On September 22, 1899, workers completed a branch line of the Northern Pacific Railroad into Orofino, Idaho. The railroad was mainly built to serve the mining districts deeper in the mountain, and a railway station opened in November.
This town called Orofino was, in fact, the second to (initially) have the name “Oro Fino” -- Spanish for “fine gold.” An earlier town near Pierce had burned and was not rebuilt. Pioneers established the present town three years after the Nez Perce Indian Reservation was thrown open to white settlement in 1895. However, before they could obtain a local post office, they had to comply with a U.S. Postal Service rule that, at the time, prohibited double-word names. Rather than try to pick a new one, they simply ran the two together -- hence “Orofino.”
During the railroad construction period, Orofino serves as the division headquarters, with a payroll of over a thousand men. The Illustrated History of North Idaho (published in 1903) said, “Never since has Orofino been as populous as it was in 1899.” With the rail line complete, those men moved on, and the population dropped to less than 400. Not until the 1930’s would the town approach the numbers observed in 1899.