~ Elmore County ~

 

   Elmore County was established February 7, 1889, with its county seat at Rocky Bar. Named for the Ida Elmore mines, the area’s greatest silver and gold producer of the 1860’s.

 

   

Rocky Bar, now a ghost town in Elmore County, was founded in December 1863 soon after gold was discovered along the nearby Feather River. Within two years it became the main settlement in the area and was even considered as a possible capital for Idaho Territory. At its height in the late 19th century Rocky Bar boasted a population of over 2,500 and served as county seat of Alturas County from 1864 to 1882. It was also the original county seat of Elmore County when it was created in 1889.

 

   Rocky Bar is a ghost town in Elmore County. At its height in the late 19th century Rocky Bar boasted a population of over 2,500 and served as county seat of Alturas County from 1864 to 1882. It was also the original county seat of Elmore County when it was created in 1889.

  (Alturas County was a county in Idaho Territory and later the state of Idaho from 1864 to 1895. It covered an area larger than the states of Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware combined. Most present-day southern Idaho counties were created at least in part from the original Alturas County area. The name Alturas comes from a Spanish word for “mountain summits” or “mountainous heights.”

  Alturas County was created by the Idaho Territorial Legislature in February 1864. Later that year the mining camp of Rocky Bar was designated the county seat. The county seat was moved to Hailey in 1882.

  In 1889, the Idaho Territorial Legislature created Elmore County and Logan County from parts of Alturas County. On March 5, 1895, to circumvent a recent state Supreme Court decision striking down an earlier county reorganization, the Idaho Legislature combined Alturas and Logan Counties into a new county called Blaine. Two weeks later on March 18, the southern portion of the newly-created Blaine County was split off to form Lincoln County with its county seat at Shoshone. Hailey remained the county seat of what was now Blaine County and Alturas County disappeared from the Idaho map.)

  Rocky Bar was founded in December 1863 soon after gold was discovered along the nearby Feather River. Within two years it became the main settlement in the area and was even considered as a possible capital for Idaho Territory. The town was destroyed by fire in 1892. Although it was rebuilt, afterwards it began a slow decline. Rocky Bar has not had a permanent population since the 1960s.

  Rocky Bar is located 62 miles northeast of Mountain Home.

  Atlanta is an unincorporated town in Elmore County. It was founded in 1864 during the Civil War as a gold and silver mining community and named by Southerners after a rumored Confederate victory over General Sherman in the Battle of Atlanta, which turned to be wholly false, but the name stuck. While the official website for the town indicates it was settled in 1863, the town was not settled until 1864. Mining activity near Atlanta preceded its establishment as a mining community. The John Stanley party discovered gold on the nearby Yuba River on July 20, 1864, just two days prior to the battle back in Georgia. That November, John Simmons made the discovery of the Atlanta lode which contained both gold and silver.

 

  

The town of Atlanta, Idaho. Photo (above left) taken by John Hazlett on 8/31/2005 from China Basin Road, north of town. Atlanta, 1906 (above right) – The early mining boom was over and at the turn of the 20th Century the town had settled into a mountain community, hidden away in the Sawtooth Mountains. The only road in was over James Creek from Rocky Bar and Featherville. There were stores, saloons, and a brewery. Mining was still the main business. Greylock Mountain is in the background.

See “Atlanta, The First Gold & Silver Discoveries” by John Hiler in March 2012 El-Wyhee Hi-Lites page 3.

 

  Atlanta is at an elevation of 5383 feet above sea level surrounded by the Boise National Forest, located near the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Boise River, approximately 2 miles east of the mouth of the Yuba River. The Sawtooth Mountains are directly north, and Idaho City is approximately 35 miles due west, as the crow flies.

  Though founded as a mining community, and a number of private claims remain in the area, no significant commercial mining has occurred in the area for over 50 years, though more recently inquiries into opening a new plant have seen some headway. In place of mining, Atlanta has diversified into areas such as tourism, back-country activities, and preservation of the town’s lengthy historic legacy.

