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Jul 24

Community Spotlight - Malad

Posted on July 24, 2014 at 4:13 PM by GayDawn Oyler

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Malad City Industrial Park

Malad is located in a high-desert valley 13 miles north of the Idaho/Utah border. The Caribou National Forest and Bannock Mountain Range wrap around the north and east sides of the city. The 9,095-foot-high, 10-mile distant Elkhorn Peak outlines the northern sky. The Malad River flows about two miles west of the city.

The Pleasantview Hills and the Samaria Mountains frame the valley on the west and southwest. Seventeen miles west, just over the Pleasantview Hills, is the 47,000-acre Curlew National Grassland. 

Malad is the county seat of Oneida County and the retail and medical service center for the area. Approximately 50 percent of the county’s population resides in the city.

Historical Tidbits 

For centuries, nomadic American Indians, primarily of the Shoshone and Bannock Tribes, exclusively migrated through what is now Malad Valley.

Beginning in 1811 trappers/explorers began working the Snake and other rivers in what are now Western and Eastern Idaho. From 1816 to 1832 Donald McKenzie, a trapper/explorer working for the North West Company, organized annual “Snake Country” fur trapping and trading expeditions.

During one of these expeditions, some of McKenzie’s French-Canadians who were trapping beaver along what is now the Malad River came down with a sickness they attributed to drinking river water. These French-speaking trappers gave the river a name they thought suitable for causing their malady, the “Riviere aux Malades,” or the Malad River. This phenomenon also occurred in 1819. French-Canadians trapping beaver on the four-mile-long river that flows through what is now Malad Gorge-Thousand Springs State Park located a few miles north of Hagerman also named that river “Malades” or Malad for the same reason.

Trappers/explorers Alexander Ross, in 1824, and John Work, in 1830, experienced the same illness. However, Work did a better job identifying the cause of the sickness. He determined the problem was eating the tail of beaver whose diet included poisonous water hemlock that grew along the riverbank for which the beaver had developed immunity.

In 1843 Captain John C. Fremont started his official mapping exploration that aided in establishing the main Oregon Trail. That year Freemont’s 39-member detachment passed through the Malad Valley.

The Malad Valley was also a corridor for other migrations. Immigrants going to California branched off the Oregon Trail and passed through the upper valley.

In 1855 Brigham Young, head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), asked an advance group of 27 men to travel north from Utah to start the Salmon River Mission—Fort Lemhi, near what is now Salmon. The Malad Valley was the corridor used by the men, their families and other settlers who followed. They used the route again in 1858 when a rescue party of 150 armed men escorted the entire colony as they abandoned the mission and returned to Utah Territory.

In the early 1860s with the discovery of gold in Montana and the Boise Basin, the stagecoach and freight wagon route—called the “Gold Road” and used to transport goods and passengers from Utah to the gold fields—passed through the Malad Valley.

In 1863 A.W. Vanderwood opened a mail station at Mt. Springs on the east side of the Malad River. In 1864 Henry Peck and his family built a cabin next to Deep Creek, at the location of what is now Malad. About a dozen settlers followed Peck in filing homestead claims, building shelters and clearing their land.

In 1865 several Church of Jesus Christ converts from Wales settled in the valley. Several other Welsh emigrant families soon joined the Welah colony. To accommodate the diversity of language, the settlers’ wrote minutes of early town meetings in both English and Welsh.

Settlers of other faiths soon followed, and Malad began to be a more religiously diverse community but with shared Christian values.

In 1864 the Idaho Territorial Legislature created Oneida County—named after Lake Oneida in New York—with Soda Springs as the county seat. Soda Springs was the site of a military post built to suppress Indian raids along the Oregon Trail. In 1866 Colonel P.E. Connor, the fort’s commandant, signed a peace treaty with the Shoshone Indians and abandoned the fort.

By 1866 Malad, influenced by its strategic location on the Gold Road, had become the largest and fastest growing town in Oneida County. In that year, the Idaho Legislature approved moving the county seat from Soda Springs to Malad.

In 1866 concurrent with becoming the county seat of Oneida County, Malad became an incorporated village. Several decades later, even though the village population grew sufficiently to qualify becoming a city, village leaders were slow to act.
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Main Street, prior to 1942.

A 1940 edition of the local newspaper, The Idaho Enterprise, reported “Malad Village is the only town in the state with a population over 1,000 that does not have a city form of government.”

On March 13, 1941, the county commissioners approved changing the legal status of Malad to an incorporated city. In the first city election of officers, two political groups—the Taxpayers and Citizens parties—emerged and coalesced into two competing platforms and slates of candidates.

