Gem County

Gem County is named from the phrase "Gem of the Mountains." Fur trappers were in the area in 1818 and Alex-ander Ross explored Squaw Creek in 1824. Prospectors and miners moved through the county in 1862 en route to the gold rush in Boise Basin, and by the next year irrigation began along Payette River. Pickett Corral Fort was established in 1863-64 along the bluffs of the Payette River just below Black Canyon Dam as protection for the settlers. Horse and cattle thieves gained control of the corral for several years until they were cleared out by vigilantes. Payette Ranch House near Emmett was one of the first houses in the valley. The Black Canyon Dam provides storage water for irrigation, and the natural protection from frost in the Emmett Valley makes it eminently suitable for fruit growing. The largest lumber mill in southern Idaho is at Emmett. Agriculture and lumbering are the main industries of the county." - -- "The Idaho Almanac," 1977 Edition, State of Idaho." ISU map modified


Sweet Cemetery, On Sweet-Ola Hwy, about a mile north of the "Triangle" junction with Hwy. 52 (about 2 miles south of Sweet)
Ola Cemetery, on south side of Ola
Pearl Cemetery, on private property, west of old Pearl townsite
Veterans buried in Emmett's Riverside Cemetery, (on museum's website)
Find A Grave for memorials & additional listings


Hester Gross, Childhood on Upper Squaw Creek
Dan MacAskill
McConnel, Roy C. and Alma Carlson McConnel
Woody, William

Bios from "History of Idaho, The Gem of the Mountains," Vol. III. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago, 1920. On-line at and google books

Cruickshank, Alexander
Davies, John B.
Cruickshank, Alexander
Holverson, Elmer
Kesgard, Kate
Knox, Clayton Bane
Knox, Walter
Riggs, Boise G.
Riggs, Henry C.
Womack, Isaac

This volume is 900 pages of biographical sketches. Gem County entries include many familiar names: Alsagar, Cronk, Cruickshank, Davison, Hartley, Kessler, Morehouse, McCrossin, McKay, Pugh, Riggs, Werle, and Wilhelm, to name a few.


Goodale North Trail, Oregon Trail Alternate, 1862
History of Emmett
Early Emmett Settlers
History of Montour
History of Ola
Women Homesteaders
Gem County and Emmett, as described by James Hawley in The History of Idaho, The Gem of the Mountain, Volume I, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1920.
Martial Law, 1931, "to prevent incenciarism;" in Idaho, Boise, Gem, Valley, Adams, Custer and Lemhi Counties
Historical Register

Maps and Plats

Book 1, page 33, public records. map showing old Boise/Canyon county line and Westview Mining District (Pearl). The map was filed in Canyon County Oct. 27, 1897, at 3 PM and certified Nov. 11, 1915 when we became Gem County.

Basin Trail, 1863; reconstruction by Dorothy Welberg
Martinsville, 1864-1870; reconstruction by Dorothy Welberg
Emmettsville plat, 1900
Mining Districts of the Idaho Basin and the Boise Ridge, 1898
Mining Districts, Willow Creek and Rock Creek
Pearl map 1902; reconstruction by Sharon McConnel
  Pearl Documents 1896-1902
Letha plat, 1910
Sweet plat

Newspaper Articles

April 1902, Railroad Reaches Emmett
May 1902, New Stage Line
June 1902, 55 Carloads, Mining Machinery for Thunder Mountain
June 1902, Thunder Mountain Road will go by Long Valley
July 1902, 4th of July Celebration
July 1902, Base Ball at Boise
July 1902, News Briefs
July 1902, Surveyors Back from Mines (at Thunder Mountain)
1902, Tragedy at Pearl (murder-suicide)
January 1903, W. C. Emkee Mines at Pearl Sold
January 1903, Farmers' Co-operative Irrigation Co. Plans
April 1903, Great Pearl Mining Camp
May 1903, Wagon Road to Roosevelt
Thunder Mountain News ads, 1905
January 1906, Head Residence Destroyed by Fire (Lower Pearl)
1941, Evening Capital News, Record is Made by Distribitors, Nearly Quarter of Million Dollars paid to Growers up to June 30
October 1929-Old Liberty Mine at Sweet Sold
November 1930 - Spanish American Vet's Body Moved to Sweet Cemetery (George W. Hall)
Plowman vs. LeVan 1897 Suit, Pearl Mining District; Idaho Statesman, March 1834
August 1935, Pearl Mining District, by Robert N. Bell, Former Idaho Inspector of Mines
November 1838, Sixteen Postmasters Served Emmett in Twelve Different Locations
April 1948, The Marsh-Ireton Ranch, by Nellie Ireton Mills
Idaho Falls, Post Register, Jan. 17, 1941 Miners at Pearl Strike
December 2005, Mining History News, (Pearl Story) by Bob Weldin - courtesy of David Humpherys - thanks for sharing!

Off site - Boise County Sentinel at Salmon Public Library, 1912 & 1916, published at Sweet; plus other publications

Photo Album

Strawberries at Emmett, c. 1915; on flicker
1930 Black Canyon Canal Construction, via flicker: Black Canyon Canal. c. 1930 - On verso, "Watering the Idaho desert. Main canal of the Payette Division of the Boise Reclamation Project. Trainload of reinforcing steel arriving for reinforcing concrete of the flume."
Photos from Library of Congress
Emmett's Historical Main Street signs - courtesy of Madonna Colburn - thanks for sharing!
Emmett's Historic Alley signs - courtesy of Madonna Colburn - thanks for sharing!

Historic Post Offices & Post Masters

Pearl Mining Reports

Pearl, excerpt from Merle W. Wells -- Gold Camps & Silver Cities/Nineteenth Century Mining in Central and Southern Idaho. Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Mines & Geology, Moscow, Idaho, 1983. (p. 73-74)
The Mining Districts of the Idaho Basin and the Boise Ridge, by Waldemar Lindgren, 1898
  Mining Districts of the Idaho Basin and the Boise Ridge, 1898, map
  Mining Districts, Willow Creek and Rock Creek, map
1899 Mining Report
1904 Mining Report, Pearl District
Pearl on (off-site)

Pickett's Corral

Pickett's Corral Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series, No. 253:

"Picket's Corral, located at the head of the valley east of Emmett, is a natural lava rock corral. Tradition identifies this as the base for a band of horse thieves who operated in the vicinity when settlement began in the valley below. At the time of the gold rush of 1862-1864, the corral provided an ideal base for such a gang. Well concealed, it receives a limited water supply from a small stream which flows through the corral from the center of a rock wall. W. J. McConnell, a member of the Payette vigilance committee and later a United States senator and governor, remembered Picket's Corral as a hideout not only for horse thieves, but for bogus dust peddlers as well. McConnell also explained how his vigilantes succeeded in breaking up the Picket Corral gang and the Washoe Ferry outlaws. The Payette vigilantes took credit for making the area safe for the law abiding citizens."

See Early History of Idaho, by William John McConnell for his account

Be sure to visit the other Gem County sites that I maintain: Gem County at  ::  Gem County Historical Society and Museum

American History and Genealogy Project

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Copyright © 2013 - Sharon McConnel. All Rights Reserved.