Washington County lies on the western border of the state of Idaho, and about five hundred miles from the Pacific coast. It contains a large area of land suited to various purposes. It has a population of over five thousand people. Its inhabitants are, generally speaking, enterprising and thrifty people, many of them having settled here in the early 6o”s and have remained ever since. The early settler devoted himself to stock-raising and placer-mining, and he thought that was all the county was fit for. But as the county began settling up it was soon found that anything which grew in a temperate climate would grow here.
Washington County is now considered to be a kingdom within itself, as it produces everything necessary for comfort and happiness. Its resources are so varied that it would be impossible to mention all of them in this connection.
Agriculture and kindred industries are pursued more at present than anything else. This in the past has been confined largely to the raising of wheat and hay. But of late years our farmers have been planting large orchards and diversifying their products generally.
Anywhere in the valleys all kind of grain, fruits and cereals can be successfully grown. Wherever Washington county fruit is exhibited it always carries away a premium. At a recent state fair held in Boise, Washington County carried off more premiums than any other county in the state.
But agriculture is not the only industry of the county, by any means. The northern portion of the county, which is mostly mountainous, is thickly studded with pine timber, the supply of which is practically inexhaustible. In the past it has been used largely for fuel and in mining, but it is a shame to burn up such fine saw- timber when there is an abundance of other fuel right at the doors. With the advent of better transportation facilities lumber will form an important factor in our commerce.
There are good coal indications all over the county, only awaiting the advent of capital to develop them. In Crane creek canyon, a large bed of good coal has been unearthed and some development work done. The coal is of a good quality, making excellent furnace coal, and can be used in the forge with fairly good results. This coal will coke. It has been estimated by some that there is coal enough here to supply all of the state of Idaho. Up on Middle fork is another coal deposit which has been used for blacksmithing for several years. One blacksmith has used this coal ever since its discovery, and says he has used coal all the way from Pittsburg to the coast and has never seen any superior to this. On the hill just above the vein where he gets his coal was found a chunk weighing over a ton, which gives evidence that there is an immense deposit further back that has not yet been uncovered.
Down in Middle valley, which adjoins the Salubria valley on the south, are strong indications of petroleum. In fact it is almost impossible to get good water in some locations on ac-count of the strong coal-oil taste.
The raising of range stock is still carried on to a large extent. The abundance of fine range on the hills which surround the numerous valleys make this the stock-raisers’ paradise and make it possible to conduct the business on a large scale at a very small cost. Animals keep fat on the range nine or ten months in a year. As a general thing they are gathered into the feed yard in December and turned out again in March. Sheep are summered back in the mountains and driven down to the lower land in the fall, where they are kept until after lambing and shearing are over. The tendency of late years has been to get rid of the scrub stock and breed up to a higher standard, and as a result Washington county cattle, hogs and mutton sheep are sought for by buyers from all over the country.
At present Washington county only has a few miles of railroad. The Oregon Short Line taps the county at the extreme southern end, running through Weiser and crossing the Snake River into Oregon a short distance from that place. There will, however, soon be a railroad running the entire length of the county from north to south. Starting from some point on the Oregon Short Line (the exact location of which has not been decided upon), a survey has been run up the Weiser river through Middle valley, Salubria, Alpine, Council, and following up Hornet creek terminates at the famous Seven Devils. It is also proposed to run a branch road from Salubria in a northwesterly direction to Ruthburg.
This is in the geographical center of Washington county, Idaho. It is about sixty-five miles southeast of the famous Seven Devils mining district and seventy-five miles east of north of Boise, the state capital. It has a population (including families on the small streams which run into the valley, and which are practically a part of this valley) of about twelve hundred people, and contains about forty-five square miles of rich agricultural land, very level, with a gradual slope toward the rivers which course through it. The Big Weiser River flows the entire length of the valley, while the Little Weiser flows only a short distance and forms a partnership with its bigger brother just below the town of Salubria. The two streams furnish an ample supply of water for all the needs of the valley, hills, factories, smelters, etc., have no use for steam engines, as there is sufficient water power in the Big Weiser to run all the machinery that will ever be needed here.
