Latitude / Longitude:
47° 31′ 13″ N, 115° 49′ 13″ W
3,700 ft (1,100 m)
Mountain (MST) (UTC-7)
Burke is a ghost town in Shoshone County, Idaho, United States, established in 1887. Once a thriving silver, lead and zinc mining community, the town saw significant decline in the mid-twentieth century after the closure of several mines.
In its early years, Burke was home to the Hercules silver mine, the owners of which were implicated in the Idaho mining wars of 1899. Both the Hecla and Star mines also operated out of Burke, and the town was a significant site during the 1892 Couer d’Alene labor strike. Burke’s geographical location within the narrow 300-foot-wide (91 m) Burke Canyon resulted in unique architectural features, such as a hotel built above the railway and Canyon Creek, with the train track running through a portion of the hotel lobby. Beginning in 1884, miners discovered an abundance of lead and silver in the Burke Canyon. The first mine there, known as the Tiger Mine, was discovered in May 1884. By the end of 1885, over 3,000 tons of ore had been extracted from the Tiger Mine. In 1887, the Tiger Mine was sold to S.S. Glidden for USD$35,000, and Glidden began construction on a railway to transport ore down the canyon from Burke to Wallace. In 1887, the Northern Pacific Railway improved upon the rail after accumulations of mined ore in the town had reached over 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg), and the town of Burke was established. The first shipment of ore to Wallace took place on December 12, 1887. The town was serviced with trains by the Northern Pacific and the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company. Given its position within the narrow canyon, Burke had to share its boundaries with the Northern Pacific rail spur, resulting in a railway that occupied the street running through town. The limited space purportedly forced businesses on the west side of the railway to have to retract their awnings when trains passed through, though according to Bill Dunphy, a town resident, this was an exaggeration: “It was narrow,” he recalled. “They always said that when a train came through Burke, you had to hoist the awnings to get the train through, which wasn’t right. But it’s a good story.”
After several natural disasters and years of decline in the mid-twentieth century, Burke mining operations finally ceased in 1991 with the closing of the Star mine. In 2002, about 300 people lived in or nearby Burke Canyon. Burke is located about 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Wallace, at an elevation of 3,700 feet (1,130 m) above sea level. It is accessed from Wallace on Burke-Canyon Creek Road (State Highway 4). The town is located approximately 100 miles (160 km) south of the Canadian province of British Columbia, and roughly 5 miles (8.0 km) west of the bordering U.S. state of Montana.
On February 4, 1890, the first of several avalanches in Burke’s history caused major damage to the residences and businesses in the town, and killed three people. Beginning in 1891, tensions between miners and the mining companies began to rise. In 1892, hard rock miners in Shoshone County protested wage cuts with a strike. Two large mines, the Gem mine and the Frisco mine in Burke Canyon 1 mile south of Burke, operated with replacement workers during the strike. Several lost their lives in a shooting war provoked by the discovery of a company spy named Charles A. Siringo. On the morning of July 11, 1892, gunfight at the nearby Frisco Mill inadvertently ignited a box of dynamite, causing the mill to explode, killing six people. The U.S. Army forced an end to the strike. By the mid-twentieth century, mining operations in Burke had slowed after the closure of several mines. The last mine in Burke closed in 1991. According to U.S. census data, there were a total of fifteen residents in Burke in 1990. In recent years, Hecla Mining Company has been exploring the potential of exploiting additional resource deposits in the Star mine. As of December 31, 2012, Hecla invested $7 million in rehabilitation and exploration with published estimates suggesting the potential to recover in excess of 25 million ounces of silver from the site with significant zinc and lead deposits also present.