The Silver Valley, located along Interstate 90 in northern Idaho, is comprised of several small and scenic mountain communities in Shoshone County. Over the last 130 years, the county has produced more than 1.2 billion ounces of silver. Many towns boomed here as a result of silver mining, and many busted. The tiny town of Murray is one such ghost town, but it still has a bit of life. Although there are only about 50 residents today, more than 10,000 lived here in 1885 with hopes of cashing in on the mining boom. If you’d like to get off the beaten path and experience a bit of the Silver Valley’s mining heritage, take an easy drive to Murray and visit the town’s main attraction— the Sprag Pole Museum. Admission is FREE.
Named after the supporting poles once needed to help hold up its wooden walls in hard winters, the Sprag Pole Museum is eclectic to say the least. This ever-expanding and historic endeavor began in 1933 with a single whiskey jug displayed behind the bar. From there, the collection exploded. Today, 10,000 square feet are jam-packed with exhibits on mining and logging, historic photographs, and antique gambling devices, music machines, clocks, and coins from around the world. The museum also interprets stories of colorful characters like Molly B’Damn, an Irish woman who earned a Florence Nightingale-like reputation when she nursed miners during a smallpox epidemic. Molly B’Damn was also associated with “houses of pleasure” and various other businesses of the day.
Grants and donations fund the museum, so admission remains free, but if you’re hungry, spending a few dollars at the adjoining small bar and restaurant supports the local economy. There’s not a lot of town to stroll through, but the local post office looks interesting—like an old rough-hewn miner’s cabin. As you drive into and out of Murray, notice the piles of discarded rock that line the road. These “tailings” piles are evidence that dredges were used to mine here in the past, establishing Murray as the “Cradle City” of today’s Coeur d’Alene Mining District.
Sprag Pole Inn and Museum
6353 Prichard Creek Rd
Murray, ID 83874
26 miles from Kingston, Idaho: I-90 exit 43
24 miles from Wallace, Idaho: I-90 exits 61 & 62
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com