Pound of Salt Cost the Same as a Pound of Flour in Those Days

Capt. Relf Beldsoe

Florence was a very busy little mining camp.  I saw at the head of Baboon gulch two men, who melted snow to get water to rock with, take an average of a pint of go gold dust a day from the rich pay dirt.

All kinds of supplies were in good demand.  The name of our firm was Malphy, Creighton & Bledsoe.  Supplies of all kinds sold at $1.00 per pound because of the method of transportation, which was made by ox team from Lewiston to Cold Springs and by pack train from Cold Springs to Florence, a distance of 70 miles.

A pound was a pound, no more, no less, and a pound of salt being just as heavy as a pound of flour, the cost was precisely the same.  A quart jar of pickles sold for an ounce of gold dust or equivalent to $12, as the dust contained some silver.

In November of that year on one of my trips for merchandise I had stopped at Slate creek where I met a Mr. Baker, a well-known packer, and offered him 32 cents a pound to take supplies from Slate Creek over into Florence, but he refused to do so on account of the snow being so deep that it made traveling extremely difficult.  It had bought some oats that had been brought in by cayuse pack trains and I had a few sacks left, so I bought his whole train for $5500.  This train consisted of 45 mules and five riding horses.

Quite frequently in those days one could see men packing supplies on their backs.  I saw men carrying from 100 to 125 pounds in this way.  There are quite a number of people in Idaho who will remember those times.

The country we traveled over from Cold Springs is now dotted with beautiful farms and fields of waving grain and is known as Camas Prairie near Grangeville.  We crossed on the old Indian trails in the early days.

Florence, like other mining camps, was the center of exciting incidents.  There were gamblers and robbers and other men who preferred getting the gold without working for it.  The robbers were called “road agents” and watched on the highway for miners coming to and from camp.  They would waylay them, take their gold and usually killed them as “dead men tell no tales,” and then make their escape.

But the easy road over which these “road agents” traveled to secure their ill-gotten gains often ended at the gallows, for many of them were afterwards caught and hung.  Once a packer by the name of Berry returning to Lewiston with his gold dust was overtaken and robbed on the road by two notorious desperadoes, Peoples and English, who were finally caught, were taken to Lewiston and there lynched.

Before their capture several months I met these desperadoes on Camas Prairie as I was on my way to Lewiston to take $10,000 worth of gold dust.  I was alone and as I saw them coming I recognized them and stopped.  They came up and greeted me pleasantly.  I had my gun across my knees and told them to ride both on the same side as I was not willing for them to ride one on each side of me.  They asked me why I wished them to do so and I told them that I wasn’t willing to take any chances.

Then they laughed and asked me if I had any whisky.  I told them that I had and that they were welcome to a drink, but that they must dismount and put down their guns or they should not have a drop. 

Peoples laughed as he came up and told me that I was too suspicious.  He said:  “We do not want to hurt you.  You have too many friends in this country.  It’s the fellows who are not known that we are after.”  He lifted up the canteens at the saddles where I had the gold dust and said:  “You have a pretty good wad there.”  “Ten thousand dollars,” I answered.  All the time I watched their every move and they kept telling me that I was too suspicious, but I realized the situation perfectly well and they knew it.

  They drank their whisky and Peoples then told me I could go on.  “No,” said I, “you must go on.”  “That’s a pretty hard nut to crack.” said Peoples, grinning.  “You get out your horses and go on,” I said, and as they saw that it was impossible for them to take me at a disadvantage, they mounted their horses and turned up the trail toward Mount Idaho.   So I started on.  Only 100 yards lay between me and the open timber for which I headed and after entering it I could see the desperadoes as they went on up the prairie away above me about five miles distant.  Then I turned and went down to Cold Springs through the timber, and for fear they might try to make a detour and get on ahead of me, I put whip and spur to my mule until I got to Cold Springs, where I stayed all night, and the next day went on into Lewiston.






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