Atlanta Mining - Passport in Time

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Atlanta Mining District Recording 

Boise National Forest, Idaho, 2003
by Lynn Lary and Janet Fratella, PIT Volunteers

Week 1 of Sawmill Creek Camp Recording Project

In July 2003, a team of U.S. Forest Service archaeologists and PIT volunteers spent four days in the Atlanta Mining District--a spectacularly remote and rugged area containing a great variety of artifacts related to mining activities during the last part of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

"Since the Trail Creek Fire of 2000, the Boise NF has hosted 6 weeks of PIT projects dealing with the fire’s direct and indirect effects throughout the historic Atlanta Mining District. The result has been the survey of several thousand acres, the discovery and documentation of approximately 50 new archaeological sites, and the curation of artifacts collected."

PIT volunteers helped search portions of the mining district for cultural evidence and prepare detailed records of what was discovered. This summary highlights some of what the PIT volunteers experienced during their stay in the Boise National Forests located in Southern Idaho.

The Team

Forest Service Archaeologist Tyrone Corn headed the project and was assisted by Forest Service archeologist Marc Munch. They lead the team throughout the week.

Participants included:
  • Ralph and Arleen from Boise, ID
  • Sue from Boise and her sister Chan from Horseshoe Bend, ID
  • Jo from Cave Creek, AZ
  • Ellen from Ketchum, ID
  • Janet and Lynn from Marcola, OR
  • Archeologists Ty Corn and Marc Munch from the Boise National Forest
Our Work

Days 1 and 3: Trail Creek
Tuesday, July 8 and Thursday, July 10, 2003

We started the day with a meeting at 8:30 where Ty and Marc gave an overview of the work that we were to do during the week. This was helpful because it provided the volunteers with a context for their work. After hopping in the trucks and heading for the site, we hit a detour (in Atlanta of all places!) due to road work. After finally arriving at the trailhead, we hiked about two miles to the site.

This was huge site, approximately 1/3 of a mile long, and one that Ty and Marc had previously found. The site turned out to be a multi-component site containing both historic and prehistoric artifacts. The prehistoric artifacts included two obsidian flakes, one obsidian biface fragment, a chert biface, and an obsidian projectile point.

The historic artifacts took us two days to flag and record. Once the flagging was done, we split up into teams to complete a variety of tasks: Arleen and Lynn recorded glass; Ralph and Chan recorded miscellaneous artifacts; Jo and Ellen recorded cans; Janet took digital images of the site and some of the more exciting finds; Sue used a GPS to record the site boundaries.

According to archeologist Ty Corn, the great thing about PIT projects are the additional number of eyes and hands that volunteers provided to record this site--especially because it was so vast. This particular site would have taken Ty and Marc at least four trips to record everything.
Day 2: Historic James Creek Road
Wednesday, July 9, 2003

On the second day of the project, we resurveyed the James Creek site. The site was originally recorded in 1993; according to the recording, the site contained a small coral, can dump, foundation, and some prehistoric artifacts (bifaces). In addition to re-recording the site, there was one square meter that needed to be excavated so that a monument could be placed at the site by a local historical group.

Historically, the James Creek Summit pass was a major transportation route to Atlanta; it was an eight mile trip from Rocky Bar. Peg Leg Annie and Dutch Em were "soiled doves" who served the Atlanta area. These two ladies are part of the local lore. On one of their trips over the pass, they got caught in a snow storm and Dutch Em froze to death.

Ty worked with volunteers Les, Jo and Arleen to excavate the area where a marker will be placed to honor Dutch Em and Peg Leg Annie. The marker will read as follows:

"Dedicated to the gritty resolve and courage of ANNIE Morrow aka PEG LEG ANNIE and her friend "DUTCH EM." In May 1896 they were caught in a late blizzard while walking from Atlanta to Rocky Bar. Losing their direction to the Summit House (which is the site that we are surveying) at this site, Em froze to death and Annie's feet were later amputated. She died in 1934, but their colorful spirit lives on in our hearts and minds through the stories, myths and truth, still told about these pioneer women."
-Atlanta Arts Society LtdJuly 2003

Jo and Arleen are screening for artifacts. Unfortunately for them, nothing of great significance was excavated (meaning it was slow and tedious work!). There were some pieces of cut glass, square headed nails, and lots of broken window pane glass.

The second survey of the site revealed many more artifacts than were originally recorded. This could perhaps have been due to erosion of the area which would have exposed the additional artifacts. The teams working on this site included Ellen and Janet who worked on recording miscellaneous artifacts; Chan and Lynn recordedcans; Ralph and Sue recorded glass (they also helped with the cans!); Sue again took the GPS coordinates of the site.

Several of the more interesting items included a small faceted glass bead (<= .25" in diameter), a Dutch oven, and a modified square can bottom. Marc made a paper model of this artifact and it seemed to have possibly been used as a funnel.
Day 4: Sites Near Airstrip and Ranch
Friday, July 11, 2003

We started the day by re-recording a site which took us the entire morning! Arleen and Janet recorded the glass and miscellaneous artifacts; Chan and Lynn recorded cans; and Janet took the photos. Ty took Ralph, Ellen and Jo to record a new site that they had found nearby. In the photo to the left, you can see Sue filling out the site form with assistance from archaeologist Marc Munch.

After lunch, we went to another area to survey for new sites. However, after walking the line, we didn't find a thing. This work was all downhill...then we walked the line up toward the base of Graylock Mountain...ARGH! It was hot and we had to bushwhack our way though lots of sagebrush. In addition, Ty took Ellen and Ralph up along the base of Graylock looking for prehistoric artifacts. Although we found nothing, Ty and Marc now know that there is no evidence of habitation in the areas we surveyed.
Extracurricular Activities

Our leaders Marc and Ty are simply the best. Each night, they took us to one of several local hot springs. After returning to camp, the volunteers spent much time sitting around Arleen and Ralph's campfire.

Late Night Campfire: Who said we would get tired of one another?! After spending the days together, we also shared evening campfires.

Birthday Surprise: Would you believe that it was Ellen's Birthday? While Ty took Ellen, Jo, Sue and Chan to the hot springs on the way to get gas, Lynn, Janet and Marc were plotting! We made due with latex gloves and surveying tape to decorate the PIT awning and Marc provided the ice cream treats! We ended the evening around Arleen and Ralph's campfire with s'mores, popcorn and Gummi Bears! 

Dinner at The Hub: On Thursday night, the entire crew went to dinner at The Hub. For the most part, everyone had Cornish game hens stuffed with wild rice and a variety of treats! After the third course, we were treated to the most amazing homemade pie. We all agree that this was the best PIT dinner ever. 

Atlanta Buildings: There are actually quite a few buildings in Atlanta. Take a look at the old jail and the "museum." 


Our appreciation gifts were awesome Nalgene water bottles with the PIT logo and a timeline of the history of the Boise National Forest.
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