The Taxpayers Party platform favored keeping taxpayer interests at the forefront, avoiding unnecessary taxation, supporting business, draining and oiling the streets, constructing sidewalks and gutters, letting the volunteer fire department personnel choose their own officers and cooperating with other government agencies and the Chamber of Commerce. Their slogan was “Pay as we go.”

On the other hand, the Citizens Party platform favored the addition of parks and recreational facilities, development of civic pride, improved sewage facilities and sanitary conditions, establishment of a community incinerator to reduce fire hazards, enlarge and irrigate the cemetery plants and grass and develop policies (ordinances) supporting home ownership. Their slogan was “Every family a homeowner.” The Citizens Ticket won with 707 of the 1,111 votes cast.

Impacts of Motor Vehicles & Roads

With the advent of improved motor vehicles, the need for better roads became increasingly important to Malad’s economy. However, good roads were slow in coming.

In 1918 Clarence Garrett—president of the then emerging regional trucking company, Garrett Freightlines—was transporting four tons of furniture between Pocatello and Salt Lake City. Garrett said that his truck “got stuck” on a hill near Malad on a road that was nothing more than a trail. He said he traded gas for help getting his rig out of the mud.

However, the roads gradually improved, in the next several years federal and state highway departments paved the federal highway between Pocatello and Salt Lake City. The highway ran through Malad providing an important source of business for local merchants.

In 1952 federal and state highway authorities relocated the highway about a mile to the east of the city. The corridor they used would later become Interstate 15. While a boon to the motoring public, completion of the highway and, later, I-15 had an immediate adverse effect on Malad’s downtown retail economy. Traffic that used to stop now bypassed the city.

However, city and community leaders are finding opportunities to use the freeway exits to Malad at Idaho Highways 36 and 38 to promote economic activity. Retail businesses that provide food and services for I-15 travelers are developing facilities near the intersection of Highway 38. The city is also promoting area attractions for freeway travelers to visit.
Amenities and Attractions Today 

Malad has four parks. City Park offers picnic areas, children’s playgrounds, athletic fields and is the location of most community events.

A bronze memorial of a WWI soldier standing before a brick wall is located in a small city park. Engraved on the wall are the names of the service men and women from Oneida County who lost their lives defending their country.
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The city supports or sponsors several traditional events. The Easter Egg Hunt in the park, the Classic Car show of restored and hot-rod automobiles and the Malad High School Rodeo take place in the spring.
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Idlewild at the Welsh Heritage Restival, 2005.

Each summer around June 30, the community sponsors the “Welsh Heritage Festival” at City Park. The festival keeps alive the Welsh heritage of those who immigrated to the Malad area in the late 1800s. The event includes cultural games; crafts; food booths; and the “eisteddfod” celebration of traditional Welsh music, language, and dancing. Over 2,000 people attend this annual event.

Malad celebrates Independence Day with an early morning Cannonade that reminds people that the “Early Bird Breakfast in the Park” is starting. There is a colorful parade down Main Street followed by traditional old-time events including “The Wild West Shoot Out,” live productions put on by the Malad Valley Theater Guild, ball games, foot races, food booths, music, dancing, an afternoon auction, bed races—contestants race beds through town for prizes—and a fireworks display.

Other summer events include the Oneida County Fair, the demolition derby and a truck-pulling contest.
In the fall and winter, there are
 the Halloween Costume Contest, the Parade of Homes—best-decorated homes for Christmas—and the Fireman’s Ball.

Throughout the year the Iron Door Playhouse presents several live productions of musicals, cowboy poetry, plays and melodramas. The name of the playhouse stems from a legend that in the 1800s, a band of robbers hid, yet undiscovered, gold coins beneath an old iron door somewhere in the Samaria Mountains.

The city has several historic buildings, one of which houses the Oneida County Pioneer Museum. Another is Evans Co-op—Idaho’s oldest department store, opened in 1865.

The surrounding mountains, streams and seven small reservoirs stocked with trout provide opportunities for a variety of outdoor sports. Fly-fishing on float tubes on the reservoirs or nearby streams is popular. The mournful calls made by the many coyote in the area are common. In the winter, the reservoirs are favorites for ice fishing. Deer and elk hunting are also popular sports.

Several hundred thousand acres of nearby public lands have extensive trails for hiking, biking, equestrian and ATV riding in the warmer months and in the winter, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.

During the spring and early summer, a strange phenomenon takes place in the Samaria Mountains—thundering noises echo through the mountains. Geologists speculate that as the winter snows melt, moisture seeps into geothermal heated crevices and caves and creates the rumblings heard throughout the valley.
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Evans Coop Block 1905
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Evans Coop Block 2005