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Southeast Idaho

SAMARIA IDAHO 

 Samaria is located 10 minutes outside of Malad City.  Originally Samaria was the largest town within the Malad Valley.  But when the railroad decided to go through Malad City instead of Samaria all this changed.

 Historic Photos of Samaria

 

 

 

Samaria received its name from Lorenzo Snow, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He was so impressed by the hospitality and kindness of the people that he said that they were indeed “Good Samaritans” and he named the town Samaria.

Samaria has always been admired for its kind atmosphere and beauty.  Neighborhood children enjoy swimming in fresh springs, taking a trip to the mountains, or taking bike rides on the calm streets.
 

SAMARIA HISTORY

By Luke D. Waldron  (1996)

During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the bustling town of Samaria was well known to many travelers. Today, those traveling on Interstate 15 who pass by the Samaria exit will probably never know of the great legacies of this community. For many, it is just another dot on the map, or there is no dot at all on some modern maps. Although Samaria has not been as fortunate as many other towns, it has a unique past that should never be forgotten.

Samaria is nestled under the beautiful Samaria Mountain range and lies in the southeastern  part of the State of Idaho. It stands on a slight elevation overlooking the fertile Malad Valley. The town is located only a few miles from the Utah border. In fact, the first settlers of Samaria actually believed that they were living in the State of Utah.1

         John Evan Price was the first white man to inhabit this area. He, along with his two sons, arrived to the present site of Samaria on February 10, 1868. During the same year, John moved the rest of his family from nearby Malad to Samaria.  In his diary he gives the following account of his move,

“On February 10, 1868, I took up 160 acres of land eight miles west of Malad. I went with my sons and built a dugout on the claim. I sold my place in Malad for a wagon and yoke of oxen. On April 16, 1868, I moved my family here, and we were the only white residents. The country was covered with sagebrush and inhabited only by the American  Indiana and the wild beasts.”2

         He began at once to till the barren desert soil and make it his home. It was not much later when other pioneers moved took up residency in the area. In May of 1868 the families of James Thomas, Thomas R. Roberts, David W. Davis and Taliesen Hughes moved in.3 These men and most of the early pioneers of Samaria were natives of Wales.4 With these families and others that continued to arrive, by 1870 Samaria had become a nice little community of 19 families with a population of 80-90 people.5        

              The name of Samaria is unique itself.  Many people may wonder how the town received the name of Samaria; after all, it is the name of a city spoken of in the bible. This is where the name was derived from. On July 12, 1868 Lorenzo Snow, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, made a visit to the community to approve its location. He not only approved of its location, but also gave the town a name. He was so impressed by the hospitality and kindness of the people that he said that they were indeed “Good Samaritans” and he named the town Samaria. He also encouraged the people to build good homes, plant trees, and beautify the place.6        

              As the community continued to grow, it became necessary for some type of government to be established, In July 1869 a meeting was called and Thomas S. Thomas was called to preside over the settlement. At this time, plans were also made to have the town surveyed and divided into lots.7 The town was then surveyed, and was set up just like most other Mormon communities were at the time, with the land being divided into 10-acre blocks with the streets being 6 rods wide. Later, on January 27th, 1873, a landowners’ meeting was held to discuss the responsibilities of those who owned property in Samaria. During this meeting Articles of Agreement were written that told every landowner that they must have their property fenced by the last day of next May. It set up the specifications of how these fences were to be built and maintained.8 Levi Savage Waldron, the leading farmer in the village at this time, had the honor of having fenced the first lot in the settlement.9        

              Other ordinances were also later written and were strictly observed by the village police. The ordinances covered just about everything imagined, such as the punishments for obstructing the streets or sidewalks with manure piles, playing ball on Sunday, (any person who violated this provision could be fined up to $10 or two days in jail) or staying out past curfews.10 Effie Evans Pilgrim remembers, “When the curfew [bell] would ring at nine o’clock, everyone under the age of 16 must be off the streets. Dell Potter was the cop and rode a white horse. When he appeared at 9 o’clock, kids were running in all directions for home.”11 Those who think that living in the “good old days” meant doing whatever one pleased, may be surprised after reading some the strict ordinances that were set in Samaria’s early years.

