Ray Norton is the winner!
William 'Billy' Rhodes is the answer for Week 280 of Orofino History Trivia a special feature to celebrate the history and heritage of Clearwater Country.
Join in the discovery!
Monday: Symbolized mining
Tuesday: Was wealthy for the time
Wednesday: Was generous
Thursday: Earned a fortune more than once
Friday: A creek and peak are named after him.
Saturday: Came to Pierce in the early 1860s
Ralph Space in his book The Clearwater Story wrote a section on William 'Billy' Rhodes. He says that Rhodes symbolizes the mining industry in the Clearwater country. He either was a member of the party that came with Captain E.D. Pierce in 1860 or arrived early in 1861. He became quite wealthy for his time, but, his fortunes declined as the placer mining played out.
Rhodes returned later to try and develop a lode claim and died while he was working toward it.
According to Space, Rhodes was part Negro. He was a large, bony man with black, curly hair which turned white in his later years. He was characterized as honest and having good sense. He was not a drinker or a gambler, but was very generous when he had the money.
He came to California in 1849 with a Jones family from Missouri and mined there for a time becoming quite an expert. He joined in the early gold rush in Idaho and staked a claim or claims on Rhodes Creek which took his name. From Pierce, Rhodes went to Arizona where he engaged in a lode claim. Despite making $86,000 when he returned to Pierce and the Lewiston are in 1886, he was broke. He spent several years prospecting around Pierce without success. He also cooked for a cattle ranch in the Salmon country.
Such was his reputation that John Silcott grub staked and equipped him for prospecting. He teamed up with Jerry Johnson with whom he had mined before, and another man. They went prospecting at the head of Cayuse Creek. Here they discovered the silver ore of the Blacklead country. Johnson was not interested in a lode claim due to the cost of developing a mine in that part of the country.
Rhodes returned to Lewiston and reported his find to his backers who became very enthusiastic. John Risse sent his brother-in-law, a Mr. Altmiller who was 17 years old at the time, and Silcott hired a Mr. Crane to go with Rhodes and start developing the mine.They packed back into the country near Blacklead Lookout and had barely time to build a cabin before winter.
Shortly after Christmas, Rhodes had an attack of dysentery, but his companions didn't consider his condition serious. However, his condition deteriorated and he died. The exact year is not recorded but Space felt it was about 1894. Rhodes was buried near the peak that bears his name.
Ray Norton said another creek was also named for Rhodes. It was originally called 'Nigger Creek', but the name was changed to Negro Creek sometime in the 1960s.
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