Source: The Owyhee Avalanche (Homedale)
Author: Joe Demshar
Owyhee at 150: Tracing the evolution of Homedale, Marsing
HOMEDALE - Homedale is the largest of the many towns that dot the landscape of Owyhee County. Jacob Mussell was the first known permanent settler in the area when, in 1898, he built a ferry boat to help people cross the Snake River. It was just 11 years later when the official town site was platted, a mayor and council were put into place, and a town name was selected by drawing names from a hat, according to the City of Homedale’s website. With a new town established, a two-story brick schoolhouse soon followed in 1913. That same year, the Union Pacific Railroad built a line connecting Homedale to Nyssa, Ore. The railroad, coupled with irrigation, helped turn Homedale and Owyhee County into a productive farming region. Two cultures play a major part in the community of Homedale: Basque and Austrian. A large number of people with Austrian heritage live in an area south of the city known as the Austrian Settlement. They were lured to Homedale in 1914 by unscrupulous land speculators who “sold” them the ground. After making the trek to Idaho, the settlers found that not only was the ground undeveloped, but they still had to purchase the land from the government. Homedale continued to grow over the years with the first bridge spanning the Snake River in 1921. At one time, there were 15 churches serving Homedale. And even though many people over the years have migrated to larger cities, Homedale has continued to prosper. Just southeast of Homedale lies the town of Marsing. Before Marsing ever became a settled town, two ferries operated in the immediate vicinity. The Froman ferry was established about 1887 and was located about two miles below the present bridge. The Henderson (or Nampa) ferry was located about one mile above the bridge (it had been moved to this site from further up the river). Both ferries were used until the bridge was built. With the coming of irrigation in 1913, the homesteaders settled on the land. Schools and stores were needed, and several attempts were made to form a town. Many stores attempted operation in the area, but only one in the nearby community of Claytonia stayed open for a decent amount of time. Many youngsters attended school at a vacant homestead cabin along the banks of the river before a school building was constructed in 1914. When the Lizard Butte Bridge was built in 1921, a town finally started to develop. Chet Johnson, Mark Marsing and Earl Q. Marsing laid out the town site and the railroad right-of-way and sold land to prospective merchants and residents. In the first several years, a service station, general store, blacksmith, post office and restaurant opened. In 1922, the Oregon Short Line Railroad came to the new community and hauled potatoes as the first load from Marsing. The first water system was organized in 1924, and in 1925, the first telephone was installed and Main Street was oiled. In 1929, the Sewell Co. and J.C. Watson Co. each built a warehouse for the shipment of fruits and vegetables by rail. In 1941, Marsing became an organized village and in 1948 a fire district was formed to serve both the village and the surrounding area, including parts of Canyon County. Marsing had many names over the years. The railroad depot was known as Erb after the man who was influential in establishing the railroad to Marsing. The area to the northwest of the town was called Claytonia after an early resident, and Butte was the name first proposed for the town. Marsing was eventually chosen to honor one of the early homestead families. — Joe Demshar is director of the Owyhee County Historical Museum in Murphy. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, and Demshar and his staff are available to provide assistance or information on topics such as the one discussed this week. Contact the museum at (208) 495-2319.