Salubria valley contains about twelve thousand six hundred acres of land under cultivation. This land produces almost anything that is put in the ground. Many farmers here own from one hundred and sixty to one thousand acres of land, and having more than they can handle profitably are willing to dispose of it to settlers. The average price of lands is thirty dollars to thirty-five dollars per acre. If these farms were cut up into forty or eighty acre tracts, the present amount of cultivated land is capable of sustaining at least three times the population it now has. There are seven thousand five hundred and sixty acres of uncultivated deeded land, most of which could be converted into good farms, and about half that amount of government land. This includes the valley lands only. All of the best land in the valley has been taken up, but there remains ten thousand acres of hill land which can be taken up as homesteads and which produces better fall grain than the low land of the valley. It being rolling, the ground does not flood when the snow melts in the spring, and fall-sown grain gets a sufficiently good start by the spring rains so that it is past the danger point before the dry season sets in. Much of the hill land can be irrigated from springs.
Prices of uncultivated deeded land range from four dollars per acre up. So it will be seen that there is an abundance of good farmland here. The only drawback in the past has been transportation facilities, but this problem is about to be solved by the building of railroads.
The Town Of Salubria
As Salubria valley is in the geographical center of Washington county, so also is Salubria in the Salubria valley. It is advantageously situated in the very heart of one of the greatest mining, agricultural and stock-raising sections of Idaho. -Its inhabitants are enterprising and industrious people, who are always awake to the best interests of their town and themselves.
Situated, as it is, at the confluence of the Big and Little Weiser rivers, it possesses irrigating and manufacturing advantages not excelled by any other town in the west.
East, west, north and south of Salubria, as far as the eye can reach, may be seen immense fields of luxuriant grain and beautiful meadows, dotted with farm houses and fine orchards; while thousands of cattle, horses and sheep roam the adjacent hills and plateau, and grow fat upon their nutritious wild grass.
Salubria is a business center for all this vast agricultural, mining and stock-raising country which surrounds it. In fact it only needs a glance at the map to convince one that it is the “hub” of the county.
The warm springs, about two miles north of Salubria, are destined to become a famous summer resort. They contain medicinal properties common to mineral springs, the exact analysis of which we have never learned. If the water from here were piped down to Salubria, and a bathing place built and water used for heating purposes in business houses and residences, the promoters would realize handsomely on the investment.
Middle valley is about five miles west of south from Salubria. It is very similar to Salubria valley in climate, products, etc. All that has been said of Salubria valley can truthfully be said of Middle valley. It contains an area of about forty square miles, and is well supplied with water for irrigating purposes, having a canal from the Weiser river on the east side and Keithley creek on the west.
This valley has about fifteen thousand acres under cultivation, and about seven thousand acres of uncultivated land; eighty per cent of the uncultivated land is government land and open to settlement. It is estimated that between fifty and seventy-five per cent of the government land would make good farmland if taken up and cultivated. This would leave over four thou-sand acres of, good tillable land that may be had for taking. By building reservoirs for storing water for irrigating purposes, a much larger area could be brought under cultivation with very small expense. The principal products of this valley are wheat, oats, barley, rye, apples, prunes, pears, peaches and small fruits. Lumber and stock-raising are also important factors in tributary resources.
The town of Council is the metropolis of this valley. The town has a population of about one hundred people, and supports three general merchandise stores, and a hotel, saloon, blacksmith shop, etc., in proportion. The town has an enterprising and progressive class of citizens, and is pushing ahead with a future that its people would not exchange with any town in the county. The principal industries of the valley are farming, stock-raising, mining and lumbering. Its products are wheat, oats, cane, barley and hay, as well as all kinds of hardy fruits. The valley contains about sixteen thousand acres of cultivated land and one hundred thousand acres of uncultivated land. About fifty per cent of the latter is government land. It is estimated that about twenty per cent of the government land could be cultivated. The town of Council is twenty-two miles from Salubria.
Alpine is the chief town of Indian Valley. It is ten miles from Salubria. It is a small town, but is growing and has bright future prospects. The valley contains sixteen thousand acres of deeded land; four thousand under cultivation, and one hundred and fifty thousand acres of government land. Its principal industries are farming and stock-raising. The principal products are wheat, oats, barley, hay, fruit, vegetables, pork and wool. It is very similar in every respect to the valleys above mentioned.
