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The McCarthy family came west on the railroad with a dream of a new life, but their lives and dreams hung by a thread. That thread was at times as strong as a steel wire and at others as fragile as a single silk strand. Unspeakable secrets from the past rode the rails to Idaho with them.

They landed in Wardner, in the booming Coeur d’Alene Mining District, where Joe and his son, Sam, worked in the Bunker Hill and Sullivan Mine. Colleen, the eldest, had dreams of her own, but she put them aside to care for her two younger sisters, Annalee and Polly, and help her mother Clara, who suffered from a mysterious, debilitating depression.

The family struggled to keep afloat through layoffs and strikes. The Bunker Hill Mine made millions of dollars for its shareholders, but gave little thought to the men upon whose backs and shoulders the profits were made.

Sam, an impetuous, idealistic young man, soon became a union agitator and outspoken supporter of worker’s rights. He was right in the middle of the action when, in 1891, the Coeur d’Alenes exploded into one of the most violent, destructive union battles in the country. Martial law was declared and the miner’s rights as free citizens of the new state of Idaho were ignored. Hundreds of innocent miners were arrested, starved and abused with no charges filed against them.

The McCarthy family was never the same afterward.

Pat Cary Peek, author of One Winter in the Wilderness, the Idaho Library Association’s book of the year for 1998, and Cougar Dave, Mountain Man of Idaho, a finalist for that same award in 2003, tells the story of a family who lived through the upheaval and violence of the mining wars in the Coeur d’Alene Mining District in the 1890s.


(171 pages)

Silver Threads: War in the Coeur d'Alenes

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