but the soft yellow luster of gold.
Down on His Luck
This tale of gold found and then lost again takes place in the Idaho Panhandle not far from Hayden Lake and concerns a real-life prospector and miner named Jack Breen. Jack had spent many months prospecting the region around Hayden Lake and had come across numerous indications of gold mineralization in the ore samples he collected along the way.
Gold Prospecting Books
Despite his best efforts, disappointment seemed Jack's only true friend because each time he excitedly brought his samples into Coeur d'Alene for assay, they proved only average in terms of their richness and potential for development. By the summer of 1889 Jack Breen was down on his luck and had just about enough money and resources for one last prospecting trip.
Jack Hits the "Big One"
When Jack returned to Coeur d' Alene in early November, he made his way directly to the assay office and dumped a small sample bag of gold ore onto the counter. "Look at this!" he cried. The assayer's eyes widened as he examined the chunks of ore spread out before him. Large amounts of visible gold were interlaced throughout the host rock and he, like Jack, knew this was very rich ore.
The assay report not only confirmed that Jack had finally hit the "big one," but that he had also come across what might be one of the richest ore bodies in the entire region. Depending on how large Jack's ore body was, with sufficient backing the potential for development could make Jack Breen a very wealthy man. When the assayer queried him about the location of his find, Jack smiled and just shook his head slowly from side-to-side.
A Bit of Venture Capitalism
Jack was no dummy. He knew that his ace-in-the-hole was keeping mum about the location of his strike. Still, he also knew that it took money, often lots of money, to develop a hard-rock gold mine. So Jack set out to get funding for that very task through a bit of venture capitalism.
He made the rounds and met with various prominent Coeur d'Alene citizens and businessmen who, without exception, marveled at the richness of Jack's gold ore. It didn't take long for some of these city bigwigs, including N.R. Palmeter (County Commissioner) and Jack Osier (a well-to-do businessman) to throw money into Jack's mine development "kitty."
After completing the business portion of his new status as a mining enterprise partner, Jack decided that a little celebration was in order. He wasted no time repairing to the nearest saloon and ordering up some of the house's best whiskey. While thus engaged, Jack was plagued by every drunk, deadbeat, mutt, wannabe, hustler, and curiosity seeker in town, all of whom were trying their best to get Jack to give up the location of his mine.
(The area around Hayden Lake, Idaho is both wild and beautiful.)
The sheriff, a friend of Jack's, decided that enough was enough and placed Jack under protective custody in the Coeur d'Alene jail overnight. There Jack could sleep it off without making the very large mistake of accidentally revealing the location of his mine while his tongue was wagging under the influence of strong spirits. Unfortunately for all concerned (most importantly Jack Breen), sometime in the late night or early morning hours a fire broke out in the jailhouse.
The Mine's Location Dies with Jack
The only casualty was Jack himself, who died of smoke inhalation before he could be dragged from his cell and out of the burning building. Since he had only told his mining venture partners that his strike was "somewhere near Hayden Lake," the exact location of the Lost Breen Mine died with poor Jack...lost forever to N.R. Palmeter, Jack Osier, and all of us.
Remember this however. The main players in this lost gold mine tale were all real people and Coeur d'Alene has a rich mining history as does the Hayden Lake region. I suspect that many more details concerning this legend could be unearthed by a patient researcher.
Good hunting out there!
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "'Border Wars' Treasure Trails: the Olathe Kansas Raid"
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2012
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org