  During this early westward period the majority of emigrants passed through Idaho on their way to California or Oregon. Only a handful of pioneers settled in Idaho and they mostly were merchants who supplied the needs of the wagon trains. But in the early 1860’s the discovery of gold in Idaho resulted in a population boom. For the first time in our nation’s history a reverse migration eastward occurred. The California miners returned to Idaho and Alturas County, later to become Elmore County. Alturas is a Spanish name that means “mountain summit or heavens” and was one of the original counties in Idaho. Established on February 4, 1864, Alturas encompassed a huge area in southern Idaho, extending from the north fork of the Boise River, south to the Snake River, and from American Falls west to Indian Creek.

  In the beginning years, the county’s population was concentrated in what was known as the South Boise Mines, including Rocky Bar, Atlanta Esmerelda and Junction Bar. These early mining communities reflected the disruption of the Civil War then raging in the East, making a mixture of people from all walks of life. Some were petty thieves, shysters, and restless unfortunates who rushed from strike to strike with visions of wealth bright in their eyes. Some were miners from the earlier gold rush to Elmore Mining District in Alabama who went to California as ‘49ers and then came to Idaho Territory, bringing their southern names with them.  Their influence is evident in the names of a town, Atlanta and gold mines the Jeff Davis, and   Southern Confederacy. Also participating in the early mining camps were the Chinese. A census in 1870 showed that a large portion of miners were Oriental. The Chinese miners were often willing to work for less, almost slave wages, and had the reputation for being very industrious and clannish miners keeping to themselves and living a frugal and healthy lifestyle.

  When mining activities in the camps began to show results the character of the mining camps changed. On the heels of the prospectors came permanent settlers. The camps had attracted not only faro dealers, bawdy houses, and dance hall girls but also merchants, lawyers, and editors, men and women who were willing to endure the rugged life for the high prices that their services could demand. The largest camps are now only ghost towns, with only memories remaining.

  By 1896 the district had produced 100,000 ounces of gold. But gold, silver, and other precious metals were not the only things to come out of the Alturas mining camps. A wealth of western stories involving shootings, hangings, and other assorted skullduggery were produced during the heyday of the camps. The stories and characters were always full of grit, courage, warmth, and perseverance.

  Early farmers and ranchers arrived upon the heels of the miners. Small ranches and farms began to spring up around the way stations. The families settled on land near transportation routes and water. Settlement was encouraged by the offer of up to 320 acres to each individual who could make the required land improvements and locate water. This process was called “proving up the land”. The ranchers and farmers continually expanded operations to supply agricultural products to the booming mining communities.

  Many farm and ranch families came to Elmore County because of land schemes promoted by the railroad and land developers. Promotional campaigns referred to Idaho as the “Switzerland of the west”, and Mountain Home as the garden spot of southern Idaho. Settlers were promised successful crops, plentiful water, and a healthful climate. The claims, although exaggerated, contained some truth. The land was rich, producing 3 to 5 times as many bushels per acre as land in Illinois, Virginia, or Tennessee. The land was also capable of producing a variety of crops, and prosperous farmers invested in cherries, plums, apples, grain, cattle, horses, and sheep.

  Cattle, horse, and sheep raising became important industries in Elmore County. By 1888 the county had 35,000 cows, 60,000 sheep, and 8,000 horses. Wool and mutton production rivaled the cattle and horse industry. Sheep adapted well to the desert and high mountain ranges, although according to cattlemen they ruined the ranges for grazing cattle. Conflict resulted between the Glenns Ferry cattlemen and the Mountain Home sheepherders. The disagreements persisted until sheep production became more profitable than cattle. From the 1890’s until after 1918 Mountain Home was one of the Horse Capitals of the world and Kitty Wilkins was known everywhere as the “Horse Queen of Idaho.”

