Idaho Attractions September 16, 2017
The Idaho Ghost Town Of Burke Is Hauntingly Beautiful But Plagued With A Violent Past
Just a short drive from the more well-known town of Wallace in North Idaho is a town that is only known by few. The ruins of this abandoned town are impressive to say the least. The buildings still stand tall and it’s not hard to imagine the town bustling with people. However, the town’s silence is a stark reminder of the dark history that haunts Burke, Idaho. Established in 1887, the town went through a lot of trauma during a short period of time. From tensions between miners and mine owners to natural disasters such as fires and avalanches, Burke endured for nearly a century. Although a handful of people still live in this area, a visit to the scenic ghost town is a solemn one.
The town of Burke is about seven miles outside of Wallace, tucked away in Burke Canyon and surrounded by tree-covered hills in the Coeur d'Alene mountains. The location is downright gorgeous. So why did people leave?
Walking through Burke today, it's hard to imagine that this town was riddled with troubles. It seems so peaceful and back during its prime the town was actually very prosperous.
The first mines were discovered in 1884 and trains by the Northern Pacific and Oregon Railroad Company brought the ore from Burke to Wallace. Over 3,000 tons of ore was mined during the first year of Burke's first mine, the Tiger Mine.
Because of its canyon location, the town was severely limited on space. At its narrowest, the town was merely 300 feet wide. Space was so restricted that the railroad had to run directly through the town. Cars driving down the street had to pull over and wait whenever a train came through town!
Although the town was routinely sending out a generous amount of ore, tension was frequently brewing between the miners and the owners of the mines. In several incidences, violence was ultimately what came of these tensions.
On July 11, 1892 gunshots broke out between union men and replacement workers in the mine. The gunfight escalated and ignited a box of dynamite in one of the mills, causing six men to die.
The violence in the mining community got so bad that Idaho's governor at the time, Frank Steunenberg, sent hundreds of national guardsmen to Burke and declared martial law on the town.
The relationship between union workers and the mine owners never really got better. Blood was shed again in 1899 when the Bunker Hill mining company fired 17 miners for joining the union. In response, the laborers dynamited the Bunker Hill mine and more lives were lost.
Along with the several hostile incidents, Burke also endured several natural disasters. In 1923 a fire destroyed the 150-room hotel, the Tiger Hotel (pictured below), and a large portion of the town. The community was also victim to several avalanches throughout the early 20th century which caused many fatalities.
Today, a drive through the canyon to Burke is beautiful. Although the EPA has declared the canyon as contaminated, a few residents still remain in the town. The town has a rocky history but the story is an important one that everybody should know about. Burke was no stranger to violence, but walking through its remains you can't help but become overwhelmed with a sense of nostalgia.
Have you visited Burke? Share your memories and pictures with us in the comments. Also, take a look at this
Haunting Road Trip Through Idaho Ghost Towns for a perfectly spooky weekend excursion!