History of Idaho, Volume 1, by Hiram T. French, M.S.
The Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago and New York 1914, Page 195-200
CANYON COUNTY (Page 195-200)
Canyon county was originally a part of Ada, from which it was separated by an act of the legislature approved March 7, 1891. It is irregular in contour and has an area of 1,283 square miles. On the east are the counties of Boise and Ada. Its south and west boundaries are defined by the Snake river and a small section of the Oregon line, while on the north is Washington county.
In size, Canyon county belongs among the" smaller subdivisions, but in its relation to the agricultural and horticultural interests of the state, it is excelled by none. In population it stands second, having, according to the last census, 25,323 residents.
It has been said repeatedly by irrigation and government engineers that no state in the arid region is as well supplied with water for irrigation as Idaho, and with equal truth it may be asserted that no county within the state has a better water supply than Canyon. The northern part is traversed from east to west by the wonderful Payette valley, through which flows the river of that name—one of the largest streams in the state. This river, together with its numerous tributaries, rises in the heavily timbered mountains where the altitude is high and the snowfall deep, making the water supply a large and lasting one. The major portion of the lands that can be easily watered from the Payette river lie in Canyon county. Near Emmett, in the eastern part of the county, the valley widens into broad stretches of bench and river bottom lands, which continue down the river thirty miles to its confluence with the Snake near the town of Payette. The large, fertile valley thus formed has already made the county and state famous for its rich crops of fruits, melons and farm products. Through this section the banks of the river are low and the water is easily diverted.
The lands of the central and southern portion of the county are watered from the Boise river, which enters from the east and continues across the county to its western boundary. This is also a wide valley, composed of bench and bottom lands extending in level stretches for miles on both sides of the river. It is for the reclamation of the large area of land" lying south of the Boise river that the government is now constructing the great irrigation system known as the Boise project, which will water between two hundred thousand and two hundred and fifty thousand acres of these rich lands.
Aside from Arrowrock dam, this enterprise is practically completed, and water is stored in and is being used from the Deerflat reservoir, said to be the largest artificial body of water in the United States. A portion of the valley that was appropriated for this reservoir was already in cultivation, it being necessary for the government to purchase the ranches before beginning construction work. At the lower end is a dam which cost about a half million dollars. Smaller dams are located at other points to supplement nature in the forming of this great retaining basin. To make this enterprise more efficacious and to reclaim a large acreage lying above the level of Deerflat reservoir the government is now building the Arrowrock dam, on the Boise river, which is the highest structure of the kind ever attempted in any part of the world. The entire project, when finished, will afford one of the best water rights in the West.
Geologically, the southern portion of Canyon county, embracing the Boise valley, is a part of the region which received the recent lava flows, while the country tributary to the Payette valley belongs to the older lava formation, known as the Columbia river. The western part of the county lies in the bed of the ancient Payette lake. The soil of the valleys is generally very fertile. It is composed of volcanic ash and the disintegrated lavas, and is rich in the minerals requisite for heavy crop production. In sections, the humus is lacking, but the fact that this section seems to be the natural home of alfalfa and red clover makes the supplying of the needed nitrogenous matter a simple process.
Canyon county is not only a leading fruit section, but is also one of the earliest in the state. The commercial orchards of the Payette valley have been in bearing for years and their products are known throughout the markets of the world. The premier fruit is the apple, the chief shipping varieties being Jonathan, Rome Beauty, Winesap and Arkansas Black. Many other kinds, among which are Grimes Golden, Pippin, Wagner, Delicious and the Pearmains, attain great perfection and are prime favorites locally.
Not only apples, but quantities of other tree and small fruits are grown in this county. Emmett has made a name for itself in the production of peaches, and its vineyards are making an excellent showing. Commercially, prunes rank next to apples, and the orchards containing this fruit have proven very profitable. Almost without exception, all orchard fruits suitable to the temperate zone reach perfect maturity in Canyon county. While the commercial orchards are confined to a very few varieties, the family orchards are rich in the diversity as well as in the quality of their products. Small fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries and currants, are large, prolific and finely flavored.
