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2019 Boise Idaho Real Estate Blog

The History of Ranches in the 'Dry Creek Ranch' Development Area Main Idaho Real Estate Insights

When P.L. Schick and George Banker took out their homestead patent in the Dry Creek Valley of Idaho in 1863, they were the first to take advantage of the rich resources and strategic location of the Valley, but they were not the only ones. Others followed quickly. One of the most desirable areas for settling and cultivation was the site of the current development called Dry Creek Ranch, which historically was the site of two homesteads--the Rossi-Robie/Healy/Jeker Ranch, and the Kingsbury/Lemp/Gary/Jones Ranch.

Dry Creek Ranch


Alexander Rossi, a German-French-Italian immigrant who had trekked to California in the early 1850s to make his fortune, met New York-born jack-of-all-trades Albert Robie (militia quartermaster, surveyor, Indian reservation manager) in the brand new town of Lewiston, which was founded in 1861 as a result of the discovery of gold on Orofino Creek in October 1860. Both men had come seeking new business opportunities, and they saw that the need for lumber was their chance. They went into business together and built and operated a sawmill that provided wood for the houses and businesses, fences, corrals, even for boats on the Snake and Clearwater Rivers.

The gold boom on the Orofino was short-lived, so when word came of a gold strike in the Boise Basin in late summer 1862, the two men relocated to the next boom town, Bannack City (now known as Idaho City). They quickly built another sawmill on the creek that would eventually bear Robie's name, and they also established an assay office in town. (Assay offices were needed to perform tests on gold dust and determine its purity so that an accurate measure of its monetary worth could be made.) Bannack City was soon eclipsed by the new city of Boise a few miles to the southwest, and by 1865 Rossi and Robie had moved their business there. Robie again built and operated an assay office, the first in the new city. They also built a sawmill on Shafer Creek, and built or improved what became the main road that ran from Boise, through the Dry Creek Valley, and northward to Horseshoe Bend and the mining towns around Placerville in the Boise Basin. This was the main road for traffic between Boise and the Basin, and for travellers heading to or from Oregon via the Payette River valley.

Rossi and Robie also established one of the first homesteads in the Dry Creek Valley, about two miles west of Shick's where their Shafer Creek Road debouched from the northern hills into the Valley. On this property they constructed a lumber yard from which to sell the product coming from their mill on Shafer Creek. (They also established a second lumber yard in what is now downtown Boise, at 6th and Main Streets. The road used to carry lumber there ran southeast through the Dry Creek Valley.) Robie moved his family onto the Dry Creek ranch to oversee operations, while Rossi resided in Boise near the assay office. The Rossi Toll Road, most of which is today known as Cartwright Road, was one of the primary thoroughfares in this part of Idaho in the 1860s and 1870s, and because of it Dry Creek was a well known area to all the early residents of the Boise and Basin areas.

There was also a warm-water spring on their property, which would produce 75 inches continuously. Residents of the Dry Creek Valley know that springs have a tendency to appear and disappear here, but this one ran at least through 1902. This, in addition to the deep rich soil in the Dry Creek Valley, made it easy to raise rich crops of hay on the ranch, and the men made a fair amount of money renting out their pasturage to cattle owners.

In the 1880s one of Rossi's sawmill employees, Thomas Healy, purchased the Dry Creek Ranch, the Shafer Creek sawmill, and the toll road, which then became known as the Healy Toll Road. He operated the sawmill until about 1905, and continued to maintain and manage the toll road until 1909. Starting about 1910, Healy--now in his late 60s--partnered with his neighbor D.E. Clemmens to run both the Healy ranch and Clemmens' ranch, which covered roughly the area bordered today by Brookside Lane, Beacon Light Road, and Highway 55.

Healy died in 1925. From that point the property passed to Julius and Anna Jeker, immigrants from Switzerland who bought the property in the early 1930s after 25 years of working as tenant farmers in the Warm Springs area of SW Boise. After Julius' death in 1951 the ranch was taken over by his son, Julius Jr., who owned and worked it until his death in 2005.

Just to the west of the Rossi-Robie homestead was the home of Thomas Kingsbury and his wife Elizabeth. Their property comprised the area where Brookside Lane and Dry Creek Road intersect with Highway 55. Kingsbury had been born in Ireland but immigrated to the "frontier" of Indiana as a young man, where he and Elizabeth met, married, and had five children. They came west on the Overland Trail and homesteaded in Oregon for a time before returning a bit east to settle on this homestead along Dry Creek in 1866, "on the lush valley floor at its widest point, where Spring Valley Creek enters Dry Creek." [Druss, Dry Creek Chronicles, p. 22] The Kingsburys had another four children while living on Dry Creek, where they grew wheat, barley, and potatoes and managed small amounts of livestockm especially dairy cattle. Later they also had extensive orchards producing apples, prunes, and plums.

Kingsbury survived a murder attempt by one of his employees in 1873 and continued to successfully run his ranch. In addition he had a very profitable threshing business, hiring his services out to local farmers and ranchers. He also hauled lumber for his neighbors Rossi and Robie from their Shafer Creek mill to their lumberyard where the current Jeker Ranch buildings are located. At this he was so successful that he expanded his freighting business to hauling supplies to the mines at Rocky Bar, near Atlanta in Elmore County. The miners there were also a ready market for the produce of Kingsbury's Dry Creek ranch, particularly his apples.

As business opportunities to the east gradually consumed more of Kingsbury's attention, he and his family finally left Dry Creek in 1884 after eighteen years of farming, and relocated to the Wood River Valley and the town of Hailey (named for their Dry Creek neighbor, famous pioneer John Hailey). The ranch was purchased by John Lemp, who was already a prominent businessman in Boise and founder of the first (1864) and largest brewery in Boise, and owner of several saloons and other businesses. He had also served as the mayor of Boise in the 1870s. Lemp apparently bought the Kingsbury place as an investment, and never lived there. He sold it to John Gary in 1888. John Gary was a well-known sheep rancher in the Boise area. He lived in Boise with his sister Ora, and ran several sheep ranches including the former Kingsbury property. After only two years he sold the Dry Creek parcel to William Jones, another sheepman, who had come to Dry Creek from Montana in 1886 and who bought and combined several ranches at the mouth of the Dry Creek Valley into a sprawling sheep operation. This ranch was reputed to be one of the finest in Idaho--the lambing shed alone cost $3,000, the equivalent of about $80,000 in 2019 dollars.

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Posted by tlangford at 8/26/2019 9:29:00 PM
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