Sawtooth City

Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho, 1997

by Pat Bower, Recreation Area Archaeologist

This August we conducted our third season of investigations at Sawtooth City, as a cooperative project between the Sawtooth NF and the University of Idaho. Since it was established in 1879 and all but abandoned by 1897, this mining town represents a moment in time—a “time capsule”—which can be very helpful in historical studies. Donna Turnipseed from the University of Idaho has directed the documentation and mapping of the site, and the number of volunteers has increased each year. This year, 34 volunteers from nine states participated, several for a second or third year. One family in particular contributed a great deal of time, talent, and enthusiasm, and in recognition, Forest Supervisor Bill LeVere presented awards from FS Chief Dombeck to Dennis, Shauna, and Jenni Robinson.

Although few buildings remain, previous investigations had documented the stamp mill, a butcher shop, an assay office, a blacksmith shop, saloon row, and numerous residences. This year we identified Chinese residences, a livery stable and corrals, a tailor shop, a restaurant, and what appears to be the main residential and business section of town. Analysis of the artifacts and town layout is beginning to tell us a great deal about the people of Sawtooth City—what they ate; what commodity-distribution systems were used; how they worked, played, and organized themselves; and how this town fit into the larger patterns of this important era. The interest and diligence of the volunteers has been truly marvelous!