In melon production, Canyon county ranks with the well-known Rocky Ford district of Colorado. The melons grown near Payette equal their rivals in quality and have the advantage of being ready for market two weeks earlier.
The great fertility of the soil is evidenced by the bumper crops. Not considering the spectacular yields, of which there are many instances, a conservative statement, based on carefully collected statistics for the year 1912, shows the following average production per acre: Wheat, twenty-eight bushels; oats, forty-one bushels; barley, twenty-seven bushels; corn, thirty-seven bushels. There must be taken into consideration, also, that in these estimates there figures a large acreage of land that has just been redeemed from the sagebrush, much of which has as yet been imperfectly leveled, and on which the yield is lower than it will be after a few years of cultivation.
In the production of corn, Canyon is the banner county. The growing of this grain, which is of such importance in the great corn belt of the United States, seems destined to work a revolution in this section in the kinds of crops and the live-stock industry. Until recently, it had been generally accepted that this western region was not a corn country; that corn could not be successfully grown here because the hot nights are lacking. Many progressive farmers have in late years been experimenting in corn growing, testing the different varieties and the best methods of its irrigation and cultivation. Returns are just in for the season of 1913, and because of the importance of the subject, the following instances are cited as proof of what has been accomplished: In the Deerflat country, Charles F. Oellian grew seventy bushels to the acre; on the Roswell bench, J. H. Trout gathered an average of one hundred and ten bushels from each of the eleven acres planted to corn; while W. B. Gilmore, of Payette, caps the record with one hundred and twenty bushels per acre.
The splendid nutritive qualities of corn are generally recognized. To be able to produce large corn crops in a country that is already famous for the perfect production of that other prime provender, alfalfa, would expand the profits in the growing swine and of dairy cows to the utmost limit, and for these purposes would make this irrigated section of unsurpassed value.
In live-stock, as well as in farming, Canyon county stands in the front rank. In its horses, which number almost ten thousand, and its more than five thousand dairy cows, Canyon, according to the latest statistics, is the first county in the state, while the last two years have witnessed a rapid increase in its herds of hogs. Despite the large amount of land that is under cultivation, there still remain extensive grazing grounds. The bands of sheep in Canyon county aggregate seventy-five thousand head.
Within the county are 860,300 acres, of which 215,000 are public lands, all of which, except a few thousand acres, have been surveyed and classed as arid and grazing lands. Recently thirty-five thousand acres have been set aside as subject to entry under the enlarged homestead act to be dry farmed. At this time there are 186,236 acres for the irrigation of which water is obtainable, and almost this entire area is in actual cultivation. The completion of the Boise project, which will reclaim lands in both Canyon and Ada counties, will increase the irrigable area.
The fertile country lying north of the Boise river in this county, and which is usually referred to as the Black Canyon district, will in time be a valuable addition to the irrigated section. These tracts are among the richest in the state, but require a large expenditure of capital before they can be watered. Steps are being taken to secure government aid in the reclamation of this valuable territory.
In the number of children of school age Canyon county ranks second. The people are interested in education and school affairs throughout the county are efficiently conducted. The larger towns have high school courses which conform to standard requirements. The valuation of the school property is estimated at $611,342.51.
The number and strength of the banking institutions in the county testify to the material prosperity of the people. There are fifteen banks, no other county in the state having so large a number, and their deposits total about four million dollars.
The town most closely connected with the first location within the county is Parma, situated on the Oregon Short Line Railroad, and within three miles of the site of old Fort Boise, established in 1834, which figured so largely in the very early days when Idaho was still a part of the "Oregon" country. The actual site of this historic trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company is no longer on dryland. The Snake river has so changed its course as to sweep into mid-stream the place where stood the old fort that was one of the important points along the much traveled "Oregon Trail." This thoroughfare of emigrant days forms a part of Main street of Parma, and a granite slab, setting out the facts, now stands at the corner of the Parma State Bank. Parma is a place of several hundred, in the center of a coming fruit section, and is the railroad outlet for the rich Roswell country. It is one the important shipping points along the Oregon Short Line.
