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Blackmon peak: Black history in the White Cloud Mountains

George Blackmon was one of the thousands to come to Idaho during the gold rush. But he made a name for himself, reflecting more than the color of his skin.

CUSTER COUNTY, Idaho — In Custer County, in the Sawtooth Recreation Area, stand the White Cloud Mountains.

With more than two dozen peaks rising more than 10,000 feet, you can see why early pioneers had a difficult time knowing when the mountains stopped and the sky began.

One of those peaks is called 'Blackmon Mountain,' named for George Blackmon.

You may see it spelled 'Blackman,' which was its original spelling. It was changed just a few years ago to reflect the correct spelling.

"History is a little sparse, actually," Justin Hayes, the Executive Director of the Idaho Conservation League said. "He was born a slave in Kentucky. He was born in the 1850s. He came to Idaho when it was still a territory as a miner in the late 1870s." 

Blackmon was one of the thousands to come to Idaho during the gold rush. But he made a name for himself, reflecting more than the color of his skin.

"He was a long-time fixture and a miner and a prospector in the White Clouds and with someone who grew to prominence in the area," Hayes said. "I think that's indicated by fact that they named a peak after him." 

Blackmon died in 1936 and is buried in the town of Clayton. His legacy continues to live on in one of the most popular spots in central Idaho.

"(Blackmon) is really very close to the trailhead that many people use when they go into Fourth of July lake," Hayes said. "So Fourth of July lake and the Blackmon Peak area is one of the most popular areas for recreation in the whole white clouds where people take their families when their kids are young. It's a great hike, there's a beautiful lake at Fourth of July, and you're doing that all under the shadow of Blackmon Peak."

It's believed that several other areas in the White Clouds are also named after George Blackmon, whose full name is George Blackmon Washington. Those places include Washington Basin, Washington Creek, and Washington Peak.

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