         Education to the Samaritans has always been a high priority. On October 31, 1869, a petition was sent to the county school superintendent asking to be admitted as a school district.  The petition was soon granted, and Thomas S. Thomas, John E. Price, and Richard Morse were elected as school Trustees.12 By November of that same year, plans were underway to build a log  building that would serve as a school and also a church house. This building, which was 16 feet by 24 feet, was finished and ready for use by March of 1 870.13 Families came from surrounding farms to spend the winter in Samaria so that their children could attend school. Many homes were also used as schools to accommodate the increasing number of students. Also, a Presbyterian mission school with an enrollment of 60 students was conducted by Reverend W.A Rough of Malad and was supervised by Anne Noble.14 It was held in a three room, white frame building, which was later used as a residence and has since been torn down.15 As the population continued to increase, it was necessary to build a much larger school building. In 1898, a beautiful up-to-date two-story brick building was built. Serving on the Board of Trustees at this time were Benjamin Waldron, David Jenkins, and Richard Morse. Thomas D. Williams was principal and Mary Hill was the main teacher.16  The Samaria school district was once one of the largest in the county. Mabel W. Davis, a former student of Samaria, recalls when “Our six room school house was bulging with children. The school bell would ring at 8:30 each morning letting us know we had thirty minutes to get to school,”17 Steve Hughes, also a former student, remembers when “long lines of children turned out each day to be taught, the children lined up in two separate rows outside the building before the start of school each morning, and they marched to their classrooms, single file, to the music of a phonograph record.”18 For years this structure saw many students enter its doors. However, the school became silent forever in 1959, when the districts were consolidated and the children were sent to school in Malad.19 The building was torn down in 1968 to make room for the Samaria Centennial Park.        

              Although the townspeople were strongly involved in education, their lives were also centered around religion. Both the Latter-Day Saints and the Presbyterians were represented in Samaria, with the Latter-Day Saints being the predominate religion. However, early on, the Presbyterian Church was consolidated and met in Malad. A branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was organized on November 18, 1868, with Thomas S Thomas being the presiding elder, and by March 1870 a log meeting house was completed.20 On October 31, 1880, a ward was organized with Jonah Evans being called as the first bishop. Under the direction of Bishop Evans, the Samaria ward was incorporated on July 13, 1901.21 In 1902 a large Assembly  Hall was built for religious meetings, as well as for the use of other community events. This building, which was built for $6,000 by N.L. Nelson, comfortably sat 500 people. Ann Powell Olsen recalls the first time she went to see the new church, “Aunt Esther Jenkins and I [were] walking through Pig Alley to see the new church. My father was helping shingle it. He called to me. My, I thought it was a big building, and he was really up in the air. What a nice place in which to go to church! All community affairs were held in it also.”22 Belle Thorpe Evans states, “When we got the new Church House, I remember how proud and happy the good people of Samaria were”23 The new church was indeed a reflection of just how important religion was to the individuals of this community. On June 18, 1967 the brick addition to the church was dedicated by Elder Spencer W. Kimball. In 1986, news was received of the church’s plan to consolidate many of the smaller wards in the Stake, On October 12, 1986; many tears flowed down the Samaria Saints cheeks as they held the last Sacrament meeting ever to be held in this building. This adjustment was very hard for the Samaritans to make. After this date they were sent to Malad to become part of the N4alad Second ward. The last Bishop of Samaria was Rex D. Mills. The building was then sold and purchased by Rex Waldron. Rex and his wife Donna, still graciously allow the community to use this building for social gatherings.        

              The people of Samaria, even though they were heavily involved in educational, religious, and their work duties they always found time to have fun and were a very social group. Many  people who have lived in Samaria cannot forget the 4th and 24th of July Celebrations. Elizabeth Hughes Ballard can distinctly remember such times,        

             “The morning of July 4th opened with a 16 gun solute over the

graves of the veterans.. The gathering under the bowery for the

days event was always opened with a  prayer. The events of the

day was much like the Eisteddfod in Wales; racing, games, ball

games, horse racing, foot racing and contests of all Bolts with

dancing in the afternoon for the children and dancing in the evening

for the adults, Lemonade was served at intervals  during the day from

a large wooden barrel, everyone of us kids used the seine dippers or

cup. Much of the same kind of celebration took place on the 24th day

of July.24       

         The Samaria Brass Band, led by Thin Morgan, played for these celebrations and many other in and around Samaria.25     