The town of Indian Valley is about five miles beyond Alpine and is the terminus of the Weiser-Indian Valley stage line. It is in the center of a rich agricultural and stock-raising country.
Ruthburg precinct has a population of about one hundred people. The post-office is located twenty-three miles northwest from Salubria. The altitude is lower than that of Salubria valley, it being almost on a level with Snake River. Its products are all and more than can be raised in the higher valleys. Owing to its mild climate, some of the more tropical fruits which cannot be raised here do well in that valley. The Ruthburg country prides itself on the excellent quality of its fruits. Mining is an important industry and quite an item at Ruthburg. There are many good mines here, producing gold, silver, copper and iron. The mountains around Ruthburg are a continuation of the Seven Devils range, and it is considered by experts that just as good copper mines, as the Peacock in the Seven Devils will be found here.
Brownlee is at the ferry across the Snake River. Continuing on from Brownlee the wagon road passes through Pine valley and reaches Cornucopia. Pine valley is a large agricultural and grazing country and Cornucopia is a mining camp of about one thousand people.
Continuing on up the road from Council we come to the Meadows. This neighborhood has a population of about three hundred. The town contains two stores, a blacksmith shop, hotel, etc. It is the place where prospectors purchase the last of their supplies before .going back into the mountains. The principal industries are farming, stock-raising, mining and lumbering. There are endless forests containing fine lumber material.
Continuing on up Hornet creek to Dale and Bear, one passes through a rich agricultural, stock and fruit-raising country. The conditions here are about the same as in the lower valleys, except that nearer the mountains the valleys gradually narrow, and the altitude being higher, the growing season is necessarily a little shorter.
Situated a little south of east from Salubria and just outside of the county line is Long valley. The valley has a population of fourteen hundred people. As its name indicates it is a very long valley, containing seven townships of surveyed land; twenty thousand acres under cultivation and one hundred thousand uncultivated. About sixty per cent of the uncultivated could be made good producing land. About three thousand head of cattle and six hundred head of horses roam its hills. The principal industries are stock-raising and dairying. Hay, grain and vegetables do well in this valley and the people are just learning that the hardier fruits can be raised as well there as anywhere else.
The Crane creek and Paddock valley country comprises the bigger part of the southwestern portion of the county, and it is a vast agricultural and stock country. It contains three post-offices, namely, Brannan, Crane and Wilburs.
Weiser the county-seat of Washington county, is located in the extreme southern portion of the county on Snake river and on the west bank of Weiser river, which joins the Snake at this point, and is the central point for an immense tract of the most fertile and productive land in Idaho. Weiser is the base for supplies for all the country north as far as Salmon river, the new iron bridge for that river having been freighted from here, this being the only possible route practicable for wagon traffic. County and state roads lead to all important points in central and northern Idaho and a portion of eastern Oregon embracing a territory at least one hundred and fifty miles square and giving Weiser exceptional advantages in the matter of location. Weiser is also the distributing point for twenty-three post-offices.
A direct natural roadway up the Weiser River connects Weiser with Middle, Salubria, Indian and Council valleys; and a telephone line thirty-five miles in length now connects Weiser with those valleys. This is the only route to the great Seven Devils copper camps.
The exports consist of cattle, horses, hogs, sheep, wool, hides, fruit and other farm products, and silver, gold and copper ores. All branches of business are well represented.
The courthouse is a new brick, and is in every way creditable, of pleasing style, and the appointments for all the officials being ample and convenient. The edifice for the new graded school is of brick, two stories, divided into four rooms, with ample halls and cloak rooms, and fully furnished and equipped with all required appliances, and is ably and carefully conducted. The business blocks are of brick and erected in pleasing style. The hotels are adapted to all classes, and the little city can point with pride to the best one in the state, a handsome brick, with all modern conveniences, and conducted in a manner that leaves no occasion for reasonable complaint.
