County History

In the earliest days of Idaho settlement, a trail up the Weiser River 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 any other name, the Council area was called "Hornet Creek" or "Hornet Valley" as it was the place where Hornet Creek entered the Weiser River.

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 community.

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 world.

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 seat.

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 of horses.

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 II.

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.

Adams County Communities

Early on, a number of separate, small communities were in this area, including Goodrich, Mesa, Council, Fruitvale, Tamarack, Bear, Cuprum, and others.. Most had a combination post office/store and the school was the center of the community social life.

Travel was often cumbersome and initially residents usually stayed pretty close to home. Eventually, however, with the arrival of cars and better roads, students from outlying areas began being bussed to school in Council. Residents from outside also started going to Council to do their buying and selling and the smaller community stores, which couldn’t compete any longer, began closing.

By the 1920’s, live entertainment at the Council opera house was replaced by silent movies. The building, which still stands on the main street of town, is now called the “People’s Theater.” The first radio in the area, called a “wireless telephone,” was built by Mesa hobbyists in 1922.

In 1933 a Federal Civilian Conservation Corps program (the “CCC”) had a main camp east of Highway 95, north of the Middle Fork of the Weiser River. The CCC built a number of roads and lookouts in the National Forest as well as other projects in the Council area. New Forest Service buildings were built near the Corps’ camp in Council and they are still used by the Forest Service today.

The fruit industry in the area was almost finished by the end of the 1930s. The economic outlook, however, was improved with the introduction of logging and the presence of the Boise-Payette Lumber Company. So, in the 1940s a new prosperity came to town. But many felt it was the beginning of the disappearance of its settler heritage.

In the 1990s the economics of the area changed again. The days of the railroad were numbered. The towns that had once seen regular rail travel now saw the tracks that ran through the area removed. A bigger blow came with the closure of the Boise Cascade mill, the largest employer in the area. But time marches on and Adams County residents remain faithful to the determination and steadfastness that the early settlers brought to their new home.

Information on Council, the County Seat, can be seen at and


Bear, at 4,365 feet, is located about 28 miles northwest of Council. It boasted a post office from 1892 until 1966. The first settlers found plenty of black bears in the Bear and Bear Creek area.

Bear came into being with the Seven Devils mining boom. It was inhabited with many mine workers. Its first businesses included hotels and it soon had a post office which was housed in the general merchandise store.

Although Bear has had at least three different school buildings, the last Bear School also served as a public and church meeting place, theater, and dance hall. When the school closed and the Bear students were bussed down to Council, the old school was still used occasionally for dances and social gatherings.

Bear is a gateway to the Seven Devils area and is still a thriving community of private homes.


Cuprum is a former copper mining town (cuprum is Latin for “copper”). It is located northwest of Council and at the south end of the Seven Devils mining district.

Cuprum began with a teamsters’ campsite. The post office was established in 1897, as was a copper smelter. Copper smelting was a big reason that it became a booming town with general stores, hotels, hospital/drug store, blacksmith shop, livery stables, assay office, six saloons, liquor store, laundry, barber shop, a newspaper, and several eating establishments. However, the operators failed to make the smelter continue and it was dismantled. When the mining boom ended, the population quickly declined.

Cuprum remains a thriving community and is a gateway to Black Lake and the Six Lakes Basin.


Fruitvale is located just north of Council near where the West Fork of the Weiser River enters the Main Weiser. Initially the area was known as “West Fork.” The first residents are believed to have settled in the area in 1883. The area was along an active wagon train trail.

When a post office was established in 1909, the name it was given was “Lincoln.” It was soon renamed “Fruitvale.” Perhaps because of the booming fruit industry in the Council area. The first Fruitvale store, owned by the Lincoln Lumber Company, was probably established in 1909 and probably housed the post office.

At one time Fruitvale was home to lumber operations and the P&IN (Pacific & Idaho Northern) railroad built a siding at the mill. It also had a grange, stores, churches, blacksmith, real estate agency, hotel, school, and a newspaper called the “Fruitvale Echo.”

Fruitvale is now serviced by the Council post office and schools, and the community is comprised of private residences.


