~Twin Falls County~





   Twin Falls County was established on February 21, 1907 with its county seat at Twin Falls. It was named for the nearby waterfalls on the Snake River. The Snake River is the county’s northern boundary. As of the 2010 Census, the county had a population of 77,230.

   Prior to the 1860s, the Twin Falls County area was an unorganized part of Shoshone lands, then as part of the Oregon Country. The area was first organized as part of the original Owyhee County in 1864 as part of Idaho Territory. In 1879 it was partitioned away from Owyhee County to form part of Cassia County.

   The first permanent settlement in the area was a stage stop established in 1864 at Rock Creek for the Ben Holladay Stage Line. In 1865 James Bascom built the Rock Creek Store. In 1876 Herman Stricker purchased the store and remained the proprietor until it closed in 1897.



  In its day, Rock Creek saw westward migration, freight and passenger traffic, robberies, gun fights, range wars, mining booms and busts, water disputes, births, deaths, and marriages-organ music and flowers. Its doors welcomed Oregon Trail travelers, cowboys, farmers, miners, Indians, Chinese, Irish, British, Russians, Danes, Swedes, Germans and more. Some were well known including Ezra Meeker, cattle barons Jasper and A.J. Harrell and John Sparks, Diamond Jack, Buffalo Horn; many were less known.


Rock Creek Station was the first trading post on the Oregon Trail west of Fort Hall. It served as a saloon, dance hall, post office, polling place, and supply post for emigrants traveling west. At one time, the Rock Creek Station was the largest stage station between Fort Hall and Fort Boise. Today, travelers can visit the log store, two stone cellars, a cemetery and the 1901 Stricker home.



The Stricker family lived in a six-room log cabin (left) until it burned down. Only Lucy’s walnut bedroom set, her beloved organ, and pictures were saved. The family built a new home the same year. The walls are constructed of hand-hewn upright logs, hauled from Albion. In 1916, the house was extended, adding a formal dining room, kitchen, bath, service entrance, sun porch, and storage area. The upper floor was a hotel for cowboys, travelers, and later for construction workers on the Milner Dam and Twin Falls Canal System. The photo to the right and those below are of the house as it looks today. Photos by Ed Walter.



  The Carey Act, a federal reclamation and land claim law, was important to the development of agriculture in the Rock Creek area. Federal public lands were donated to individual states, which then held the land until a private reclamation proposal was developed for a given tract. Individuals could then “prove up” and claim up to 160 acres of land. The men pictured below were instrumental in funding and promoting irrigation projects in the region.


Seated (l-r): J.H. Purdy, A.C. Milner, F.R. Gooding, George Baird, Frank L. Buhl, I.B. Perrine. Standing (l-r): D.C. McWaters, H.L. Hollister, M.J. Sweeley, Fentris Hill, S.H. Hays, Fred Voigt, C.A. Tush, R.W. Faris. Photo and info from Idaho State Historical Society.



   Even after Idaho became a state in 1890, there were only a handful of successful agricultural operations in the Snake River Canyon, but the lack of infrastructure and the canyon’s geography made irrigating the dry surrounding area improbable at best.

    To address this issue, in 1900 I. B. Perrine founded the Twin Falls Land and Water Company largely to build an irrigation canal system for the area. After an August 1900 survey of 244,025 acres in the area, in October 1900 the company was granted the necessary water rights to begin construction of the irrigation system. Several lots in the surveyed area were set aside specifically for future townsites. These lots eventually became the settlements of Twin Falls, Kimberly, Buhl, Filer, Hansen and Murtaugh. In 1902 the project nearly failed as most of the original investors pulled out, with only Salt Lake businessman Stanley Milner maintaining a stake in the company.



   Ira Burton Perrine (May 7, 1861 - October 2, 1943) was an Idaho farmer, rancher and businessman. Perrine is generally credited as the founder of Twin Falls and other towns in the Magic Valley region.

  Perrine was born in Delaware, Indiana, a son of George and Sarah Burton Perrine, and a descendant of Daniel Perrin, “The Huguenot”. He moved to Idaho Territory in 1884 and established a farm and ranch operation in the Snake River Canyon near present-day Jerome. Perrine was a successful farmer and rancher who among other things received a gold medal for his fruit display at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. The ranch remained in the Perrine family until 1964, when it was sold and became part of Blue Lakes Country Club.

  Although Perrine’s operation in the canyon received plenty of water, the surrounding area could not be easily irrigated and was therefore largely unproductive. Beginning in 1893 Perrine worked to convince private financiers to build a dam on the Snake River along with a corresponding canal system to irrigate the area. This work culminated in the 1900 founding of the Twin Falls Land and Water Company and the subsequent completion of Milner Dam in 1905.

  After Twin Falls was founded in 1904, Perrine served as a bank president and owned a hotel in the new city.

  Perrine is buried near his former ranch in Jerome County. Perrine Bridge and I. B. Perrine Elementary School in Twin Falls are named after him.


