"The town of Dietrich was located about 20 miles below Richfield, and 35 miles below Magic Dam. The Dietrich Opening was held at the Opera House in Shoshone on May 28, 1909 and the price of land there was $50.50 per acre right from the very beginning.

In charge of the opening were two old pros, C.B. Hurtt and Bob McCollum from Twin Falls, who had already sold a lot of Southern Idaho land under the Carey Act. These two knew exactly what to do and everything moved along smoothly and swiftly. A band was on hand to enliven the day, and photos of Richfield and the Project were on display. In fact, many folks went up to visit Richfield both before and after the drawing to see the excitement there first-hand.


Dietrich townsite lots were sold on the same liberal basis as those in Richfield—on contract with a down payment of 1/4 of the purchase price, and the remaining 3/4 during the next three years with 6% interest on deferred payments.

The Dietrich Hotel turned out to be even more expensive than the Richfield Hotel at a cost of $40,000! A three-story structure with 40 guest rooms of the most modern design and appointments. Hot and cold water in every room, and a number of suites with bath, on each floor. On the main floor, a large lobby with massive fireplace, hardwood floors, a huge dining room, billiard room, sample room (where salesman displayed their wares), barber shop, writing room, a bar, and a WINE CELLAR below! There was also a large, pleasant ladies' parlor on the second floor.

The company put on a large force of men and teams to ready the town for occupancy. Streets were graded 80' wide, and the main business street 100' wide. Business property was sold at the opening, and a bank, restaurant, lumber yard, implement store, and other ventures were taking shape.

The company was busily selling and promoting; and eager folks were clearing sagebrush, plowing, leveling, and seeding to get ready for the water of April 1, 1910. The area for 80 years had been widely known as the greatest sheep and cattle communities in the world, and now the Carey Act was changing all that.

The town and the tract were named 'Dietrich', in honor of Judge Frank S. Dietrich, U.S. District Court, Boise, who is credited with 'settling a lot of irrigation law'. The decision which focused the attention of the settlers upon the jurist at that particular time, was one which prevented an irrigation company from selling more land than there was water to irrigate it.

A big white wooden sign, easily seen from incoming train windows, advertised the new community saying: 'Dietrich—30,000 acres of Irrigated Land'. But some wise-acre patched a strip of white paper over the 't' in Dietrich so the sign read: 'Die rich—30,000 acres of Irrigated Land'.

The locals snickered and pointed the finger at a young real estate agent for the prank.

In 1910, four carloads of prunes were wrecked near Dietrich, and Sam Peterson, restaurant owner, hauled four wagon loads of them to his restaurant and made them into soft drinks. Every available jar, and all of the sugar in Shoshone and Dietrich, were used to store those prunes. After that, business was brisk at Sam's restaurant—and elsewhere!

Most of the land sales at this time had been made to people in neighboring states—Washington, Oregon, Montana, the Dakotas, Utah,Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Arizona. Most were small tracts, 40 to 60 acres, and prove-up shacks were scattering over the land.

Nothing could happen until the land was free of sagebrush—that hearty, desert perennial which lives on adversity. Sweet to smell, bitter to taste, it grows anywhere from two to twelve-feet tall, puts out either white or yellow flowers in the Spring, and stubbornly clings to the earth with roots that grow close to the surface, but spread out in wide circles.

The innocent homesteader was often led astray by such statements as 'sagebrush is easy to clear with a sharp mattock that cuts the roots below the surface. One man can do an acre a day'. Hah! After one day with a mattock, many a weary, sweat-and-dust encrusted homesteader was tempted to seek out the slicker who made that statement and demonstrate an even better use for the mattock!

Other methods were certainly tried to clear the sturdy brush, but it was the wretched mattock that still proved to be the most thorough—if a man's back held out. Some tried dragging a railroad rail over the land with a team. This was a wild, frenzied, uncontrolled experience, but it did pull up many bushes, loosened others, and was faster and easier on the homesteader. They soon found that sagebrush no more than three feet tall could be plowed loose with a plow which had the moldboard removed, even though two such plowings were usually necessary for complete removal.

Sagebrush is primarily a desert plant which cannot stand too much moisture, and some logically reasoned that it could be flooded out—except there was no water yet. So much for that theory.

A few homesteaders, despairing at ever clearing their land, just freaked out and set fire to the whole mess. This method really did work, but was frowned upon by the neighbors, townfolk, animals, government, wife, kids, and the family dog, until it finally burned itself out without killing or maiming or burning any other body or stuff.

'Land Grubbers'—two-wheeled contraptions hauled by a team—were invented later and claimed to clear better than two acres a day. Hah! Musta been the same slicker who said one man could easily clear an acre a day with a mattock!

Anyway, when he finally got it out of the ground, the exhausted farmer raked the loose brush into windrows, with sagebrush rakes having teeth two feet long, and set it on fire. Soon, great clouds of black smoke were billowing up in many places around the countryside as the industrious homesteaders cleared their land for cultivation.

Occasionally, the brush was hauled to sandy roads, and after it had been run over a few hundred times, made excellent roads. At least better than sandy.

After the sagebrush—everything else seemed easy.

The first settler to prove up on his land on the Richfield Tract was J. Ralph Nevers, one of the early 1909 arrivals who stayed. J. Ralph proved up on June 10, 1909.

In addition to the Idaho Irrigation Co. land, there were about 5,000 acres under the 'Settlers Ditch and Reservoir Co.' project, that was also getting ready for water in the spring of 1910. Their land was filed on as Desert Claims, and each settler had to pay his pro-rata share of the expense, as well as build the ditch. Most of that land had been taken up, tracts of 40 to 80 acres, the larger portion of which was tributary to Richfield. This was O.K. with Richfield because it would throw the trade of a goodly number of families to their city and was an attractive addition to the area."


Source: Excerpted from Idaho and the Magic Circle, How They Came to Be, by Betty M. Bever, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, ID, 2000, pp. 254-257—Editor.