Pioneers of New Plymouth

By Ron Marlow

Walter Burke, who died January 4, 1939, was for many years one of the most active citizens of New Plymouth. He had arrived in 1896. The story is told that Burke's blacksmith shop was the first establishment to do business. He nosed out a general store by taking in a quarter before the store was operating. He later owned and operated a large orchard.

Burke was born in New York, June 3, 1857. As a child, he went with his parents to St. Paul, Minnesota, a frontier town at that time. Later, the family moved into a forest wilderness and had a narrow escape from hostile Indians.

He left home in 1876, making his way Northwest by blacksmithing, panning for gold and operating a train locomotive. During a severe winter he made his way alone up the Yellowstone River, a distance of 300 miles, to Bozeman, Montana. From there he went to Helena to take part in a hunt for a lost stage driver on Christmas Eve in 40 below zero weather.

In 1882, he was made superintendent of a stage line which ran from Coulson to Fort Benton, Montana. He had to contend with horse thieves, such as the notorious Windy Campbell. He married Katie Leathe in 1885 and they move to Billings. There he became a railroad engineer and later a steward in a Billings club. In 1896 they move to Payette Valley, where he was a director of the Farmersí Cooperative Irrigation Company for 30 years.

C. E. Brainard was president of the New Plymouth Colonization and Farmersí Cooperative Irrigation Company who helped transform the entire Payette Valley to a new life and prosperity. He was an immigration agent and was instrumental in bringing settlers from the eastern states. The Oregon Short Line Railroad gave him special rates for the settlers.

Mr. C. E. Brainard was authorized and instructed to draw up a set of articles of incorporation and a set of bylaws, which was done and approved by the five irrigation systems of the Payette Valley.

A bill was in the State Legislature awaiting Governor Alexander's signature, which stated "All the unappropriated water in the Payette Lakes be held in perpetuity for the people of the State of Idaho for summer resort purposes." To ensure a steady flow of water is maintained in the Payette River for irrigation purposes, Brainard met with the Governor late one afternoon and insisted he sign a permit for adequate water withdrawal from the Payette Lakes for Payette Valley irrigation. Thus, he saved the reservoir water storage rights to make for a safe and protected irrigated valley.

Several other names that might be mentioned in early New Plymouth history included:

Annetta E. and Dr. C. M. McBride, who were tired of life in Iowa, moved to New Plymouth in April of 1897 and were among the original colonists group. Each colonists drew a number to decide the order in which they would choose their acreage. Dr. McBride drew #1 and chose a 40 acre farm one-half miles south of New Plymouth and built a home on a fifteen-acre plot across from the farm. They planted one of the first commercial orchards in the valley with apples and pears. In 1902 they shipped the first carload of Bartlett pears. Mrs. McBride was a prominent hostess, a lover of art, flowers and music. She drew acclaim among art circles with her flower paintings that were exhibited at the World's Fair in Chicago. Later in life, she was left to manage the fruit business by herself and was very successful.

A. H. Dundles purchased 40 acres near town March 13, 1896, which had to be cleared of sagebrush. An accident caused him part of an arm and some fingers on the other hand, which limited his activities. In spite of this handicap, he managed to raise crops and a family of two children.

B. W. Ackerman, of Nebraska, arrived in 1903 purchasing 10 acres north of town, which he farmed for six years. The next 10 years saw him engaged in the furniture business in New Plymouth and Payette. In later years, he raised fruit, served as a ditch company secretary and handled real estate, insurance and loans. With wife Hatie, three children were raised.

C. L. and Sylvia Burt moved from Iowa and settled on a 160-acre farm in 1890, as what is now country line road southeast of New Plymouth. Their six children attended Falk School. Black walnut trees were planted in 1894 and were watered by hand until irrigation water became available. Burt was a skilled carpenter, raised cattle, prunes and peaches. The fruit was transported by wagon to the McBride packing sheds south of town. The farm was handed down to succeeding generations.

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© Independent Enterprise, Payette Idaho
First Printed in The Independent-Enterprise Newspaper, Payette, Idaho, Wednesday, June 20, 2001

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