    By 1903 Perrine, who had been a successful farmer and rancher in the Snake River Canyon, had obtained private financing from Milner and others under the provisions of the Carey Act of 1894 to build a dam on the Snake River near Caldron Linn. Completed in 1905, Milner Dam and its accompanying canals made commercial irrigation outside the Snake River Canyon practical for the first time. As a result Perrine is generally credited as the founder of Twin Falls.



“On March 1, 1905, Frank Buhl gave a ceremonial pull on the wheel on a winch and the gates of Milner Dam were closed, and the gates to a thousand miles of canal and laterals were opened, and the Snake River was diverted, and that night Shoshone Falls went dry as the water rushed across the desert far above, and Perrine’s vision was realized, and 262,000 acres of desert were shortly transformed.” Photo (right) and information is from Milner Dam Interpretative Kiosk. Photo on the left was taken October 7, 2012.


   Most of the county’s other towns were established during this period as well. In response to local government needs for these new communities, which were as much as 80 miles away from Cassia County’s seat at Albion, Twin Falls County was created by the Idaho Legislature on February 21, 1907.

   Twin Falls city was founded in 1904 as a planned community, designed by celebrated Franco-American architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, with proceeds from sales of town site lots going toward construction of irrigation canals. Twin Falls was incorporated as a village on 12 April 1905. The city is named for a nearby waterfall on the Snake River of the same name. In 1907 Twin Falls became the seat of the newly-formed Twin Falls County.

    The original town site follows a unique design. It is laid out on northeast-to-southwest and northwest-to-southeast roads. The northwest-to-southeast roads were numbered and called avenues, while the northeast-to-southwest roads were numbered and called streets. Only two central streets, the northwest-to-southeast Main Avenue and the northeast-to-southwest Shoshone Street, were named. It is purported that the reason this was done was to allow sun to come into every room in the home at some point during the day. This system created situations where one side of a street may have an entirely different address than the other, and where the corner of “3rd and 3rd,” for example, was in more than one location. In 2003 the numbered northeast-to-southwest streets were renamed to alleviate decades of confusion. Later city roads, such as Blue Lakes Boulevard, Addison Avenue and Washington Street, are laid out in standard north-south and east-west orientations.


Hard to believe this is what Blue Lakes Boulevard looked like in 1906.

Photo from Shoshone Falls Interpretative Kiosk.


    After Milner Dam was constructed agricultural production in south-central Idaho increased substantially. In 1909 the privately-owned Twin Falls Land and Water Company was reorganized as the shareholder-owned Twin Falls Canal Company. Twin Falls became a major regional economic center serving the agriculture industry, a role which it has sustained to the present day. The city became a processing center for several agricultural commodities, notably beans and sugar beets. In later years other food processing operations augmented the local economy. By 1960 Twin Falls had become one of Idaho’s largest cities even though its origins were still within living memory for many.

    Twin Falls became the center of national attention in September 1974 thanks to an attempt by Evel Knievel to jump the Snake River Canyon in a specially-modified rocket cycle. Watched by millions on television, the attempt ultimately failed due to high winds and a premature deployment of Knievel’s parachute. The foundation of the launch ramp, which lies on private land, can still be seen.



  The Perrine Bridge, completed in 1927, crosses the Snake River Canyon north of Twin Falls. At the time of its construction it was the highest cantilever bridge in the world. It was replaced in 1976 with the current span, which is 1,500 foot long and 486 feet above the Snake River. It is still the highest bridge in Idaho.

   The privately financed $650,000 structure was originally a toll bridge, but the tolls were eliminated in 1940 after the bridge was purchased by the state of Idaho.

   By the early 1970s, the original bridge was outdated and unable to handle heavy loads and required replacement. Construction on the current bridge was completed in July, 1976 at a cost of $9,700,000. The original bridge was demolished.

   The bridge is named for I. B. Perrine, who spearheaded the early 20th Century irrigation projects in Idaho’s Magic Valley region and is largely credited as the main founder of Twin Falls. Photo on the left is from Shoshone Falls Interpretative Kiosk.


   Buhl was founded on April 17, 1906. It was named for Frank H. Buhl of Sharon, Pennsylvania, a major investor in a Carey Act project known as the Twin Falls South Side project, which introduced large-scale irrigation to the Magic Valley in the early 20th Century. The history of Buhl began with the vision of men who could see the potential hidden beneath the sagebrush-covered area. The U.S. government was interested in developing the west for settlement and provided financial assistance for early settlers under the Carey act and the Bureau of Reclamation Act in the early 1900’s. Eager financiers from the east arrived in the area in the early 1900’s to look at the possibilities. These men had been interested in a proposed irrigation project for the land in Southern Idaho called the Twin Falls South Side project.

   Frank Buhl came west from Sharon, Pennsylvania, to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1901 to examine a mining property that interested him. Discovering that it had already been sold, he decided to investigate a proposed irrigation development in southern Idaho (Twin Falls South side project). Mr. I.B. Perrine met Bulh at the train depot in Shoshone and introduced him to Peter Kimberly. Buhl and Kimberly formed the corporation that accomplished the project.

