Thursday, November 1, 2018

Former Toponis Railway Station Fully Linked to Gooding Brothers [otd 11/01]

Governor and U. S. Senator Gooding.
Library of Congress.
James H. Hawley’s History of Idaho, asserts that Gooding, “the county seat of Gooding County, was founded on November 1, 1907, by Frank R. Gooding, then governor of the State of Idaho.”

The term “founded” somewhat overstates reality, because settlers had already occupied the area for over a quarter century. The 1907 date actually refers to when the Idaho Irrigation Company finalized details of its big land sale in the area (Idaho Statesman, Boise, November 1, 1907).

White stockmen first appeared in the area in the 1870s, running cattle and horses. Then, around the fall of 1882, a settler reportedly built the first house on what would become the town site.

Oregon Short Line tracks entered the area in the summer of 1883. Sixteen miles west of Shoshone and on the river, the spot was a natural to establish a watering station. (Steam locomotives of the time could only go 10-15 miles before they had to refill their tanks.)

The station agent soon built a home there. Within a couple years, the U. S. Postal Service authorized a post office for “Toponis Station” – “toponis” is reportedly a Shoshone Indian word for “black cherry.” In 1886, one John Pointer started the first mercantile store nearby. By the following year, the Toponis post office was well established and the station agent had been named its postmaster.

Frank Gooding [blog, Sept 16] took up sheep ranching in the area in 1888, prospered in that line, and expanded his holdings. He became a leader in the state’s sheep industry and parleyed that into a successful political career: state senator, governor, and finally the United States Senate.

Over the years, the store at Toponis Station moved to a structure closer to the railroad depot and changed owners several times. By around 1900-1905, the area had become identified with the Gooding brothers, and people generally referred to the settlement by that name. Finally, organizers filed a townsite plat with Lincoln County at the end of October.

On November 1, 1907, the Statesman carried the headline, “Excursions to Gooding, Ida,” with special fares. An article in the same issue stated that the acreage being offered was “practically the last opening of Carey Act lands in Idaho, and the only tract on a transcontinental line of railroad, it being on the Oregon Short Line.”

The town incorporated under the name of Gooding the following year.
Gooding station photo, ca 1916. Personal Collection.

The area then grew rapidly, aided by the construction of a branch rail line, the Idaho Southern Railroad. The Idaho Southern ran to Jerome from an OSL junction in Gooding. The company went into receivership in 1916 and the Gooding-Jerome tracks became part of the OSL.

In 1909, the University of Idaho established an agricultural extension station in Gooding and two years later the state relocated its School for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind from Boise to Gooding [blog, Dec 4]. By the time Hiram T. French described in it 1914, the village had four hotels as well as “six churches, a creamery, a grain elevator, two banks, two weekly newspapers, and a monthly paper devoted to the wool-growing industry.”

Also by then, the legislature had split Gooding County off from Lincoln County and made the town the county seat.

Livestock raising, dairy, and farming are still the mainstays of the Gooding economy. Although passenger trains no longer stop by, the city notes its location on the main rail line as a big plus for its 80-acre industrial park.
References: [French], Hawley], [Illust-State]
Gooding, Idaho: Gateway to a Good Life, Rural Magic Valley Economic Development Association (2010).
“Idaho Territory: Alturas County,” United States Official Postal Guide, Callaghan & Company, Publishers, Chicago, by authority of the Post Office Department (January 1886).


  1. I bookmarked your blog a month ago and came back today to leisurely peruse it. WOW!!! What a wealth of information here to those interested in Idaho history! I definitely plan to come back and do a lot more reading. Thanks so much for making this available to us all.

  2. Thanks very much. I enjoy doing it. Beyond that, I can only say: Pass the word.
    Full disclosure: Some day, I'll get a publisher to put out my full book on Idaho history (stock-raising), and then you'll have to read a plug about here.

  3. I love your blog. I love Idaho! I have written 3 books & 1 blog about Idaho Fossils & work for the Gooding Co. Historical Society doing research. You do great work! I've bookmarked this too! Keep up your great work.

  4. Thank you for the kind words.

    I just checked and see I do have the Gooding County Historical Society web address on my "Links" page.

  5. Nice record of history here. My great grandfather George Walter Sutherland moved to this area in late 1903. Here is an excerpt from a geneology record of him: "He became foreman on the Tom Gooding ranch. The nearest town was called Taponis, consisting of a little store and a section house on a spur of the railroad. All of the people in that country then lived on their farms. While he was working for Frank Gooding, he helped survey part of the farm and a town was laid out called Gooding. The Carey Act had been passed that made irrigation possible, so many people came there to live. He also helped build a railroad into the town and became the first Marshall."

  6. That's very interesting. The sad thing is that the old "Taponis" name seems to be unknown to anyone except people who live, or lived, right there in the area. Most outsiders seem to only know about the name "Gooding." At least my blog does a little something to fix that.