Religious denominations are well represented. The Baptists have a very neat church building and a large and growing membership. The Episcopalians have completed an elegant church, in which divine service is regularly held and largely attended. The Congregational society have dedicated a convenient and commodious church building, and have a strong and steadily increasing congregation. The Catholics (Roman) have a desirable church property, and it is with satisfaction that we can note a social advancement in proportion to our material progress, and those who come from the adult communities of the older states will here find ample educational facilities and religious homes in place of those left behind, and day by day the clouds roll back, lifting in the full sunshine of new prosperity and enlightenment.
Another and a very attractive feature is the climate, which for salubrity is unequaled, the percentage of deaths by disease being less than any of the United States. Starting from New York, traveling by way of any of the great routes across the continent, as soon as the Boise River is crossed the temperature moderates, and from there to the crossing of Snake river, twenty miles west of Weiser the difference is very marked. This is due no doubt, to the fact that the north line of the valley is environed by high hills that protect us from the northern storms. Again, by reason of its nearness to the Pacific (the actual distance being only three hundred and fifty miles) and the elevation of Weiser being only two thousand one hundred feet above sea level, the climate is remarkably mild, the summers are long and during the day very warm, but evening never fails to bring cool breezes, and a sultry night is a rare exception even in Snake river valley, and when these hot days come, as come they must to ripen grain and fruit, then only a short day’s drive and we have the snow-fed streams and pine-covered mountains. At any month of the year from the heat of the valley one can look away and see some giant peak snow-capped and suggesting cooling shades and healthful retreats. The winters are short as compared with those of the eastern states. During one season there was none at all, and the average time that sheep are fed will not exceed sixty days, often less. Cyclones have never presumed to put in an appearance. But many of the residents from Kansas and Nebraska are becoming reconciled to their absence, showing that cyclones are not, after all, absolutely necessary to perfect happiness! Thunder storms occur, but are not frequent, and are not by any means of that demonstrative kind that happen in by way of the stovepipe and take the whole house with them when they leave, none of that sort. In brief, the climate here is one that for all seasons cannot be excelled by any country, and. truly said, equaled by very few Malarial diseases are very uncommon and can be traced to local causes in every instance, and the general health of the community is a serious drawback to gentlemen of the medical profession.
As the days of gold digging began to lose their attraction by reason of smaller production some of the old pioneers remembered that away back in the land of the rising sun there used to be a fashion among men of tilling the soil, and as a result crops of different kinds were produced, good for man and beast to eat. The valleys were pleasant to look at and the experiment was tried. Ground was broken and the seed put in. Water was brought from the abundant streams, and the results were astounding. As by magic the desert blossomed and the memories of old home farms were eclipsed by results in the new land. These experiments, and they cannot be classed much higher, demonstrated that here was a soil and all the climatic conditions necessary to successful and highly varied agriculture, and moreover its proximity to the mining and lumber districts would in the near future furnish a home demand that would insure remunerative prices. The soil of all the valleys is eminently productive and contains all the elements vegetable and mineral required to impart the highest degree of fertility and producing phenomenal yields of grain, fruit, vegetables and hops. Weiser is situated in the center of a vast garden. From one of the hilltops north of town one sweep of the vision can take in a territory of more than fifty thousand acres, and every ten acres under cultivation could afford a home and support to ten people. It is a land for small holdings to be well cared for and for the production of a class of commodities that pay to raise and are always in demand, but their production requires patience, industry and attention, and any ten acres of sage-brush land, with proper water in two years from the start will be subjugated and become the owner’s faithful supporter if the above requirements are complied with. There is no such word as “fail,” and there is no fear of over-production, for at all times fruit, vegetables and other products can be profitably shipped in car and train load lots to various market points. Land is cheaper here than in any other part of the continent, productiveness and favorable climatic conditions considered. Nearly every product required for canning purposes, grows luxuriantly here, such as berries, grapes, apples, pears, apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, prunes, etc., and such vegetables as sweet corn, beans, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, melons and cantaloupes are on par with other products, and every year carloads are shipped to adjacent and less productive localities. Any ordinary garden in Weiser or vicinity will demonstrate all these claims. The culture of hops promises to be a great resource of this county, but fruit culture is fast becoming the leading industry here, and the record of Idaho at the Columbian Exposition is of world-wide notoriety: the fruits receiving the highest awards all came from this (Washington) county and were grown within ten miles of Weiser. And Mann creek valley is fast assuming the appearance of a vast orchard, and coming years will see this beautiful section wholly devoted to fruit raising. Any number of other localities afford equal facilities.
