The Sprag Pole Inn and Museum

in historic Murray, Idaho

"The Cradle City of the Coeur d'Alene Mining District"

watercolor by Elsa Giles
A Museum is Born

Walt Almquist purchased the building in 1933 and later remodeled the structure and opened the Sprag Pole Inn, named after the supporting poles once needed to help hold up the wooden walls in hard winters. A friend gave him an old whiskey jug to display behind the bar, and the collection began, or better phrased, exploded. This wasn't hard in an area with such a colorful and important history. With help from brother Harry Almquist, the collectibles needed new space after new space, and the expansions still continue to this day.

The operation and ownership of the people-built museum was turned over to a private, non-profit corporation in 1982. Grants and donations fund the museum today. Admission remains free.

see THE MINER -- a limited edition bronze sculpture by Hal Payne
THE MINER -- a limited edition bronze sculpture by internationally known artist Hal Payne -- is one of several items that may be purchased as a partially tax deductible donation to the Museum.
Sprag Pole Museum
P.O. Box 433
Murray, Idaho 83874
click to email the Sprag Pole
Murray in 1888, looking east
Murray in 1888, looking east -- click image to enlarge
The Sprag Pole
is no ordinary museum
  • FREE Admission
  • 10,000 Square Feet
  • Five Connected Buildings
  • Acclaimed Mining Exhibit
    • Panning
    • Hydraulic
    • Underground
    • Dredging
  • Other Special Exhibits
    • Full Blacksmith Shop
    • Old-fashioned School Room
    • Furnished Parlor
    • Vintage Barber Shop & Doctor's Office
    • Molly B'Damn Bedroom
    • Cataldo Mission & Native Indians
    • 1900's Kitchen
    • Logging - Forestry - Firefighting
    • Post Office
    • Restored 1909 Calliope
  • 100 Collectible Exhibit Displays including
    • World's Longest Wood Chain
    • Radios, Phonographs & Phones
    • Whiskey Jugs
    • Historical Photographs
    • Coins from around the World
    • Gambling Devices
    • Music Machines & Clocks
  • Fine Dining and Refreshments
  • Seating Capacity for 50
  • Located on a Stunningly Beautiful Drive
    • 26 miles from Kingston
      I-90 exit 43
    • 24 miles from Wallace
      I-90 exits 61 & 62

In 1882, Spokane, Washington, had a population of just 800, and A.J. Prichard discovered gold on Prichard Creek. Word of this gold strike on a tributary of the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River spread like wildfire, and by 1885 more than 10,000 people had traveled to the gold fields in hopes of cashing in on the gold rush. Murray established itself as the central city of what was the last great mining stampede in the Lower 48, and became the Cradle City of the Coeur d'Alene Mining District.

This is NOT a picture of the legendary Molly B'Damn... none exist No story is more colorful than that of Maggie Hall, an Irish woman who joined the gold rush to Murray. On her way over Thompson Pass in the winter of 1884, she saved the life of a stranded woman. She set up business in town doing pleasure under the name Molly Burdan. Her homeland accent confused her listeners who called her Molly B'Damn. The gold she garnered always went to her heart. She was quick to grubstake a down-and-out miner, and she received Florence Nightingale-like status when she nursed many a miner during a smallpox epidemic, only to die of tuberculosis in 1888 at the age of 35. She and others from this era are buried in the Murray Cemetery located on Kings Pass Road overlooking the historic town.

Prospectors fanned out from Murray and 17 miles to the south discovered the largest silver deposit in the world along the Osburn Fault beneath the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River and its tributaries. Since 1884, this Mining District, paralleling Interstate 90 from Pinehurst to Mullan, has produced 1.2 billion ounces of silver -- more than Virginia City, Comstock Lode, Deadwood and all others combined -- making it truely the SILVER VALLEY.

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Getting to Murray, Idaho
Click on the map to see more of it in a separate window. Print the PDF version of this part of the 2001 Official Idaho Highway Map using Acrobat Reader.
If you need Acrobat Reader, obtain it here for free: Get Acrobat Reader
Move your mouse over the map to bring Murray closer.
Silver Valley highway map
Of course, looking at a highway map doesn't give you an appreciation for Murray's actual size (population ~50) and surroundings (rugged mountains) as does looking at a few topo maps. Yes, the largest building on the 1:24,000 map is the Sprag Pole Museum and Inn. Click on the animation to open the 1:250,000 topo in a separate window. Taken together, the highway and topo maps show the easy access from Interstate 90 to a wonderland of mountain beauty and outdoor adventure. Murray may be small in size, but it is the center of the huge recreation paradise that feeds the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River.
USGS topo animation of Murray -- click to to see 1:250000 topo in separate window
More early pictures of Murray Idaho may be found in the history section of the
historic Wallace Idaho webworks.

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Greg Marsh is Marsh Scientific Services ©1998-2008, Greg Marsh, Ph.D., Marsh Scientific Services
last update on Sunday, May 23, 2004
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