              During the summer, men woul4 quit working at noon each Saturday to participate in baseball games and a rodeo at the town square.26 The Samaria team was known as “the buttermilks” and had one of the best teams in the entire valley. They competed with the teams of Portage. Pleasant View, Malad, St, John, Cherry Creek, Woodruff Holbrook, and any other community that could get a team together.27 Many also enjoyed swimming at warm springs or fishing in Samaria Lake in the summer. Dances were held regularly throughout the years in the upstairs of the Ben Waldron Store. Margaret Jane Powell Hill could remember such dances, “All the community would come out to the dances. Bill Morgan would call the Virginia Reels and square dances. If any mistakes were made, Bill would jump down from the stand and give the individual a good bawling out.”28

In the winter folks kept themselves just as socially involved. The woman would hold quilting bees, have guests over for dinner, organize plays, and exchange recipes for different remedies of sickness. The young people were always happy when the snow came. They would pile as many kids as they could into the Sleigh and ride around town. The boys enjoyed frightening the girls by having the team of horses cut “geesers”. This was done by having the horses go round and around.29 This is similar to what the boys in Sa4iaria do today, only they use cars and call them “cookies”, The people of Samaria still lead active social lives but usually go to Malad for most of their entertainment.  

              Even when people did have to work, they could spare time for socializing. Men and women could be found socializing in front of the stores or at the town springs where everyone had to come for water in those days. Ann Powell Olsen remembers such times, “Arriving at the spring was a thrilling experience for one so young. Water was gushing out of a large square  wooden pipe. Many other people with their water barrels were there waiting their turns, having a chance to visit with one another by doing so.”30  According to William M. Price,       

“All families had in their possession, or had some access to, what was known as a water sleigh which carried a fifty gallon keg in which water was hauled from the Samaria spring to their homes for drinking, as well as for all household uses. The water was dipped by bucket from the spring into the keg.”31

Livestock was also brought to water here each night and morning. In 1906, water became more readily available for many through the digging of wells. Levi Savage Waldron could see the need for wells to be dug in the valley so he and Dick Reese traveled to Collinston where he placed an order for a well machine. When the machine arrived, Levi went to work and dug the first well in the village and continued to dig many more through out his lifetime.32 Levi, sold the well machine to his son Ernest. who also used it to dig many wells a throughout the Malad Valley. With wells now at many of the residents’ homes, water was now not as difficult to get as it was before. Many of these original wells are still being used today.        

              Water was also urgently needed for the farmers’ crops. In the spring of I 869, a canal was constructed from the John Thorpe Spring, a tributary of the Malad River, which provided some of the much-needed water for irrigation. This first canal was three miles long.33 Also when Lorenzo Snow had made his visit to Samaria in 1868, he had encouraged the people to get water from the Big Malad River for irrigating crops. However, the people of Portage (A town located about 10 miles south of Samaria, just over the Utah border) also had such plans. This race for the control of the water west of Malad is perhaps one of the most thrilling events in the history of Samaria. The story goes like this:        

“The Portage people keeping things quiet, set out on a secret expedition to gain prior right to the water west of Malad. The Samaria people saw them coming and W.R Thomas, William Williams, Ben Evans, and Owen Thomas secured the fastest mules in   the town, hooked them on a light cart and raced the Portage people to the headwaters. The Portage people were driving horses. A long hard race took place, but the mules, having the greatest endurance reached the spot first. The Samaria men jumped out of the cart and turned the water down toward Samaria. There was a serious argument but that act established permanently the origin of practically all the present water supply of Samaria. The water from the Warm Springs [in Pleasantview] was turned into the same canal.”34

         On May 12, 1872 the Articles of Agreement were drawn up for the purpose of constructing this canal.35 The canal was then constructed by the men of Samaria and it still provides most of Samaria’s irrigation water. Mountain streams also provided some water for irrigation. A few farmers today water their fields with modern sprinkling systems but most fields are still watered the same way the early pioneers had done it, using the system of ditches that get the water from the canal.

