Rochester is the name given to a collection of three different mines namely Upper Rochester and Lower Rochester and Rochester Heights. Immigrants originating from Rochester, New York discovered gold at Upper Rochester and Lower Rochester along the Rochester Canyon in the 1860s at a time when there was only one camp located at the upper end of this canyon.
This eventually became Rochester Heights. Mining and exploration activities by then were on small scale and the ore was either processed on small scale or carried on wagons to other towns which were larger in size, for milling. The discovery of a rich silver ore in the area by Joseph Nenzel is what turned this town from one that had only a few people, to one that drew masses to settle in, after they received news about the newly found treasure.
This was in 1912 and it led to an expansion of the once small locality to a boom town that now had Upper Rochester and Lower Rochester that was now on the rise. In the course of time, Rochester Heights became part of Upper Rochester and collectively these became the Old Town, which meant that Lower Rochester assumed the capacity of a new town automatically.
Rochester Canyon is narrow with steep slopes on each side hence, the camps that had been set up were spread down the floor of the canyon and not outwards. Soon both the old town and new town had various establishments including hotels, saloons among others. The population by this time had surged upwards to over 1,500 individuals.
Mining support facilities and the mill were located at Lower Rochester while Upper Rochester served as the commercial district. An orchestra band was also available in the town and was known as The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Initially, there was a railroad that came up to Limerick Canyon, which was located in Oreana.
Plans to extend the rail tracks from this point started in 1914 and a spur was established that branched into the canyon. From Lower Rochester, the rail line was extended to Upper Rochester finally terminating at the end of the canyon. This was in 1915. The rail line was meant to haul ore to the mill, but it faced various challenges that made it difficult for the mines to depend on it in totality.
These included vagaries of management of the railroad, use of old second-hand locomotives that were of poor quality, fires and accidents. This was the Nevada Short Line Railway that realized little success as far as its facilitation of mining activities was concerned, even after starting tramway operations thereafter.
In 1918 the line went into receivership, was shut down by 1919 and no rails could be traced here by 1920. After this period, the town of Rochester started dying slowly from 1922 with the town’s post office closing down in 1926 and finally loneliness had taken a toll on the town by 1951. Coeur d’Alene Mines started open pit mining operations here later on in 1986. These operations were conducted in large scale and as a result, Upper Rochester was almost buried completely.
Today, what remains in this ghost town are a few wooden structures and several foundations at Lower Rochester. As a visitor you will identify the old rail bed of the former rail line on a large portion of the canyon, remains of the large mill building as well as remains of wood towers that served the tramway that are located on the hillside.