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Burke-Canyon is the canyon of the Burke-Canyon Creek, in the northernmost part of Shoshone County, Idaho. There are several ghost towns and/or remnants of former communities along the Burke-Canyon Road, which runs through the canyon.
From Wallace, a community humorously notorious as the "Center of the Universe", Burke-Canyon Road runs north and eastward toward the Montana border through Woodland Park, Webb, Gem, Frisco, Black Bear, Burke, and Mace.
Gem, Frisco, and Burke have been described as ghost towns, although there are some residents in the area.
Gold was initially discovered in the early 1860s in the mountains to the north of the Snake River basin. Silver, copper, and other minerals were subsequently discovered. Idaho experienced boom after boom, and mining towns arose overnight, boomed, and then disappeared as the miners left for the latest rush.
More than a century ago, railroads moved hardrock ore out of the mines in Burke-Canyon.
In 1892, miners called a strike which developed into a shooting war between union miners and company guards. The first shots fired were exchanged at the Frisco mine in Frisco. The violence soon spilled over into the community of Gem. From there, union miners who had successfully shut down both the Frisco and the Gem mines, travelled to the Bunker Hill mining complex near Wardner, to the west, and closed down that facility as well. The Idaho National Guard and federal troops were dispatched to the area.
In both disputes, issues included pay, hours of work, the right of miners to belong to the union, and the mine owners' use of informants and undercover agents. Violence committed by union miners was answered with a brutal response in 1892 and in 1899.
Gem was founded in 1886 in the narrow canyon of Canyon Creek. Gem experienced considerable violence between miners and mine owners. The remains of mine and milling machinery are rusting on the banks of Canyon Creek (now Burke-Canyon Creek.)
- A History of American Labor, Joseph G. Rayback, 1966, pages 169-170.
- Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, Peter Carlson, 1983, page 50.
- Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, Peter Carlson, 1983, pages 53-56.
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