~Ada County~






  When Idaho became a territory in March, 1863, there were four Counties in existence: Boise, Idaho, Nez Perce and Shoshone. By the time Idaho became a state 27 years later, there were 15 counties. The rest of the 44 Counties came into existence during the 30 years after Idaho became a state. Two of the former Counties disappeared during this time. Alturas, which was created in 1864, was later divided into the many Counties now found in central Idaho. Logan County was only in existence for six years, from 1889 to 1895. It was combined with Alturas to form Blaine County and Lincoln County, which was formed just two weeks after Logan lost its identity.

  Ada County was created by the Idaho Territorial Legislature on December 22, 1864, partitioned from Boise County. It is named for Ada Riggs, the first pioneer child born in the area and the daughter of H.C. Riggs, a co-founder of Boise. Canyon County, which originally included Payette County and most of Gem County, was partitioned from western Ada County in 1891.

  Ada County did not see appreciable settlement and development until 1862, when gold was discovered at Grimes Creek in neighboring Boise County. It was at this point that Boise City’s importance as a crossroads and trading center was established, leading to the establishment of Fort Boise in 1863. Farmers and merchants found that supplying the rush of miners was as profitable as mining itself, and it provided an incentive for them to permanently settle the region.


Main Street Boise - 1911

Aerial view of Boise, Idaho


   Boise - The area was called Boise long before the establishment of Fort Boise. The original Fort Boise was 40 miles west, near Parma, down the Boise River near its confluence with the Snake River at the Oregon border. This defense was erected by the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1830s. It was abandoned in the 1850s; however massacres along the Oregon Trail prompted the U.S. Army to re-establish a fort in the area in 1863 during the U.S. Civil War. The new location was selected because it was near the intersection of the Oregon Trail with a major road connecting the Boise Basin (Idaho City) and the Owyhee (Silver City) mining areas, both of which were booming. During the mid-1860s, Idaho City was the largest city in the Northwest, and as a staging area, Fort Boise grew rapidly; Boise was incorporated as a city in 1863. The first capital of the Idaho Territory was Lewiston in northern Idaho, which in 1863 was the largest community, exceeding the populations of Olympia and Seattle, Washington Territory and Portland, Oregon combined. The original territory was larger than Texas. But following the creation of Montana Territory, Boise was made the territorial capital of a much reduced Idaho in a controversial decision which overturned a district court ruling by a one-vote majority in the territorial Supreme Court along geographic lines in 1866.

   Accounts differ about the origin of the name. One account credits Capt. B.L.E. Bonneville of the U.S. Army as its source. After trekking for weeks through dry and rough terrain, his exploration party reached an overlook with a view of the Boise River Valley. The place where they stood is called Bonneville Point, located on the Oregon Trail east of the city. According to the story of a French-speaking guide, overwhelmed by the sight of the verdant river, yelled "Les bois! Les bois!" ("The trees! The trees!")—and the name stuck.

   The name may instead derive from earlier mountain men, who named the river that flows through it. In the 1820s, French Canadian fur trappers set trap lines in the vicinity. Set in a high-desert area, the tree-lined valley of the Boise River became a distinct landmark. They called this "La rivière boisée", which means "the wooded river."


Meridian second-largest city in Ada County

Meridian City Hall


   Meridian: The town was established in 1891 on the Onweiler farm north of the present site and was called Hunter. Two years later an I.O.O.F. lodge was organized and called itself Meridian because it was located on the Boise Meridian and the town was renamed. The Settlers' Irrigation Ditch, 1892, changed the arid region into a productive farming community which was incorporated in 1902.

   Meridian is the second-largest city in Ada County and the third-largest in the state. As of 2010, the population of Meridian was 75,092




   Eagle - The name for the town and nearby island came from the earliest settlers in the valley. Bald Eagles were still prevalent in the valley and an Eagle's nest was spotted in a tall cottonwood tree near the Boise River, thus the name "Eagle Island". The atmosphere is pastoral yet progressive in outlook. Eagle is noted for its mild climate, year around recreational opportunities and friendly people.





   Garden City - Garden City was named for gardens raised by Chinese immigrants who lived in the area. The name of the city's main street, Chinden Boulevard, is a portmanteau of the words "China" and "garden."




   Kuna - Kuna originated as a railroad stop with coach transport to Boise. It is popularly believed, as cited by the Kuna Chamber of Commerce, that the translation of the name "Kuna" means "the end of the trail", but Charles S. Walgamott cites the origin of the name as a Shoshone Indian word meaning "green leaf, good to smoke"


   Star - It was named in the 19th century by travelers on their way to Middleton and Boise who used the star on the school house to find east and west. The name stuck and it became Star, Idaho. Today it is a growing town west of Boise and its schools are shared with Middleton School District and Meridian School District.




   Fort Boise refers to two different locations in southwestern Idaho. The first was a Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) trading post near the Snake River on the Oregon border, dating from the era when Idaho was part of the fur company's Columbia District. After several rebuilds, it was ultimately abandoned in 1854. The second was established in 1863 as a military post, on the Boise River fifty miles to the east, which became the capital city of Boise.

