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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   Neighboring Counties

It contains one incorporated town Emmett    and the communities of Sweet     Montour    Ola    Gross    Letha    Pearl & The Westview Mining District

News Index   ~    Historic Post Offices & Post Masters


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
Riverside Cemetery, Emmett - the city has mapped Riverside Cemetery. The tutorial at the site with help you locate the grave for which you're searching.
Veterans buried in Emmett's Riverside Cemetery, (on museum's website)
Find A Grave for memorials


Hester Gross, Childhood on Upper Squaw Creek
Dan MacAskill
McConnel, Roy C. and Alma Carlson McConnel
Wake Island Construction Workers, includes Marvin Gross, Leroy Cramer, Emmett, Newell and Glen Newell; clippings also mention Richard Hudson, Warren McGill & Clee Morris
Wardwell, James
Woody, William

Family Group Sheets
William H. Cramer
Gustav A. Gross
Richard Gross

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

Burkhard, George
Cruickshank, Alexander
Davies, John B.
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
Payette River Road
History of Emmett
Early Emmett Settlers
History of Cherry Festival
History of Black Canyon Dam
History of Montour
History of Ola
History of Gross
Women Homesteaders
1914 Polk's Business Directory
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
Early Lumber Industry
Lumber and Logging, as described by Mills

Maps and Plats

Basin Trail, 1863; reconstruction by Dorothy Welberg
Martinsville, 1864-1870; reconstruction by Dorothy Welberg
1897 Mail Routes  ~  1903 Mail Routes, Idaho maps at Digital Commonwealth/Massachusetts Collections Online, includes 1891, 1895, 1897 & 1903 mail routes

Emmettsville plat, 1900
Letha plat, 1910
School Districts
Sweet plat

Payette River

History of the Payette River
"The Payette River is beautiful but deadly" by Arthur Hart
Payette River Log Drives," "River Tales of Idaho" by Darcy Williamson, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho, 1997 (google books)
Payette River National Scenic Byway Plan
History at Boise National Forest

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
1940's Airplan View, Black Canyon Dam
"Boise Cascade Corporation Emmett Sawmill", Built in 1917. On May 10, 1918 the first logs went through the saws. This completely modern sawmill has an annual capacity of 110,000,000 board feet, the logs are received by Truck and by Rail from the great forests of the Gem State." (1961 postcard)
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!

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 - Chapter 11

Links to other Gem County sites I manage
Gem County, Co., IDGenWeb includes obituaries
Gem County Historical Society and Museum - includes lists of Veterans Buried in Local Cemeteries
Other Links
Gem Co. USGenweb Archives
Natural Disasters (at

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Copyright © 2013 - Sharon McConnel. All Rights Reserved.