The prune industry promises to become a leading feature, and to this we will devote a special mention. The cultivation of this staple product is an industry that has been fully demonstrated a success. Nowhere in the known world are found all the conditions as here for the production of this almost indispensable fruit, and no other locality has yet produced it to such a degree of perfection, and it is confidently regarded as a source of future wealth for this county. The prune-producing countries are not numerous, but are confined to a very limited number of localities, and over-production is a practical impossibility. Encouraged by the success of the past few years the industry has steadily assumed greater proportion, and fruit-growers are now satisfied beyond question of the ultimate results, and reduced to figures the profits seem fabulous. As a natural sequence hundreds of acres are now set out with prune: and why not, since a careful examination of the facts as to the profits derived from a small prune orchard are sufficient to convince the most conservative? We regret that our space is too limited to give this all important subject the explanation it so justly deserves. We have, however, prepared the following statement, based on correct figures and actual results, which we trust will convey to the mind of the interested reader something of an idea of the profits accruing from the prune industry: Placing the value of unimproved land under irrigation at twenty dollars, and expense of fencing and breaking ground eight dollars per acre, makes actual cost of land, ready for planting the trees, twenty-eight dollars per acre. Ordinarily, one hundred and thirty trees are planted to the acre. Two year old trees are worth ten cents each, or one hundred and thirty trees thirteen dollars. Expense of planting is three dollars and fifty cents per acre. Taxes and interest on investment and culture of the orchard until the trees are in bearing condition, fifteen dollars making the total cost of one acre of orchard in bearing condition, fifty-nine dollars and fifty cents. The wholesale price of evaporated prunes averages nine and one-half cents per pound. The loss in weight by evaporation is fifty per cent. Hence, allowing one-half cent per pound for expense of picking, evaporation and boxing, the value of the product in the boxes would be four and one-half cents per pound. Counting two hundred pounds per tree, makes a grand total of one thousand and one hundred dollars per acre!
Touching the other resources, so vast a field opens as to make it impossible to fully cover it in the space we have here. So far, most of the resources are only sufficiently developed to demonstrate what future well directed efforts can accomplish.
It is of course generally known that Idaho has always been classed as a mineral state and all other industries have been considered secondary in importance, and very justly: for only a few years back are the old days when Boise basin was adding its millions in gold to the national wealth; and still further in the north old Florence was producing fabulous amounts, and in fact all over the territory placer diggings were in operation and thousands of hardy miners were taking the yellow metal from the sands and scattering it with careless hands broadcast. In those days of old, less than ten dollars a day to the man was not worth making, and so on and on this gold-hunting army would travel, making only a superficial survey of the land. Lead claims that to-day are worth millions were passed by as not worth taking. Silver was then, as now of no account. Copper, lead, iron, gypsum, and such base substances, were only impediments to be cursed for their frequency. But those days are past the record made up. But yet in the ever-lasting mountains this hidden wealth remains a treasure left for this and future generations, and of this Washington county has her full pro-portion, and within its limits are found all of the valuable materials just named and coal in addition. Among the mining camps of the county, the most prominent was Mineral. Several mines were in active operation, producing silver, and giving employment to hundreds of men. The recent action of our glorious government did not hurt Mineral it simply killed it. It is still there with myriads of others waiting for a resurrection. Its two idle smelters are monuments of former greatness.
The county abounds in streams that are capable of furnishing unlimited power for mining and milling and are now running to wanton waste, that only require to be harnessed to wheels to furnish motive power and light.
