Memories of a Now-Defunct Mining Town
By F.A. Loomis
My uncle, Jesse Vernal Griffiths, and my mother’s sister, his wife Lillian Sego, moved to the central Idaho mountain mining community of Stibnite at the end of World War II, just after the Grimes Creek Dam blew. Jesse was an electrical worker at the hydroelectric plant at Grimes Creek. He became chief electrician at Stibnite, reporting to Ernest “Emmons” Coleman, head of the electrical works. Jesse’s mission in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s was to help close down the post-World War II mining operation. The Griffiths’ daughters, my cousins, have always been my primary sources for information about Stibnite: Carol, who was born in 1934, and Patty, born in 1937.
Our family lived in Donnelly, and my own memories of Stibnite are few, as I was just becoming a conscious human being in the early 1950s. I recall that the winter road into the community was almost a tunnel in places, with high, smooth, white walls of snow. Keeping my feet warm was difficult when we drove in the extreme winter cold. At any time of year, the trip took at least three-and-a-half hours from Cascade by car.
I recall that my older sister and I became carsick in the summer as we traveled to visit relatives there. At a picnic we had along the road, I remember a beautifully designed lavender and pink cake box my mother opened while we all sat on tree stumps and rocks at a campsite. We all had cake, except my father, who ate a piece of pie.
Apart from the traveling, I don’t personally recall much about Stibnite, but I do remember the impressions my older siblings spoke of when I was growing up. My sister loved the community café where she sat on a soda fountain stool facing glass windows overlooking the mining works. From there, she would enjoy a hamburger and chocolate milkshake as she watched huge trucks and machinery. Her favorite thing about going to Stibnite was getting hand-me-down clothes from our older cousins Carol and Patty.