Adams County History
In the earliest days of Idaho settlement, a trail up the Weiser River
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through what is now Adams County became the principal avenue of
travel for pack trains carrying supplies from Boise to the gold camps
at Warren and Florence. This route was easier to travel than the
more direct but torturous terrain along the Payette River. The Weiser
River trail was also clear of snow earlier in the spring.
Before non-native settlement began here, the area was inhabited by
small bands of Shoshoni Indians. Pioneers who frequented the
Council Valley in those early days told of huge groups of Indians who
gathered here from all over the
Northwest. Perry Clark, a member of the Idaho Territorial
Legislature and later an Indian Valley school teacher, said that from
on top of the little hill just north of present-day downtown Council, he
could see ". . . many hundreds of Indians and thousands of head of
Indian horses at one sight, literally covering the valley as a
blanket." Clark never actually lived here, but he named the place
"Council Valley" because of these gatherings that he interpreted as
being Indian "Council" meetings.
The word "council" probably doesn't fit the principal nature of the
native gatherings. Their most important function was probably trade,
but it was also a time to gamble and celebrate the beginning of the
salmon runs up the Weiser River.
The main, annual, Indian rendezvous was originally held in the
Snake River Valley between the mouth of the Boise River (near
Parma) and the mouth of the Weiser River (near Weiser). After the
sky seemed to open up and rain white men
around the Boise Valley in 1862, the big native festival that had been
held along the Snake River was relocated to the more remote Council
Valley to avoid contact with whites. It is hard to tell just how
prominent the role was that the Council Valley played in this regard,
or for how long such native gatherings had been held here. The
festivals here seem to have peaked about 1872 when a total of about
2,500 Indians gathered here.
Indian Valley is so named because it was used as a wintering area
by the Shoshoni.
As settlement started along the Weiser River, the Council and
Indian Valley areas were referred to as the "Upper Weiser" or the
"Upper country". By 1868 non-native families were living along the
Weiser River as far up as Indian Valley. The only known occupant of
the Council Valley was a bachelor named Henry Childs who lived on
Hornet Creek. That creek was named after a nasty encounter Childs
had with hornets near his home while clearing brush. Before it had
name, the Council area was called "Hornet Creek" or "Hornet
Valley" as it was the place where Hornet Creek entered the Weiser
George and Elizabeth Moser and their children became the first
white family to settle in the Council Valley in 1876. Their homestead
later became the location of the town of Council. On November 19,
1878 the first post office was established at what now became officially
known as "Council Valley". Robert White was the postmaster. The
office was nothing more than a small box that he kept under his bed
in his home just north of the present town.
Like the Council Valley there were a few bachelors living in the
Meadows Valley, then known as "Salmon Meadows", before Calvin
and Lydia White and their children became the first family to arrive
in the fall of 1877. By 1883 Cal White had established a post office at
Meadows and generally become the founding father of the
The arrival of the railroad in 1882 at the town of Weiser, near
the mouth of the Weiser River, spurred rapid growth of the Upper
Country. In 1891 the core of the present town of Council began to
form around a town square. The first business was a hotel / saloon
built east of the square. Another hotel, several stores and many
homes soon followed. In 1896 the name "Council Valley" for the town
was shortened to "Council".
Construction of the railroad up the Weiser River brought a boom
to the town beginning in 1898. For a couple of years Council was a
"wide open" town, with about six saloons. The arrival of the tracks in
March of 1901 shortened the trip to Weiser from a bone-jarring two-
day trip each way in a wagon to a matter of two or three hours in the
comfort of a passenger car. Copper ore from the Seven Devils mines
that had previously been hauled over 100 miles to Weiser was now
loaded onto rail cars at Council.
When the Thunder Mountain mining boom came in 1902, Council
was the nearest rail town to the gold strike and became the "jumping
off point" for that gold rush. Writer, Earl Wayland Bowman arrived
in Council that summer, and described
it as a bustling, dirty little town with money flowing like water.
Council soon became more civilized, and the town of officially
incorporated January 20, 1903. By about 1905 the town had a
population of about 1,000.
The area continued to boom throughout the first decade of the
twentieth century. Cattle, sheep, farming and mining formed the core
of the economy. About 1907 the fruit industry began in the Council
area on a large scale. The most famous of the orchards in the area
were those of the Mesa Orchards Company, eight miles south of
Council. At its peak the company had 1,200 acres growing various
fruit trees (mostly apples) and was one of the biggest orchards in the
In 1911 the railroad reached the Meadows Valley, and a new town
called "New Meadows" was established where the tracks ended. Until
1911 what is now Adams County was part of Washington County.
That year the upper part of Washington County became Adams
County with Council as the temporary county seat. In the November
election of 1912, Council was voted the permanent county
Until 1913 Council's town square was used as a place to tie horses
and park wagons. That year the hitching racks all around the square
were taken out for "sanitary and appearance reasons". One can only
imagine the "ambiance" of the square during constant use by dozens
In 1915 the town suffered its worst fire, and lost many of the
buildings of its downtown core. An ordinance was passed requiring
new buildings to be made of brick. Most of the present brick
structures in downtown Council were built right
after the 1915 fire. The new buildings were wired for electricity which
reached the town that year.
The 1920s brought hard times to the Council area. The mining
boom had gone bust, and the area was hit hard by the national
agricultural depression that followed World War I.
By 1929 Council had a population of about 500.
The economy of the area started to improve in 1939 when the
Boise-Payette lumber company built a sawmill in Council and started
logging operations in the surrounding mountains. The town
experience a boom and a housing shortage. A new high school was
finished in 1941, just about the time the U.S. jumped into World War
For several decades after the War, life and the economy in the
Council area were stable, with logging and ranching as its core
industries. In the 1980s timber-related jobs began to decline, and the
Council sawmill closed March 31, 1995. It looks like the economic
future here will have to be more diverse than its past.