PIERCE — Elias Davidson Pierce came west seeking gold. To history, he left one of Idaho’s oldest cities born of greed and deception.Pierce heard about glittering metal in the waters of the Clearwater River from the Nez Perce, and in 1860 he headed into the rugged mountains of Washington Territory disguised as a trader.
Tensions were high among the Nez Perce wary of trespassers on land reserved for them in the 1855 treaty. When they asked Pierce about his prospecting equipment he told them it was for farming.
Pierce found evidence of gold deposits. Against the orders of Andrew Cain, Indian agent at Lapwai, and Col. George Wright at Fort Walla Walla, who feared a war with the Nez Perce, Pierce recruited a group of men from Walla Walla, snuck onto the reservation and spent the winter of 1860-61 mining and building Pierce City, which attracted thousands as word of the find spread.
Saturday, Aug. 5, the tales of the fortune seekers, packers, government officials, hoteliers, robbers and murderers who followed will be told in the play “Idaho History Gold Diggers” at the Pierce Community Center. Dressed in period costume, area historians will tell how the discovery of gold led to the establishment of Lewiston as a supply town for the miners and capital of Idaho Territory.
The 6 p.m. show will be followed by a street dance from 7:30 p.m. to midnight with music provided by the 7 Devils. It’s one of many events taking place Friday through Sunday as part of Pierce 1860 Days. Here’s a complete schedule.
If You Go
What: “Idaho History Gold Diggers”
When: 6 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5
Where: Pierce Community Center, 105 Carl St.