By Ron Marlow
The years between 1870 and 1910 railroad building was at itís peak in Idaho. Population increased to over 300,000 people do in part to the coming of rails to the territory. It meant contact with the outside world, and telegraph communication with New York and San Francisco and points in between. Dry goods could be shipped in for consumers from faraway places. These people were busy with their social activities, church life and the organization of villages and towns.
The "advance man" for the Union Pacific Railroad and Oregon Short Line was a personable, good-looking and optimistic, Robert E. Strahorn. With his wife, Carrie Adele Strahorn, they traveled throughout the territory, writing glowing publicity brochures extolling the virtues and beauty of Idaho.
This publicity man was very generous with his predictions for small towns. His influence was felt from border to border. Pocatello started out from a small shack to a large railroad division center. It became a gateway to Southern Idaho with rail lines in all four directions and to all four states. Depot locations were suggested by Strahorn in the best interests of the company. Boise was by-passed by the railroadís main line. This made a lot of people unhappy and Strahorn was hung in effigy. He claimed that going down into Boise would require a helper engines to push a train uphill out of the Boise area. Boisians didn't buy the story. The main line ran straight across the sagebrush desert toward Oregon. A siding was made in an alkalis flat west of Boise and the Caldwell depot was built there. The Strahorns built a new home not far away in the sagebrush. Soon the town of Caldwell flourished around the depot.
It was rails ahead, across the Snake River to Nyssa and Ontario, then back to Idaho. Citizens met and influenced the railroad construction engineers on the route taken. With Strahorn's recommendations the railroad had the final say. The Oregon Short Line wanted to put a depot at Washoe but citizens objected and a depot was built at Boomerang. The name was later changed to Payette. Soon a town emerged from the sagebrush in the depot area.
Now it was on to Huntington, Oregon. The next depot was built at Weiser, one and one half miles west of Weiser's Old Town. A 12 passenger bus hauled people from town to the depot. This town was the gateway to the upper valleys and towns and terminal for the Pacific and Idaho Northern Railroad that ran north to the small towns. This huge area now had connections with a main line railroad which meant daily mail and passenger service, freight and livestock shipping. It seemed that civilization wasn't so far away anymore.
Local news item dated April 1908:
"A police raid on the Chinese Noodle Joint and a rooming house on E. Idaho Street, resulted in the arrest of ten Chinese. They were charged was smoking opium and frequenting an opium den. Deputy Sheriff W. Adams arrested two of the suspects at the Noodle Joint. Night police patrolman Gerdeau arrested eight at the rooming house. An opium den was discovered in a seller which had been dug under the Noodle Joint. At the rooming house an elaborate room was found with reclining beds, lamps and opium pipes for customer use. A quantity of opium was confiscated.
Noodle Joint owner, Won Dan was charged with running a disorderly business. He refused to enter a plea at his trial. After hearing the testimony of a witness, the judge found him guilty and fined him $16.50. He declined to pay the fine so the court ordered him to work cutting weeds around the city. The other prisoners plead guilty and were fined $15 each which they paid and were released."
Another news item:
It was cold in Weiser in January of 1910. There were reports of a minus 14 degrees below zero on January 8. Cold weather is expected to continue for a week or so. During this cold spell Weiser lost itís electric power. Everyone dug out their kerosene lamps and heaters. The power originated from a hydroelectric station at Horseshoe Bend. A canal that carried water to the plan to run it, washed out leaving a gap of 60 feet. It would require a hundred foot canal to go around the break. The estimated construction time is at least a week and maybe more. Meanwhile it's a cold, dark time for Weiser. Not only did the plant supply power for the city's lights and residents, it also supplied power for the city's water pumps. No lights and no water." This wasn't the only water problem for Weiser. Public ire was raised when the Weiser Signal printed the next story March 5, 1910.
"If there was ever a city on earth cursed with an inadequate, out-of-date water system it is Weiser. The sewage of untold thousands of acres of water run-off from barns, dairies, sheep and hog pens, and cattle and horse pastures, of towns and villages all comes down the Snake River and through our city water system and into our homes, menacing the health and lives of our citizens. The city may argue that it doesn't have the money for the expense of changing Weiser's water supply, but if a councilman had typhoid in his home, a way would be found to install a clean, modern plant. A suggestion is made that a well be drilled near the foothills to supply pure water instead of the city pumping Snake River sewage through 10,000 feet of city water pipes.
In December 1910 the city council reported "a new electric water pump was started up on a new well that was drilled on Wild Cat Island. It has a capacity of 1,000 gallons per minute and is capable of filling the city reservoir in eight hours."
Other News Items:
The second oldest building in Weiser was the Brewery built by S. W. Werneth in 1895-97.
A distillery was built February 1901 that bottled wine, brandy and vinegar.
The Knights of Pythias hall (Pythian Castle Building) was built in 1904 of native stone at a cost of $49,000.
Motion pictures were shown, three shows daily, to sell out crowds starting in April 1901.
An icehouse, built on old Shurtleff Island by William Morehead and Frank Mortimer could hold about 500 tons of ice.
George Brinson took delivery of a gasoline operated concrete mixer that can mix 1,000 yards of concrete in a day.
The towns started replacing the old original wooden pipe on city main water lines with 12 inch iron pipe.
Automobiles were required to be registered and have license plates displayed. They also were required to have two headlights and a tail light. City speed limit was set at 10 mph.
The Idaho Industrial Institute was founded October 20, 1899 by E. A. Paddock, Jane Slocum and Thomas Maryott. In 1915 it was renamed the Intermountain Institute. Because of its excellence, students found it was an alternative to public school. It had impressive classrooms and dormitories, its own print shop, meat and smoke shop, broom factory, dairy farm and students farmed 1200 acres of irrigated land. The school was supported by donations, until depression days. It closed its doors in 1933. Most of its buildings are still standing.