              In the early days everyone was a farmer out of necessity. Although other occupations have been held, the main source of livelihood in Samaria has always been agriculture. Traditionally the most commonly grown crops have been hay and grain. In 1897 it was estimated that 40,000 bushels of wheat and 5,000 tons of hay could be produced annually in favorable years.36 Most of the hay was consumed during the winter by the sheep and cattle. Some of the grain could be taken to the flourmill just one mile outside the village but the rest had to be hauled by wagon to Corrtne or Collinston, Utah. Until the railroad came to Malad in 1906, it was a hardship to get their grain to these markets. Daniel M. Price writes about such trips, “When I was a small boy, I used to travel with my father to Corrine and Collinston where we hauled grain to be shipped on the railroad; then we would haul supplies back. It took three days to make the trip         because we traveled with team and wagon.”37Also, In 1897 it was estimated that there were 75,000 sheep and 25,000 cattle within Samaria’s trade territory which spanned sixty miles northwest, thirty miles north, thirty-five miles west and many miles south.”38 Today sheep raising has decreased and cattle ranching dominates livestock industry in the valley. The dairy industry has also played an important role in Samaria’s agriculture. According to Viola Reese, “Every farmer had at least one cow for family use for milk and butter”39 Excess butter was taken to the Ben Waldron store to be sold to help pay for their Groceries.40 Today, a large prosperous dairy farm is being operated by the Spencer Atkinson family. Today with technological advances, farming and ranching in the village is done using mostly modern equipment, however, there are still some in Samaria who do things the old fashioned way and still milk their cow by hand and haul their hay on wagons as did their pioneer ancestors.

 Although the chief industry In Samaria has always been agriculture, by the turn of the century, with the increasing numbers of settlers that continued to arrive in the settlement, other industries and businesses were needed. By 1897, there were over 8000 prosperous people living in the town.41 At this time, two of the strongest mercantile institutions in the whole valley were located in Samaria, the foremost being the Ben Waldron Store.

         In 1869, when Ben Waldron came to Samaria he saw the need for a mercantile institution to be established. He first went into business with W.E. Hawkins under the name of Hawkins and Waldron, but about three years after the business had begun in 1881 they sold out to the Samaria Co-op.42 Mr. Waldron then perused his education during the winter months with two years of home school and two years at the Brigham Young College in Logan. In 1886 be went into business for himself. He started out in a small log dwelling but with his success he soon built a large two-story brick building which advertised such things as “Dry 43oo4s and Notions,” “Hats and Caps,” “Furnishings,” “Boots and Shoes,” and “Groceries.” He operated this business until his death on April 13, 1914.43        

              The store was then bought and run for many more years by Daniel Morse Williams. In 1945, it was sold to his son-in-law and daughter William A. and Sylvia Hill. With Bill and Sylvia’s Old age, and no longer able to run the store, it closed in 1968. It was then rented out as a living quarter to Don and Tern Tubbs who maintained residence there for only a couple Of years. On September 25, 1973 the building was purchased by Bill and Sylvia’s ~on James (Jim) T. Hill.  Unfortunately, not long he bought the store, a significant earthquake hit the village and the store received considerable damage. The county after this declared it unsafe and asked that it be torn down. Jim had torn off the top floor of the building and had begun repairing the ground floor and was going to put a roof on it. But again the old store was hit with more destruction. The quiet afternoon on August 1, 1978, was soon filled with the sirens of fire trucks and many of the       townspeople coming to the stores aid, however nothing could be done to save it. The fire was believed to have been set by an arsonist, who had been paid $500 to burn it to the ground, by a man who had a grudge against James T. Hill. Only a few bricks still remain standing as a reminder of this once flourishing business.44        

              Ben Waldron also operated a livery stable, butcher shop, icehouse and a large two-story brick hotel. The hotel was a welcome sight to many weary travelers who were passing through or had come to purchase supplies in Samaria.45 The hotel, after Ben’s death, was purchased and lived in by Sam Williams. Then one day, as the people were gathered together at the church for a funeral the building caught fire. Ernest Waldron was one of the first to spot the smoke and run up there. He said that it was only a very small fire at first, and if there had been some water close-by it could have been easily put out. Practically everyone in the village was scrambling with buckets of water from nearby wells and the town springs, but it was not enough to stop the fire from taking the building down to the ground.46 (This fire happened much earlier than the Waldron store fire.)

