I have visited Pioneer Cemetery in Idaho City on many occasions since moving to Idaho. The first time it was pure curiosity that drove me to walk amongst its graves. You may wonder why anyone would want to go to a cemetery, but when I’m done you will too.
First of all, it is haunted. Yep…haunted! Back in the day, Idaho City was quite the bustling gold town. Law and order was lenient, life was cheap and everyone wanted to be rich. Many people died in gun fights and still more working mining claims. Of the cemetery’s first 200 residents, only 28 died of natural causes.
It was a difficult time and even if people survived violent deaths, many still succumbed to disease, fire (there were many), and complications from childbirth. Many of the graves of the Chinese immigrants from that time period, as well as many of the original miners’ graves, were destroyed by fire many years ago. The city has done an amazing job of repairing and preserving the history of what is left so that we all may appreciate those who came before us. Which brings me to another reason for visiting this historical site…its incredibly peaceful (as long as you don’t run into ghosts).
Set up in the trees outside Idaho City, they have a map that will give you the history of some of the cemetery’s historically significant residents and while wandering you can take the time to give respect to those not listed on the map. Many of the gravesites are unique and tear at your heartstrings. For example, there are two side by side of young siblings who passed, one in 1875 and one in 1878. Their parents built iron fencing, shaped like baby carriages, around their gravesites. Unknown graves are marked with wooden markers so they are not forgotten. Now you are probably wondering when I will get to the haunted part.
I, personally, haven’t seen any ghosts. However, when you are up there in the quiet walking around you can feel something is there. I can’t describe it, but I felt it. There are also many stories connected to its ghosts:
1. Several boys were exploring after sun down and saw a foggy, misty apparition of an old prospector with a short beard and western clothing.
2. The Chinese section of the cemetery has mostly been destroyed by fire, but in this area several have seen a young, Chinese girl standing by a grave.
3. With over 3,000 people buried here it is not surprising there are restless souls wandering!
Location: Take I-84 from Boise headed towards Mountain Home. Take Exit 57 towards E. Gowen Rd. with a left onto Hwy 21. Go 35 miles and you will run right into Idaho City. Turn left from Hwy 21 onto Main Street. Take Main Street down to School Street and then turn left onto Centerville Road. Take Centerville to Buena Vista Road, turn left. Follow it all the way back to the Cemetery. It’s only a quarter of a mile from Main Street.
Lodging: I usually make a day trip of it because it’s so close to Boise, but with there being so much to see up here it also makes a great weekend trip. If you look at my post from Idaho City you will see a ton of great lodging opportunities!
Dining: After walking around the cemetery you might want to take a load off and eat some good food. Check out my posting for Idaho City for a complete listing….
However, I would like to point out that Diamond Lil’s, the town’s oldest saloon, has its own ghosts that frequents the place there, so if you want to continue your ghost exploration that would be a great place to finish out your visit. The saloon was built in 1862 and is supposed to be haunted by past customers, long dead, who enjoyed their drink, their guns and cards.
Special Notes: Its kid friendly, but younger kids might find it boring. Older kids will find the history interesting (hopefully!) so definitely bring them along. It doesn’t say no pets, but I would leave the pets at home. Pets and a graveyard don’t really go along.
This is a beautiful place and the history is astounding. Go walk amongst the past and marvel at the history. And…if you run into a ghost maybe you can share a story or two.