Ghost town of Cuprum Idaho

Name: Cuprum, Idaho
Class: H1 (Copper mines originally, now Summer Cabins and loggers.)
GPS: Latitude: 45.0865458, Longitude: -116.6893141
Directions: *Note* Two wheel drive accessible only in summer months. Kleinscmidt Grade is an historic road known for it’s steep grade.

From Ontario, Oregon head north on US-95 North for 44 miles. At the town of Cambridge Idaho, take a left on to ID-71. The road will cross the Snake River to Brownlee, Oregon and then join OR-86. Take a right towards Copperfield, Oregon, then take the next right to cross the Snake River again on NF-4545. After crossing the river take a left onto Hells Canyon Road. Just under six miles, take right onto Kleinschmidt Grade. This road is also labeled National Forest Development Road 050. In 5 and half miles Windy Ridge Road joins Kleinschmidt Grade at a “Y” intersection. Continue for another two and half miles, when Council Cuprum Road joins Windy Ridge Road. Cuprum is 1.6 miles further.

Description: Sit back and enjoy the drive along parts of the Snake River that most people don’t get to see. Cuprum is Latin for “Copper,” an apt description as this remote part of Idaho likely still has huge untapped copper deposits. Several mines were in the area, leading to the need for a town. An hospital was built here in 1897, and a Post Office was established the same year on December 1st.

The Pacific and Idaho Northern railroad was supposed to be built through here with an eventual stop at Landore, Idaho 20 miles north, but litigation among mine owners in the area ended up halting it’s construction. By the time this was resolved, it was found that the open pit type of mining pioneered in Montana was not a good fit for the Seven Devils mining region that Cuprum is part of.

Since then repeated attempts to mine the area have all been minimally successful. Kleinschmidt grade continues to be a huge hurdle despite multiple attempts to bypass it. In 1960, $400,000 worth of copper was recovered from the area. But it cost $1.6 million to do so. The Copper Cliff mine was started in 1974 to much optimism. Local reserves of mined copper ore were able to keep the mine running until 1979. It was still in continuous operation until the late 1980’s, but was finally completely closed and the buildings destroyed in 2006.

“Modern” Cuprum has a few dozen summer residents, and as of the 1970’s, some logging work.

Further Reading:
Ghost towns of Idaho by Donald Miller

The Idaho Historical Society has a few pictures of the Cuprum area, including the Seven Devil’s Hotel and Bar.

5 Responses to “Ghost town of Cuprum Idaho

  • I lived in Cuprum, off and on since 1965, while owning 256 mining claims around the town.

  • I can tell stories almost forever about the folks in Cuprum, (it was pronounced “K-ewe-prum” because the old timers didn’t know how to pronounce the Latin. There was the County Recorder, Olive Smalley, prospectors Roy Scrivens and Clark Neeley, and Ralph Page, and Jess Smith. There was Wilma Robbins, who for a time rented cabins at the old Steegle place. There was Noranda Mining Company, and Silver King Mining Company, and Sunshine Mining Company, and Copper Ridge Mining Company, and Sun Mines. I was Sun Mines, and had 256 unpatented mining claims from Hell’s Canyon Park at the foot of the Kleinschmidt Grade six miles up the road and into the Seven Devils Mountains to Horse Mountain Lookout. I owned the Crackerjack Mine.
    Stories, stories, stories: One time Roy Scrivens thought I was trying to jump his claim because we staked over his claim when we surveyed in the larger mining group. I tried to explain to him that his claims at the head of Limepoint Creek were still valid, but he was drunk and challenged me to a gunfight. I carefully declined, because Roy was fast as lightening and dead accurate, drunk or sober. That was about 1968.

  • Hello my name is Sharon Webb, a few years back I took my mom Dorothy Wood/Martin over to Homestead where she spent some summers with.her uncle, last name was Ludiker I think his first name was John. Anyway, it was like 60 plus years melted away. My Uncle Bud, her brother went to the little wooden Homestead and she said her uncle had a farm at the end of the road. There was a farm but, not sure if it was the same. The dam wasn’t there so there may have been more land. As were driving back to the main road she looked across the river to a road going up over the hill to Cuprum and she said her uncle drove a mail wagon over that hill. That was awesome to hear her. Then she said the copper miners used to come over to Homestead to what I think might have been a dance hall of sorts. She was maybe 10 to 12 yrs old at the time and she said they got her up on a stage and she did the Charleston dance. My mother has passed now but, also she told me that her mother Maude was born in Pine. My brother and I do genealogy so this was all so interesting. I have several ancestors buried in Halfway so if there is any one that might add to any info. would appreciate it. Also, the Ludikers supposedly had stills she also had stories about that.

  • I lived in Cuprum for a couple years way back when. Worked for rent in one of Wilmalee. Doing chores for her, cleaning cabins and helping with supply runs. Sometimes all the way to Ontario, but mostly Weiser, Council, sometimes Baker. I learned how to hold on when riding with Wilma. Barreling down the mountain, she always had one hand on the wheel and one hand holding a half gallon of rum.. She never killed anyone that I ever heard of anyway. She thought she killed her husband Frank when she hit him over the head with a gallon jar of Best Foods mayo. They were made of glass at that time. We just had to clean the blood and mayo off and bandaged him up. He was good as ever. In exchange I got to backpack into the Devils. Taught myself how to flyfish up at Emerald. Neverending supply of brooks. Best time of my life.

  • Wow! I love these stories! I have spent some time around Emerald an Black Lakes. I am Interested in the murder of Mr. Hibbs down on Granite Creek. Thank All Of You! Tim Jederberg

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