By Ron Marlow
A. B. and Frank Moss from Wyoming, moved to Tamarack Flats with contract in hand to supply the incoming O. S. L. Railroad with 250,000 ties. To accomplish this, they built roads and bridges to Long Valley, employing 827 men. Ties were floated down the Payette River to its mouth on the Snake, where a boom was built to catch them. The storage area was on land owned by W. E. Masters and was called Boomerang. David Lamme established the first store, amid all the tents, storehouses and saloons. He moved to Idaho to first try his luck in the mines, but decided to settle in Boomerang.
Historians who argued about the name, Arthur Hart of the Idaho State Historical Society suggested that the town was named by someone (probably from Wyoming-maybe the Moss brothers) who were familiar with "Laramie Boomerang" a paper started by Bill Nye and 1881. This paper became internationally famous because of "humorous stories of frontier life and editor's droll comments on the events of the day."
Originally, the railroad survey showed the track leaving Idaho and crossing over the Snake River at Nyssa, coming up the valley below the Ontario bend and on to Huntington, missing Ontario, Payette and Weiser. This made building a bridge over the Snake River unnecessary. David Gorrie, who owned the land on the north side of the river, met with O. S. L. Company officials, offering them a 300 foot right of way through Boomerang for three miles. They accepted the offer and built a bridge.
The Moss brothers decided to locate there permanently after filling their railroad tie contract. A general store was built in 1884, which served the many railroad workers and track was laid that year. Business at the store was so good that the Moss brothers built a larger one. Their first one was made of railroad ties. Next door was a harness shop and the post office, with George Johnson as owner and postmaster.
The railroad first built a water tank, a pumping station and then a depot of ties with the name "Payette" on it. A. B. Moss later bought out his brother's interest in the store.
Frank turned to ranching and politics, being elected a State senator. A. B. Moss ran the store, handled the shipping carloads of wool and found a market for fruit. N. A. Jacobsen shipped to first carloads of fruit and 1891. Through the influence of A. B. Moss, the Payette Valley Railroad came to be. He was president of the Payette Valley Bank for ten years, president of the Bank of Commerce five years and served three years as president of the First National Bank. Moss was chairman of the Village Trustees when Payette received its charter from Ada County July 16, 1891. The Payette reached a population of over 1,000 in 1903 and its status change from a village to a city. F. M. Satoris was elected mayor on April 7, 1903 for a one year term. Trustees were elected each year. A. B. Moss ran for governor of Idaho and 1898.
John Prestel built a sawmill in 1882 and generators extended light service to Payette residents in 1902. Alexander Rossi moved a sawmill from Boise to Washoe in 1885 and with Prestel's Mill, employing many settlers.
In 1885 William A. Coughanour, who had made a small fortune in the mines, established a sawmill in Payette. He invested his wealth in land, banking, irrigation, orchards and ranching. With the capital he had and his investments, Payette was able to grow. He was elected Mayor of Payette for five terms.
The Payette Valley's good soil soon made this one of the most important agricultural centers in the west. Besides cattle ranching, farmers were raising timothy, clover, alfalfa, wheat, oats and barley. N. A. Jacobsen started prune orchards. In 1888, George and Alice Shurtleff planted apple orchards on their 160 acre farm and also watermelons, which sold for one dollar each in Silver City and De Lamar Mining Camps. Irrigation water was an essential, so ditches and canals were constructed. That's another story to be told.