History

The winding path of the Snake River, which crossed the area now known as Minidoka County, was the route of the early pioneers heading west. Minidoka Village, established in 1884, was the first permanent settlement and served as a railroad siding. The Bureau of Reclamation has stated that Minidoka is a Shoshone Indian name meaning "broad-expanse."


Homesteaders


In the early 1900s, government owned land was made available for settlement and ownership by homesteading. Homesteaders were required to file a claim, live on the land for three years and do a limited amount of farming. Around 1912, many homesteaders came to live in the neighborhood of Kimama and Minidoka. However, by 1932 none of the dry land homesteads remained because of a lack of rainfall and other hazards such as frost, wind, weeds and pests.

Minidoka Project


President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Reclamation Act of June 17, 1902 which created the Minidoka Project. The project was established by the Secretary of Interior on April 23, 1904 and work began on the diversion works that year. Contracts were also let for the construction of canals and laterals shortly after. Delivery of water to the land began in 1907.

The rush of settlers started in 1904 and increased rapidly for two and a half years. The settlers came form everywhere with the desire to own land and establish a home. However, very few had any experience in irrigation and many mistakes were made by both the settlers and the engineers in charge. As a result, many failed and left the land, but those who stayed were amply rewarded for their efforts.

Minidoka Dam


Minidoka Dam, an earth-fill dam with a concrete powerhouse section, was the key structure in the project. The power plant is the oldest hydro-electric power plant operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. The first generating unit was placed in service and the first water was pumped using electric power from that unit in 1909. Two more units were placed in service in 1910 and the fourth and fifth were ready for operation in 1911. The sixth unit was completed in 1942.

Town Sites


Three town sites were laid out by the Bureau of Reclamation.

Heyburn


Heyburn was surveyed and lots were sold on October 20, 1906. It was originally called Riverton and later changed to Heyburn after Senator Heyburn. This was to be the future metropolis where the river and the railroad met. However, when the lots were put up for sale, the people thought they were too expensive around the central square so they bought the cheapest lost on the town plat for the business section. Many early day residents felt this was why Rupert became the hub city of the county instead of Heyburn.


Rupert


The site where the first well was sunk was called Wellfirst or Wetfirst and later named Rupert. Rupert was platted on November 21, 1905 and filed in Lincoln County on February 8, 1907. There were no restrictions governing the town site in 1904 and 1905, and many businesses were erected around the square. The owners were considered as squatters with no prior right to the lots they had built upon. To solve this problem, Congress passed a special act which let the businessmen buy the lots for designated prices. The Village of Rupert was incorporated on April 1906, and the town board was sworn in and held its first meeting. The origin of Rupert's name remains pretty much a mystery.

Paul


Four men made up the first party who selected sites near what is now Paul. After barely surviving for three years, water arrived in 1907 and their dreams came true. In 1910, the railroad was built and crossed part of the land homesteaded by Jim Ellis. He saw the opportunity so he hired an engineer to survey a town site and called it Paul. It was named after C. H. Paul, who was an engineer in charge of the Minidoka Project.


Scherrer


The early town of Scherrer was named after one of the early settlers who started a store and warehouse. However, the government refused to accept this name and when the post office was established, it was named Acequia, a Spanish word meaning "water course." This apparently was to denote where the Main A and B Canals split off the main canal.

Tracts of Open Land


The fact that there has been large tracts of land open for homesteading twice in the lifetime of many residents makes Minidoka County unique. The first was a result of the construction of the Minidoka Dam in 1904 which opened up some 55,000 acres irrigated by gravity flow. The second tract came when the North side Pumping Project was opened between 1954 and 1961. This opened up 76,802 acres with an additional 70,000 opened by private individuals. Homestead drawings were held in 1953 and more acreage was reclaimed each year, with approximately 5,000 acres added in 1965.

With all the hardships and triumphs of the early homesteaders and the growth of the various communities, the early history of the county is as colorful and interesting as any other area in the nation.

Source: The Minidoka Story, published by the Minidoka County News, August 29, 1963.