   The townsite of Buhl was platted in 1905, and the Twin Falls Investment Company sold lots at Broadway and Main Street for $1,750 each, in April, 1906. Much to the dismay of some early residents, the town was laid out in the same diagonal design as the city of Twin Falls. Normally a town is laid out in a north-south, east-west direction for ease of finding places, but the Buhl town site was arranged to get the most benefit from the sun.

   It was decided by members of the Twin Falls Land and Water Company that the town should be named after Frank H. Buhl because of his decision to donate land for the initial town site. Mr. Buhl continued to be a major support for the fledgling town throughout his life. He contributed $25,000 towards the building of the F.H. Buhl High School (now the middle school building) and the land for Faris Field (a game field used for baseball and soccer).

   Over 40 historical buildings encompass the downtown section of Buhl. The tree-lined streets are in the process of being upgraded with new sewer and electrical lines, new sidewalks and new urban furniture (street lamps, trash receptacles and benches).

  Lush grasses and fertile ground encompass the land around the rural town of Buhl. Along with a moderate climate, this land is ideal for raising animals and crops. Annual rainfall is about 10 inches. At an elevation of 3,660 feet, there are over 300 days of sunny skies.



  Balanced Rock - South of Buhl, 16 miles off Highway 30 in the Salmon Falls Creek Canyon, is the world-famous Balanced Rock. Over 48 feet tall, the rock balances on a pedestal 3 feet by 17 inches and weighs 40 tons.

  Sinking Canyon - Located six miles up the course of Salmon Falls Creek, is an interesting natural phenomenon called Sinking Canyon. The creation of the “canyon” created quite a stir in August of 1937. An article in the August 12, 1937 issue of the Buhl Herald read, “West End people have been witnessing an unusual geological phenomenon this week as a large area of farmland has dropped on an average of 150 feet to form a new canyon joining Salmon Canyon about five miles west of Buhl.”   The 12 acre block of land slid over a three week period.


   Castleford - Castleford was named for an early crossing of Salmon Falls Creek. The ford was so named because of the odd-shaped obelisks of rhyolite near the stream. The ford, used by pioneers in 1849, was also used by the Kelton-Dalles stage route.



   Filer was named after Walter G. Filer, who served as general manager of the Twin Falls Water and Land Company. The city was established in 1906 as the terminus of the Oregon Short Line branch of Twin Falls. Walter Filer was a mining engineer and surveyor from Sharon, Pennsylvania, who supervised the construction of the Milner diversion dam on the Snake River. Since 1916, the City of Filer has been the home of the Twin Falls County Fair & Magic Valley Stampede.

   Kimberly was founded in 1905. It is named after Peter L. Kimberly, a major investor in the construction of Milner Dam which made commercial irrigation practical in the area.

  Murtaugh is a small community originally known as Drytown. The town was later named for Mark Murtaugh, the assistant superintendent of the Twin Falls Canal Co., who was head of construction on the South Side Irrigation Project.

   Other towns in Twin Falls County include Hansen Hollister, and Rogerson.



  Hansen Bridge - Until 1919, when a high suspension bridge was completed here, this 16-mile long Snake River gorge could be crossed only in a rowboat.

  With 14 cables, each more than 900 feet long, a $100,000 suspension bridge was wide enough to accommodate two lanes of farm wagons or early cars that had begun to gain popularity then. From its deck nearly 400 feet above the Snake River, travelers had a spectacular view that still can be seen from the replacement, built in 1966.

Old Photo - The original Hansen Bridge, built in 1919 as a Suspension Bridge. Located on State Highway 50, 345 Ft. High, 688 Ft. Long. Photos from Wikipedia


   Excavations at Wilson Butte Cave near Twin Falls in 1959 revealed evidence of human activity, including arrowheads that rank among the oldest dated artifacts in North America. Later Native American tribes predominant in the area included the Northern Shoshone and Bannock.

    The first people of European ancestry to visit the Twin Falls area are believed to be members of a group led by Wilson Price Hunt, which attempted to blaze an all-water trail westward from St. Louis, Missouri, to Astoria, Oregon, in 1811 and 1812. Hunt’s expedition met with disaster when much of his expedition was destroyed and one man was killed in rapids on the Snake River known as Caldron Linn near present-day Murtaugh. Hunt and the surviving members of his expedition completed the journey to Astoria by land.



Wilson Price Hunt’s expedition met with disaster and one man was killed at this 40 foot wide passage on the Snake River near the Oregon Trail in 1811. During the spring and early summer the force of the force of the waters is a sight to see. These photos above were taken in early October when the waters were calm. A close look at the rocks and you can see the perfectly round holes that had been drilled into them by the swift churning waters.


    In 1812 and 1813, Robert Stuart successfully led an overland expedition eastward from Astoria to St. Louis which passed through the Twin Falls area. Stuart’s route formed the basis of what became the Oregon Trail. Some 150 years later, Robert Stuart Middle School in Twin Falls was named in his honor.


   Source: Twin Falls County, Buhl Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Stricker, Inc., Elmore County Press, Wikipedia, and web links.


Twin Falls County