The History of Star, Idaho
Star, Idaho is a smaller, farm-focused city east of Eagle and Boise. Residents enjoy a small-town feel as well as easy access to the larger cities in the Treasure Valley. What is the history of this small farming community? How did Star get its name? Check out the chronological timeline below!
Like most cities and towns in the Treasure Valley, Star was born along the banks of the Boise River. A man named Ben F. Swalley drove his ox train onto 300 acres of land along the Boise River in 1863. This land was one mile south of where Star currently sits. Later that year, the Pioneer Ditch was initiated to irrigate the land between Middleton and Star. The Ditch was extended to the Middleton Mill and allowed the land between the two towns to be settled earlier than without it. More homesteaders followed suit in subsequent years and took advantage of the rich farmland along the river.
A branch of the Old Oregon Trail crossed the Boise River near Boise and passed through where Star now sits. This branch of the trail became Old Valley Road connecting Boise to Caldwell. This road is now State Street/Highway 20/26. The Old Valley Road serviced stagecoaches and wagon trains from the 1860s through the late 1800s. The stage route proceeded through Payette to Umatilla, Oregon, and the Columbia River.
The true beginning of the city of Star began halfway between present-day Star and the Star/Emmet Junction. The first schoolhouse was built in the 1870s on land donated by Ben Swalley. When the schoolhouse was finished, one of the builders sawed a star out of wood and nailed it to the door. The star could be seen from far distances and became a landmark for nighttime travelers. Because of this, the town garnered the nickname Star. The schoolhouse was moved to River Street later in the 1870s.
In 1880, a post office was established with Shepp Gray as the first postmaster as well as proprietor of the general store. Between then and 1888, two blacksmith shops, the district schoolhouse, and two churches were built.
In 1903, the original schoolhouse was replaced by a brick building on River Street.
In 1905, Star was incorporated and established city limits in four miles in each direction around the town center.
On May 5th, 1906, Ezra Meeker visited the small town as he was marking the course of the Old Oregon Trail. Meeker was a traveler who can come west on the Oregon Trail as a child. As an adult, he repeatedly retraced the path of the Oregon Trail, marking the trail with markers and signposts in communities along the way in order to preserve its history.
1907 was a red-letter year for the growing town. W.E. Pierce completed the electric railroad that ran from Boise to Caldwell through Star and Middleton and circled back through Nampa and Meridian. Known as the Boise Interurban Railway, it brought electricity to the entire town. Rapid growth soon followed with two plats of land east of the existing town. The Idaho Daily Statesman (now known simply as the Idaho Statesman) reported “Citizens here have awakened to the fact that Star is very liable to become a very important point before long. There's been a great deal of building of late and the population of the town has easily doubled since it was definitely known that the electric line would be built through here."
In 1917, a cheese factory was opened and became known as the Mutual Creamery. The creamery in Star was part of a chain of creameries under the Mutual Creamery name, which was based out of Salt Lake City, Utah.
In 1919 the Star Mercantile was opened and evolved over the years from a cracker barrel store to a general store stocked with groceries, drugs, veterinary supplies, and home appliances.
The railway went out of business in 1928 as a result of growing automobile popularity in the state. The depot was moved to the east side of town in the 1950s and is now a coffee shop. Despite the doubled population in 20 years to over 600, the loss of an established connection to the rest of the valley marked a period of decline for Star.
In 1929, the State of Idaho paved the highway from Boise to Caldwell up to the city limits on either side of Star. The town was expected to pay for its portion of the highway, but residents balked at the possibility of higher taxes to pay for it. The state reversed the incorporation charter, making the highway property of the state so it could be completed.
In 1937, the brick schoolhouse was dismantled and a new school was built with the salvaged bricks. This school was demolished after Star Elementary School was opened in 1975 next to the brick building.
Star was re-incorporated by the Ada County Commission on December 12, 1997, making it the first city to be incorporated in Ada County since Eagle in 1971. A mayor and a 6-seat council were also appointed. The population at this time was around 500, similar to its population at the turn of the 20th century.
In recent years, the population has grown rapidly thanks to the growth experienced around the Treasure Valley. According to the 2000 census, Star’s population was 1,795. In the 2010 census, the population grew 222.7% to 5,793! The number is predicted to grow to about the same rate in the 2020 census due in large part to the large number of homes for sale and new subdivisions being built in the city.
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