The Seven Devils
Eighty miles north from Weiser, as the road runs, the district with the above suggestive name is situated. Whence the name no man knows. By reason of a clerical error in defining the boundary line between this and Idaho county part of the district was placed in the latter. The immense deposits of copper in this district are matters of astonishment to all investigators either experts or ordinary visitors exceeding as it does, beyond question, anything of the kind elsewhere on the continent. It is not intended in this to give the names of properties. Sufficient it is to say that thousands of tons of ore are in sight from the surface that will pay well now to mine and transport to Weiser for shipment by rail to Salt Lake for reduction. In and very near this district are the Hilderbrand mines. Bear Creek, Plaza Basin, Rapid River and other promising points, all of which are sure to develop into prominent producing camps.
The greatest elevation of this county is less than eight thousand feet, and the mountain.-; are thickly covered with magnificent forests of pine, fir and tamarack, and the general appearance of the country very beautiful and abundantly watered by swift mountain streams and abounding in springs. On the Snake River slope the scenery is of the wildest description. The river here, for several miles, runs through a box cannon, and quite narrow, and may be said to literally turn up on its edge. The country breaks very abruptly and the difference in elevation between the river and the mines is nearly five thousand feet in a distance of less than four miles. All the intersecting canyons are heavily timbered with pine and spruce and some day will be of immense value for wood-pulp manufactories. The east side is a far different country, not nearly so rough, and the giant timber and grass-covered slopes, entirely devoid of under-brush, give it a park -like appearance that is pleasing beyond description. Altogether, it is a fair land to look upon and will soon be a profitable one to be in. Nearly equidistant from the Northern Pacific and the Union Pacific, there will some day be a strife for possession, and the only possible route into this country is by way of Weiser and up the Weiser river, the distance being about ninety miles, and most of the way on grades of less than one per cent to within five miles of the principal mines.
The timber resource is most valuable, and the demand now exists and is increasing for home consumption, and for no other reason but lack of local enterprise and capital the present supply of lumber comes largely from Oregon or some other point by rail, and besides is not of the best quality. There is also a large local demand for fuel, that would all be supplied from these forests. All of this will directly benefit Weiser.
Besides the precious metals and immense deposits of copper, iron and lead abound, and other minerals, such as coal, asbestos, gypsum and mica, are abundant: and the immense quantities of garnets found in the copper mines would suggest that they be utilized as an abrasive material, and no doubt superior to many now extensively used. This should eventually become a prominent industry, as the use for such material is constantly increasing, and the value of a permanent supply will be appreciated by practical men.
This great gold-producing camp is directly tributary to Weiser and the developments of the past indicate that, if situated in any other county, it would attract the attention of the world. As the most wonderful placer camp of the old days. The stories of its richness are fabulous: but as time passed the diggings available to the primitive methods became too tame for wild ideas, and gradually the population removed. But the few who remained turned their attention to quartz, and now have developed properties that are un-surpassed for richness. This camp is destined to become a permanent and wealthy locality.
This is an arid country. That means that for the growing of all products of the soil irrigation is required, and in this respect we are fully and perfectly prepared to meet all requirements. Our never failing supply is the Weiser, a beautiful, swift-flowing stream that heads one hundred miles north, and is fed on its way to the Snake River by numerous mountain streams, and at the mouth of the canyon where it enters the valley it shows, at the lowest stage ever known, a depth of three feet and a width of one hundred and twenty feet, and a flow of eight miles per hour. This record was made in August, after the maximum drain for irrigation was over. During the
earlier months the amount of water is far beyond any possible requirement. The present irrigation facilities are: The Weiser Water Company’s canal, seventeen miles in length, which supplies twelve thousand acres, this being ample for the present, and can be easily increased to double its size: and the Weiser Irrigation Company’s canal, six miles in length, which supplies over three thousand acres and also furnishes power for milling, the fall being twenty-seven feet, offering un-surpassed facilities for factories of any kind, and the capacity and usefulness of this property can be doubled at small outlay. Mann creek, Monroe and Jenkins’ creek valleys are all supplied by local streams. Snake river at this point is a magnificent river one thousand feet wide and only divides the fertile valleys of Idaho from thou-sands of acres of equally productive lands in Oregon. The water is clear and pure, and when the demand comes for city water works no place in the world could excel Weiser for permanence and purity of its water supply. Water is also taken out for irrigation by means of wheels.