         The other large mercantile institution in Samaria started out as the business that Hawkins and Waldron had sold to John Jenkins, the Samaria Co-op. After Mr. Jenkins death in 1894, a few years later the Peterson Brothers began conducting business in the large brick store, and again in a few more years the entire stock was sold to Davis and Morris. Around 1907 the store was purchased by Lewis and W.W. Williams Jr. By 1910 the store was carrying $15,000 in stock.47  This store had flourished until the population in Samaria dropped to the point that two large stores were more than adequate to serve the villages needs and the store was closed. It was torn down some time later.

         Many other businesses also once rendered service to Samaria. The town had a furniture store, which was built by Isaac Evans sometime nearing the end of the 19th Century. It then became the D.D. Williams Candy Kitchen. Since then it was made into pool hall and throughout the years passed through many owners.48 This business closed in 1976 but the building is still standing today. The village also had the first blacksmith shop in the entire valley that was built  and operated by Levi Savage Waldron.49  Also a United States Post Office was ran in Samaria until 1963. Another store known as the Samaria Co-op, this store was a branch of the Malad Co-op, was run by Richard Morse and Jonah Evans. Samaria also had a jail, Millinery Store, and not to forget, the several Saloons.50

         Another significant business, situated just outside of Samaria on the Big Malad River, was the Oneida Milling and Elevator Company that was built in 1882 by Emery Davis. This large flour mill operated solely by water power. In 1894 it was bought by two brothers, John E and Daniel Jones. By 1909 they had totally rebuilt the Mill, which was now valued at not less than $12,000. At this time this finely equipped mill far exceeded any other in all of Idaho. It boasted of producing 50 barrels of flour per day and had the storage capacity of 4,000 bushels. The mill took in business as far as 200 miles north and as far south as Ogden. In 1916, it was renamed the Gwenford Mill and Elevator Company. The Mill closed in 1923,51 but stood in the hollow for many more years as a recognizable landmark for many travelers. Then on November 8, 1988 the owner of the property burnt the Mills skeletal remains.

 Many Samaritans feel that the primary reason why many Samaria businesses have all since gone out of business is because of the railroad being routed to Malad instead of Samaria, as it had been originally planned. “Sometimes to lose a fight ordains the future, Samaria attests to that.”52 Samaria had bright hopes of the future when they received word that the Utah Northern Railroad was coming to Samaria. However, Malad also had such hopes of a railroad. At this time both towns about the same population, with around 800 people,53 but Samaria was ahead in industry. Some even felt that Samaria should be the seat of Oneida County.  The towns both continued to offer more “stuff and things” to the railroad.54 In the end, Malad won. And the first train arrived in Malad in 1906. Samaria just had to try to go on as before and many of the Samaritans did     continue to be faithful. The Samaria Cemetery attests to this, as it is filled with many of the faithful pioneers and is the only thing that has been growing since that time.  But ever since that time there has been a decline in the population, by 1910 the population was already down to 428 souls,55 and Malad has been gradually drawing at the heart of the community.

Today, those who drive through Samaria will find that it is only a shell of its former self and may find it hard to believe that it was once the most up-to-date town in the valley. There are no longer any businesses, schools, or even a church in the township of Samaria. The nearest place to even buy a coke is 9 miles away in Malad. Each year more and more of the old buildings are disappearing. Many of the original homes are still being lived in today but are slowly being replaced with modem homes. Advancement in transportation and the mechanical age has also brought about many changes. Most of the young folks do not stay in Samaria but set out in the world to seek their fortunes, and the old folks just get older. Ralph Hughes holds the honor of being the oldest man in Samaria at age 85 and Edith Price Evans, the granddaughter of Samaria’s founder John Evan Price, has the privilege of being the oldest women at the age of 93. Today the population of Samaria numbers around 150 citizens, many of whom are descendants of early Samaria Pioneers.        

              Although the Samaria of today may not be what it once was, there is still a great love for this community in the hearts of many. Even if the population continues to decrease, Samaria will never die as long as people never forget the great legacies of this town. To the 150 people in the town who call Samaria home, they would rather not live anywhere else in the world. For the people of Samaria are still the same hospitable and kind people, as were their ancestors, and are indeed still “the Good Samaritans”.
 

       

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