Goodrich is an area located southwest of Council. An 1890 petition was presented to build a road from the Middle Fork of the Weiser River to Salubria (near Cambridge) via Bacon Valley (near Mesa). A post office was established in 1901 and was known as “Milligan.” The name was changed to Goodrich in 1912.

In about 1910 a school was established. Soon the community had a baseball team and its own “orchestra”. In 1956 the school closed and the students were bussed to Council. The post office was closed in 1957.

Today the Goodrich area consists of private residences and range and pasture lands.

Indian Valley

Indian Valley (at 3,002 feet) is located in the southern part of the County near the Washington County line.

A large basin along the Little Weiser River was referred to as “Indian Valley” because of the Weiser Shoshoni that often wintered there, its climate being milder than that of others. Permanent settlement began in Indian Valley in 1868. The Weiser Shoshonis showed these new settlers how to harvest and preserve salmon.

In 1873 a post office was established, which is still in service today. In 1874 a mail route was established that passed through Indian Valley. It was also on the stage coach route, with the stage company’s headquarters located at a ranch there.

Indian Valley remains a thriving community with a post office and general store as well as citizens active in all areas of community life, including church and public gatherings and a rural fire department with emergency medical technicians.


Mesa is located on Highway 95 south of Council. In 1908 the area had a post office known as “Middle Fork.” In 1912 the name was changed to “Mesa.” (Although there is no longer a Mesa post office, it continues with its very own zip code). Also in 1912 a school was built which included an assembly room for public gatherings.

In 1908 the idea for apple orchards in the Mesa area was born. It is a dry area and the water problem had to be dealt with. The solution ended up being the building of a seven-mile-long wooden flume to convey water from the Middle Fork of the Weiser River as well as the digging of several miles of ditches.

In 1909 the Mesa Orchards Company ordered 80,000 trees, built a sawmill on the Middle Fork for lumber for the flume, and hired 100 men to dig the ditches. Unfortunately the initial irrigation solution was inadequate and most of the trees died. Water had to be hauled in by wagon until the irrigation was finally completed in 1911.

A $45,000 tramway was built in 1920 and was used to carry fruit three and a half miles north to the railroad. It ceased operation about 1934.

Five hundred workers were harvesting apples in 1933 but by 1936 the company was ordered to sell its property because of its huge debts. The apple enterprise continued under new owners. In 1947 the apple harvest was said to be 500,000 boxes. The winter of 1949 brought 63 straight days of zero and below temperatures. Many trees never produced well again. Eventually many of the trees were felled to increase pasture.

The area is now comprised of private homes and range and pasture lands.

New Meadows

New Meadows (3,865 feet) is named for the lovely meadows where it is located. (There was already a Meadows community.) It is located at the junction of Idaho highways 55 and 95. Settlement began in 1864. In 1878 it was called Whites Mail Station.

In 1910 the north terminal for the P&IN (Pacific & Idaho Northern) Railroad was to be located at Meadows. However, due to a dispute between community officials and the president of the company, Edgar M. Heigho, the line was built one and a half miles east of Meadows and the place was named “New Meadows.” Heigho was instrumental in designing the town’s layout. Several streets are named after his wife and children. The post office was established in 1911.

Today New Meadows continues to thrive. The town is home to a US Forest Service Ranger Station, has a fire department, ambulance and emergency medical technicians, airport services, and several businesses which serve not only the local population, but also travelers, tourists, and sportsmen as well.

Price Valley and Tamarack

Price Valley and Tamarack. are located on Highway 95 between Council and New Meadows. The earliest structure built in the Price Valley area was a mail cabin which was built in the early 1870s. A favorite camping and fishing spot, by 1904 it also sported a stage station and saloon. Before 1910 a sawmill was established, followed by the arrival of a railroad depot, loading platform, truck scale and siding. The first post office was established in 1911 and was named “Tamarack.” More residents arrived and a school was built.

By 1913 there were four sawmills in operation but many people moved from the area during World War II and although a small boom came to the area in 1945, a slowdown returned and the post office was finally replaced by a mail route from New Meadows.
Today one remaining scaled-back mill processes some timber and operates a power generating plant.

[Historical information from Landmarks – A General History of The Council, Idaho Area by Dale Fisk and information received from Patty Gross at the Council Valley Free Library.]

Additional Statistical Information about Adams County

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