  Young Basque men from the Pyrenees Mountains, between France and Spain, provided the labor for the sheep industry. In their native land they had been fishermen, craftsmen, and farmers, but in America, they turned their hands to sheep herding and shearing. These Basque emigrants had a significant cultural impact on Elmore County.

  As the communities of Mountain Home and Glenns Ferry grew, Rocky Bar and Atlanta declined the Alturas County seat was changed to Hailey as it was reached by the railroad in 1882. Almost immediately residents began to push for a new county and the creation of Elmore County was hotly debated. Finally, as its last act, the last Territorial Legislature created Elmore County on February 7, 1889. The county seat was first returned to Rocky Bar but soon changed to Mountain Home.

  The period from 1890 to 1913 was known as the growth years for the county. The completion of the Oregon Short Line (OSL) railroad in 1883 allowed for the shipment of mining and agricultural products to world markets. The outbreak of WWI intensified demand for these products; especially wool that was used to manufacture military uniforms. The end of the war also was the end of the agricultural boom. The slump that began in the 20’s intensified during the Great Depression. Many small farmers and ranchers lost their land. Economic conditions did not improve significantly in the county until 1941 when construction was begun on Anderson Ranch Dam, then the highest earth-filled dam in the world and then with the outbreak of WWII crop prices improved and construction of Mountain Home Air Force Base began.

 

Anderson Dam

Mountain Home Air Force Base June 1945

 

  The post-war era heralded permanent changes in the character of the county. The mining industry had collapsed, cattle replaced sheep, and farming exploded with the introduction of high lift pumping and new technologies. The Air Base remained after the war, although it de-activated for brief periods between 1945 and 1964. The base had a tremendous impact on the community. First, it became the largest employer in the county. Second, the influx of military personnel and their families resulted in a rapid growth of population. Thirdly, business sectors grew to meet the needs of the air base and its military family. And, finally a diverse military population provided the community with a wealth of cultural diversities unique in the state of Idaho.

  Early settlers were attracted to Elmore County because of the promise of unlimited opportunities. These opportunities still exist today. And the future promises to be as exciting, turbulent, and unpredictable as the past.

  Elmore County is located in Southwestern Idaho. It is bounded on the north by Boise County, on the east by Blaine, Camas, Gooding, and Twin Falls counties, on the south by Owyhee County, and on the west by Ada County.

  Elmore is a large county covering more than 3,000 square miles. Approximately 60% of the county is mountainous. The remaining 40% slopes gently down into the Snake River plain. Elmore County has altitudes ranging from 2500 feet to over 9700 feet. Seventy percent of the county is owned by varying departments of the federal government including the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Bureau of Land Management. Approximately 22% of Elmore County’s lands are designated farm lands.

  The topography of Elmore County is extremely varied, from low elevation plains to high, steep mountainous terrain. The county is divided into two district provinces, the Northern rocky Mountain Province-Idaho Batholith, and the Columbia Plateau Province-Snake River Plain in the southern 1/3 of the county.

  High glaciated mountains in the northern province, especially the area north of Atlanta, are dotted with several hundred glacial lakes. The terrain is very steep, rocky, and rugged, and much is granite rock covered with alpine vegetation.

  The Snake River Plain supports both irrigated agriculture and spring-fall grazing for cattle and sheep. The major limitation to further expansion of agriculture in this area is water. Soils also are a limited factor in a few sections of the Snake River Plain.

  Elmore County is Idaho’s 14th most populous county and ranks as the sixth largest in area of Idaho’s 44 counties. Seventy-two percent of the county is federally owned. The county’s population has experienced some ups and downs through the years but during the 10-year period of 1997 to 2007 it increased by 6.2 percent, down from the 9.6 percent recognized from 1996 to 2006. This increase amounts to 1,688 new residents since 1997, 475 of this total came in 2007 alone. Elmore County is home to the Mountain Home Air Force Base located in the southwestern corner of the county near the city of Mountain Home. The base is home to a significant population of military personnel and their families.

