Friday, March 19, 2010

Mar 19: Gem County Created

Idaho Governor Moses Alexander signed an Act that created Gem County on March 19, 1915. This legislation defined another small, oddly-structured county for the state. It also ended a political journey that created a convoluted nightmare for historians – especially genealogists. (Gem County in Idaho. Redrawn from USGS map.)

By the time the area had any white settlers (mid-1863), future Gem County had already been part of two counties: Idaho and then Boise, in Washington Territory. In the new Idaho Territory, the area was generally split between those two. That changed in February 1864, when county lines were redrawn to enclose the area entirely within Boise County.

That lasted 15 years, then parts of the future Gem would be encompassed by, successively, Ada, then Washington, then Canyon County. The last change, approved in 1892, left the northern stub still within Washington County. The southern part in Canyon County included the settlement of Emmett.

Finally, Gem County was created from the northeastern portion of Canyon, a western strip of Boise County, and (basically) the Ola Valley from Washington County. Emmett became the county seat. (Emmett, ca. 1922. Gem County Chamber of Commerce.)

The historical records for the trading post, then town, at Emmett become fascinating. Prospectors passing through in 1862 would say Idaho County in their diaries. Settlers who had children in 1864 would put Boise County in the family Bible. A year later, they’d have to record the location as Ada County. If those children stayed close, they’d get married and have children in Canyon County. The children’s children would be born, and the grandparents would pass away, in Gem County.

References: [Hawley]

Ruth B. Lyon, The Village That Grew, printed by Lithocraft, Inc, Boise (Copyright Ruth B. Lyon, 1979).

“Counties and County Seats,” Reference Series No. 10, Idaho State Historical Society (1991).

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