the landscape of what was to become Canyon County was changed forever, when the
Oregon Short Line Railway (a subsidiary of the Union Pacific) made its way from
Granger, Wyoming to Huntington, Oregon. The sagebrush-covered ground was
cleared and leveled so tracks could be laid, providing an opportunity for safer
travel to the emigrants of the east. Towns sprung up about every 10 to 15 miles
along the tracks. The county was established on March 7, 1891, with its county
seat at Caldwell.
It was partitioned from Ada County and originally included Payette
County (1917) and the southern portion
of Gem County (1915). Current sources attribute
the name to the canyon of the Boise River near Caldwell.
However, both John Rees and Vardis Fisher believed it
was named for the Snake River canyon which forms a natural boundary for the
county with Owyhee
County. The cities of Canyon County
include Caldwell, Greenleaf, Melba, Middleton, Nampa, Notus, Parma, and Wilder. Canyon County
currently has a population of 188,923.
Caldwell Railroad Depot 1907
out as nothing but desert, sage brush, volcanic soil, deer, and jackrabbits. Caldwell’s inception and
growth occurred largely because of the railroad. In fact, the towns established
by the railroad brought more people into the territory than the earlier gold
rushes. For a time, Caldwell was known as Hamburg, after Jake Ham
established a blacksmith shop. An early railroad camp for construction
employees of the Oregon Short Line Railroad nearby was dubbed Bugtown and the community shared this name as well. Caldwell burst into
existence suddenly and grew rapidly with its eleven saloons and a private water
pump – an oasis in the desert area of sage and ankle-deep alkali dust.
of 1883 the original town site was platted parallel to the Oregon Short Line
rail tracks (later to become part of Union Pacific). The property was owned by
the Idaho and
Oregon Land Improvement Company, which was interested in persuading settlers
and businessmen to move here. The group
ignored compass and section lines and established the town site in honor of the
company’s president, C.A. Caldwell, ex-senator from Kansas. Others prominent in the company’s
operation included Robert E. Strahorn, vice-president
and Howard Sebree, Caldwell’s first mayor. By January 1884, there were more than 600
residents and 150 structures. The date of ordinance establishing Caldwell as a city is
January 15, 1890. The College of Idaho, a Presbyterian college, was founded in Caldwell in 1891.
City of Caldwell
John Greenleaf Whittier
was named after Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier. The first
settlers in the Greenleaf area were dry land farmers who came to homestead on
the fertile agricultural land shortly after 1900. The soil quality was so good
that the first orchards in the region were watered with water carried by
horse-drawn wood water tanks from nearby rivers. Farming and settlement
expanded with irrigation projects in the early 1900’s. A rail spur extending
from the main line in Caldwell, Idaho through Greenleaf to the City of Wilder
was put in, with original plans of expansion to San Francisco, California
that did not come to fruition.
the fierce spirit of independence and close-knit culture of the community,
incorporation as a city was not a priority. The City of Greenleaf incorporated in 1973 in response to
the potential need for a community sewer system. With a water and wastewater
improvement bond levy election in 2000, the city took ownership and
responsibility for a water system and wastewater collection system operated to
that point by a private water and sewer association.
City of Greenleaf
Photo of a few older
buildings in Melba
in the midst of sagebrush, Melba became an oasis in the desert to the
pioneers who had homesteaded south of there near the Snake
River at the beginning of the 20th Century. The only sign of life
was Sagebrush Annie, the train that went through the area and crossed the river
to Murphy everyday. Folks on the north side of the river got their groceries
and mail at the little town of Guffey
in Owyhee County on the other side of the river.
They walked across the train bridge or rode over on Perry’s Ferry.
C. Todd was passing through the area on his way to Alaska to search for gold. He stopped over
in Weiser to visit a friend, Mr. Fuller. Fuller told him about the new sale of
state land going on. So, in August of 1912, Mr. Todd purchased 160 acres of
land at Rock Spur, a siding on the railroad, and laid out a town. He named it
after his little four-year-old daughter who was still in California with her mother, Bessie B. Todd.
It was a
boom town in the middle of the bustling farming community. Melba would always
be known as a farming community. Right after the First World War, it would
become famous for raising highbred sweet corn seed. While some were raising
carrot seed, onion seed, alfalfa seed, as well as corn, for years it would be
known as “The Seed Heart of America”.
was named because it was midway between Boise
and an old ferry on the Snake River. Middleton
is the oldest settlement in Canyon
County, with the land
being parceled out in 1863 by William N. Montgomery. The Boise River
flooded in 1872 and cut a new channel, isolating the town on an island; as a
result, the town moved to a new location in the years after 1880. The town
incorporated as a city in 1910 (although the certificate wasn’t issued until
City of Middleton
Panoramic view of Nampa
not known for certain where the name “Nampa”
came from. But as the Oregon Short Line was built through Idaho, unusual names were given to some of
the stations. Many of these unusual names were believed to be of Indian origin.
However, contrary to what many people thought, Nampa, Idaho
is not the only place in the world with this name. For example, there is a town in Canada named Nampa.
and Hannah Duffes, with the encouragement of James
McGee, saw the possibilities in the land east of Caldwell, and in 1885 homesteaded on 160
acres with the express purpose of creating a town. The next year, Duffes and McGee formed the Nampa Land
and Improvement Company, dividing the property into lots. Duffes
was a very religious man and dreamed of a town with no saloons. He refused to
sell town lots to anyone who intended to build a saloon on them. This caused
people to refer to the town of Nampa
as “New Jerusalem”.
Boise had been bypassed by
the Oregon Short Line as they built west. But in 1887, the Idaho Central
Railway was built, connecting Boise with the
main line of the Oregon Short Line at Nampa.
A wood frame structure was brought in from King Hill to serve as a passenger
depot in Nampa.
was the promise of irrigation that brought many emigrants to homestead in the
land surrounding Nampa.
During the season of 1890, the Phyllis
Canal brought irrigation water to Nampa and surrounding areas, and in 1891, the extension of
Canal was completed. With
the completion of these canals, an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 acres of prime
farmland adjacent to Nampa
could be cleared of sagebrush and put under cultivation. On April 17, 1891, a
municipal government was formed and the town of Nampa was incorporated.
City of Nampa
arriving in Wilder as early as 1904 with the hope of irrigation water
being provided soon with the development of the Boise Project. Referred to as a
barren tract of sagebrush land, the area bloomed into one of the most fertile
agricultural regions in the nation.
“Wilder” is believed to have been named for Marshall P. Wilder, publisher of a
popular woman’s magazine, “The Delineator.” Mr. Wilder allegedly offered to
print a positive article about the community, if the town received his name.
Many of the townspeople wanted to name the town “Golden
Gate” after the first store built by E.M. Small named the Golden
Gate Store which was located along the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company.
Although the town did not acquire that name, other parts of the community did.
A store, school, canal, church, irrigation district, and the highway district
all received that name.
City of Wilder
Notus – Has a population of 458
Parma – The Old Fort Boise is located in Parma.
City of Parma
Wikipedia, City of Nampa, City of Wilder, City of Melba, City
of Greenleaf, Caldwell Chamber of Commerce