Rise and Fall of Idahome

Interesting things pop-up unexpectedly as one searches for completely different topics. I wanted to find every town with a state name, a laborious manual process undertaken for Geographic Matryoshka with US States. Dutifully, I entered each name into the Geographical Names Information System (GNIS) one-by-one and tallied the results. My search for Idaho produced towns such as Idaho, NY; Idaho, ND; Idaho, OH; Idaho, PA and Idaho, TN. However there were other results on the screen because the values weren’t truncated. That’s when I noticed what I thought might be one of the better place names in the United States, the remarkable Idahome in Cassia County, Idaho.

Goodness knows I’ve always been captivated by a solid portmanteau. This was one of the best, a remarkable combination of Idaho and Home. There’s no place like home! I couldn’t think of any similar state combination. I supposed Utahome came close or maybe twist it a little more to create Ohiohome. Maybe the Arapaho tribe of Native Americans could create a place called Arapahome. Still, Idahome actually existed and it had been recorded as a placename by the U.S. government.

Idahome, Idaho

I should clarity that point. GNIS said Idahome existed. Boots on the ground might argue with that point. Sure it existed — in the past tense — although it existed in its current form only as a ghost town with a derelict grain elevator and the faint footprints of a few former residences.

Abandoned town site of Idahome by Linda Paul on Flickr (cc)

What could have possibly happened to a place with such a noteworthy name? An historical marker placed on Highway 81 at the old townsite (map) provided a nice summary:

After wheat crops flourished in this dry farm area, Idahome sprang up here in 1916 as a railroad terminal. Irrigation projects boosted its economy. When wheat farms disappeared and highway traffic replaced rail service here, Idahome became a ghost town. Its grain elevators, lumberyards, stores, airport, oil company, school, newspaper and people are only past memories. An elevator and a few building foundations mark its site.

Wikipedia also had a minor Idahome entry although it contained an unsubstantiated claim. "The community was named by a railroad surveying party that found a bag labeled ‘Idahome Flour Co.’ at the site; the railroad made the place a stop with the flour company’s name." That sounded fine although in apocryphal terms. Evidence contemporary with the flourishing of Idahome in the early Twentieth Century contradicted the formative fable. Imagine that. An assertion made on Wikipedia without attribution proving to be wrong.

IdaHome Flour Building
IdaHome Flour Building by Nicholas D. on Flickr (cc)

Idahome was an obscure locale even when it thrived although it left a small paper trail in its wake that was captured by Google Books. Idahome wasn’t the name of a flour company originally, it was a brand used for wheat flour by the The Twin Falls Milling & Elev., Co. of Twin Falls, Idaho, as noted in the January 1912 edition of Northwestern Miller. Another publication of the period, The American Miller and Processor, elaborated further.

WHERE IDAHOME FLOUR IS MADE. The new plant of the Twin Falls Mill and Company, located at Twin Falls, Idaho, was started but a short time ago. The company is in possession of a new 400-barrel mill electrically operated, located in a brick building 36 by 64 feet, four stories high. The mill is thoroughly equipped with the latest mill machinery, eight stands of rolls, cleaners packers and all the various machines. The mill is so arranged that the capacity can be increased to 600 barrels if trade demands, and has been made for the adding of a plant to manufacture breakfast food of all kinds. A months before starting, the company held a contest offering a prize for the most acceptable name a flour, and as a result have accepted and patented the two names "Idahome" and "Shoshone Mist."

More important, the railroad didn’t name Idahome for a discarded bag, it was developed specifically as a terminal to serve the Idahome brand of flour. By 1918 the N.W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual and Directory noted that Idahome had become a town of 300 people complete with the short-line railroad, telephone service, a bank, the mill and a sugar beet factory. It was also a local center for lead and silver mining as well as for agricultural pursuits including the grazing of sheep and cattle. At some point the name of the company did change to Idahome Grain & Produce Co. although that happened after the mill had been established and in any case the end was near. In 1919 the company moved to nearby Burly. Soon one of the best named locations in the nation began on its path towards oblivion.

It was too good for the name to simply die, though. Its memory lived on in Idahome Road, leading from the old town site to Interstate 84 (street view). There were also several likely unrelated mentions:

Most inexplicably, and I’m sure completely coincidentally, there was an Idahome Street in West Covina, California (map)