New Plymouth is in the heart of the Payette valley, located on the branch of the Short Line Railway which connects Payette and Emmett. It is surrounded by the finest of fruit lands and its people, for sturdiness and integrity, may be likened to those other brave pioneers who many years ago landed at old Plymouth on the coast of New England.
Boise valley was among the first settled sections, as it was through it that the miners Centered Boise basin. One of the earliest and best known citizens of Canyon was Elijah Frost, who came to the valley in 1865 and later took up land near Caldwell, where he had large holdings. Mr. Frost crossed the plains five times as captain of emigrant trains and his experience in and knowledge of the West was extensive. He brought into the Boise valley the first mowing machine. Large tracts were then covered with the wild or native hay. This Mr. Frost cut and hauled to Idaho City, where it sold for $100 a ton and sometimes even higher.
Of those now residing in Canyon county, none bring back so vividly the early days as do the three Johnson brothers, who live in their little two-room cabin a few miles from Caldwell. They came to this country from Missouri in 1864. They acquired many acres of valuable pasture and spring land, where they kept their herds of cattle. All these years they have lived apart from their kind, caring for themselves, and with no desire to be identified with the activities that sprang up around them. They have clung to old ways and customs, and it is only recently that they abandoned cooking by the fireplace and substituted a modern stove. The oldest brother is now nearing the century mark and is blind. The second brother, Tom, who has been the business representative of the trio, was famed locally for his long beard, which readied the ground and of which he was very proud. Rut it proved too great a care and it was sacrificed. For a half century these men have lived, deaf to the call of progress, and have stood aside while the wave of advancement and civilization swept past them; and so they will continue to live until they hear the last great call, against which resistance is futile.
Caldwell is the county seat. Historically it is connected with the deplorable event which caused the death of Ex-Governor Frank Steuenenberg. A miscreant placed a bomb at the entrance to the Steuenenberg home in Caldwell. There ensued one of the hardest fought legal battles in which labor troubles have figured, which is treated in detail in the chapter on political events.
In addition to Caldwell, Nampa, Payette and Emmett are important centers and are given special mention. Canyon has more towns with a population of two thousand or more than any other county in the state. Of the many hamlets and villages which indicate the prosperity of Boise valley, Middleton, with its five hundred people, is the largest. It has the advantage of being located on the Idaho Northern Railroad and also on the electric loop line.
The railroads have undoubtedly been a great factor in the upbuilding of this section. The trunk road of the Oregon Short Line passes through Canyon county, giving it transportation since 1884. Several years ago a branch of this road was built from Payette to New Plymouth, and was afterwards extended to Emmett. The Idaho Northern, better known locally as the "Dewey road," begins at Murphy, across the Snake river in Owyhee county, and runs through Nampa to Emmett. An extension from the last named town to the Payette lakes has just been completed. These roads form a circuit on which ( are the principal towns of the county. A branch of the Oregon Short Line connects i. Nampa and Boise, and a spur has been built west from Caldwell which taps the productive agricultural lands around Greenleaf and Wilder.
The eastern portion of the country has excellent interurban connections. For years there have been electric lines from Boise, the state capital, to Caldwell and Nampa, respectively. These roads have now been taken over by the Idaho Traction Company and the missing link, covering the nine miles between
Nampa and Caldwell, has been constructed, giving an excellent loop service. The Caldwell Traction Company has an electric line extending several miles to the southwest from Caldwell and opening the fertile Deerflat country. This line was originally built for freighting during the construction of the dam at the Deerflat reservoir, or Lake Lowell, but has since been improved and extended. This electric line makes Lake Lowell easily accessible and it is becoming a well known pleasure resort. This great body of water, with a short line of twenty-seven miles, affords splendid fishing and boating. A pavilion, brilliantly lighted by electricity, has just been completed, a park laid out and trees planted.