  Cities in Elmore County: Glenns Ferry & Mountain Home

Other communities: Atlanta, Featherville, Hammett, King Hill, Pine, Prairie, Rocky Bar (ghost town), and Tipanuk. Mountain Home Air Force Base, located 10 miles southwest of Mountain Home, is a military community.

 

Back in the early days they moved houses by use of the railroad such as this house near King Hill.

 

   Glenns Ferry was one of the most famous river crossings on the Oregon Trail. Pioneers forded the Snake River at the Three Island Crossing until 1869, when Gustavus “Gus” Glenn constructed a ferry about two miles upstream, primarily to expedite freight but also for emigrants. His boat, which could hold two wagons, cut nearly twenty miles from the former route.

 

Glenns Ferry Rail Road Station 1889

Early Glenns Ferry

 

Glenns Ferry History

Become a Facebook Fan of Glenns Ferry

 

  Three Island Crossing State Park, opened in 1971, is home to The Oregon Trail History and Education Center, where visitors can learn about pioneer emigrants and Native American history.

  The townsite was platted in 1871, just downstream from the ferry site, and the first bridge across the Snake River was built here in 1908.

   Mountain Home originated as a stage stop (Rattlesnake Station, founded in 1864) for the famous Overland Stages eight miles from its present location. When the railroad (Oregon Short Line) came through in 1883 it brought with it a new mail delivery service. The postmaster and stage agent, Jule Hage, packed up the post office and moved it down the hill to the railroad. Along with him came the name and settlement of Mountain Home.

  Mountain Home was incorporated as a village in 1896. The initial village board consisted of A.B. Clark, R.F. Whitney, W.J. Turner and G.F. Mahoney.

 

Mountain Home pioneers

Mountain Home Rail Road Depot

 

Mountain Home History

 

  Mountain Home became a shipping and distribution center for the livestock, mining and logging business.

    When irrigation systems were built, with the help of high-lift pumping and the construction of irrigation dams, the agricultural industry became stronger and much of the desert land was opened to farming. Thousands of acres of land could now produce grain, hay, sugar beets, potatoes, and beans.

  Livestock production and, more recently, the dairy industry have also made a considerable contribution to the local economy.

  Mountain Home has a current population of approximately 14,600 and is a community of diverse cultures. It sets at an elevation of 3,143 feet. The hottest month is July and the coldest is January. Average annual precipitation is 10.7 inches.

  Mountain Home is especially proud of its parks, visitor’s center, golf course, and museum.

  Being centrally located in Elmore County, Mountain Home is referred to as “The Hub of Elmore County”.

  Mountain Home Air Force Base, located 10 miles from Mountain Home, was established during the early stages of World War II. The Air Base would become one of the major life lines for Mountain Home.

  Prior to December 7th the War Department had begun building Army Air Fields and Camps. With the beginning of the war the schedule was accelerated and suddenly many small towns found that they were to be the host of a large military establishment. This is exactly what happened to a little town with a `940 population of 1,163, Mountain Home, Idaho suddenly was a big player in winning the war.

  Early in 1942 the base establishment commission began looking at southern Idaho for places to put Army Air Fields. They found one at Pocatello and Gowen Field in Boise was authorized. Jerome, Idaho was carefully reviewed for a base but the commission thought that land there was too expensive at between $5 and $25 an acre. The commission came to Mountain Home. The community was on the railroad main line and astride Highway 30. Meteorological records were reviewed and it was found that there was little problem with bad weather or fog. Land was easily had for $.50 to $1.50 per acre, the base could be removed from all encroachment, water was available from deep wells and there was an abundance of Federal lands available for a large training range. In short order a deal was struck and Gus Nelson and Father King the local Catholic priest sold the US Army a large tract of land for about $1.00 an acre. The Sagebrush desert was perfect for the long level runways to be built for those airplanes that were still on the drawing boards waiting for engines to power them into the sky. In a few weeks construction began.