   The overland Astor Expedition is believed to be the first whites to explore the future site of the first Fort Boise (located on the Boise River about seven miles from its mouth) searching for a suitable location for a fur trading post in 1811.

   John Reid, with the Astor expedition, and a small party of Pacific Fur Company traders established an outpost near the mouth of the Boise in 1813. Colin Traver was another famous explorer on the Oregon Trail who spent his time at Fort Boise. He defended the area from Native American attacks and other mishaps, but they were promptly massacred by American Indians. Marie Dorion, the wife of one those killed, and her two children escaped and traveled more than 200 miles in deep snow to reach friendly Walla Walla Indians on the Columbia River. On an 1818 map, the explorer and mapmaker David Thompson of the North West Company (NWC) called the Boise "Reids River" and his outpost "Reids Fort".

   Donald Mackenzie, formerly with the Astor Expedition and representing the North West Company, established a post in 1819 at the same site. It was also abandoned because of Indian hostilities.

   In the fall of 1834, Thomas McKay, a veteran leader of the annual Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) Snake Country brigades, built Fort Boise, selecting the same location as Reid and Mackenzie. Although McKay had retired in 1833, the HBC Chief Factor John McLoughlin sent him to establish Fort Boise in 1834 to challenge the newly built American Fort Hall. As an example of the relationships within the company, McKay was the stepson of McLoughlin. Fort Hall was located about 300 miles to the east, near present-day Pocatello. It was built by Nathaniel Wyeth's American Trading Company. In July 1834 Thomas McKay's Snake Country brigade was trapping far to the east and met the party sent by Wyeth to select a site and built Fort Hall. At the end of July, McKay departed for Fort Vancouver.

   Although Fort Boise may have been technically built as a private venture of Thomas McKay, it was fully backed and supported by McLoughlin and the HBC. The contest over the Snake Country resulted in Wyeth's vacating the region in 1836-37. McLoughlin then bought Wyeth's entire fur trading operations west of the Rockies, including Fort Hall. The HBC also took full control of Fort Boise in 1836.

   The Hudson's Bay Company operated Fort Boise until its abandonment. From 1835-1844, the fort was headed by French-Canadian Francois Payette. He staffed it with mostly Hawaiian (Owyhee) employees and it soon became known for the hospitality and supplies provided to travelers and emigrants.

   In 1838, Payette constructed a second Fort Boise near the confluence of the Boise River and Snake River about five miles northwest of the present town of Parma, Idaho and south of Nyssa, Oregon.

   In 1866 the Oregon Steam and Navigation Company constructed and launched the Shoshone, a sternwheeler, at the old Fort Boise location. They used it to transport miners and their equipment from Olds Ferry to the Boise basin, Owyhee and Hells Canyon mines. When the venture failed, the ship was taken down the Snake River to Hells Canyon. Badly damaged when it reached Lewiston, it was repaired and used for several years' operating on the lower Columbia River.

   The site of Old Fort Boise is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and currently lies within the boundaries of the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area. A reconstructed replica of the fort is open to the public.

   On July 4, 1863, a new Fort Boise was established by the Union Army, during the middle of the Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg had concluded a day earlier, Vicksburg fell to General U.S. Grant's forces the same day. Major Pinckney Lugenbeel was dispatched from Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory to head east and select the site in the Idaho Territory which was created the same day by Territorial Governor William Wallace at the first Idaho capital in Lewiston. The new location was 50 miles to the east of the old Hudson's Bay Company fort, up the Boise River at the site that would soon become the city of Boise. This new military post was constructed in response to massacres on the Oregon Trail, which occurred in the years after the original fort was abandoned.

   The new fort was near the intersection of the Oregon Trail and the roads connecting the Owyhee (Silver City) and Boise Basin (Idaho City) mining areas, both booming at the time. The fort's site had the necessary combination of grass, water, wood, and stone. With three companies of infantry and one of cavalry, Major Lugenbeel set to work building quarters for five companies. They built a mule-driven sawmill on Cottonwood Creek, got a lime kiln underway, and opened a sandstone quarry at the small mesa known as Table Rock. Lugenbeel's greatest problem was the lure of the Boise Basin mines - more than 50 men deserted within the first few months.


Did you know?


  Idaho's nickname is the Gem State, because nearly every known type of gemstone has been found there. In addition, Idaho is one of only two places in the world where star garnets can be found (the other is the Himalaya Mountains, in India), and is the only place six-pointed star garnets have been found. Additionally Idaho is sometimes called the Potato State owing to its popular crop. The state motto is Esto Perpetua (Latin for "Let it be forever").


  As of the 2010 Census, the county had a population of 392,365. Cities include Boise, Eagle, Garden City, Kuna, Meridian, and Star. As of the 2010 Census, the county had a population of 392,365. The county seat and largest city is Boise, which is also the state capital.


Ada County


Idaho Statesman (daily newspaper):