Monday, April 17, 2017

Nampa Incorporates and Forms City Government [otd 04/17]

On April 17, 1891, the village of Nampa, Idaho was officially incorporated and proceeded to form a municipal government. The town – there's no consensus on the origin of the name – owes its existence to the Oregon Short Line Railroad, which ran its tracks through the area in late 1883. Because a direct line into Boise City involved severe grades, the OSL stayed west of that city, following Indian Creek.
Steam locomotive at water tower.
State of California photo.

The railroad established a small transfer station at Kuna, where the tracks crossed the main road between Boise and Silver City. However, those early steam locomotives had an insatiable thirst for water: They had to refill roughly every ten miles. Thus, the spot that became Nampa was marked only by a watering station at first.

Nine miles beyond that station, developers had laid out the town of Caldwell. The skulduggery involved in that site choice is beyond the scope of this item. However, the crux of the matter was construction of a branch line from that town into Boise City. That seemed to be a real possibility by the end of 1884. However, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the OSL – actually, the Union Pacific – suddenly “pulled the plug” on that project in the spring of 1885.

Enter Alexander Duffes, a businessman born in Utica, New York, who had prospered in Canada. In 1884-1885, he decided to sell off his mercantile business and travel in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Upon his return, in Portland, he ran into James McGee, a Caldwell real estate man.

Duffes had retained his real estate holdings and was apparently ripe for possible land investments. McGee advised him to check out the area around the watering station between Caldwell and Kuna. Duffes did so, and found the potential encouraging. He continued east, but soon returned with his wife and son, and claimed a homestead (160 acres) at the site.

In early 1886, Duffes and McGee formed the Nampa Land and Improvement Company. At the same time, the Union Pacific resurrected the Boise City spur line project, this time using a shorter route from Nampa. Crews completed construction of the branch to Boise City in September 1887 [blog, Sept 13].
Nampa, ca. 1918. J. H. Hawley image.

A simple wood-frame structure provided a way station for passengers at the new stop. Several years later, the railroad funded a considerable expansion of the depot (Idaho Statesman, February 28 and August 19, 1892).

Incorporation of the town in 1891 roughly coincided with the completion of an extensive irrigation system for the surrounding farm land.

That fueled steady growth ... to about 800 people in 1900, when the train station serviced ten passenger trains every day. Three years later, Nampa received a fine new railway station. News reports noted (Idaho Falls Times, August 14, 1903) that “It is said to be one of handsomest on the line.” Today, that structure houses the Canyon County Historical Museum.

Nampa still remains an important railway shipping point for the extensive agricultural production in the area. The city has grown to around 75 thousand residents.
References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Canyon County Historical Society, "Our Town,” City of Nampa web site.
“Idaho Central Railroad,” Reference Series No. 216, Idaho State Historical Society.

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