 

The photo above is of a B-47 Stratojet as it sits on the ramp at Mountain Home AFB. A true jet bomber it changed US airpower and was designed and built to last almost forever. (photo courtesy Mountain Home Air Force Base)

 

 

F-111F at Mountain Home Air Force Base.

 

Mountain Home AFB F-15s in flight.

 

Previous names:

Army Air Base, Mountain Home, Nov 1942

Mountain Home Army Air Field, 2 Dec 1943.

Mountain Home Air Force Base, 13 Jan 1948–Present

 

Source: Wikipedia, John Hiler, MHAFB, El-Wyhee Hi-Lites

 

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El-Wyhee Hi-Lites

 

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Elmore County Veterans Service Officer

 

 

 

   This is an appointed position by the Elmore County Commissioners for the benefit of veterans and their families that reside in Elmore County.  This position is filled four hours a day, five days a week for the purpose to provide counseling, guidance and administrative assistance to veterans, retirees, spouses and dependents of deceased veterans.

   The Service Officer (Mr. A.W. “Wade” Baumgardner) assists in completing specific required VA and other governmental forms.  He assists in writing statements in support of claims for service and non-service connected disabilities, widow pensions, registration for the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery, and health-care applications for the VA Hospital and more.

   The Service Officer is knowledgeable of Federal Veterans Laws, Rules and Regulations that govern adjudication of claims for VA benefits.  He is familiar with relevant statutes (Title 38 USC) and Regulations (38 CFR) that dictate how claims and benefits are granted, case appeal procedures and appellate rights and due process.

   Monetary return has proven to be very rewarding to the county.  During the 2008 calendar year there was $6,204,825 returned to Elmore County.  This amount was through several types of monetary awards, such as disability compensations, widow pensions, burial allowances, indemnity compensations and vocational rehabilitation.  This substantial amount is a direct revenue return to the community through the purchase of goods and services by our veterans and their families.

   On an average, the Elmore County Services Office assists 21 veterans, retirees, surviving spouses and family members on a monthly basis.  The Service Officer also conducts ‘Outreach’ services and provides visits to the Pine/Featherville area and Glenns Ferry.

   The office has also set up a special program for our wheelchair bound veterans, providing travel for their medical appointments to the VA Hospital in Boise, at no cost to the veteran.

   This is an outstanding service provided to Elmore County veterans and has turned into a real asset to residents.  Mr. Baumgardner’s office is located in the Elmore County War Memorial Hall (American Legion Hall) and is staffed Monday-Friday 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM.  Mr. Baumgardner’s office number is (208) 587-4909, call for an appointment.

 

Topography of Elmore County

 

   Elmore County is located in Southwestern Idaho. It is bounded on the north by Boise County, on the east by Blaine, Camas, Gooding, and Twin Falls counties, on the south by Owyhee County, and on the west by Ada County.

  Elmore is a large county covering more than 3,000 square miles. Approximately 60% of the county is mountainous. The remaining 40% slopes gently down into the Snake River plain. Elmore County has altitudes ranging from 2500 feet to over 9700 feet. Seventy percent of the county is owned by varying departments of the federal government including the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Bureau of Land Management. Approximately 22% of Elmore County’s lands are designated farm lands.

  The topography of Elmore County is extremely varied, from low elevation plains to high, steep mountainous terrain. The county is divided into two district provinces, the Northern rocky Mountain Province-Idaho Batholith, and the Columbia Plateau Province-Snake River Plain in the southern 1/3 of the county.

  High glaciated mountains in the northern province, especially the area north of Atlanta, are dotted with several hundred glacial lakes. The terrain is very steep, rocky, and rugged, and much is granite rock covered with alpine vegetation.

  The Snake River Plain supports both irrigated agriculture and spring-fall grazing for cattle and sheep. The major limitation to further expansion of agriculture in this area is water. Soils also are a limited factor in a few sections of the Snake River Plain.