History of Nampa


Nampa is located twenty miles west of Boise, Idaho. Nampa was named after a Shoshone Indian Chief, Nampuh. Nampuh means bigfoot, as stated by legend. In spite of the fact that Native American tribes settled in the area hundreds of years ago, no other settlers settled the area until the late 1800s.

The settlement of the Nampa area started when the Oregon Short Line Railroad was completed. In 1883 the Oregon Short Line Railroad put in a water tank and a standing sign on its station house, this was the first of Nampa. Similar to Caldwell which is five minutes west of Nampa it is one of Idaho’s constructive agricultural areas. In addition, James A. McGee and Alexander Duffes came to the decision of investing in the part of the development of the new town. Under the Idaho Homestead Act Duffes filed a claim and then in 1886 both Duffes and McGee created the Nampa Land and Improvement Company and submitted the town’s articles of incorporation. Nampa was initially bypassed for the Short Line; however, with the growing traffic the Short Line had to rethink the decision and found it necessary to offer a connecting line between Boise and the Oregon Short Line. The Idaho Central Railway was constructed to make the Boise to Oregon Short Line connection and Nampa was the ideal spot along the way.

Nampa became an incorporated city in 1891. Business development and population of Nampa continued to grow all the way up to the 1890s. The main cause of this is the irrigation that was possible from the Phylis Canal. However, in 1894 Alexander Duffes mortgaged his unsold lots to help the declining economy. The loan that was taken out defaulted and the town went down hill into debt. The debt was then paid in 1896 by Colonel W.H. Dewey and therefore received 2,000 deeds to the lots. The development of Nampa would not have been done if it were not for Dewey. Part of the development he did was the surveying of a route for the Owyhee Railway to go from Boise to Nampa and link the mining towns of the Owyhee Valley. Dewey’s railroad went from Nampa to Murphy as well as Nampa to Emmett and eventually Lakeport (McCall).

After the major purchase and development of the routes housing four different railroads and being a stop along each one, Dewey constructed a majestic hotel and named it Dewey Place. The hotel consisted of 81 rooms spread out over four floors. Two porches ran the length of the front of the hotel and at each end of the building was a dome tower that was able to be seen from Caldwell which was five miles away. The hotel was closed in 1956 and torn down in 1963.

By 1900, ten passenger trains daily would come through Nampa. Therefore Nampa needed a larger trains station. The Canyon County’s initial train depot was constructed in 1903 and now the Canyon County Historical Museum which contains both county and Union Pacific Railroad history.

In 1908 a successful street fair was created by a bunch of church ladies. This led to a popular local event named the Harvest Festival. This was much like a farmers market as farmers from all around the area brought their fruits, vegetables and other produce to sell in downtown Nampa. Bronco bucking contests were added in 1913. The Harvest Festival did not last longer than 1937 but the rodeo part of the festival turned into more and eventually became the Snake River Stampede. This rodeo is one of the top ten rodeos in the pro rodeo circuits. The Bureau of Reclamation brought a water storage site in 1909. By 1910, the Deer Flat Reservoir severed about 2900 farms with water.

The Union Pacific constructed a new passenger depot on the north side of the tracks in 1925. The union Pacific discontinued passenger serves in 1971 but the Amtrak took its place that May. In 1997, due to no funding, the Amtrak was shut down. In 1926 the development of a large Pacific Fruit Express ice plant brought a major refrigeration shop to Nampa. The PFE not only offered refrigeration shop but repaired and built railroad cars. The shops closed in 1982 and by 1988 the buildings were utilized for repairs on grain trains.

The beginning of the 20th century brought in several business developments including the Western Idaho Sugar Company and Crescent Brewing Company. Both businesses used local farmers and offered jobs to the community at the processing plants. In 1909 there was a fire, therefore, leading to a decline in business. The fire caused more than 60 stores in downtown Nampa to be destroyed. The stability of the community started to hold its own again by the 1920s. Eugene Emerson established the Northwest Nazarene School in 1913 in Nampa (now called Northwest Nazarene University). The high crop prices during World War I was very beneficial for the Nampa but after the war was over the bottom of the market fell and several farmers went bankrupt.

In 1942 the economy started to recover at the time the Amalgamated Sugar Company began a sugar beet plant in the city which increased farm productivity. Nampa was named “Main Street America in 1946 by a campaign known as Know Your Own Strength. This was brought on by Nampa trying to prove that the city had the buying power and retail power to keep sales local. The sales increased 121% that year.

The Nampa Industrial Corporation was created in 1949 to help bring other economic growth besides farming to the community. By the 1970s the Nampa Industrial Corporation’s investment in both land and facility improvements gave the economy a more diverse options as it encouraged new businesses and other growths in Nampa.

The construction and completion of the Nampa Karcher Mall were done in 1965. Throughout the years, several businesses and industries have come and went. Nampa has continuously grown and went from an original population of 799 in 1900 to 75,000 in 2005. Nampa continues to be a part of the Union Pacific main line operations and there is no doubt this will continue into the future.

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